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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in The Lord The Spirit

07/01_2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in the LORD the Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180701_2cor3_17.mp3

Paul is talking about boldness and confidence in ministry; where does his competency come from? Who is sufficient to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere, which among those being saved is the aroma of life to life, but among the perishing is the aroma of death to death? ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2:16)

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul is competent, not in himself, but God has made him sufficient to be a minister of the New Covenant, a minister of the Spirit. He contrasts his ministry with the glorious ministry of Moses

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Paul has in mind Exodus 34, where Moses came down from the mountain from talking with God, his face shining or glorious.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Paul’s apostolic ministry is not like Moses’ ministry; it is an unveiled ministry; he is bold, open, plain-speaking. The Old Testament still today remains veiled to those who do not turn to Jesus. Their minds are hardened. A veil lies over their hearts.

Only in Christ is that veil rendered ineffective, abolished, brought to nothing. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is lifted.

Exodus 34 and the New Covenant

Paul takes Exodus 34:34 and applies it to his New Covenant ministry. Exodus 34:34 reads:

Exodus 34:34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, …

Paul continues to contrast the Old Covenant ministry of Moses with Apostolic New Covenant ministry. Notice how he adapts the Exodus wording in 2 Corinthians 3:16 and applies it to the New Covenant:

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Where Exodus 34 has ‘Moses,’ 2 Corinthians has ‘one’ The reference to Moses is generalized and left open. Under the Old Covenant, only Moses had access to the presence of the Lord. Now anyone. Anyone can turn and enter the presence of the Lord.

The verb ‘went in’ is changed to ‘turns’ The implication is that one turns away from something else and turns toward the Lord. This word is used for the conversion of the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:9

1 Thessalonians 1:9 … how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

In the New Covenant there is a turning; a turning away from something, and a turning toward the Lord. What are we to turn away from? We will come back to this question in a minute.

The voice of the verb ‘remove’ is changed from middle; something Moses did to himself, to passive; something that is done to the one turning by someone else. Moses removed his own veil. The unbeliever is not able to remove the veil that lies over his own heart and mind. It must be removed for him by another. Only through Christ is it taken away.

And a conditional element is added; ‘if’. If or when one turns, the veil is removed.

If; Our Righteousness and God’s

Why ‘if’? And if anyone can now turn to the Lord, why don’t more turn? Why is the New Covenant access rejected by so many, especially so many of God’s chosen people? After he came to the city of Corinth:

Acts 18:5 …Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Why do so many of the Jews refuse to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah? This may have been one of the questions raised by those who were critical of Paul’s ministry. If he is really a genuine apostle, why isn’t he more effective, especially among his own people?

Paul’s own testimony gives us a personal illustration of what he is talking about and helps us understand why so many reject the message.

He says in Philippians 3 that he has reason for confidence in the flesh, and he catalogs his resume.

Philippians 3:4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Paul had a righteousness that was under the law. He claimed to be blameless. He had reason for confidence in the flesh. Yet he traded it all in.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,

Rubbish? A blameless righteousness under the law? A total loss? Why?

Philippians 3:8 …in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

He traded in his own righteousness, law righteousness, for the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. He traded his self-righteousness in for a relationship with Jesus. This is why so many who have the law fail to receive the gift of God. They have confidence in the flesh. They have a righteousness under the law, and are unwilling to let go of what they have worked so hard to attain to receive freely what someone else has earned. In Romans 10 Paul talks about his fellow Israelites:

Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

So in turning to the Lord, what must we turn away from? From confidence in the flesh; from our own self-righteousness. One must turn away from self, from self-confidence, from self-reliance and turn to the Lord. Paul claimed to be blameless according to righteousness under the law, yet he considered that rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!

Paul calls it ignorance in Romans 10. He calls it blindness in 2 Corinthians. There is a veil that lies over their hearts. So many are blind and don’t even know it. The veil must be removed. They can’t remove their own blindness; they don’t even know it is there. The veil must be removed through Christ.

The Lord The Spirit Is

He says ‘if one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.’ In Exodus 34, ‘Lord’ is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH, God’s covenant name. In the Septuagint (LXX) this is translated into the Greek as Kurios. In Philippians 3:8, a verse we already looked at, Paul refers to ‘ Christ Jesus my Lord,’ connecting Jesus with YHWH of the Old Testament. In Romans 10 this is even more clear. He says in

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

…12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Christian confession is ‘Jesus is Lord’ or Jesus is YHWH. He backs this up from a quotation of Joel 2:32 that whoever calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus, when asked who he was (Jn.1:23) cited Isaiah 40:3 ‘Make straight the way of YHWH, the Lord’. Clearly in the New Testament Jesus is identified as YHWH of the Old Testament.

But in all of Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament, ‘Lord’ refers to God generally, not specifically to any one member of the Trinity. Here in verse 17 he clarifies. YHWH, Lord, in Exodus 34:34 is the Spirit.

Paul has been talking about the ministry of the Spirit in contrast to the ministry of death, of condemnation, of the letter, that which is being done away with. When Moses took off the veil and entered the presence of YHWH, he was in the presence of the Lord, the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who makes alive, who justifies and makes righteous, who remains. It is the Spirit who writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts, hearts that have been made flesh by the regenerating New Covenant work of the Spirit. Spirit in the Hebrew is breath or wind. It is the voice of God that makes God known.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The Spirit is the one who reveals the things of God to us. The Spirit is the Spirit who is God, and he is the Spirit of God. There is identification with distinction. Jesus is YHWH; the Father is YHWH; the Spirit is YHWH. But the Spirit is the Spirit of (indicating possession) God. He is God’s Spirit, the Spirit who belongs to God. The Spirit is YHWH, and he is also the Spirit of YHWH; the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is… Freedom!

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! This is an exclamation! Where the Spirit of the Lord is …Freedom! What is the freedom he is talking about? This implies there is no freedom outside the Spirit of the Lord. Humankind not free; we need to be set free by his Spirit. We are naturally in bondage. Oh, we do have freedom; we can do whatever we want, and we do, and it does not go well for us. We are in a hole, with a shovel, and we can do whatever we want with our shovel. And that gets us deeper and deeper in the hole.

What is the freedom Paul is talking about here? The context in verse 18 is freedom to enter the presence of the Lord unveiled. In verse 14-15 it is freedom from hardened minds and veiled hearts. It is freedom to see Jesus in the Old Testament. In verse 3 it is the freedom that comes from having stony hearts turned to flesh. In verse 6 it is freedom from death, the freedom of being made alive. In verse 9 it is freedom from condemnation; the freedom of righteousness. In verse 11 it is the freedom of that which is permanent; freedom from that which is doomed to pass away. Freedom is parallel to the confidence of verse 4 and the open-faced boldness of verse 12.

The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. But not the freedom you might think This is freedom from blindness, the freedom of an imputed righteousness, freedom of access to enter the presence of the Lord, freedom of unhindered boldness, freedom from false pretense, transparency to be who you have been called to be, freedom of integrity. One author writes this freedom is ‘a liberation from a heart turned in on itself’ [Seifrid, p.177 PNTC]

Paul is referring back to Exodus. In that context freedom was freedom from bondage to an oppressive and cruel taskmaster. It was freedom from slavery. But it was also freedom for something. It was freedom to serve the Lord, freedom to obey and follow the Lord; freedom be in the presence of the Lord as the people of the Lord. It was freedom from, but it was also freedom for.

Paul says in Galatians 5

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

…13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The freedom we are called to is freedom of access, freedom to be in the presence of the Lord, freedom of relationship. We are set free to respond to God’s goodness. We are set free to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and that will naturally spill over into love and service to others, love for neighbor, even love for enemy.

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! Enjoy your blood-bought freedom. You have been set free by the Holy Spirit to see Jesus for who he is and receive from him life and righteousness, access to the Father. Enjoy freedom of relationship with God. Enjoy your freedom to love God, freedom to love and serve others, openly and plainly share truth with others, freedom to minister to others.

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

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July 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Exceedingly Glorious Ministry

05/27_2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Exceedingly Glorious Ministry ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180527_2cor3_7-11.mp3

In 2 Corinthians Paul is defending the authenticity of his ministry. He says that the church of God in Corinth and the transformed lives of believers is authentication of his ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Then he answers the question he raised back in chapter 2, who is sufficient? Who is competent for this ministry, ministry that introduces some to eternal life, but is the stench of death to many. He says:

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Who is competent? We are, but not in and of ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. All our competency comes from God who makes us competent. Not ministers of the old , the letter, not ministers of death. Competent to be ministers of a new covenant. Ministers of the life giving Spirit.

Moses and Paul

Then he contrasts the glory of Moses’ ministry with that of his own apostolic ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

This is absolutely staggering, and it would be startling to anyone with any Jewish background. Paul is commending his apostolic ministry, and arguing that his ministry is more glorious than Moses’ ministry. Moses! The one God raised up to lead Israel out of Egypt, the one who received the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone at Mount Sinai. Moses who led the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. Moses, who Deuteronomy 34 says there is none like him, whom the Lord knew face to face. Moses, who according to Acts 15:21 has been proclaimed in every city from ancient generations, and who is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. Moses was one of two who appeared on the mount of transfiguration to speak with Jesus. How shocking for Paul to even put himself in the same sentence with Moses.

What is Glory?

Paul tells us some amazing things about his ministry, and consequently about our ministry as well.

He mentions ‘glory’ no less than 10 times in these 5 verses. What is glory? He mentions the glory of Moses’ face, glory the Israelites could not look at, glory that was being done away with; exceeding glory, much more super-abundant glory in the ministry of the Spirit. What is glory?

In this passage Paul is teaching out of the text of Scripture; he is explaining Exodus, specifically chapter 34. In the context of Exodus, we see God get glory over Pharaoh and over the armies of Egypt (14:4, 17-18) by displaying his power and superiority. We see in Exodus 24

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

God displayed his glory in the cloud and in devouring fire on top of the mountain. And Moses went up into the cloud to meet with God and receive his commands. By the time he came down, the people were involved in idolatry with the golden calf. In Exodus 32, God threatened to destroy the people for their rebellion and sin, but Moses implored the Lord and he turned from his wrath. In Exodus 33, God said he would fulfill all his promises to the people, but he would not personally be with them, because of their rebellion. But Moses prayed that the presence of God would go with them, and God extended grace and granted this request.

Then Moses asked this daring question: “Please show me your glory.”

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God instructed Moses to make a second set of tablets to remake the covenant, and

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

The glory of God is the visible manifestation of his character and attributes, an outward display of his inner characteristics. His name, his goodness, his grace, his mercy, his steadfast love and faithfulness, his justice. The glory of God is who he is.

The Glory of Moses’ Face

This next section in Exodus 34 is the passage Paul is teaching from in 2 Corinthians 3.

Exodus 34:28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

The radiant or beaming or shining face of Moses, in the Greek translation the glorious face of Moses, is the transformation that came from spending time with God. He radiated out the absorbed glory of God.

This is the glory of the Old Covenant. Moses’ ministry was glorious. This is the foundation of Paul’s argument. He moves from the lesser to the greater. The ministry of Moses was unquestionably glorious.

We read the account in Exodus and think, wow, I would love to have been there to see that! The triumph over Egypt, the cloud and consuming fire that engulfed the mountain, the beams of glory coming from Moses

skin. I’ve never seen anything like that!

Paul argues: No, you have something better, something greater, you have experienced something supremely more glorious.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Contrast The Letter and The Spirit

Look at the contrasts he draws in these verses:

[Old Covenant]- Moses——–New Covenant – Apostles

Ink——————————Spirit of the Living God

Letter—————————Spirit

Letters on Stone Tablets—–Letters on Tablets of Flesh Hearts

Kills—————————-Gives Life

Ministry of Death————Ministry of the Spirit

Ministry of Condemnation–Ministry of Righteousness

Abolished———————-Permanent

We have already looked at how the ministry of the Old Covenant brought death, where the ministry of the Spirit of the Living God makes alive. Let’s look at some of the other contrasts Paul highlights.

Condemnation vs. Righteousness

2 Corinthians 3:9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.

Paul calls Moses’ ministry a ministry of condemnation, and he calls the apostolic ministry of the Spirit a ministry of righteousness. This is what we see in Romans 3.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Moses’ ministry was a ministry of condemnation, to stop every mouth and hold the whole world accountable to God’s perfect standard. Moses’ ministry was not a ministry of justification or righteousness. These words, justification and righteousness, are the same. One is the noun, one is the verb form. We might make up a new word; righteousness and righteous-ified; to make just or righteous. No person will be justified or righteous-ified by the law, by the ministry of Moses. This word ‘righteousness’ actually shows up in the Greek translation at the beginning of Exodus 34:7

[LXXE] Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before his face, and proclaimed, The Lord God, pitiful and merciful, longsuffering and very compassionate, and true, 7 and keeping justice [δικαιοσύνην] and mercy for thousands, taking away iniquity, and unrighteousness, and sins; and he will not clear the guilty; bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and to the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.

This self-description of God in Exodus causes problems for anyone who thinks carefully about it. God says he is merciful and gracious and that he forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. But in the same breath he says he is righteous or just, and he will by no means clear the guilty. How can God possibly be both gracious and just, merciful and righteous? How can he forgive and yet by no means will he ever clear the guilty? Romans 3 goes on to answer this question.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified [righteous-ified] 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…

God’s righteousness is put on display apart from the law. God is righteous, and God declares righteous those who believe in Jesus. God’s righteousness comes to believers as a gift, a grace-gift purchased by the blood of Jesus, who fully satisfied the just wrath of God by taking on himself all my sin, and receiving in himself the just penalty I earned. John 1 says

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If the ministry of Moses that brought condemnation was a glorious ministry, how much more glorious the ministry of the Spirit that makes sinners righteous!

Abolished vs. Permanent

Paul also draws a contrast between the duration of the ministries.

2 Corinthians 3:7 …the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? … 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

The ministry of Moses was being brought to an end, being abolished, extinguished, destroyed, done away with. The ministry of Moses by design was to be superseded. It was glorious, but it was not intended to be the final word. Thank God, condemnation was not the final word. Condemnation was to be swallowed up in righteousness and life. The apostolic ministry of the gospel, however, remains. It stands. It is lasting.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Although the ministry of Moses, the ministry of death, the ministry of condemnation came with glory, that which was glorious came to be not glorious because of that which so far surpassed it in glory; the life giving ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of righteousness. The ministry of Moses had an outward glory, but it was utterly overwhelmed and out-shined by the much more super-abundant glory of the ministry of the apostles, the proclamation of the gospel, the seemingly foolish message of the cross. The far-surpassing glory was hidden in a ministry characterized by suffering, by affliction, by persecution. This ministry was not outward; lightning and thunder, fire and cloud, but quiet, even inconspicuous, the inner transformation of people by the Holy Spirit of the Living God through the foolishness of preaching. The ministry of death and condemnation has been swallowed up by the exceedingly more glorious ministry of the Spirit, giving righteousness and life to those who were dead in trespasses and sins.

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

May 29, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just and Righteous

02/21 Just and Righteous; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160221_just-righteous.mp3

We have been looking at the character of God, specifically at the goodness of God, his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. We defined mercy as God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace as God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, God’s love, which is his special favor toward his people. Today we will look at God’s justice and righteousness, which is his goodness expressed by rewarding each one according to his work, and treating the righteous and the wicked distinctly (Bavinck, p.206, 215).

In Exodus 33, when Moses asked to see the glory of God, God replies:

Exodus 33:19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

In the next chapter God proclaims his character.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.

There seems to be dissonance in this verse. We might be inclined to replace the comma with a full stop in the middle of verse 7. We like to hear about a God who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” But it might make us squirm a bit, and it is clearly contrary to our cultural climate to finish the sentence. We might not be so bold as to take out our black highlighter and strike the words from the page, but our voice might trail off, a bit embarrassed, and mumble the last lines under our breath. But we must finish the sentence! We want to know God, not as we wish for him to be, which would be to form a god after our own image, and worship and serve the created thing rather than the Creator, but we want to know God as he truly is, as he reveals himself to be. And he revealed himself to Moses as a God “who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

God is just. God is righteous. God will not let sin go unpunished. God will by no means clear the guilty. We might naturally recoil at this idea, or be embarrassed by it. We might feel a bit like the child of a father who easily loses his temper and flies into a fit of rage. The child is embarrassed by the actions of his father, especially if an outburst happens in front of his friends, but he loves his father and tries to downplay his imperfections, drawing attention rather to his better qualities. But to feel this way is to reveal that we misunderstand God’s justice, God’s righteousness, God’s wrath. To view God this way is to impose the limitations and imperfections we see in sinful creatures on the perfect and sinless Creator. We should not be embarrassed by God’s righteousness, or try to explain away his wrath. Rather we should delight in the justice of God, as an aspect of God’s goodness, because God delights in his own justice.

The Lord Delights in Justice and Righteousness

Listen to how the Bible speaks about God’s justice and righteousness.

Psalm 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.

Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

Isaiah 5:16 But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Hear this: the Lord loves righteousness and justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice. The Lord delights in practicing justice and righteousness. God’s justice is a grounds for our boasting. God delights to reward each one according to his work. God is exalted in his treating of the righteous and wicked differently, as they each deserve.

Notice also, how justice and righteousness are coupled with his steadfast love. God’s justice and righteousness are not the opposite of his grace, mercy and steadfast love, they are not contrary to or in tension with his other attributes. Rather, God’s justice and wrath, and his love, mercy, and grace, rightly understood, are in perfect harmony.

Justice and righteousness are a positive expression of God’s goodness. To clarify this, it may be helpful to imagine a god who had no concern for justice, who was soft on sin and tolerated evil, who allowed the wicked to prosper and the upright to be persecuted. When we see images of persecution and slavery, of racial inequality and child prostitution, drug lords and terrorists, when we see wicked men prey on the innocent and helpless without consequence, our hearts cry out with the Psalmist “how long O Lord?”

Psalm 94:1 O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! 2 ​Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve! 3 O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult? 4 They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. 5 They crush your people, O LORD, and afflict your heritage. 6 They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless; 7 ​and they say, “The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.”

The Psalmist sees injustice and cries out for the Judge of the earth to repay to the arrogant proud wicked evildoers what they deserve; he cries out for the God of vengeance to shine forth.

Many times in Scripture, we see God pouring out on his enemies what they deserve as a ground for worship

Revelation 19:1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39-43; Revelation 11:15-18; 16:4-7; Psalm 96, Psalm 98, etc.)

That God is just, that he punishes evil is grounds for worship. That God does what is right, that he rewards the righteous and punishes evildoers is something to rejoice in.

The Judge of All The Earth

In Genesis 18, God came down to give promises to Abraham and to punish Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

The Lord is revealing his own just and right dealings with these wicked cities as an example for Abraham to learn justice and righteousness. He is teaching him to keep the way of the Lord by modeling his own righteousness and justice.

Genesis 18:20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

The Lord does not fly off into a fit of uncontrolled rage. The outcry was great and their sin was grave, so he investigates. He goes down to see.

Genesis 18:22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Abraham understood that the Lord is the Judge of all the earth. And as judge, he must do what is just. Abraham understood that it is unjust to sweep away the righteous with the wicked, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, to treat the righteous and wicked in the same way. For the sake of 10 righteous people God would spare the entire city. In the next chapter, we see the angels seizing Lot and his wife and his two daughters by the hand and bringing him out and setting him outside the city. The angel said “escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.”

Peter holds this episode up alongside Noah and the destruction of the ungodly world with a flood to demonstrate that

2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

The Judge of all the earth will do right. He differentiates between the righteous and the wicked, giving to each what he deserves.

God Repays Each According to his Deeds

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The Lord does not judge based on appearances. He searches the heart and tests the mind, he judges every man justly. Jesus says

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.

Peter says to the church,

1 Peter 1:17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed … 19 …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Our Father judges impartially according to each one’s deeds. Paul spells this out in Romans. In chapter 1, he says that in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. In chapter 2 he says:

Romans 2:2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

God shows no partiality. God is a righteous judge, and his righteous judgments will be revealed on the day of wrath, when he renders to each one according to his works.

The Soul Who Sins Shall Die

In Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31, God clarifies a misunderstanding of his people when he said that he will visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deut.5:9). There came to be a proverb ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’ (Jer.31:29; Ezekiel 18:2), implying that God punishes innocent children for the sins of their fathers. This, indeed would not be just. But fathers need to realize that they set patterns for generations to come. There is a tendency for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents, and the children will not be able to excuse their sins because of the bad example of their parents. God says:

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. 21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

Ezekiel 18:29 Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.”

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. As we have seen, God is good, he is inclined to extend undeserved mercy and overwhelming grace. He is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands [of generations].’ He prefers to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. He invites us to turn and live!

The Good News of God’s Righteousness

But if God is just and righteous and will by no means clear the guilty, if he must treat us as our works deserve, if he must punish sin, then that leaves us all in a whole heap of trouble, doesn’t it? Yes, that’s the point of Romans 1 and 2, that ‘every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.’

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

We return to the tension we felt in the beginning. How can God be merciful and gracious, abundant in steadfast love, inclined to forgive iniquity, transgression and sin, yet he is just and will by no means clear the guilty? How can God forgive, and yet repay each person according to what he has done? This is the power of God and the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel that addresses the problem for us of the wrath of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 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.

God’s righteousness. Righteousness given to believing sinners by grace as a gift. We are all guilty. To get what we deserve is to experience hell. But if we will cry out to God for mercy, if we depend on the work of another, we can be given a gift we do not deserve. We can be declared righteous as a gift through the redemption and propitiation of Jesus. Jesus became our substitute. He took my place, and I take his place. All my sin was laid on him, he became sin for me, and God’s righteous wrath was propitiated, satisfied, in him. My sin got what it deserved; death. I now get what Jesus’ perfect obedience earned; the declaration of righteousness, and the reward; eternal life. Notice the concern to demonstrate God’s justice and righteousness.

Romans 3:25 …This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 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. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded…

God’s own justice does not allow him to merely pass over sins. God’s righteousness is upheld both in punishing the evildoer in the person of the Lamb of God who became sin for us, and in rewarding the righteous, as I now come to be in Jesus through faith and enjoy his inheritance.

We see this same emphasis on God’s justice in 1 John 1:9.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we turn and agree with God about our sin, his justice is satisfied, because we see sin as it really is, as an offense that must be punished, and he is just to forgive and cleanse us, because the punishment has been poured out on Jesus. This is no mere outward declaration. It changes us. If we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, then we are righteous. We are born anew, given a new heart, given the Holy Spirit, and we begin to hate what God hates and to love him above all else. The Spirit begins to bear fruit in us, and God, who searches the heart will give to us according to the fruit of our deeds.

May we praise God for his justice! We don’t want a God who doesn’t take sin seriously. A God who is soft, compromising, inconsistent is not worthy of our worship. The cross of our Lord Christ is a public demonstration of both the justice and mercy of our overwhelmingly loving God.

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

February 23, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Be Happy (Psalm 1)

01/03 How to Be Happy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160103_be-happy.mp3

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

The Pursuit of Happiness

It is not just an American thing to pursue happiness. We all want to be happy. We all endeavor to pursue our own happiness. That is part of what it is to be human. We bought Satan’s lie and bit the fruit in the first place because we saw that it ‘was good for food, …a delight to the eyes, , and …to be desired to make one wise’ (Gen.3:6). We want to be happy. We eat lots of sweets because we want to be happy. We try to eat healthier because we want to be happy. We lounge around and watch TV because we are seeking happiness. We decide to exercise more because we want to be happy. We indulge in great pleasures, we make great sacrifices, all in pursuit of our own happiness.

I thought it would be fitting, at the beginning of this new year, to preach on how to be happy. It is not wrong for us to desire happiness. We are wired for pleasure. God designed eyes with the ability to perceive color and texture and depth and beauty. God created taste buds capable of savoring all varieties and complexities of flavors from salt to sweet to bitter to sour. He created ears that could delight in beautiful melodies. He gave us a nose that can appreciate savory aromas. God saturated our skin with nerve endings that respond to touch and warmth and sensation. God made us with the capacity to experience a rich complexity of emotions. God placed mankind in a garden of delights and he blessed them and said be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, exercise good authority, enjoy. God holds out to us the prospect of happiness. He invites us to pursue happiness. The book of Psalms begin with the word ‘happy’, and the word ‘happy’ occurs 25 more times throughout the Psalms. Most English translations render it ‘blessed’, although there is another Hebrew word that more properly means ‘blessed’.

What we are talking about is a happiness that is substantial. This is not empty frivolity, but settled joy; happy in the richest, deepest, most lasting sense. Happiness that satisfies the longings of our soul at the deepest level.

So what does the Bible say about how to be happy? How should we pursue our happiness in such a way that we taste it and enjoy it and it lasts? How do we pursue happiness in a way that it is not continually just out of reach, that it does not, as so often happens, slip through our fingers?

Look with me at Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Three Paths to Death

This Psalm starts in the negative; telling us three things that do not bring happiness. That which is morally wrong does not bring happiness. That which is offensive to God does not bring happiness. Happiness is not found in pride, scorning, mocking, or looking down at others. Getting advice from those who are morally bankrupt will never bring the happiness we desire. Fixing yourself in the path of resistance to God will never satisfy. Proud looking down at others will never bring true joy.

We say, ‘of course, who would embrace a wicked, sinful, prideful lifestyle as a means to happiness?’ The reason this Psalm lays out these three things as paths that do not lead to genuine happiness is because these are three places we naturally seek happiness in. Is there not something within us, when we see the ‘no admittance, danger keep out, do not touch’ sign, that thinks that pleasure is found in that which is forbidden? This was the first seed of doubt planted by the snake in the garden; ‘Did God really withhold a pleasure from you?’ Or do we not look around and ask ourselves ‘why do the wicked prosper’ (Ps.73:3)? You can’t really make it in the world without bending the rules, stretching the truth, cutting some corners. Do we not, in our minds, or among our friends, criticize others, point out their flaws, their shortcomings, and think that we are just a bit better than they? The Psalm warns us because these are paths we often take. That which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which inflates self, these are not paths to the joy we seek.

The Path to Life

The Psalm warns against three paths that do not lead to happiness, but only one that brings true joy. That is the law of the Lord; the Torah, the instruction, the direction of the Lord. This is inclusive of all God has said to us, all God’s instruction, all his Word. What we know as the Bible is the collection of all God’s instruction to us. The counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers all lead to ruin, but the instruction of the Lord leads to lasting happiness.

Notice our response to God’s word determines our eternal happiness. The one who is happy delights in God’s instruction. John Calvin wrote “that forced or servile obedience is not at all acceptable to God, and that those only are worthy students of the law who come to it with a cheerful mind, and are so delighted with its instructions, as to account nothing more desirable or delicious than to make progress therein …all who are truly actuated by love to the law must feel pleasure in the diligent study of it.” Grudging or obligatory attention to God’s word is empty. We may take medicine because we are supposed to, and we hope that it will be good for us, but it tastes terrible. We plug our nose and swallow the pill. It is distasteful, but good for us. God’s truth is not like that.

Psalm 19 describes God’s word as “pure, reviving the soul; …sure, making wise the simple; …right, rejoicing the heart; …pure, enlightening the eyes; …clean, enduring forever; …true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. … in keeping them there is great reward.” (v.7-11)

Psalm 119 says:

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 34 says:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

God’s word is precious, good, sweet, rewarding, valuable, more to be desired, reviving, rejoicing, enlightening. The one who finds true happiness finds God’s word as a treasure, as a pleasure, as delicious, as a delight. The one who is happy views God’s instruction with delight.

Notice also, the one who would be truly happy meditates on the words of God. Taste, take time to enjoy, savor, pay attention to, focus on, study, speak it, mutter it, muse on it, memorize it, turn it over and over and over.

My kids eat candy as if it were a race. Like a pack of insatiable piranhas they are attracted by the scent of sweets. They descend ravenously on the bag of M&M’s that was just opened, and sometimes when its over, I wonder if some of the wrapper got consumed in the frenzy. I don’t think they taste it at all. It seems the goal is to ingest as much sugar as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. I wish they attacked their chores like that! Don’t read God’s word like that. I want to warn you, that is a danger with Bible reading plans. Reading plans are good, they are helpful, and I would encourage you to read intentionally, with a plan. But the danger lies in it becoming a chore, a box to check off, a task to accomplish, something to get through and finish, something you feel bad about if you get behind, or you feel good about yourself if you keep up, a conquest. Don’t read God’s word merely to get through it. Slow down. Savor. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Enjoy him!

Spurgeon said “The inward meditation is the thing that makes the soul rich towards God. This is the godly man’s occupation. Put the spice into the mortar by reading, beat it with the pestle of meditation—so shall the sweet perfume be exhaled.” [Spurgeon, Ps1:1-3, # 3270]

Meditation is a process that cannot be hurried or rushed through. Eliminate distractions. Focus your attention. Think. Ponder. Muse. Prayerfully consider. Savor. Take time to enjoy. Delight yourself in the instruction of the Lord. Meditate on it day and night.

A Tree Planted

The Psalm compares the person who delights in and meditates on God’s word with a tree planted.

Psalm 1

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

He is compared to a tree, not a vegetable or a grain or a shrub. This is one who stands the test of time, one who has staying power, one who lasts. This is a tree planted. It is not a wild tree, an unplanned tree, a volunteer. This is a cultivated tree, carefully selected, intentionally placed by a wise gardener. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:13 …“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

This is a tree planted by streams of water. Not in a desert. Not by a stagnant pool, not by a wadi or wash that fills with water during a rain and is dry the rest of the time. This speaks of intentional consistent irrigation. This is a tree that yields its fruit in season. This is not a decorative tree, or a shade tree. This is a fruit bearing tree. It is a cultivated tree, intended to be productive. Fruit trees are beautiful and good for shade, but their main purpose is to bear fruit. Jesus 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. …8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Fruit bearing is directly proportional to abiding, delighting, meditating. The fruitful tree is nourished by the word. A tree without adequate water supply will wither. The one who day and night drinks in the word will not wither.

This is the happiness that comes from a purpose realized. In all that he does he prospers. He advances, makes progress, is profitable. This is not the empty happiness of fleeting pleasures. This is the enduring happiness of a purpose fulfilled, the enjoyment that comes from knowing what you were made for, being who you were created to be, doing what you were meant to do. This is the substantial satisfaction of being fruitful.

The Wicked are Not So

The contrast is drawn between the happy one who delights in and meditates on the truth of God’s word and the wicked. Notice, by the way, there is no third category. There is no category for nominal, complacent, comfortable, non-abiding, non-fruitful trees. There are those who treasure God’s word, and the wicked.

Psalm 1

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

After grain is harvested, it is beaten and winnowed out to separate the kernel of grain from the chaff. Chaff is the useless husk that surrounds the grain. The contrast could not be more stark. On the one hand, a firmly planted well nourished fruitful tree, and on the other hand, the empty husk of grain blown by the wind. There is the one with purpose, rooted, alive, thriving, growing, productive, and there is the lifeless empty shell. What a description of a life with no purpose, with no joy. A mere empty husk blown away by the wind.

The Way of the Righteous

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The one who is rooted in God’s word, nourished and satisfied, the one who delights in the Lord, knows that there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:10, 23). But the righteousness of God has been manifested, not a righteousness that comes from keeping the commandments, but a righteousness the entire scriptures point to, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom.3:21-22), the righteousness of Christ that is counted to us, credited to us as a gift (Rom.4). By the obedience of Christ we are made righteous (Rom.5:18-19). The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The only path to a righteousness that pleases God is the sinner humbly trusting God to credit us with a righteousness not our own, the righteousness of Christ.

There are 25 other places in the Psalms where we are declared to be happy. Those who are truly happy are:

those who delight in the instruction of the Lord (1:1 cf. Prov.3:13; 8:32, 34; 29:18)

those who trust in the Lord (2:12; 34:8; 40:4; 84:12; cf. Prov.16:20)

those whose God is the Lord (33:12; 144:15 (x2); 146:5)

those who enjoy the presence of the Lord (65:4; 89:15)

those whose strength is the Lord (84:5)

those who fear the Lord (112:1; 128:1-2; cf. Prov.28:14)

those who are forgiven (32:1-2)

those who are disciplined by the Lord (94:12)

those who do righteousness (106:3; 119:1-2; cf. Prov.20:7)

those who consider the poor (41:1; cf. Prov.14:21)

those who enjoy their children (127:5)

those who execute God’s judgment (137:8-9)

Known By the Lord

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. Those who are justified, declared righteous, credited with the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus, are known by the Lord. The Lord know those who are his (2Tim.2:19). Those whose delight is in the word of God, who meditate on it day and night, are characterized by an intimacy with God. They are known by God.

Would you find real happiness? Do not seek it in that which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which looks down at others in pride. Do not listen to the counsel of unbelievers or follow their ways. Seek the righteousness that comes by faith in the finished work of Christ. Delight yourself in the Lord, in his word, treasure it, savor it, meditate on it, draw from it your nourishment day and night.

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

January 3, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 6:9-11; And Such Were Some Of You

10/06 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Such Were Some of You ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131006_1cor6_9-11.mp3

1Cor 6 [SBLGNT]

6:9 Ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; μὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται 10 οὔτε κλέπται οὔτε πλεονέκται, οὐ μέθυσοι, οὐ λοίδοροι, οὐχ ἅρπαγες βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν. 11 καὶ ταῦτά τινες ἦτε· ἀλλὰ ἀπελούσασθε, ἀλλὰ ἡγιάσθητε, ἀλλὰ ἐδικαιώθητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ καὶ ἐν τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν.

1Cor 6 [ESV2011]

6:1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

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

This is one of the most beautiful descriptions of the transforming power of the gospel found anywhere in the bible, and it comes in the context of sexual immorality and lawsuits in the church. The darkest of sins provide the backdrop for the grace of God to be seen in all its vivid majesty. The Corinthian believers were ripping each other off, taking each other to court, wronging and defrauding their own brothers. They were displaying their misunderstanding and misapplication of the cross. They were not living in sync with the gospel. Paul says that by taking one another to court, they are already admitting defeat, defeat of a much greater magnitude than they would ever sustain in the courts of their day. Jesus asked ‘what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)’ Those in the church in Corinth were in grave danger of being self-deceived on the most serious of all issues; they might believe they were on their way to heaven, when in reality they would spend eternity separated from the presence of God.

Unforgiveness will Keep You From God’s Kingdom

This issue of forgiveness really is that serious. Jesus taught us to pray that God would

Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And then he said:

Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Lawsuits in the church was evidence of a lack of forgiveness. What a terrifying thing to forfeit the forgiveness of God because of my own self-centeredness and greed. If I demand my own rights, I just might get what I deserve, and that is a fearful prospect. Jesus told a story that drives home this point. Peter was asking him how often we should forgive a brother who sinned against him. The story is in Matthew 18.

Matthew 18:23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

To feel the weight of this story, we need to understand that one talent was the equivalent of about 20 years wages of a laborer. So the debt the servant owed, ten thousand talents, was the equivalent of 200,000 year’s wages. In contrast, a denarius was one day’s wages for a laborer, so the servant was owed 100 day’s wages. If you only earned a dollar a day, the servant was owed $100 by his fellow servant, but he owed the king 52 million dollars (and remember, that is if you only make one dollar a day; if you make $30,000 a year, that would be $6 billion). At first read, we might think the king harsh, who would sell the servant, his wife, and his children, so that the debt could be paid. But when we realize the magnitude of his debt, the obscene embezzlement that he was guilt of to put himself in that much debt, the insane lifestyle it would take to spend so much, the punishment seems mild. And the king was willing to forgive him the entire debt! Now we begin to feel how outrageous this servant’s attitude was toward his fellow servant who had wronged him so little.

Our refusal to forgive demonstrates that we do not understand what it cost us to be forgiven. Unforgiveness toward a fellow servant shows what little appreciation we have for the weight of our own debt before God. This kind of unforgiving attitude displays that our heart has not been touched at all by the good news.

Unrighteous Will Not Inherit the Kingdom of God

Paul asks the fifth of ten questions in 1 Corinthians indicting their ignorance of basic truth. ‘Do you not know?’ These are things that should be self-evident truths, plain for all to see. You, who claim to be so wise, do you not know? ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?’ God is a righteous God, and his kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness. For God’s kingdom to be a righteous kingdom, no one who is unrighteous can be admitted.

Do Not Be Deceived

Paul again warns his readers not to be deceived, not to be led astray from the straight path. There is a danger here of being misled. There is a deceptive danger to think that because God is gracious and compassionate and slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness, then we can continue to willfully embrace a lifestyle of open rebellion toward him and expect him to put up with it. Paul warns us that we must not be deceived. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.

He expands his list of behaviors and attitudes from chapter 5 that are incompatible with those who have experienced the new birth.

Sexual immorality is incompatible with genuine Christianity. Sexual addiction, pornography, any kind of sexual intimacy with anyone outside of a monogamous marriage relationship is out of step with the gospel.

Idolatry is unacceptable among those who claim to follow Jesus. Allowing anything or anyone to be more significant to you than God is idolatry. Sports heroes or celebrities or video games or pastimes or recreation or work or money or husband or wife or children or anything that consumes more of your energy and attention and affection than God may be an idol, and bowing to any other god is incompatible with the gospel.

Adultery, dishonoring the marriage covenant, being unfaithful to one’s vows before God, is not to be tolerated among those who have been made part of the church, the bride of Christ. Covenant unfaithfulness is incompatible with the people of God.

Homosexuality is not an alternative for those who belong to Christ. Paul uses two distinct words here, referring to the active and passive partners in a homosexual relationship, which are together translated ‘men who practice homosexuality’ in our version. Same-sex intimacy is contrary to nature according to Romans 1, and is contrary to the gospel.

Thieves, those who take what does not belong to them, even if they use the legal system to do it, should not expect a part in the kingdom of God.

Greedy, those who are eager for gain, those who hold on to things and want more and more and more, do not show evidence that God is all-satisfying.

Drunkards, those who come under the control or influence of any substance are not being controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Revilers, those who are abusive, mistreating others with word or deed. These are not transformed by the word of God.

Swindlers, extortioners, those who by force or cunning would defraud or scam others.

Do not be deceived, those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This is not a checklist of bad things to avoid in order to pass the test and enter heaven. Rather, these behaviors and attitudes are evidence of a heart that has not been transformed by the grace of God. Those who persist in sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers, they will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Inheriting the Kingdom

Note that Paul does not say ‘they will not earn the kingdom. Twice he uses this word ‘inherit’. An inheritance is something that happens to sons. An inheritance cannot be earned. An inheritance is given. It is what comes to those who are in the family. And within a family, there are family resemblances. A son begins to act like his father.

And Such Were Some of You!

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

Now we get to the good news in this passage. ‘And such were some of you!’ There is hope for the idolater. There is hope for the drunk, for the alcoholic, for the substance abuser. There is hope for the sexually immoral, for the adulterer, for the one who struggles with porn or homosexuality. There is hope for the thief, for the greedy, for the con artist, for the liar, for the cheat. There is hope for the abusive. There is hope for the unrighteous, and we all were unrighteous. But note the past tense. ‘Such were some of you’. That is what we once were. But those things define us no longer. We are those things no more. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. But Jesus did not come to call righteous people. He came to call sinners (Mk.2:17). Sinners like you. Sinners like me.

The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. But in Christ Jesus, we are unrighteous no longer. We have been clothed in the perfect righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been adopted into his family, we have been made new.

But You Were Washed

We were washed. Jesus said:

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Jesus’ primary concern is the heart. When the heart of a sinner is transformed, it will naturally produce good fruit. We were filthy. We were all the things that are abhorrent to God. But in Jesus, we are cleansed thoroughly, inside and out. 1 John says:

1 John 1:7 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.

We have this picture of the saints in Revelation:

Revelation 7:14 … They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Listen to this prophesy in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

We have been thoroughly cleansed, made new, given a new heart and the Holy Spirit.

Paul in Romans views this cleansing through the lens of baptism:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. … 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Our old self was crucified with Christ and we have been raised to a new kind of life. We were washed.

You Were Sanctified

We were sanctified. Set apart. Made holy. Paul was sent by Jesus to the Gentiles

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Jesus prayed for his followers:

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Paul prayed:

1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

You Were Justified

We were justified. Acquitted. Declared not guilty. Pronounced righteous. Jesus told the story of the two who went to the temple to pray. He says:

Luke 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The one who admitted his sin and cried out to God for mercy was justified by God.

Romans tells us:

Romans 3:23 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,

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

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

When we believe in Jesus, we are counted righteous in Christ. We are set apart. We are washed clean.

In The Name

We are washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. All these things happen to us based on the reputation and character of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. The triune God, Father, Son and Spirit is at work to take a sinner and transform him into a saint, qualified to inherit the kingdom of God. You may be sexually immoral, an idolater, an adulterer, a homosexual, a thief, greedy, drunk, slanderous, swindling, but God can transform your heart and make you new. You can be washed, sanctified, justified, made righteous in his sight. Cry out to him for mercy and he will rescue you. 

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

October 6, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Jesus Our …Everything!

03/17 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 Jesus our…Everything; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130317_1cor1_30-31.mp3

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to address problems that had arisen in the church in Corinth. Although there were some serious moral and doctrinal issues that required urgent attention, and that he will address in the course of this letter, the apostle started by giving thanks to God for how God had worked in the believers there. He addresses them as ‘the church of God in Corinth’; he says they are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, and that they are a part of the larger church, the body of Christ. He gives thanks that God’s grace was given to them in Christ Jesus, that they were enriched in knowledge, that the gospel proved to be effective among them, that they lacked no grace-gift, that they were waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he reminds them of God’s faithfulness, that it is God who will sustain them guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then he tackles what he sees to be the root of much of the problems in Corinth. He tackles their ‘I’ problem. Some said “I follow Paul.” Some said “I follow Apollos.” Others said “I follow Cephas.” And those who thought they were above the rest and really spiritual said “I follow Christ.” Division, disunity, quarreling, this kind of party spirit was evidence of pride. Paul brings them back to the nature of the gospel to cure them of their pride. He says that his primary responsibility as apostle was to preach the gospel, a simple message, an offensive message, the message of the cross. The message, not the messenger, carries the power of God. He undermines their pride by pointing to the fact that the gospel, the word of the cross, is perceived as foolishness to pagans and as a scandal to religious people. In fact, God set out to destroy the wisdom of the wise by saving those who believe in, trust in, depend on the foolish message of the cross.

He says that the message seems foolish, and then he causes a greater affront to their pride by reminding them of their own social status. Not many wise according to the world, not many powerful, not many of the nobility in Corinth were chosen by God. Instead, God chose the low and despised in the world, even the nobodies to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. God’s whole method of salvation was designed to strip us of anything to boast in so that all our worship goes to God. Humble adoration is what is appropriate in response to God’s saving work, not human arrogance.

He ties this all together with a dense summary of the gospel message in verse 30, which we will attempt to unpack today, followed by an exhortation from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul has said in verse 17 that the gospel is the power of the cross of Christ. In verse 18 he calls it the word of the cross. In verse 23 he says “we preach Christ crucified. And in verse 24 he says that to those who believe, this foolish message becomes ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ He says that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. Verse 30 helps us to see how Christ is the wisdom and power of God, and how this simple message of the cross, that seems weak and foolish is really power and wisdom.

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Because of Him

First of all, he reminds us of the fact that our salvation is not due to us, it is not because of us. Our relationship to Jesus, described as being ‘in Christ Jesus’ is not our own doing. It is ‘because of him you are in Christ Jesus’. Because God called you, because God chose you, you responded with faith and believed in Jesus, trusted in the foolish message of the cross. God, who creates beauty out of nothing, and calls into existence things that do not exist, ‘has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.

Became to Us Wisdom from God

Jesus became to us wisdom from God. He wasn’t before. Before God called us, we were like the rest of the world. We looked at the cross and thought it foolish. We heard the message of Christ crucified and were offended. Our eyes were blind to the beauty of the cross. Our hearts were hard to the transforming power of his grace. We could turn this around, as one Puritan brother wrote in 1836, [Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae] “in ourselves we are ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved.” But because of him, because God opened our hearts, we are in Christ Jesus, and in Christ, what once seemed foolish is now seen to be the profound wisdom of God. The foolishness of God is wiser than men.

Being Saved

Here we find encapsulated in three words the power of God to save. Paul described us back in verse 18 as ‘us who are being saved’. What does it mean to be ‘being saved’? Remember our illustration. The fireman has crashed into your bedroom, shook you out of your sleep, alerted you to the fact that your house is burning down around you and you are in danger of perishing. You realize the danger and entrust yourself to his care. He has taken you in his capable arms, wrapped you in his fireproof coat, placed his oxygen mask over your face, and he is carrying you through the burning building. You are being saved. Paul describes this ‘being saved’ as Christ our righteousness and Christ our sanctification and Christ our redemption.

Christ our Righteousness

If we are in Christ Jesus, Christ has become for us our righteousness. Paul, in Romans establishes the fact that ‘none is righteous, no not one’ (Rom.3:10), and that the law was brought in to stop every mouth and demonstrate that the whole world is accountable to God, because no one can keep God’s law perfectly. And then he presents a different righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own. He says:

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

This righteousness is not our righteousness, because we cannot keep the law. This is God’s righteousness, and it is given to all who believe in Jesus Christ. He goes on:

Romans 3:22 …For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift,

This word ‘justified’ is from the same root as the word ‘righteous’. It means to be made righteous or declared righteous. We, sinners who fall short of God’s glory and are unrighteous in ourselves are declared righteous by God’s generosity as a gift. We, who have no righteousness of our own, are given God’s righteousness. If you are in Christ Jesus, he has become your righteousness. This is what Isaiah points to when he says:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

This is what was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, that from David’s lineage, a righteous branch would come and he would be called ‘the LORD is our righteousness’ (Jer.23:5-6; 33:16).

Christ our Sanctification

To us who are being saved, Jesus Christ has become to us righteousness and sanctification. Sanctification, or holiness in some translations, is being set apart. A time, a place, a person or an item may have been ordinary and commonplace, but if it was sanctified, consecrated or made holy, it now became set apart for God’s exclusive use. Back in verse 2, Paul called the believers in Corinth ‘those sanctified in Christ Jesus’. Whatever they had been before, they were now set apart exclusively for God. Holiness or sanctification carries with it the idea of being cleansed, purified, made fit for God’s use. Under the law, there was a process by which something or someone could be cleansed or purified or made holy, set apart for God’s use. This process usually involved sacrifices and cleansing. Often when we think about sanctification or holiness, we think of the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus, and it has that meaning in Romans 6 and Ephesians 5 and 1 Thessalonians 4. But here in verse 2 Paul tells us that we have been decisively and forever sanctified in Christ Jesus, and in verse 30 that Christ Jesus has become our sanctification. We have been set apart exclusively for God. We have been made holy. We are not yet practically what we have been made positionally, but God is at work in us to bring to completion that which he started. Both of these aspects of sanctification are brought together in Hebrews 10:14.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We have been perfected, brought to completion by a single offering- the offering of Christ on the cross. But we are in process, becoming what we are. We have some baby chicks and ducklings at our house. When they hatched out of their eggs, even before they hatched, they were what they will be. The baby ducklings are ducks. They are different than chicks. They have webbed feet. They have bills, not beaks. Ducks fly, but these ducklings can’t fly. They can’t even take care of themselves. They haven’t produced anything but a mess yet. They haven’t laid any eggs. But they are decisively ducks. They will grow up to be nothing but ducks. In Christ Jesus, we have become something that we were not before. The bible calls this regeneration or the new birth. We are not yet what we will be, but our nature has been decisively changed. We may still produce nothing but a mess, but by God’s grace we will mature, and one day we will bear fruit that brings pleasure to God. In one sense we have been changed. We are set apart for God. We are holy. In another sense, we have not yet fully grown into what we are destined to become. Jesus is our sanctification.

Christ our Redemption

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Jesus Christ is our redemption. Righteousness is a legal term. Before God’s law we stand either righteous or condemned. In Christ, we are given the gift of God’s own righteousness. Sanctification is a ceremonial term. In relation to God’s presence, we are either set apart for God’s use, or excluded from his presence. Christ is our sanctification, setting us apart to enjoy the presence of God forever. Redemption is a slave-market term. Under Old Testament law, if you couldn’t pay your debts, there were no bankruptcy laws. You were sold into slavery. You were no longer your own. You belonged to someone else. But there was provision for redemption. Someone could pay your debt and buy you out of slavery and set you free. This was our situation. I had made foolish choices and got myself in over my head. Not financially, but spiritually. I wanted to be my own master, so I rebelled against God, and I was sold as a slave to sin. I was not in control of my own life, I was in bondage, with no hope of escape. But Jesus, the one against whom I had rebelled, came and paid my price, the ultimate price, to redeem me.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Jesus bought us with his own blood.

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus became to us redemption. We have been purchased, we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. But there is a sense in which this redemption is not yet fully realized. The price has been paid in full. But our emancipation is not yet fully complete. We have been exempted from the consequences of sin. We are no longer under the power of sin. But we still wrestle with the presence of sin. We still battle with our old nature. The bible looks back to the cross as the victory where the head of the serpent was crushed, but it also looks forward to a day when all things will be set right. Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

There is a day coming, certainly coming, where we will be delivered from the indwelling presence of sin. It is signed, signed in blood. We are sealed, sealed with the Holy Spirit of God. But we are not yet delivered. The day of redemption is coming, the day when all is set right. This is what in Romans 8 all creation longs for.

Romans 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

In the gospel, the message of the cross, Jesus became for us righteousness and sanctification and redemption. This is the wisdom of God and the power of God. This is the wisdom of God to satisfy justice and show mercy to sinners. This is the power of God. What seemed to be a grand demonstration of weakness, that God incarnate would be killed on a cross turned out to be the power of God for salvation. This is the power of God to set us free from sin and death and hell. This is the power of God to set us free from our own self-centeredness and pride, to do what we were created to do and humbly worship our great and gracious and glorious God.

So that We Boast Only in the Lord

Both before and after this verse, the ultimate reason and purpose of the method of God is given. Look at verses 29 and 31.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

‘So that no human being might boast in the presence of God. …so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”’ God in his infinite wisdom designed salvation in such a way that it is exclusively his to give and ours to receive so that boasting in what we earn or deserve is excluded. The only boasting that is allowed is boasting in the Lord. This Old Testament quote comes from Jeremiah 9. It is a word of judgment on the people for turning away from him (8:4-5). They are full of deceit, greed, falsehood, lies, iniquity, oppression. They have ‘stubbornly followed their own hearts’ (9:14). Twice he says ‘they do not know me declares the Lord’ (9:3); ‘they refuse to know me declares the Lord’ (9:6)

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Boasting in human wisdom, might or riches is foolish, and God will bring it to nothing. The only legitimate ground for boasting is in a relationship with God; ‘that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD’. We find that God’s steadfast covenant keeping love finds its ultimate expression in Jesus, the only Son of God, come to demonstrate the great love God has for us by giving himself in our place, dying for our sins. Justice is satisfied, the wrath of God against our sin is appeased, and righteousness is given to those who trust in Jesus. Let him who boasts, boast in knowing God, in a relationship with God that comes from God as a gift, a relationship that is in Christ Jesus.

True wisdom is knowing God, a relationship with God. Jesus is our wisdom and our righteousness and our sanctification and our redemption. Jesus is the gospel. Jesus is the wisdom of God and the power of God for salvation to all who believe. So trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, enjoy a relationship with Jesus, boast in Jesus. 

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

March 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 25:31-40; Furniture in God’s Tent – The Light

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120318_exodus25_31-40.mp3

03/18 Exodus 25:31-40 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Light

In Exodus 25, God is giving us a glimpse of heaven on earth. He has given Moses a vision of his heavenly throne room, and instructed Moses to build a replica to place in the middle of the camp of Israel; a tent for God to dwell with his people. Through the details of this tent we learn much about God. We started in his very presence, where a box was to be placed containing the terms of God’s covenant with his people. This box was to be covered with the propitiatory, a lid that covered his law, and this lid was to be smeared with blood, satisfying God’s justice as he saw that his covenant had been violated. Outside this inner chamber or throne room we saw the table, piled high with bread, the bread of the presence, as well as containers for wine and trays for incense.

Psalm 16:11 … in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The next thing we are told about is the light.

Exodus 25:31 “You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. 32 And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 33 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch–so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 35 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. 36 Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 37 You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. 38 Its tongs and their trays shall be of pure gold. 39 It shall be made, with all these utensils, out of a talent of pure gold. 40 And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.

Then the record of building it in Exodus 37:

Exodus 37:17 He also made the lampstand of pure gold. He made the lampstand of hammered work. Its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers were of one piece with it. 18 And there were six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; 19 three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch–so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. 20 And on the lampstand itself were four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, 21 and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out of it. 22 Their calyxes and their branches were of one piece with it. The whole of it was a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. 23 And he made its seven lamps and its tongs and its trays of pure gold. 24 He made it and all its utensils out of a talent of pure gold.

And the instructions for lighting the lamps:

Exodus 27:20 “You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.

Light in the Darkness

As we will see, God’s tent was made up of four layers; fine linen, goats hair, and two layers of leather or animal hide. This tent would be dark inside. So God gave specific instructions for light to illumine his tent. This is not because God is scared of the dark. It is not so that he wouldn’t stub his toe on the table in the dark. Like the bread in his presence, the light would primarily benefit the priests who served in his tent. The lampstand was placed outside the curtain that hid the immediate presence of God from view. Inside the holy of holies, the radiance of the glory of God would be the only light. This lamp would benefit the priests who came in regularly to serve in the holy place.

These seven lamps, kept blazing all night long, were probably the brightest light in the camp of Israel. This would serve as a vivid reminder that someone is home in God’s tent. God is indeed dwelling with his people. The lights in God’s tent were to be kept on all night every night.

Psalm 121:3 …he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Tree of Life

Look at the design of this lampstand. It is described with the language of botany. It has a trunk with branches, stems, buds, and flowers. The whole structure is designed to resemble a tree in bloom. It appears that there were three blossoms on each of the six branches, and four blossoms on the trunk, 22 blossoms in all. Seven of these blossoms would be the cups that would hold an olive oil lamp. This would be a dazzling tree of solid gold in full bloom, with seven of its flowers on fire.

This imagery of a tree, like much of the imagery in the tabernacle, brings us back to the presence of God in the garden in the beginning. The cherubim that serve as God’s throne in the most holy place were first introduced in Genesis:

Genesis 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

The cherubim with flaming sword were set to guard the way to the tree of life. Now we have another connection with the garden. This golden flaming tree that gives light in the presence of God reminds us of the tree of life in the garden of God. God is inviting his people back into relationship with him; back into his presence; back into paradise.

Jesus Light of Life

This is a tree shaped lampstand; its purpose is to give light. We are reminded that God is the author of light.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Light and life are closely connected throughout the scriptures. Without light, there is no life. So one of God’s first creative acts was the creation of light. These words of creation and light from Genesis are echoed in the New Testament gospel of John:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the true light who came into the world. Everything we have seen in the tabernacle points us to Jesus.

The propitiatory or mercy seat points toward:

Romans 3:24 …Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

The bread of the presence points to Jesus, who said:

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …51 …And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

And now the lampstand points us to Jesus, who said:

John 8:12 … “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Jesus is life and light. He overcomes the darkness. This was prophesied in Isaiah.

Isaiah 49:6 … I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Jesus is the life giving light of the world. How is Jesus the light of the world? In what way does Jesus give light? In John’s gospel we see a focus on Jesus as the light. John’s gospel begins by pointing us back to creation and back to the Word, or Jesus, who is God, who has always existed as God, and who was active in creation with with his Father. John tells us that life, the essence of life was in Jesus, that Jesus is the source of all life, and that the intrinsic life of Jesus was the light of men. When light shines, it overcomes darkness, and Jesus, the true light was coming into the world. But there was a problem. It says Jesus who created the world came into the world, but the world did not recognize him. It says he came to his own people, but even they did not receive him. In chapter 3, John says this:

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.”

There is a darkness in the heart of people that causes us to hate the light and cling to the darkness. Jesus comes as light, bringing the good news of eternal life to all who believe in him, and we scurry for a dark corner to hide from the light that would expose our wicked hearts. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that this is a spiritual problem.

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.

Paul tells us that there is a diabolical blindness caused by the devil himself to prevent us from seeing the light of the good news of the glory of Christ. So Jesus, the light, shines in the darkness of this world, but we are blind, under the power of Satan, kept from seeing the good news in Jesus. This sounds like the darkness has overcome the light! What hope is there? Paul points us to our only hope in verse 6:

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.

It is God, who spoke light into the darkness at creation, who can create light in the spiritual blindness of unbelieving hearts so that we can recognize and receive the good news of Jesus. God is still at work today overcoming darkness with his glorious light! This is what gave Paul the confidence to preach the gospel to spiritually blind people.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul knew that the means God uses to open blind eyes to the glorious good news of Jesus was the proclamation of the truth. Paul had confidence in the power of God to open the eyes of the spiritually blind because he had experienced this first hand. Paul, who was formerly called Saul, was zealous for God but hated this Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah, and genuinely thought he was serving God by ‘ravaging the church, entering house after house, dragging off men and women and throwing them in prison, breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 8:3; 9:1).

God appeared to Saul on the Damascus road in blazing blinding light, knocked him to the ground, and said “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15), and he said to the stunned physically blinded but now spiritually alert Saul:

Acts 26:17 …I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

God opened Saul’s eyes to the fact that he had been blind, under the power of Satan, trying to earn favor with God by his own self-righteousness. What he desperately needed was to be knocked off his high horse, to have his sinful pride and self-righteousness forgiven as a free gift from God and begin a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Later he contrasted his own good works with the gift of righteousness he received from God:

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–

Paul knew by personal experience that God overcomes blindness and darkness in hard, self-righteous unbelieving hearts by the light of the good news of forgiveness in Jesus. So Paul preached the good news with confidence in the power of God to save sinners. Paul says:

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Jesus, the light of the world, was lifted up and hung on a cross so that his light would shine down on lost sinners like you and me. Come to Jesus, the light of the world; let his penetrating light expose the wickedness of your proud heart, and trust him to freely forgive all your sin.

Followers of Jesus become Light

Amazingly, Jesus, who claimed to be the light of the world, turned to his followers and said to them:

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus, whose light shone in the darkness, who is a light for the nations, who said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” now turns to his disciples and tells us ‘you are the light of the world. Let your light shine in such a way that the fruit of your faith draws attention not to you but to your Father.’

The life and light of Jesus comes and transforms the hearts of his followers, so that the light of Jesus now shines out from the lives of his followers. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine. We find the image of the golden lampstand again in John’s vision on Patmos.

Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet … 12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, … 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

The light once contained in the temple is now going out for all the nations to enjoy. We, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, transformed by the good news, now bear the light of the good news of the glory of Jesus for all to see.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

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

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 19:9-15; Prepare to Meet Your God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110619_exodus19_9-15.mp3

06/19 Exodus 19:9-15 Prepare to Meet Your God

Saved to Worship

God has saved his people. With a strong hand he brought them out from under their bondage to the Egyptians. His purpose was ‘Let my people go that they may serve me’ or ‘worship me.’ God’s people were saved to worship. God has brought them now to Mount Sinai, and he is about to formally introduce himself to his people. This is a hugely significant event and sets the stage for the giving of his law in the following chapters. The LORD instructs Moses to remind his people first of his grace toward them, and then of his purposes for them.

19:3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

Remind the people what I did. God is saying ‘Remember, I saved you all by myself. You didn’t deserve this. You were panicking – fearful and unbelieving. You stood by and watched. You saw what I did to your enemies. Remember I carried you when you were helpless. I brought you to myself. This is all God’s actions to save his undeserving people. Now that they have been saved, he reminds them of his purposes for them.

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; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

God’s people have been delivered for a purpose. They were set free from bondage in order to worship and serve the one true God. They are God’s most prized possession among all that he owns. The whole nation is to be a kingdom, those who are under the authority of the King. And the whole nation is to be a kingdom of priests among the nations – they are to serve the nations by proclaiming the truth about God to them and bringing them into relationship with God. That is the role of a priest. They are to facilitate worship of the one true God. Through this one chosen nation, God intends to bless all the nations of the earth. They are to be set apart, distinct, different from all other nations, to serve as an example to the nations of what it looks like to obey God’s voice and keep his covenant.

7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

The people embraced God’s purposes for them. They formally agreed to his terms. Now God announces that the people are to prepare themselves to meet their God.

9 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10 the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”

Part of God’s purpose in this was to establish Moses’ leadership over his people. They had grumbled and complained against Moses, and this event is designed to remove any reason to question whether Moses is indeed called by God. But the language is much bigger than just to the Israelites way back then. Moses is to be believed forever. Moses has something to say to us today too.

Prepare to Meet Your God

God instructs Moses to prepare the people to meet their God. The LORD will come down in the sight of all the people. This is a visible manifestation of the invisible God, as we will see. Meeting with God is no light matter. God takes himself very seriously. The Hebrew word for the glory of God is a word that means weighty or heavy. This is serious. For a sinful human being to come into the presence of the all-holy God means death. When we are confronted with the holiness of God, we are made painfully aware of our own sinfulness. God in his justice must punish all sin. God cannot let any sin slide or he would cease to be just and righteous. The wages of sin is death. This is why when God makes his presence known to mortals, they say things like “Alas, O LORD God! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD” (Jud.6:22); and “Woe to me! For I am lost …for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa.6:5); or “The glory of the LORD stood there… and I fell on my face” (Eze.3:23). Deuteronomy 5 looks back on this event in amazement and says:

Deuteronomy 5:24 And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man and man still live.

Boundaries are to be established around the mountain for the protection of the people. When God called to Moses on this same mountain from the burning bush, he said:

Exodus 3:5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

The people are to be kept from approaching God uninvited on pain of death. God is dangerous. This is important for us to hear. We do not come to God on our own terms. If we are to come before God and survive the experience, we must come on his terms and his terms alone. We must be invited. God is to be feared and respected. He is not to be treated casually. Two young men in Leviticus chapter 10 learned this the hard way.

Leviticus 10:1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace.

Our God is not safe. He is not to be trifled with. Our God is a consuming fire, awesome and terrible. He is King of kings. Over and over the scriptures tell us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. He is just and will by no means let the guilty go unpunished. This is not just an Old Testament thing. Jesus taught:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Jesus is teaching his followers to fear his Father. Fear God and God alone, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. God is to be taken seriously. It is a weighty thing to come into the presence of the living God.

Consecration

Even for those who are to be kept at a safe distance, they must prepare. God sent Moses down to consecrate the people. This is a two day process. They are to be set apart to the LORD. As part of this preparation, they were to abstain from normal sexual relations. Intimacy with your spouse was to be postponed for a short time in order to focus attention on intimacy with God. This is also taught in the New Testament:

1Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self–control.

Did you know that God is pro-sex? He is for it! He came up with the idea. He intends it to be a beautiful, pleasurable expression of intimacy within the context of the covenant faithfulness of marriage. Marital abstinence is to be the exception, not the rule, and only for a very specific purpose.

His people are also instructed to wash their clothes. Remember, again, they are not being told to clean themselves up in order to make themselves acceptable to God. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God.

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

We are all lawbreakers, and stand condemned before God. Nothing we do can cover our guilt before God.

Romans 3:23 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.

Our only hope is mercy – not getting what we so justly deserve. Our only hope is a generous gift freely given to undeserving sinners. God has already taken decisive action to save his people. Now he is commanding that they prepare to meet him.

They are told to wash their clothes. They are not told to take a bath. According to 1 Corinthians 10:2, they had already been baptized in the cloud and in the sea. Now they are being told simply to wash their clothes. We are not told how or where they do this, but if we have been following the story, when the people came to the mountain, there was no water, and God provided water by commanding that the rock be struck with his staff. This is the last water mentioned. If this is the case, then this scene is rich with symbolism. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the Rock was Christ. In preparation to meet God, his people are to wash their clothes in the water which flows from the Rock who was smitten for them.

What a beautiful picture. Although God is to be feared, man’s greatest good is to be in the presence of this fearsome God. To be separated from God forever is quite literally hell. And yet for a sinner to be in the presence of a holy God means justice and punishment and death. What are we to do with this dilemma? There is nothing we can do.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved–– … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated … strangers…, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Hopeless sinners brought near to a holy God – how? By the blood of Christ.

1John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. …14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

When we were not loving God, God sent his only Son to satisfy his own wrath against our hatred of him. O what love! Amazing love!

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

Brought into the presence of absolute purity by the sacrifice of the perfect substitute, Jesus Christ the Righteous, suffering for the sins of the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.

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

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

June 19, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 17:8-16; Fight the Good Fight – Battle with Amalek

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110508_exodus17_8-16.mp3

05/08 Exodus 17:8-16 Fight the Good Fight

Intro:

God has redeemed his people. He has delivered them from bondage. He is daily providing for their needs. He continually proves himself gracious even in the face of grumbling ungrateful demanding impatient rebellious people. So far, he has left Egypt in ruins, brought his people safely through the middle of the Red Sea, destroyed the Egyptian army, made bitter water sweet, rained bread from heaven for daily needs, and brought water from a rock to refresh his people. Now, his people are faced with the first battle they must fight.

17:8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

(Prayer)

Let’s start with some background information so we get a big-picture understanding of this passage in its historical setting, and then we’ll look at what we can learn from it that will encourage us in our battle.

Who were the Amalekites?

According to Genesis 36, Amalek was the grandson of Esau. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (or Israel); Esau was Jacob’s older twin brother. Jacob bought the birthright and stole the blessing from his older brother. In the stolen blessing, Isaac made Jacob lord over his brother. When Esau demanded some blessing from his father, Isaac said this:

Genesis 27:40 By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you grow restless you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

The blessing God gave to Abraham was to come through Jacob and his twelve sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel. Esau’s descendants, also known as Edom or Edomites, were a problem for Israel throughout their history. The descendants of Amalek, grandson of Esau, were the first to attack Israel in the wilderness after they left Egypt.

What did Amalek do that was so bad?

God pronounces a severe curse on these people. He says he will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven, and he instructs that this be passed on to Joshua and recorded in a book. This passage closes with the words “The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” What did they do that would deserve this kind of severity? This passage simply states that they instigated the battle with Israel at Rephidim. If we look at the instructions Moses left for future generations in Deuteronomy, we get some more details:

Deuteronomy 25:17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, 18 how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. 19 Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.

So Amalek did not fear God. When they attacked, they went after the weak and the sick, the defenseless, the elderly and the young. They attacked from behind. They fought dirty and kicked them while they were down. They didn’t play fair. God wanted generations to come to remember the sin of Amalek and its consequences. The LORD himself will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

In the generation when Saul was king over Israel, the prophet Samuel charged Saul with this:

1Samuel 15:2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”’

Saul disobeyed, and as a result of his disobedience to the LORD’s command, he was rejected as king over Israel. He spared Agag, king of the Amalekites.

What happened to the Amalekites?

We see Israel up through Saul and David battling the Amalekites. At the end of 1 Samuel, we see them pulling a similar stunt. When everyone has left their cities undefended because they are off to war, the Amalekites swoop in and make off with the women and children and goods. David returns home to find his city on fire and his wives gone. He pursues them and reclaims what is his and not a man escaped, except 400 young men who fled on camels. (1Sam.30:17).
We don’t hear much from the Amalekites until we get to the book of Esther, at the time of the Babylonian captivity, around 480 BC. The enemy of the Jews is Haman the Agagite, descendant of the royal line of Amalekites through king Agag.

The Battle

Let’s examine this first battle that the Israelites engage in after their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. There are some very intriguing firsts in this battle. Joshua shows up in the biblical narrative first here. There is no introduction, he just shows up in the narrative as the one Moses entrusts to be in charge of the military. Hur also shows up for the first time here, accompanying Moses at the top of the hill. The instructions he gives are interesting. Joshua is to choose men capable of fighting- remember, these are former slaves with no military training. They have been attacked, and Moses says ‘tomorrow’. ‘Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand. Several times during the plague narrative, a great act of God is said to be coming ‘tomorrow’. This would be a hint. The staff of God. The staff that brought water from the rock. The staff that God used to bring devastation to Egypt was once again going to be lifted up. Moses stretched out the staff and the Red Sea opened up. He stretched it out again, and God crushed their enemies. Tomorrow the staff of God will be lifted up. Something big is about to happen.

But there is a very significant difference between this battle and the defeat of the Egyptian army just three chapters earlier. Here the Israelites fight. Back in Chapter 14:

Exodus 14:13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

In the battle at the Red Sea, only the LORD was fighting. The people were explicitly instructed not to do anything. They were to stand still and observe the salvation that God would work for them. Then they were slaves, and God was fighting the battle for their freedom against their old slave master. Now they are free, their slave master is dead, and they have a new battle to fight. And this time they are expected to fight.

If the Israelites thought that they would have no more conflict now that they were free of Egypt, they were sorely mistaken.

But it is still clearly the LORD who fights the battle. The staff on the hill makes that abundantly clear. The Israelites are no match for the Amalekites. The only time they enjoy any success is when Moses raises his hands with the staff toward heaven. The focal point of the story is not what is happening on the field of battle. The focus of the story is what is happening on the hill. And even on the hill, the picture we have is a picture of weakness. Moses can’t even hold his own hands up by himself. He has to sit on a rock and have assistance from two helpers. As Proverbs tells us:

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.

The victory belongs to the LORD. We have our part to play, but the decisive element is not our strength or skill or determination. The LORD is fighting this battle.

The difference between the battles is that in the first, God is fighting for his people. In this battle, God is fighting in and through his people. In the first, he is securing their freedom, and he does not need their assistance, in fact he will not allow them to do anything. He fights exclusively by himself. In this battle, having already been set free, they are required to fight, but not in their own strength. The Psalmist calls God his strength:

Psalm 59:17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

Over and over and over again in the scriptures, God is praised by his people for being their strength. God even says in Jeremiah 17:5

Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.

It is such a serious issue that God pronounces a curse on those who are self-dependent.

Do you see how this relates to our battle? God has fought for us and won the victory all by himself. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship…

Jesus decisively won the victory on the cross without any help from us. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1Peter 2:24). Anything we offer in the way of help or payment for that battle is nothing but insult and brings us under the curse. But if we think that now that we are free, the Christian life will be trouble free, we have a harsh reality to face. We are in a fight. Paul charges us to “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). We have a cruel enemy. He doesn’t play fair.

Paul describes our battle as a serious call to arms in Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

You be strong. But not in your own strength. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. You prepare for battle. You will have to stand against the schemes of the devil. You are in way over your head. You are up against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. There is no way you can win this battle. The enemy is much stronger than you. But you be strong in God’s strength. You have to put on the armor – but it is God’s armor. You wrestle, you withstand, you stand firm. You will be victorious in this battle because it is not your strength but God’s strength in you.

This is consistently the way the New Testament describes the Christian’s warfare.

1Timothy 1:12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

2Timothy 4:17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

1Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies––in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1Corinthians 15:10 … I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Do you hear that? Through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear – but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me. Serve in the strength that God supplies so that God gets all the glory. I worked hard – but it was not I; it was God’s grace working. I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. I am weak. I can’t even hold up my own hands. But this is why there is strength even in weakness; especially in weakness. If I feel confident in my abilities, if I think I can handle this battle, I will fail miserably, because “pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). An acute awareness of my own weakness and inability forces me to depend on him who is strength. This is why Jesus says to Paul:

2Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When I am weak, then I am strong, because in my weakness, the power of Christ is able to rest on me.

Charles Spurgeon said this:

Now that we are alive from the dead we must wrestle with principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness if we are to overcome. “Go fight,” is the command. Do not many Christians act as if the sin would be driven out of them through their sleeping soundly? Let them be sure that a slumbering spirit is the best friend that sin, can find. If your lusts are to be destroyed, they must be cut up root and branch by sheer force of personal exertion through divine grace, they are not to be blown away by languid wishes and sleepy desires. God will not relieve us of our sins as sometimes persons have diseased limbs removed while under the influence of chloroform: we shall see our sins die while our minds are thoroughly active against them, and resolutely bent upon their destruction. “Go, fight with Amalek.” Greatly to be deplored is the way in which some Christians say, “Ah, well! it is my besetting sin,” or “It is my natural temperament,” or “It is my constitution.” Shame on you, Christian. What if it be so! Do you mean to say to your Father’s face that you have so great a love for the sin which he hates, that you will harbour it and invent hiding-places for it? Why, when a sin does so easily beset you, you must muster your whole force and cry to Heaven for strength that the dangerous foe may be overcome, for one sin harboured in the soul will ruin you; one sin really loved and indulged will become damnatory evidence against you, and prove that you really do not love the Savior, for if you did you would hate every false way. We must fight if we would overcome our sins. (C.H.Spurgeon, sermon #712, Sept.23, 1866)

Christ our Intercessor

Here is something very encouraging. The intercession of Moses was decisive in the battle. All Moses had to do was keep the staff of God lifted high. But Moses’ hands grew weary. Whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. Friends, we have one greater than Moses who is seated on high.

Hebrews 7:22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. …24 …he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 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.

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 never gets weary. He never lets his hands down. He doesn’t need help in his ministry of intercession. Jesus, moment by moment day and night is ever vigilant to supply us with the strength from on high.

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

YHWH Nissi or Jehovah Nissi (yon hwhy) – the LORD is my banner

Exodus 17:15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the LORD! The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Moses memorializes this event with an altar. He names it ‘YHWH Nissi – YHWH is my banner, my battle standard, my signal pole, my rallying point. Jesus claimed to be our battle standard:

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

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

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Disciple-Making Disciples; Jesus Preached the Good News!

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110130_teach_about_good_news.mp3

01/30 What did Jesus teach – about the good news that he brought?

Intro:

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ final command to his followers before he returned to the glory of his Father. He commanded that we all be disciple-making disciples.

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

We are to be followers of Jesus, and we are to make others into followers of Jesus by immersing into the one name of the triune God and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. We are taking some time to equip ourselves with what it is that Jesus commanded so that we can effectively obey him in carrying out his final command. We looked at what Jesus taught about God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We looked at what he taught about the Bible, Old and New Testaments. We looked at what he taught about the origin, character, nature, and destiny of humanity. So far, these are big sweeping world-view shaping questions. What is God like? What is the source of truth and authority? Where did we come from, what is our nature, and where are we headed?

Summary

We have seen the belief that there is only one God, eternally existent in the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit comes from the teaching of Jesus. We found that Jesus looked to the Scriptures of the Old Testament as his final authority on issues of faith and life. He himself followed the Scriptures carefully, and he promised that not even the least stroke of a pen would pass away until all was fulfilled. He claimed that his own teaching carried the same authority – he he spoke what he received from his Father. He paved the way for his followers to write the New Testament, promising them the presence of the Holy Spirit as their Teacher who would ensure they remembered everything he had said. We saw Jesus teach that mankind, male and female, are the greatest expression of God’s creative genius, made in his very image, given authority over the rest of creation, but because we rebelled against God, we have become evil and corrupt to our very core, and we have earned the holy and righteous wrath of God. Jesus graphically describes what awaits us in the most horrific terms, as worse than non-existence, worse than maiming, worse than drowning, as unquenchable fire, outer darkness, a place where there is incessant weeping and gnashing of teeth, as torment, anguish and unquenchable thirst. And he makes it very clear that there will be no end to the punishment.

So this is the world-view of Jesus. He took the Scriptures to be absolutely true and trustworthy, breathed out by the Spirit of God. He believed in one good and sovereign, just and loving God, who sent his only Son, who was himself God in the flesh, into this world to rescue a humanity that had rebelliously chosen to destroy itself and was running headlong into the pit of a horrific hell.

Jesus holds out to us hopeless and helpless sinners the hope of life, eternal life. This he describes as entering into the joy of our Master, satisfaction of our deepest longings, life and life abundant, intimacy of relationship with him, being in his presence to enjoy his glory. This is good news indeed for hopeless sinful man.

Today I want to look at this good news message of hope for sinners that Jesus preached.

Jesus Preached The Gospel

Jesus saw preaching as primary in his own ministry. At the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark, the first words of Jesus are introduced this way:

Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus proclaims the gospel of God. The word ‘proclaim’ or ‘preach’ (khrussw) means to publish, announce, or herald. This is an official public proclamation. The word ‘gospel’ (euaggelion) simply means good news, glad tidings, a good message. What Jesus preached is described simply as ‘the gospel of God’ or ‘the good news of God’. This phrase ‘of God’ could be understood in different ways. It could be descriptive, as in ‘a cup of water’ – in that case ‘God’ would describe the contents of the good news message – it is good news about God. Or it could be possessive, as in ‘the front door of the building’ – in that case, ‘God’ would be the owner and source of the good news message – it is God’s good news. So Jesus comes heralding good news from God or good news about God.

Do you often think of Jesus primarily as a preacher? When we think of Jesus, we often think of a man of action, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, calming the storm, cleansing the temple, engaging the religious hypocrites, delivering the oppressed. But Jesus thought of himself primarily as a messenger with a message to proclaim.

Just a few verses down in this first chapter of Mark, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum when he was interrupted by a man with an unclean spirit. He delivered the man and his reputation spread so that the whole city brought him their sick and those who were oppressed by demons, and he healed and delivered many. The next morning he got up very early and went out alone to pray. When his disciples found him and told him that everyone was looking for him, this is what he said:

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (cf. Lk.4:43)

Jesus saw his role primarily as a messenger – one who is sent with an official proclamation to declare to all people.

What was the content of Jesus’ message? We already saw that it was good news from God or good news about God. Let’s look at the words Jesus spoke in Mark 1:15:

Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

There are two main parts to this declaration. Something momentous has happened, and there is an appropriate response that is demanded.

Something Momentous

Jesus tells us in two ways that something momentous has happened. He says ‘the time is fulfilled’ and ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’. ‘The time is fulfilled’ means time is filled up, the time is complete, the fulfillment of the ages has come. The climax of all history is upon us. ‘The kingdom of God is at hand’ means that God’s rule and reign is right here, namely because the coming King has come indeed. Jesus saw himself as both the fulfillment of all prophetic Scriptures and as the coming King, God in the flesh. Jesus heralded the good news about himself, the fulfillment of the promises, God with us, God come near.

Demanded Response

The King is here! This demands a response from us. There are two parts of our required response that are described here. ‘Repent and believe in the gospel’. Repent (metanoew) is a compound word made up of the words (meta) movement or change and (noew) the mind with its perception, thoughts and purposes. It points to an internal change of mind and heart. Jesus commanded that we:

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (cf. Luke 10:27)

And Jesus says we think evil in our hearts (Mt.9:4, 15:9; Mk.7:21; Lk.1:51); we speak evil out of the abundance of our hearts (Mt.12:34; 15:18; Lk.6:45); our hearts have grown dull (Mt.13:15); our hearts follow what we treasure (Mt.6:21; Lk.12:34); our hearts become weighed down (Lk.21:34); and are troubled (Jn.14:1, 27); we have hard hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.3:5; 6:52; 8:17; 10:5; Jn.12:40); we have slow hearts (Lk.24:25); we question in our hearts (Mk.2:8; Lk.5:22); we doubt in our hearts (Mk.11:23; Lk.24:38); we reason in our hearts (Lk.9:47); our hearts are far from him (Mt.15:8; Mk.7:6); but God knows our hearts (Lk.16:15)

Repentance is a call for heart transformation. The other part of our required response is to ‘believe the gospel’. Believe (pisteuw) means to have strong conviction, to put your trust or confidence in. It is the verb form of the root (pistiv) faith.

So the good news that Jesus preached was that something momentous has happened, the King himself has come to fulfill all prophetic Scripture. He demands that we respond with heart transformation and place our trust and confidence in the good news that he brings.

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

We are to ‘make disciples of all nations’, Jesus said ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt.28:19-20). What Jesus commands is that we repent and believe in the gospel.

This is filled out when we look at how Luke records our commission to the nations. Luke’s account of Jesus’ final command to his followers reads like this:

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

So, where Matthew has ‘repent and believe in the gospel’, Luke tells us to proclaim ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name’. Jesus claimed to have authority to forgive sins:

Matthew 9:6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”––he then said to the paralytic––“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Mk.2:10; Lk.5:24, 7:48)

Jesus connected the source of this forgiveness to his own blood poured out:

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

So Jesus in Luke points us to the promise in the Scriptures that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead as a basis for the proclamation of the good news of forgiveness of sins in his name. When we put this together we have what Paul summarizes as the gospel he preached:

1 Corinthians 15:3 … that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Something momentous has happened. God came in the flesh. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. A response is demanded from us. Repent and believe the good news. The good news is that forgiveness of sins is found in the name of Jesus.

Gospel in Action: a tax collector

To help us get the implications of this, let’s look at repentance and the good news of forgiveness in action in the evangelism of Jesus. We’ll start in Luke 5 with the story of a tax collector named Levi. To feel the force of this encounter, we need to understand the social and political backdrop. Israel is under Roman occupation. Rome brought along their many gods, their idolatrous emperor worship, their materialism and immorality. Jewish zealots thought they were doing God a service by stabbing a Roman official in the back. Tax collectors would buy franchises from Rome giving them the right to collect taxes in a certain town or district. Tax collectors were despised as the lowest scum of human refuse imaginable. They were allowed by Rome to charge exorbitant taxes of their own countrymen to line their own pockets. These were traitors, liars and cheats, consumed with greed. They were considered as swine, on the level with murderers. They were viewed as unclean and beyond repentance. They were excluded from the synagogues. Enter Jesus.

Luke 5:27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus stuns everyone, including his first three disciples, Simon, James and John, local fishermen who had certainly been ripped off repeatedly by this Levi. I wonder if they were excited as Jesus approached the tax booth, thinking he would surely overturn this tax collector’s tables. Jesus, the great teacher, walks right up to the tax booth and says to this filthy human swine who is beyond hope of repentance ‘follow me’. Let’s imagine what is going on in the heart of this man. He was aware of the amazing things going on in the area. Jesus was healing the sick and the lame and freeing men from demonic oppression. Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

I am a captive. I am a slave to my greed. I am riddled with guilt. I am despised. I am the worst of the worst. There is no hope for me. But this teacher Jesus is bringing hope to many we viewed as beyond hope. I wonder… could it be…? Imagine the guilty conscience when this man’s eyes met the penetrating gaze of the Master. And then he spoke. Two simple words. ‘Follow me.’ That was all it took. He abandoned everything and went after Jesus. He threw a feast and invited the only people who were willing to associate with him. Other tax collectors and sinners.

28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

The religious elite were disgusted that this great teacher would associate with such scum. Jesus answer is powerful. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Levi was a sinner. Everyone knew it. He knew it. The religious leaders were sinners too, but they refused to admit it. In their self-righteousness, it was impossible for them to repent.

A parable

Jesus did not come for the righteous. Later, Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector to confront the self-righteous.

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The difference lie in what they trusted in. Jesus said they ‘trusted in themselves that they were righteous’. The so-called prayer of the Pharisee is filled with the first person pronoun. I, I, I, I, I. The tax collector, in his distance, in his posture, in his desperation, and in his words, demonstrated that he was genuinely broken and repentant. He has nothing to trust in but throws himself on the mercy of God. In humble helpless dependence, he cries out ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner’. It is to him Jesus says ‘Yes!’

Receive Like a Child

The next thing Luke records is this:

Luke 18:15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Jesus uses this opportunity to illustrate what is required for entry of his kingdom. He says we must receive the kingdom like a child. It must be received. It cannot be earned. Receive like a child – in simple trust, helpless dependence, shameless asking, eager delight.

What good must I do?

One more ilustration. Luke continues.

Luke 18:18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.”’ 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

When Jesus called Levi at the tax booth, he didn’t demand that he leave everything. That’s what Levi (or Matthew) was already eager to do. When this eager seeker comes and wants to know what he can do to get eternal life, Jesus points him to the character of God and to the commandments. God alone is good. You are not. But this man was righteous in his own opinion. “All these I have kept from my youth.” So Jesus confronts the treasure of his life and extends the invitation. Let go of what you are trusting in and follow me. He came asking for eternal life, and Jesus turned him away because he came with his hands full. He was unwilling to empty them, acknowledge his sinfulness and need, and receive like a child.

Luke 18:24 Jesus, looking at him with sadness, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Jesus, with sadness, tells us that it is impossible for someone with their hands full to repent and believe the gospel. His followers ask with incredulity “Then who can be saved?” They are right. It is impossible. We all have our hands full. But Jesus points us to the true source. “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” Salvation comes from the Lord. Only God can birth new life in the heart of a Levi so that he sees following Jesus as greater worth than the piles of money he is wallowing in. Only God can birth in the heart of a Pharisee like Nicodemus that his righteous deeds are like filthy rags in the sight of God and that he needs to repent of his righteous deeds and turn and look to the Son of Man lifted up on a cross, bearing sin and purchasing forgiveness, to put his trust in him and receive like a child the gift of eternal life. “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

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

January 30, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment