PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Fruit and Looking to Jesus; 2 Corinthians 3

09/03 Fruit and Looking to Jesus; 2 Corinthians 3; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170903_fruit-looking-to-jesus.mp3

We have been looking at the fruit of the Spirit, Christian character that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of every believer. Las week we looked at the whole fruit; that all of these characteristics of the Spirit controlled life will be growing in a balanced symmetrical way in the follower of Jesus.

Sovereignty and Means

Last week I also mentioned that although it is the Spirit’s work to produce the fruit in our lives, we are also commanded to do things that facilitate his work in our lives. We can say that God sovereignly works in our lives, but he often chooses to do his work through means; often ordinary means. The Bible tells us that Jesus ‘upholds the universe by the word of his power’ (Heb.1:3), and we are told that ‘in him all things hold together’ (Col.1:17). Jesus tells us not to worry about what to eat or drink, he tells us that we are of more value than the birds, ‘and yet God feeds them’ (Luke 12:24). But when we look at the birds, we see them spending time flying around in search of food. And the clear teaching of the New Testament is that ‘If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat’ (2Thess.3:10). They are commanded to ‘do their work quietly and earn their own living’ (v.12). So God sustains, but he sustains through his appointed means. He can sustain supernaturally, as he did on occasion, sustaining the Exodus generation with bread from heaven in the wilderness, and commanding the ravens to bring bread and meat to Elijah east of the Jordan (1Kings 17). God can sustain supernaturally, but normally he sustains us naturally. We work and earn wages. He gave us the ability to work. It is he that ultimately causes the crops to grow. He gives us the breath in our lungs. He causes our digestive systems to draw sustenance from the food we eat. He causes our cells to carry these nutrients to the parts of our bodies that need them. He sustains us, but he sustains us through his ordinary appointed means like working and eating.

This is the same with the fruit of the Spirit. God the Spirit produces the fruit in our lives, but he chooses to do this through his appointed means. God gives us means of grace. Today and next week I want to look at two of the primary God appointed means God employs to produce his character in our lives. Today we will look at 2 Corinthians 3:18 and the chapters that surround it.

Spiritual Transformation through Beholding

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

This passage says that spiritual transformation comes through ‘beholding the glory of the Lord with unveiled face.’ This transformation is ‘into the image of our Lord’. First, I want to look at the context to see if it is right for us to link this transformation to the fruit of the Spirit that we have been studying in Galatians. Then I want to ask what it means to behold and how it is that we behold.

Transformation and the Fruit of the Spirit

First, to show that this is talking about the fruit of the Spirit, we need to look at the context. Verse 17 links this to the Spirit of the Lord producing freedom, and verse 18 reminds us that this transformation comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. So there is a direct link to the Holy Spirit in this passage. The transformation we are talking about comes from the Lord who is the Spirit, so the Spirit produces this transformation in us, just as the Spirit produces fruit in Galatians 5.

But if we back up and look at the broader context, we see from the beginning of this chapter that Paul is defending his ministry by pointing to fruit in the lives of the believers he has served.

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.

Paul is saying that the authentication for his ministry is the transformed lives of the Corinthians. He says that they are a letter of commendation ‘written with the Spirit of the living God on the tablets of their human hearts.’ This is the New Covenant transformation that was promised in the Old.

In chapter 4, he describes how this transformation takes place, and what hinders this transformation. He describes this transformation in verse 10 as ‘so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies’ and again in verse 11 ‘so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.’ The Spirit’s transformation displays the life of Jesus in us. As we studied love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, we saw that it really is a picture of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit puts Jesus on display in our bodies, in our interactions with others.

Verse 16 reminds us that the Spirit’s fruit grows gradually. It says ‘our inner self is being renewed day by day.’ This is inner character; fruit that grows slowly, one day at a time.

In chapter 5, he points us to our eagerness to ‘make it our aim to please him’ (v.9). In verse 14-15 he says ‘the love of Christ controls us …that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him…’ The Spirit controlled life is a life lived to please Jesus. Then he says in verse 17

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God…

A new creation in Christ. The old life controlled by the flesh is gone. The new life, the Spirit controlled life is here.

I think it is safe to say that this transformation in 2 Corinthians that comes from the Spirit is the same thing that Paul talks about in Galatians 5 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Freedom in the Spirit

How does he say this comes about? What is the means of grace he points us to that God works through to produce this fruit in us?

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Notice first, that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom, not bondage. This is not a legalistic pursuit of moralistic personal character, but a spiritual pursuit of the character of Jesus and the Father produced in us by the Spirit. This is not obligation and debt but transformation and delight. In the Spirit we find true freedom. This is freedom to look and to enjoy.

Unveiled Faces

The freedom comes with unveiled faces. What does this mean? Paul is contrasting the New Covenant, of which he is a minister, with the Old Covenant, of which Moses was the minister. In 3:3 he contrasts the tablets of stone, the document of the Old Covenant, with the tablets of human hearts. In 3:6 he says the Old was of the letter, and it brought death; the New is of the Spirit and it gives life. Verse 9 contrasts the ministry of condemnation with the ministry of reconciliation. Verse 11 contrasts the temporary and fading with the permanent

Beginning in verse 7, he contrasts the glory of the shining face of Moses after coming down from meeting with God, with the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit. He has in mind Exodus 34, where Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the second copy of the covenant documents that Israel had broken. He asked God to show him his glory, and God responded:

Exodus 34:6 “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.”

God revealed his character to Moses. Steadfast love, patience, merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, just. God’s glory, God’s character.

Exodus 34:29 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.

God’s character, God’s glory changed the face of Moses. Being in the presence of God changed him. After speaking God’s words to Israel, he would put a veil over his face to keep them from seeing the glory fade. Paul picks this up in 2 Corinthians 3.

2 Corinthians 3:13 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.

The veil Paul is talking about is the hardness of mind and heart; an unbelieving heart that fails to see Christ as Lord. The veil is removed only through Christ.

In the next chapter Paul explains.

2 Corinthians 4:2 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. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 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. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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.

Paul says that the veil is a Satanic blinding of the minds of unbelievers to keep them from perceiving the truth of the gospel. This spiritual blindness is only overcome through the plain proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord, as Creator God speaks light into the dark hearts of unbelievers overcoming their spiritual blindness. This is the unveiled face that beholds the glory of the Lord. This removal of spiritual blindness, this shining the light of the knowledge of God in Jesus, is another way of talking about the new birth. When we were dead, God made us alive in Christ Jesus by grace. When we were blind, God said ‘Let light shine’.

Transformation by Beholding

So a primary evidence of the new birth or regeneration or being saved is being able to see Jesus with new eyes, being able to see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord. Being able to perceive with spiritual eyes the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of the Lord Jesus. This is what Paul is talking about when he says back in

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

Just like Moses asked to see the glory of God, and God revealed to him his character, so we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus, who is God in the flesh. We see the glory of God in the gospel. We behold the glory of Jesus in the gospels as his character is portrayed through his interactions with sinners. We see the glory of God in his plan of salvation unfolding as the Son of God is born in a cave in Bethlehem. We see the glory of God culminate at the cross, where the innocent Jesus is condemned to die in the place of guilty sinners. We see the glory of a holy and just God as he pours out his wrath on the substitute, so that through his death we might live. We begin to treasure this God who is

Exodus 34:6 “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.”

In the face of Jesus we see the glory of God who is

Galatians 5:22 …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…

And when we see it, when God gives us eyes to see Jesus, we are transformed. Beholding the glory of the Lord, beholding Jesus and the gospel, we are being transformed. Just like Moses didn’t know it, but others could see it, when we spend time gazing at Jesus, meditating on the good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified, treasuring Jesus, we are being changed. Often others will notice before we do.

2 Corinthians 4 tells us that this transformation is often accompanied by suffering. 4:16 tells us:

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

We are being renewed day by day, even in the face of suffering as we look to the things that are unseen.

2 Corinthians is not the only place we see this means of transformation. 1 John says:

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image.

Gaze on His Beauty

So what is the means of grace that the Spirit of God chooses to utilize to bring about the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer? ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord we are being transformed!’ Transformation by beholding. The Spirit’s fruit grows, Jesus is put on display in my body as I look!

Ask God for eyes to see! Ask him for eyes to see Jesus for who he is. Ask him to break your hardness and resurrect your deadness and overcome your darkness with the marvelous light of his glorious gospel!

This is the one thing the Psalmist pursued

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

One thing I ask. One thing I seek. To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. To see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, the image of God. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.

So look! Take time to look. To behold. To enjoy. To savor. To treasure. And as you spend time with Jesus, you will be transformed.

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

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September 4, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Self-Control like Jesus

08/20 The Spirit’s Fruit; Self-Control Like Jesus Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170820_self-control-like-jesus.mp3

Self Control. The Fruit of the Spirit is self control. What is self control? Why do we need it? Do we need it? How do we get it?

What is self control? The Greek word is engkratia [ἐγκράτεια ]. It is a compound of two words [ἔν] which means ‘in’ and [κράτος ] which means power or strength. Engkratia points to an inner strength, an inner mastery, a command or control of self.

The Problem of Powerlessness

There is a negative of this word in the New Testament with the negative ‘a’ prefix [ἀκρασία] that means a lack of power or mastery, lack of self control. This opposite word shows up in places like Matthew 23:25, where Jesus says:

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.

Self indulgence is this word powerlessness or lack of self-control. The Pharisees looked good on the outside, but they lacked this inner strength of character.

It shows up in 1 Corinthians 7:5 warning married couples not to deprive one another of marital intimacy

1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another, …so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

He says a few verses later

1 Corinthians 7:9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

This inner strength word often but not always refers to the power to overcome sexual temptation. In a 2016 Barna research study, nearly half of young adults said they come across porn at least once a week—even when they aren’t seeking it out. Temptation is real, and it is more available than ever before. About 27% of Christian men and 6% of Christian women said they seek out porn at least once or twice a month. 14% of pastors and 21% of youth pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn. We desperately need this inner power, this fruit of self control which is produced by the Holy Spirit.

The negative adjective [ἀκράτης] shows up in the list of evils in 2 Timothy 3 that characterize so much of our society.

2 Timothy 3:2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

This lack of inner strength, this problem of powerlessness, is part of our society, and sadly is part of the experience of too many followers of Jesus.

The Hope of Victory

The Bible is clear.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

First, the Bible is clear that pride is precarious and no one should think of himself as exempt from or above temptation. Spiritual pride is lethal.

Second, temptation is common. Everybody experiences temptation. It is part of the human experience. This takes away one of our favorite excuses, that my struggle is extraordinary and unique. You are clearly not tempted as intensely or as frequently as I am. If you were, you would fall too. No, temptation is common to us all.

And third, God is faithful. Notice where the Apostle goes for hope in the face of temptation? He doesn’t go inside. He doesn’t say ‘You’re not that kind of person that falls like that. You shouldn’t stoop to that kind of behavior. You’re better than this – don’t let yourself give in because you’re better than that. No, in fact, that’s the kind of spiritual pride he warns against. He says everybody faces temptation, and nobody is above failure, but God is faithful. He turns us away from confidence in self and points us to the unfailing character of God. By the way, self control is not the same thing as self confidence or being self sufficient or self reliant. In another place Paul says ‘we put no confidence in the flesh’ (Phil.3:3). Don’t believe in yourself. You will fail. Put your confidence in God who will never fail.

1 Corinthians 10:13 …God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is faithful. He will not permit testing above your ability. Are you being severely tempted? You have access to the power that can overcome that temptation. God is faithful. With the trial he will make the escape so that you have the ability to endure. The power is not within you. God is faithful. God provides the escape and the ability to endure. It is yours to resist, to stand firm, to endure, but it is God who supplies you with all the power necessary to successfully stand.

Idols and What We Treasure

Let’s understand this verse in its context; this is the conclusion of an argument, not against sexual temptation, but against idolatry. The next verse gives the conclusion:

1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Paul speaks to sexual temptation in chapters 6-7. Chapters 8-10 deal with idolatry. In Corinth the idolatry was literal pagan temples and restaurants that served meat sacrificed to the idols in these temples. There was tremendous social pressure to do what everyone else was doing, to be invited, to be included, to show up and feel part of things. We all are tempted to idolatry. Idolatry can be anything we value, anything we honor. Our idol is whatever we treasure most. The Corinthians were tempted to treasure social status, acceptance, a sense of belonging; they were tempted to value these things above Jesus. They prized their knowledge, their theological understanding more than a relationship with God. They treasured their God given freedoms more than they treasured the God who gave them these freedoms.

In Chapter 9 Paul uses himself as an example of surrendering rights, God given rights, good things, for the sake of the gospel. Paul is willing to sacrifice his rights, his freedoms.

1 Corinthians 9:12 …Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Paul understood that even rights and freedoms and good things can become idols if they are held too tightly. What Paul treasured as the one thing of surpassing worth was Jesus, knowing him, being found in him, seeing him glorified as others enter into a relationship with Jesus. In verse 22 he says:

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Then he uses an athletic metaphor to help us understand what he is getting at.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

In the Isthmian games held near Corinth, all the Greek city-states competed. There was great pressure to take home the honor of a victory for one’s city. There was a goal. There was a prize. There was one thing. And here Paul brings in this idea of self-control. Every contestant exercises self control in all things. There is inner strength. There is discipline. The one thing is rigorously maintained as the one thing, and that means denying competing desires. Athletes love ice cream and lounging around in fuzzy slippers and jammies all day as much as the next person. But the athlete has his eyes on the prize, and that means letting go of lesser desires. Winning athletes exercise amazing levels of discipline and inner strength to keep the main thing the main thing and to set aside those lesser things that would entangle and get in the way of the prize. But we look forward to hearing ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ from the King of kings. How much more should we use this inner strength to keep focus and move toward the goal? I do not run aimlessly. I keep the prize always in view. I do not waste punches. I specifically target those things that would compete with the primary desire. My body is my slave that I lead around to pursue the one thing. This is what inner strength looks like. The ability to set aside competing desires so that we can focus on the primary desire.

Then he concludes in chapter 10 by saying that we must be on guard against pride and temptation. God will supply the strength to endure. So flee idolatry.

Temptation, Opportunity and Desire

For temptation to be successful, there are three things that must come together. The temptation must combine with desire and opportunity to be effective. I have a deep love for cookies, In the middle of the night it suddenly comes to me that I need a cookie. I am tempted to sneak down to the kitchen to steal a cookie. But if I find there are no cookies in the cookie jar, the temptation is empty. There is desire and temptation but no opportunity. If the next day, there are cookies in the jar, and I walk through the kitchen and see them, the desire is still there; I love cookies, and the opportunity is there, the cookie jar is full, but I’m busy with other things and it doesn’t cross my mind to take one, I have desire and opportunity, but I am not tempted to steal a cookie. On the other hand, I might walk by the cookie jar and see the cookies and be tempted to steal one; The temptation and the opportunity is there, but if my desires have changed, I won’t steal a cookie. If last week I ate so many cookies that I threw them all up, I may no longer have a taste or desire for cookies. Temptation we have little control over. Jesus encourages us to pray ‘lead us not into temptation’ (Mat.6:13)

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

We have little control over the urge or inclination. We have little control over the opportunity. I can go around asking everyone to stop baking cookies because I have a cookie problem. But at some point the opportunity will be there and I will be tempted. I believe the key to victory is in our desires. It is true that people do what they want. People will do what they want when presented with the opportunity. If I love cookies, if I want to eat cookies, then when I have the opportunity to eat a cookie I will do what I want. If I want to sleep in, I will sleep in. If I want to not be fired or fail my classes, then I will drag myself out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed and go to school or work. What is it that I want more? That is what I will do.

Jesus taught us to go after our desires. Jesus said to the religious:

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 [without inner strength].

The focus of law is on conformity to measurable standards. But Jesus is after our hearts. The law says do not murder, but Jesus says do not be angry with your brother (Mt.5:21-22; 1Jn.3:15). The law says do not commit adultery, but Jesus attacks our desires and says do not lust in your heart (Mt.5:27-28). Jesus says

Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

If we only put locks on our phones and computers that keep us from looking at certain things, but our desire is still for those things, at some point we will be presented with the opportunity, and we will fall to temptation. People do what they want to do. We can lock up a criminal and remove his opportunity, but if his desires have not changed, when he gets out he will do what he wants.

Changing Desires

So how do desires change? How do we gain this inner strength to set aside lesser desires to pursue the one desire? The one thing must outweigh everything else. All our desires must be overshadowed by a superior desire. What is that one thing? This is where it gets dangerous. We must replace our desires with the right thing.

Lets say I have a problem with anger. I blow up, lose it, get out of control, and verbally and maybe even physically hurt the people around me. I begin to see I have a problem and I go to get counsel. The counselor tells me to identify the triggers, the things that make me angry and avoid them. Don’t put yourself in those situations where you get angry. That’s great. Remove the opportunity. But what if it’s my wife that makes me angry? ‘Get a divorce.’ What if its my kids that make me angry? Do I get rid of them? That’s bad advice. I will never be able to avoid every situation that might trigger my anger. So I go back to the counselor. She gets my wife to take a video of me the next time I get angry and lose it, and the counselor plays it back to me and says ‘look at what a fool you made of yourself. See how idiotic you are acting? And your outburst doesn’t stop the person from pushing your buttons. In fact they may be pushing your buttons intentionally just to see you blow.’ It works. I don’t want to look like a fool. I don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of pushing my buttons. So I change. I have replaced my anger with a different desire. But its the wrong desire. Now I want to have the upper hand. I don’t want anyone to control me. I don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of pushing my buttons. I want to be perceived as better. I change, I have less outbursts of anger, but I become proud, condescending, aloof, spiteful, vengeful. I don’t get mad, I get even. You see, it matters what you replace your desires with. If they are replaced with wrong desires you may go from bad to worse.

Desiring God

How do we change in a healthy way? How do we get mastery over our desires and what is the one thing that pushes out all lesser desires?

Look at Jesus. In Matthew 4, he was in the wilderness, and he had been fasting for 40 days and nights. He was literally starving.

Matthew 4:3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Jesus had the desire. He was hungry. He had the opportunity – as the Son of God he had the ability to speak anything he wanted into existence. He was tempted. Satan himself was doing the tempting. But Jesus has true inner strength. Look at what he says:

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Do you see what he does? He has a legitimate desire. In his case he had a desperate need. He was hungry. But Jesus says “I have something better. I delight in the voice of my Father more than my taste buds delight in food. He has a greater treasure than food; a greater treasure than life itself. Jesus treasured his relationship with his Father more than life itself. He desired his Father’s glory more than his own.

When temptation, desire and opportunity combine (and they will), you must have the weapon of a superior desire sharpened and ready. Jesus is treasuring his Father. He has been spending time meditating on his Word. He has been enjoying communion with his Father in prayer. He has been tasting and seeing that the LORD is good, so that when temptation came, he was able to compare it with what he had already been enjoying and turn it down flat. God is faithful.

Hebrews 12 tells us:

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

What competing desires, what sins, what good things, are getting in the way of the one thing? Do you want the one thing enough that you are willing to lay secondary desires aside? If you don’t think you have the strength, cry out to Jesus for help. God is faithful. He will perfect your faith.

What is your one thing? If you don’t have the one thing clear, you will be aimless and make little progress. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Look to Jesus, who endured the cross, who rejoiced to obey his Father, who lived (and died) to bring him glory. Fix your eyes on Jesus, taste and see that he is good, experience that he is better, allow him to be your one desire.

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

August 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Goodness Like Jesus

07/09 The Spirit’s Fruit; Goodness Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170709_goodness-like-jesus.mp3

Goodness and Kindness

We are looking at the fruitful Christian life; the fruit produced in us by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…

Today we come to goodness. What is goodness? What does it look like? How is it different from kindness?

All these characteristics are interrelated and overlapping. Remember it is one whole fruit described by its different aspects or characteristics. Last week we defined kindness as smooth, mellow, palatable, functional, comfortable, fitting. It is not severe, biting, harsh, chafing, or abrasive.

Where kindness is an inner attitude or disposition, goodness is the outward action; goodness is real tangible expressions of kindness.

In Luke 6, a passage we looked at last time, we are told to ‘do good’ because ‘God is kind’.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good [ἀγαθοποιέω], and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind [χρηστός] to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Doing good, if we look through the context of this passage, includes, loving, lending, blessing, praying, giving; to haters, to abusers, to persecutors, to enemies, to the ungrateful and the evil. We are to do good, and be merciful because God is kind.

In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about giving good gifts to your children, about a healthy tree bearing good fruit. In Matthew 12, Jesus challenges the corrupt religious leaders for speaking good when they are evil. He says:

Matthew 12:35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

Good Generosity

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story about what the kingdom of heaven is like. He said:

Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity [ἀγαθός]?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

We are not told about the response of those who had only worked one hour and received the full day’s wages. You can imagine their response. The focus of this story is on the response of those who agreed to work for a days wages, and when they were given their full days wages, they grumbled because they thought they ought to receive more. They were angry that the master had given equal pay to all regardless of how long they had labored. It’s not fair! The response of the master? ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. I gave you what we agreed on. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is mine? His final question in verse 15 literally reads ‘is your eye evil because I am good?’ The master is good because he does what he promised. He pays what he owes. He also goes beyond and looks for those who are needy and gives them more than they deserve. He is generous. He is charitable. He is benevolent. He is good. He is good even to those who didn’t earn it. Goodness in this story is contrasted with being stingy; it is also contrasted with being exactly just or fair. Goodness is generosity.

Good Works

In Acts 9:36 we have a disciple named Tabitha; it is said “She was full of good works and acts of charity.” Tabitha made clothes for many.

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul outlines the requirements for a widow to be cared for by the church:

1 Timothy 5:5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, …10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Works considered good include a hope set on God, not in some other reward. She is focused on the needs of others with a faithful and persistent prayer life, praying and interceding for others. Bringing up children is selflessly sacrificial. Showing hospitality is practically serving the needs of others, often strangers. Washing feet is a menial, humble, practical way to serve others. Caring for the afflicted is selfless service to others in need.

She has a reputation for good works and a devotion to good works. What is considered good is practical, tangible acts of caring for the needs of others, serving others. What is good is a kind generosity, giving to those in need regardless of if they deserve it. It is selfless, humble, practical generosity.

But I Can’t Do Good

But we have a problem. Remember what Paul say in Romans 7?

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. …24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Paul knows what good is. He knows what he ought to do. He wants to do it. But he struggles with carrying it out. He confesses that there is no good in him. I think most of us resonate with Paul’s frustration.

Only God is Good

Jesus had someone run up to him and ask him a question.

Mark 10:17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Matthew records him asking:

Matthew 19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

Good teacher, what good deed must I do? This man is throwing around the concept of ‘good’. Jesus confronts him on what he means by what he is saying.

Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

He had addressed Jesus as ‘good teacher’. And he claimed the ability to do good works. Jesus confronts his understanding of who Jesus is, and he exposes his inability to do any good. Jesus says ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’ In effect, he is asking, do you really know who it is you are talking to? Do you know who I am? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. No one but God truly acts selflessly and completely for the good of others. Jesus invites this man to be good like God is good; dispose of all that you have, and use it to bless others.

Jesus says to this man, there is no one good except God alone; if you truly believe that I am good, if you acknowledge that I am God, then you must obey me completely, follow me without looking back. Go, liquidate your assets, give to the poor, change where your treasure is, come follow me. God alone is good. And this good God must be followed. Nothing else is good next to him. As the Psalmist said:

Psalm 16:2 say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

This man should have said to Jesus, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ This man should have, like the man in Jesus’ parable (Mt.13:44), went out with joy and sold all that he had and went after that which was of infinitely more value than anything he possessed. Instead, “he went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.” This man failed to value properly what is good. He failed to see Jesus as truly good, better than all his great possessions.

Jesus was teaching that in order to be good, you must pursue with abandon the one who is good. Get rid of whatever is in the way, and go after the one who is good. Go after Jesus. As you begin to look to him, watch him, get close to him, follow him, you will begin to become good like him. You will begin to become generous like him.

You see, Jesus was not asking this man to do anything he himself was not willing to do. Jesus understood what it means to give up all your great possessions. In the wording of Philippians 2, Jesus knew what it is to have it all and then empty yourself, make yourself nothing. To take the form of a servant, to be obedient, to serve others for their good, even to the point of dying on a cross for them. Jesus is truly good. He was inviting this man to follow him. To learn from him. To become good like him.

How To Be Good and Do Good

Ephesians 2 tells us that we were meant for this; we were created for good works; we were saved by God’s unearned grace to be good and to do good.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The good works we walk in are good works prepared by God in advance for us. And Ephesians 6 tells us that we will be rewarded for these good works that he prepared in advance for us, good works that we walk in: we can’t out-give God

Ephesians 6:8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord…

This is stunning. God alone is good. God is good toward us even when we are his enemies. He works in us by his grace, and prepares good for us to walk in, and then he rewards us for the good that he enabled us to do!

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

God can make every good thing we don’t deserve abound to us. He will equip us with all sufficiency in all things at all times so that we may abound in every good work that he prepared in advance for us to walk in.

Hebrews 13 says:

Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

God did it all! The God who raised Jesus from the dead equips us with everything good that we may do his will. By the blood of Jesus, by the blood of the eternal covenant, he equips us with everything good that we need. He works in us that which is pleasing in his sight. He works it in us through Jesus Christ, and for his glory. All good is anchored in the person and finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2 tells us that we need God’s love and good hope through grace to do good works:

2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Our hearts must be comforted and established by God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for every good work and for every good word. Good words must flow from a good heart that is transformed by God’s love and comfort and hope. Good works must be produced out of a heart amazed by God’s gracious good toward us.

2 Timothy 3 tells us that truly good works are rooted in Biblical truth:

2 Timothy 3:15 … you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Good works that are truly good are tangibly and practically caring for the needs of others. Sometimes that looks like charitable giving, acts of selfless generosity, sometimes selflessly caring for others looks like reproof, correction, teaching, training in righteousness. In love exhorting others for their good.

Paul’s cry in Romans 7, seeing that there is no good in him and that he fails to do the good he desires to do; Paul’s cry ‘who will deliver me from this body of death?’ He answers:

Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …

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. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We are set free from condemnation by the cross. We are set free from the law by the Spirit of life. We are now enabled by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law as we walk according to the Spirit. Only God is good. And when the Spirit of the good God lives in us, he changes our heart to be good like Jesus, and to do good like Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

05/21 The Work of the Spirit and the War Against the Flesh [Galatians 5:13-21; 24-26]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170521_works-vs-fruit.mp3

Today we begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I believe this will be very practical and helpful, and I would invite you to be praying with me that God the Holy Spirit would be at work through his word to produce his fruit in the lives of his people for his glory.

~prayer~

Paul is in anguish over the Galatians. He is astonished that they are deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel. These Gentiles are being pressured to submit to the Jewish law. Paul is fighting to preserve the truth of the gospel, the good news that we are declared right before God not by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is not me attempting to live up to some standard, but Christ living in me, a life lived “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Paul is eager to embrace the freely given grace of God, and he understands that if righteousness could come through the law then Christ was crucified in vain.

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

The Christian life is begun by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I hear with desperate dependence the good news proclaimed that Christ was crucified for me. The Holy Spirit is at work in me so that as I hear the gospel I trust not my abilities but Christ alone. The Spirit works this in me. Having freely received the Spirit through faith, is it now up to my flesh to finish the work he began in me? Of course not! If the beginning of the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so the continuance and completion of the Christian life is all a work of the Holy Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Paul’s longing is that Christ would be formed in them. Christ – himself – formed in you. Christ – who lives in me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is no human effort. Paul’s heart is that they would live in complete daily dependence on the Spirit in them to produce the character of Christ in them.

In chapter 5 he warns not to fall away from grace, to turn from the freely given gift of God who is at work in us by his Spirit, in order to attempt to obtain righteousness by our own effort.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

We do not work, we eagerly wait. We wait for the hope of righteousness; a confident assurance of a righteousness that God will bring about in us. We trust. We depend. We believe. Through the Spirit. By faith. We wait. It is not our effort. Not what we do or don’t do that “counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” It is not me working, but faith working. Dependence on God is at work, and it expresses itself in love.

Freedom to Want

In verse 13, Paul warns against misusing this freedom we have in Christ, our freedom from the law, in a way that allows the flesh to gain traction.

Galatians 5:13 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.”

We are set free in Christ to fulfill the law by serving one another through love. So many misunderstand freedom as a freedom from any authority. Rather freedom in Christ is freedom from the tyranny of a cruel slave-master to be back under the good and right authority of the God who is love. It is a freedom at the heart level. We are no longer under debt and an obligation to live up to the standards of the law. Instead we are freed to do what we want. We are set free at the level of our desires. We are set free from the suicidal desires that compelled us to pursue things that destroy; we are set free at the heart level to hunger and thirst after the things that truly satisfy.

War of Desires

Paul warns:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Life by the Spirit is war. There is war outside and war within. Paul warns; if you bite and devour one another, watch out; our fleshly desires stir us up against one another. If we follow the flesh (and often we do) we will be biting and devouring each other.

But as believers in Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit of God. We still have the old nature, the flesh. And our sinful flesh will not just roll over and admit defeat. It will not go down without a fight. So we have a war on our hands; a war within. It will be long – lifelong. It will be messy – there will be casualties. But we are assured of victory – the outcome is certain. We battle a decisively defeated foe. The flesh was defeated at the cross. If we are in Christ, if we have identified with him in his death and resurrection, the victory has already been won. Jesus conquered sin and death and hell on the cross. And my flesh was crucified with him on that cross.

By flesh the Bible doesn’t mean physical bodies. Our bodies are not inherently evil. Our physical bodies will be resurrected glorified. We will enjoy a sinless existence in our physical bodies in the presence of God for eternity. God created Adam and Eve with physical bodies in the garden and he said it was all very good. Our bodies are not the problem. The flesh is the problem. By the flesh, the Bible means that fallen part of us that desires other things more than God. It is that part of us that wants to be our own master, determine our own destiny, live for our own glory, be our own god. As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit living within, and we now have competing desires. The flesh has its desires, and the Holy Spirit brings with him his desires, and these two are in conflict. The Holy Spirit desires to magnify Jesus above all.

These competing desires ‘keep you from doing the things you want to do.’ We are in a battle. But who is the you? You are either giving in to the flesh, biting and devouring one another, or you are led by the Holy Spirit, free from the law, through love serving one another. So who is the you? What is your identity? Do you embrace the flesh, with its passions and desires, or do you embrace the Spirit, and allow him to transform you? This is a big deal.

Works of the Flesh

In verse 19, he moves from talking about the desires of the flesh to the works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The flesh manifests itself. There are fifteen words that divide into four categories here. The first three words have to do with sexual sin; sexual immorality, sexual impurity, uncontrolled lust. Then there are two words dealing with religious pursuits; idolatry and sorcery. The flesh makes an idol out of just about anything; family, relationships, work, success, kids, power, reputation. Sorcery is an attempt to gain control by manipulating the spiritual realm. The next 8 are relationship words. And most of these are in the plural; they have multiple manifestations, they may take multiple forms. Enmity – hostile feelings and actions; strife- contention and discord; jealousy – an envious rivalry; fits of anger – bursts of temper; rivalries – selfish ambitions; dissensions – uprisings or controversies; divisions – creating factions; envy – ill will or spite. Most of these are inward attitudes and feelings, attitudes of the heart. The last two, drunkenness and orgies, have to do with excess; excessive drinking, excessive feasting or partying. The desires of the flesh display themselves in works of deviant and destructive sexuality, dark religious practices, self-centered and damaging relational dynamics, and excessive overindulgence.

Recognize, this is a big deal. This is a warning. Paul says ‘I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So this is a salvation issue. If you have embraced the desires of the flesh, if your life is characterized by the works of the flesh, if there is no battle between flesh and Spirit, then you may not know Jesus. But don’t be discouraged; if you are not winning the battle all the time, if you are still struggling against the same sins. The fact that there is a battle going on and you are convicted over your sins is a good sign.

We could look at Jesus’ story of the prodigal and see these fleshly desires manifesting themselves in the works of the flesh. The prodigal idolized money and freedom from all authority and sinful pleasure. He indulged in sexual immorality, excessive drinking and partying.

We could look at his unforgiving older brother and see enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.

These are the normal outworkings of the flesh. But when the Spirit comes in, then there is war.

Of course we could look at the father in the story and see the fruit of the Spirit on display; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at these characteristics in the coming weeks.

How is the Fruit of the Spirit not a list of moral virtues? (070218)

We need to understand how the lifestyle of the morally upright around us fits in to this overall picture. We acknowledge that many that don’t know Christ personally live lives that we would describe as ‘good’; they are kind, patient, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, they exercise patience, they are peace loving, they show love to others, and they seem happy. Does this mean that the Spirit is at work in their lives? Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit, and should we conclude that people who live this way must be justified believers, because Jesus says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? In fact we probably can think of people we know that do not follow Jesus that we would say have more of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives than we do. Do we have biblical categories in our minds to fit these facts into? Or does this confuse us and cause us to question and doubt?

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now that sounds pretty clear-cut. If you can see the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, then they must be O.K. with God, right? If they are loving, kind, good, gentle, patient and self-controlled, then they must be on the right track. Be careful not to jump to conclusions before you’ve read the whole passage. Let’s keep reading and see what Jesus says next:

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So, apparently there will be people who on the surface appear to have it all together; even people who sincerely feel that they have it all together, who will be very surprised on judgment day. They will say things like ‘but Jesus, we acknowledge you as Lord; we believe in you’. And Jesus says, ‘no, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. They will say ‘but we did that; we prophesied, we even cast out demons in your name; we did many mighty works in your name’. So they were doing good works. They were performing great acts of love. And not just that; there were supernatural things going on. Prophecies were being given; people were being delivered from evil spirits. Obviously the Spirit was at work in their lives. But on this ground they were not welcome in heaven. What was it that they lacked? Jesus says the critical thing is not what you do; it’s who you know. Jesus says ‘I never knew you. You may have done some amazing things. You may be the most loving, kind, generous person around, you might have even done these things in the name of Jesus, but we had no relationship. I never knew you.’ And Jesus sends them away and calls them ‘workers of lawlessness’. How can he say that when they were doing good works? In God’s eyes all their love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control were filthy rags in his sight. Their good works were valueless because they didn’t stem from a relationship with Jesus.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Contrast Works and Fruit

Notice the flesh is always working, striving, exerting effort to attain its unwholesome desires. The Spirit grows fruit. It is an organic thing. It is not manufactured. If the right seed is planted, the right plant sprouts up. Whatever kind of tree it is, that is the kind of fruit that will be produced. There are ways to encourage and enhance fruitfulness; preparing the soil, watering, fertilizing, pruning. But ultimately the fruit is determined by the nature of the tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in keeping with his nature.

Notice also, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, where the works of the flesh are plural. There are various and disjointed manifestations of the fleshly desires. But the Spirit produces wholeness, integration, integrity. This is one fruit. It has different sides, different aspects; but it is one. It is one multifaceted fruit.

And take encouragement here. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of the living God living within you.

Romans 8 tells us

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

And he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). And he who is in you is greater than your flesh. God wins! He will be victorious in your life. If the Spirit is there, he will produce his fruit in your life. He will not fail. If God could take the one who was crushed down under the weight of the sin of the world and raise him up to life again, he is fully able to overcome your fleshly desires and produce the satisfying fruit of the Spirit. Christ will be formed in you!

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

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 22; Perfect Priest; Perfect Sacrifice

02/19 Leviticus22; Perfect Priest; Perfect Sacrifices ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170219_leviticus-22.mp3

God’s Work and Our Response; YHWH Sanctifies

Leviticus 21 and 22 are a section of the holiness code in Leviticus that specifically addresses the priests. This section is a reminder, as we hear 6 times in these two chapters, I am YHWH who sanctifies you. It is God who makes holy, who sets apart, who cleanses. We are to refrain from profaning or treating as common his name, his reputation, because he has set us apart. Our motive for living set apart lives, lives that are different from the world around us, is that we have been set apart by a holy God. We have been called to a greater purpose! We do not attempt to live holy lives in order to gain God’s favor; rather we respond to God’s gracious acceptance of us by making it our aim in all things to please the one who has so freely loved us. These chapters are addressed to priests who have been set apart for service to God. They are now exhorted not to smear God’s name by their conduct, because it is YHWH who sanctifies them.

Romans 5 makes this clear that

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak… Christ died for the ungodly. … 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … 10…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…

We were still weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies when Jesus died for us. Now that we have been made holy by his sheer unmerited grace, we respond with love to him, living lives which honor him.

Unclean Priests

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Leviticus 22:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD. 3 Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. 4 None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen, 5 and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be— 6 the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water. 7 When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food. 8 He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.’ 9 They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

God is serious about uncleanness. Remember our diagram that illustrated the necessary separation of the unclean from the holy.

———————————————————————————

←← SACRIFICE ←←

Sanctify ← Cleanse

[holy] [clean/common] [unclean]

Profane → Pollute →

→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→

[G.Wenham, NICOT, p.19, 26]

———————————————————————————

Anything that had become unclean though any of the various means of uncleanness must be first cleansed through sacrifice before it can come into contact with that which is holy. Remember, a primary role of the priest in Israel was to be the inspector who declared a person or an object clean or unclean.

If you look back to our outline of these two chapters, you will notice that the first section of chapter 21 forbade any priest from making himself unclean by burying the dead except for close relatives of his immediate family. The second section narrowed this for the high priest, who could not even become unclean by burying his mother or father.

Lev.21:1-9 priests not to make themselves unclean

Lev.21:10-15 high priest not to make himself unclean

Lev.21:16-24 blemished priests not to draw near

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

Now, the first section of chapter 22 deals with priests who have become unclean, either by contact with the dead, or a disease, or any of the other ordinary ways someone could become unclean through daily life. So chapter 21 commanded the priests to avoid uncleanness except on very rare occasions, but chapter 22 deals with the all-too common circumstance when a priest would become unclean. Priests were to guard the holiness of God. They were not to allow an unclean person to come into contact with the holy things. If a priest himself was unclean, this is a warning that he too was excluded from the holy things, because God’s holiness was to be guarded. A portion of some of the offerings of the people, we saw especially in chapters 6 and 7, belonged to the priests as their income. Meat and grain from these offerings was holy, dedicated to the LORD, and was to be treated as holy. So the priests who were clean were allowed to eat of the holy things, but priests who were unclean were not allowed to eat. Notice the severity of the consequences; verse 3 says that any priest who treats lightly his uncleanness and approaches the holy things while in an unclean state, ‘that person shall be cut off from my presence.’ To be banned, literally ‘cut off’ from God’s presence is the most serious consequence. God takes his own holiness seriously. After the high priest’s sons Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire in the presence of the LORD in chapter 10, The LORD said:

Leviticus 10:3 … “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.’”…

Here in verse 9 the priests are warned to keep God’s command, ‘lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it.’

You may have heard Christians use this phrase: ‘I’d rather err on the side of grace.’ Usually I have heard that said in reference to Christians coming down hard on others, demanding that they be held accountable for their questionable actions. That is legitimate; we who have been shown incalculable grace by our overwhelmingly gracious God to not be quick to judge but rather quick to extend grace to others. But this is dangerous if we use it as an excuse to not examine our own hearts and behavior in the light of God’s revealed truth. If we treat lightly our own sins, if we presume on God’s grace toward us, if we claim God’s grace as a license to sin, that is dangerous. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Jesus teaches us extend God’s grace toward sinners to others, but he also teaches us to address our own sins with severity. Jesus died to free us from sin. It is unthinkable for one purchased with the precious blood of Jesus to treat sin as no big deal.

Commoners to Abstain from Holy Things

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Leviticus 22:10 “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired worker shall eat of a holy thing, 11 but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food. 12 If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things. 13 But if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food; yet no lay person shall eat of it. 14 And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest. 15 They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD, 16 and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

This section is necessary to define who is included in a priest’s household, and who can legitimately benefit from that which is set apart for the priests. Graciously, God allows restitution to be made for someone who unwittingly eats of that which he is not eligible to eat. Only holy people can eat holy things.

It is interesting to note, that in 1 Samuel 21, when David was fleeing for his life from Saul, and he and those with him were hungry and in need, he came to the priest and was given the holy bread to eat. When Jesus’ disciples were hungry and eating grain on the Sabbath in Mark 2

Mark 2:24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (cf. Matthew 12:2-8; Luke 6:2-5)

Jesus affirmed this law in Leviticus, that it was not lawful for any but the priests to eat the holy bread, but he also affirmed that the ceremonial law was made for man to bless him, and that mercy toward those in need supersedes the strict adherence to the letter of the law. Jesus affirms that one greater than even King David is here, and that he himself is lord of the Sabbath.

Blemished Sacrifices

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

Leviticus 22:17 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD, 19 if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. 20 You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. 21 And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. 22 Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar. 23 You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted. 24 Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land, 25 neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.” 26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD. 28 But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day. 29 And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. 30 It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD. 31 “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. 32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

This section deals with what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice. Starting from verse 3 of chapter 1 of Leviticus, is was made clear that offerings were to be animals without blemish. Here in chapter 22, addressed to the priests who would oversee the offerings of the people, it is spelled out in more detail what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice, and what kinds of blemishes would disqualify an animal from being offered to the Lord.

In the second temple period the prophet Malachi rebukes the priests for despising his name and his table. He says in Malachi 1

Malachi 1:6 “…If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’

…8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

…12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

God is dishonored when his people offer to him less than the best. Is he not worthy of the best, the first? If a great king came to visit, would you pull out the week-old leftovers from the back of the fridge to set before him, or do you kill the fatted calf and prepare a great feast? It is not that God needs something from you. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you” God says in Psalm 50. The goal of the offering is ‘that you may be accepted’ (verses 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29); for God to be pleased with, to delight in, to approve of, to satisfy. God does not need your offering; but the quality of your offering is evidence of your heart attitude toward God. Where does he rank in your priorities, in your desires? Does he have first place in your heart? In your finances? Jesus said:

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Perfect Priest, Perfect Sacrifice

It is interesting if we look back at the outline of these two chapters, we see that the last section of chapter 21 prevented any priest who had a blemish from approaching God or drawing near (21:17, 18, 21 twice, 23), and the last section of chapter 22 prevents any animals with a blemish from being accepted as an offering. Chapter 21:18-20 lists twelve blemishes that prevent a priest from drawing near. Chapter 22:22-24 lists twelve blemishes that prevent an animal from being accepted as a sacrifice. Almost half of the list of blemishes are identical between chapters 21 and 22. There is a symmetry between these chapters that highlights the fact that as a priest must be without blemish to draw near, so must the sacrifice be without blemish to be acceptable. And even a priest without blemish would often be temporarily unclean and excluded so as not to profane God’s name or his sanctuary. We all know that there is no perfect animal, and there is no perfect person. We are all flawed in various ways. All this would leave the worshiper longing for a more perfect priest and a more perfect sacrifice, by which to draw near and be accepted.

Hebrews 5 tells us

Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.

This leaves us aching for a priest who is not ignorant, wayward, beset with weakness. This leaves us thirsty for “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). We understand that there is no perfect animal, and that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb.10:4). This leaves us desperate for a better sacrifice. Leviticus leaves us hungry and thirsty for Jesus! Hebrews 7:26 says:

Hebrews 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

In Jesus the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice become one! Jesus is the perfect priest, holy, innocent, unstained, without weakness, without sin. Jesus is the perfect “lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet.1:19), who “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1Pet.2:22); who “offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb.9:14). Jesus is the hope that Leviticus leaves us longing for.

Jesus,

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

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

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 21; YHWH Who Sanctifies You

02/05 Leviticus 21-22; I Am YHWH Who Sanctifies You ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170205_leviticus-21.mp3

Leviticus 17-27 is known as the holiness code; how does a redeemed and rescued Israel, taken by God to live in his holy presence, now live as a new community under God?

Lev.17 The importance of blood in sacrifice

Lev.18 Avoiding pagan practices

Lev.19 Practical holiness and love for neighbors

Lev.20 Consequences of disobedience

Lev.21 Holiness of the Priests

Lev.22 Holiness of the Sacrifices

As is explicitly clear in this section, no one can accomplish their own sanctification; holiness and purity in the life of the believer can be attributed only to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Six times in chapters 21-22 we read the phrase ‘I am the LORD who sanctifies. This phrase breaks the material into 6 distinct sections, each section concluding with this phrase ‘I am the LORD who sanctifies you’. The four main sections begin with ‘the LORD spoke to Moses’

This is the big idea of the passage: I AM YHWH who Sanctifies you.

Outline of Leviticus 21-22

Lev.21:1-9 priests not to make themselves unclean

Lev.21:10-15 high priest not to make himself unclean

Lev.21:16-24 blemished priests not to draw near

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

The positive reason for each of these is because “I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” There is also a negative reason, a warning in each of these. The danger and warning is:

Lev.21:6 …and not profane the name of their God.

Lev.21:12 …lest he profane the sanctuary of his God,

Lev.21:23 …that he may not profane my sanctuaries,

Lev.22:2 …so that they do not profane my holy name:

Lev.22:15 …They shall not profane the holy things of the people

Lev.22:32 …And you shall not profane my holy name,

God’s people are to live in holy ways because he is the one who has sanctified them, made them holy; and in order that they not profane his holy name, his holy place, his holy things.

Remember the three main categories of thinking in Leviticus of holy, clean or common, and unclean. We used a diagram to help understand the movement between these categories. Sin and infirmity profane from holy to common and pollute from clean to unclean. Sacrifice can cleanse from unclean to clean and sanctify from common to holy.

———————————————————————————

←← SACRIFICE ←←

Sanctify ← Cleanse

[holy] [clean/common] [unclean]

Profane → Pollute →

→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→

[G.Wenham, NICOT, p.19, 26]

———————————————————————————

God is saying that he is the one who sanctifies you; therefore do not treat that which is holy as common or profane. It is not the sacrifice which sanctifies you; it is God who sanctifies you by means of sacrifice. Because you have been sanctified, set apart as holy, do not profane the name of your God by your sin and infirmity.

Lev.21:1-9 Priests Not To Make Themselves Unclean

The first section addresses the priests.

Leviticus 21:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people, 2 except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, 3 or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean). 4 He shall not make himself unclean as a husband among his people and so profane himself. 5 They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body. 6 They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy. 7 They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God. 8 You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy. 9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.

The priests were cleansed and set apart to enter the presence of God, to offer sacrifices, and to lead the people in worship of God. There is to be a wide separation between the gift of life in the presence of God, and the wages of sin, which is the curse and death. Contact with the dead makes one unclean. The pagan cultures around Israel were involved in ancestor worship and interaction with the dead. God demanded a clear separation between his true worship and the false worship of the pagans. Rituals for the dead were to have no place in his holy sanctuary, or among his holy people. Any contact with the dead made one unclean, so priests were forbidden to be involved in funerals, except for very close relatives. Not even for his wife’s close relatives was he to defile himself. And in mourning for the close relative, no pagan practices were to be used. Making bald patches, shaving parts of the beard, making cuts on their body, these were pagan ways of mourning, and were not to be adopted by God’s holy people. What was forbidden for the people in general in Leviticus 19:27-28 is now forbidden explicitly for the priests.

This sheds light on the priest in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan. If you remember Jesus’ story in Luke 10:25-37, a priest and then a Levite passed by the injured man on the other side of the street. They were avoiding contact with someone who would defile them and make them unclean. Jesus, clarifying the passage in Leviticus 19 that teaches love for neighbor as self, teaches that the one who showed mercy proved to be a neighbor to the man in need, and Jesus said ‘go and do likewise.’

Priests were to be holy by avoiding contact with the dead. They were also to be holy in their relationships. They were held to a higher standard in marriage, required to marry a woman of character and integrity. Their children were to maintain that same integrity, or the consequences were grave.

This is similar to the New Testament teaching in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that a deacon, an elder, a pastor in the church is held to a higher standard of integrity. He is to be above reproach. His wife is to be a woman of character. They are to manage their children well.

Lev.21:10-15 High Priest Not To Make Himself Unclean

The great high priest is held to an even higher standard.

Leviticus 21:10 “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes. 11 He shall not go in to any dead bodies nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother. 12 He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD. 13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity. 14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people, 15 that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.”

The high priest is not to make himself unclean or show outward signs of mourning, even for father or mother. This is heavy, but to be called to serve as the great High Priest of the nation is even more weighty, and duties to God take precedence over family ties. When a would-be follower asked:

Matthew 8:21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Jesus teaches again in Matthew 10

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Yes. By all means care for your own family. 1 Timothy 5 says

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

But Jesus is saying that he must take precedence over family relationships. He must be first place in our affections and in our devotion. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”

Lev.21:16-24 Blemished Priests Not To Draw Near

The last section of chapter 21 deals with physical blemishes in the priests.

Leviticus 21:16 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” 24 So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

Twelve physical defects are listed, ranging from physical deformities, to injuries, to diseases. Any blemish disqualified a priest from drawing near to God.

Under the old covenant, holiness found outward expression in wholeness. Physical integrity served as a picture of integrity of character. This understanding led to the false conclusion that all imperfections were evidence of sin. “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Lk.9:2). But the use of a physical impairment to illustrate a spiritual truth is powerful. Jesus accused the religious leaders of his day of being blind guides.

Luke 6:39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Physical blindness served as an illustration of the inability to perceive spiritual truth. Someone who cannot see clearly is unfit to lead others. For a blemished priest to draw near would be to ‘profane my sanctuaries’.

Distinction between Identity and Enjoyment

In this we see the amazing care and compassion of God. The priest with a blemish is a priest, he is a priest by birth, he was born into the priestly line, he was anointed as a priest, and he is entitled to the sustenance of the priests. But he may not approach to offer the bread of his God; he shall not draw near; he shall not come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God; he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, that he may not profane my sanctuaries. His identity is a priest; his provision comes as a priest; he is entitled to “eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things.” but he is restricted from performing the highest duties of a priest. He may not draw near.

Under the New Covenant we see that every believer is a priest of God.

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

This is who we are in Christ. This is our position. We are kings and priests. It is this holy priesthood that Peter addresses in verse 11

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

As priests of God, we are exhorted to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. As priests, we are intended to ‘offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ As priests, we are meant to ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you.’ But when we give in to the passions of the flesh, we forfeit the full enjoyment of our privileges as priests. We are still sustained by his sovereign grace, but we miss out on the fullness of fellowship. We cannot forfeit our place as adopted children around his table, but we can fail to taste the delight of ‘presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’ (Rom.12:1). We cannot be excluded from the table, but we will experience his discipline, ‘for the Lord disciplines the one he loves’ and ‘he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness’ (Heb.12:6,10).

This is truly good news. It is God who sanctifies us!

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

God sanctifies. He is able.

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.

Our holiness can only be attributed to the sanctifying work of God’s Holy Spirit in us.

C.H. Mackintosh, an Irish minister,wrote in 1881 “The believer is ‘washed, sanctified, and justified’ (1Cor.6:11); he is ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Eph.1:6); he can never come into judgment, as regards his person (John 5:24 …); death and judgment are behind him, because he is united to Christ, who has passed through them both on his behalf and in his stead. All these things are divinely true of the very weakest, most unlettered, and inexperienced member of the family of God; but yet, inasmuch as he carries about with him a nature so incorrigibly bad and so irremediably ruined that no discipline can correct it and no medicine cure it, inasmuch as he is the tenant of a body of sin and death – as he is surrounded on all sides by hostile influences – as he is called to cope perpetually with the combined forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil, he could never keep his ground, much less make progress, were he not upheld by the all-prevailing intercession of his great High-Priest, who bears the names of His people upon His breast and upon His shoulder.” (p.397).

I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

Leviticus 21:17 … None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

It is YHWH who sanctifies; makes them holy; in the Old Testament the LORD sanctified by separation and exclusion. No one who has a blemish shall draw near. But in the New Covenant, YHWH sanctifies by making whole, by healing, by transformation.

Jesus told a story about a master who prepared a great feast.

Luke 14:21 …Then the master of the house … said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’

These are the kind of people King Jesus invites in! These are the kind of people Jesus makes whole.

No one who has a blemish shall come near. But these are precicely the kinds of blemishes Jesus healed!

Matthew 11:4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Matthew 12:10 And a man was there with a withered hand. … 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.

Matthew 15:30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” Jesus opens blind eyes, causes the deaf to hear, gives life to the dead, causes the paralyzed to leap for joy. Jesus is the one who brings us near. Jesus is the one who makes us holy.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

***

What is hindering you from presenting your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God? Are you paralyzed by fear? A prisoner to the passions of the flesh? Crippled by lust? Blinded by the cares of this world? Led astray by the deceitfulness of riches? Deaf to the needs of others? Allow Jesus to set you free and draw you near. Allow him to touch the broken places in you and bring life and wholeness and fruitfulness. I am the LORD who sanctifies you. Allow him to bring you near.

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

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 20; The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God

01/29 Leviticus 20; The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170129_leviticus-20.mp3

After a bit of a break, we are going to jump back in to the book of Leviticus. We are in chapter 20. Before we jump right in, we need to locate ourselves in the book to understand what we are looking at in its context.

We are in the second major half of Leviticus. Leviticus 16 is the centerpiece of Leviticus; and the book of Leviticus is the centerpiece of the Torah or Pentateuch; the five books of Moses.

Leviticus 1-7 outline the sacrificial system; Leviticus 8-10 describe the priests, those responsible for officiating the sacrifices; chapters 11-15 describe various sources of uncleanness that require sacrifice; and chapter 16 explains the great Day of Atonement; how uncleanness is cleansed so God can dwell with man. To use a New Testament theological term, Leviticus 16 deals with justification. We are told:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

No work was to be done by the people on that day; rather work was done for the people by the priest. The people were to be completely cleansed by the work of their high priest.

Leviticus 17-27 is known as the holiness code; how does a person live after being made right with God through the work of the high priest? In New Testament terms, we would use the word sanctification. Now that I have been justified, now that I have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of a substitute, what does life in relationship with a holy God look like?

The basis of these demands for holiness are rooted in our relationship with the LORD. God says in chapters 18-20 almost 50 times “I am the LORD your God.” The foundation for these regulations is relationship. Because I am your God and I have taken you to be my people, this is how you must live.

Leviticus 19 is one of Jesus’ favorite chapters in the Bible. In 19:2 we find the oft repeated phrase “you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy”; which forms the basis of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:48 that “you …must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Leviticus 19 spells out in very diverse real life ways what holiness looks like in daily life and relationships. 19:18 is what Jesus quotes when he says “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Mt.5:43; 19:19; 22:39); then in 19:34 this is expanded to include the stranger who sojourns with you; “you shall love him as yourself”; this is the basis for Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 on loving you enemy, and the foundation of his teaching in Luke 10 on the good Samaritan and who was a neighbor to the man in need.

Chapter 19 is sandwiched between chapters 18 and 20. These two chapters cover much of the same ground, and if you remember back, chapter 18 was one of the most uncomfortable messages I have ever had to give. It deals with holiness and human sexuality, because holiness extends to every area of life.

We could ask, ‘Why so much repetition? Why cover the same ground twice?’ One reason is that this is important and we are often slow to hear. This information matters to God enough for him to say it twice. If God recorded it for us twice in the space of three chapters, we ought to take notice and heed his instruction. Another reason is that chapters 18 and 20 are coming at the same subject from two different angles. Chapter 18 is addressed to the individual Israelite, telling him ‘do not do these things; they are highly displeasing to the LORD who bought you.’ The goal is found in 18:4-5

Leviticus 18:4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

Do these things and you will enjoy life in relationship with me. Life and obedience are linked together.

Chapter 20 is not addressed to the individual but to the holy community. If someone who is living as part of the community does any of these forbidden things and sins against the LORD, this is how the community is to respond. Nine times we find the phrase ‘shall surely be put to death’; 6 times ‘their blood is upon them’; 5 times ‘cut off from among their people’; 3 times ‘I will set my face against that man’; 3 times ‘shall bear their iniquity’ or ‘sin’; 2 times ‘shall be childless’; 2 times shall stone him with stones’; once ‘shall be burned with fire’. Chapter 18 holds out life in following God’s rules; chapter 20 commands death and separation as the consequence of refusing to follow God’s ways. The wages of sin is death.

Structure

This passage has three main sections of judgment pronounced on disobedience, separated by two sections of exhortation to holy living.

20:1-6 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]

–20:7-8 exhortation to holiness

—-20:9-21 sins against family [protecting human relationships]

–20:22-26 exhortation to holiness [promise of holiness]

20:27 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]

We see in this passage a connection between spiritual unfaithfulness and sexual degeneracy; the same connection we see in Romans 1.

Consequences for Spiritual Unfaithfulness

Leviticus 20:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech. 6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

This issue was briefly mentioned in Leviticus 18:21

Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

Offering children to Molech was one of the reasons God told his people to exterminate entire civilizations. All the way back in Genesis, God told Abram that his descendants

Genesis 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

Now that time has come; the Lord detests their practices and the land will vomit out its inhabitants. One of these detestable practices was child sacrifice.

David’s son, king Solomon, married many foreign women who turned away his heart after other gods. We are told in 1 Kings 11

1 Kings 11:7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah prophesies against Judah, because

Jeremiah 7:31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.

Jeremiah says

Jeremiah 19:4 Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind—

Jeremiah says they have filled Topheth, the Valley of Hinnom with the blood of the innocents, and he calls these offerings ‘whole bunrt offerings’. He says in chapter 32

Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

In Ezekiel 16, God accuses Jerusalem of being an unfaithful bride.

Ezekiel 16:20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

When we visited Gezer, a once important Canaanite city on a major trade intersection west of Jerusalem, we looked at an excavation report that listed the skeleton of a child, and a number of jar buried infants, probably less than a week old, some of which had been burned.

God insisted that anyone in the land found guilty of offering a child to a false god must be stoned to death by the community. Even if the people chose to look the other way, or ‘closed their eyes to that man,’ God himself would enact the punishment. God took this personally. He says three times ‘I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people’ (v.3, 5, 6). He calls this ‘whoring after’, likening idolatry to marital unfaithfulness.

In the United States, the number of legal abortions performed since the 1973 decision Roe vs. Wade is approaching 60 million children.

There were an estimated 906,000 legal abortions in 2015 in the U.S. The State of Florida records reason for each abortion; of the over 71 thousand abortions in florida in 2015, less than 1% of abortions were reported to terminate a pregnancy related to incestuous relationships, rape, endagering the life of the mother, or a threat to physical or psychological health of mother; a little over half a percent was due to a serious fetal abnormality; about 6 and a quarter percent was for social or economic reasons; over 92% the procedures were elective; there was no reason. We have filled our land with the blood of the innocents.

The wages of sin is death. This passage begins and ends with spiritual unfaithfulness. We are not to turn to those who deal with spirits or deal with the deceased. God alone is the source of all truth.

Leviticus 20:27 “A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.”

Exhortation to Holiness and the Source of Holiness

Leviticus 20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

The ground for the commands is our relationship with God. Set yourselves apart and be set apart, for I am the LORD your God. Keep and do my commands; I am the LORD who sets you apart. We are to be holy, be set apart because the LORD is our God. We are to be holy because the LORD makes us holy. We cannot be holy on our own, of our own initiative. We do take initiative. We set ourselves apart, we choose to live lives of holiness; but we can only do so because God sets us apart; God sanctifies us. Be holy because I am the LORD who makes you holy.

Consequences for Sins against the Family

The next section is intended to protect the family. It begins by requiring children to respect the God-given authority of father and mother, and continues by forbidding sexual deviancy.

Leviticus 20:9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him. 10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a woman and her mother also, it is depravity; he and they shall be burned with fire, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and lies with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 17 “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity. 18 If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and uncovers her nakedness, he has made naked her fountain, and she has uncovered the fountain of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 19 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or of your father’s sister, for that is to make naked one’s relative; they shall bear their iniquity. 20 If a man lies with his uncle’s wife, he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness; they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. 21 If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is impurity. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.

The family unit is to be preserved. Adultery, incest, homosexuality, polygamy, bestiality are forbidden. They are called perversion, an abomination, depravity, a disgrace, impurity. These are strong words. God created us for a good purpose, to leave father and mother and cleave to one wife, and become one flesh. Romans 1 traces a similar spiritual decline that moves from idolatry to sexual distortions. Suppressing truth about God and failure to honor him as God leads to foolish idolatry and then to the pursuit of dishonorable passions. Paul concludes “…they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die…” (Rom.1:32).

Exhortation to Holiness and Promise of Holiness

Leviticus 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You shall therefore separate the clean beast from the unclean, and the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not make yourselves detestable by beast or by bird or by anything with which the ground crawls, which I have set apart for you to hold unclean. 26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

This passage is a warning. The nations I am driving out did all these things, and therefore I detested them. Do not do as they did, or the land will vomit you out as well. God is just. The wages of sin is death. Israel failed to heed God’s warning, and although he is patient, he is just, and the land vomited them out; they went into captivity.

God says you shall therefore keep all my statues and all my rules and do them. …You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess. …I am the LORD your God who has separated you from the peoples. …You shall be holy to me …for I have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine. These are precious promises, and they are freely given. They are not earned. We do not become holy by our own efforts. God is the one who calls us out us from among the peoples, who freely gives us an inheritance, who sets us apart as holy to him, that we should belong to him. God is the one, according to Ezekiel 36 who says:

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

There is a spiritual decline in Romans 1 that moves from failure to worship God as he is, to idolatry, to dishonorable passions. But this is why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel:

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation…

To who?

…to everyone who believes…

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation. To you, if you will believe.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What we earned is death. We all have sinned and fallen short. But in Jesus God offers us a free gift. He offers the powerful gift of life to all who will believe. It is a free gift to be received by faith. By believing. This is a powerful transforming gift. This is a gift that changes you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Have you believed? Have you experienced the desire-transforming power of God’s Spirit in you, as he calls you ‘mine’ and begins to make you holy?

***

We have a message of good news. For those who have had an abortion, we have good news of healing and forgiveness in Jesus. For those considering aborting, we have a message of hope in Jesus. There is another way, the way of life. For the sexually immoral, for the sexually deviant, for idolaters who worship their own desires above the Lord God, there is hope. Let’s bring the good news that a holy God freely gives his Spirit to the broken, to the hurting, to transform them by his magnificent grace!

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

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation

11/20 Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161120_leviticus-19_19-37.mp3

Leviticus 19 is about holiness. This chapter commands “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” We are to be holy because God is holy. God is holy, but holiness is one of those words that is a bit elusive. Holiness a difficult concept to define. We need something tangible to understand what holiness means. This chapter gives us a very practical description of what holiness looks like. And holiness touches every area of life. The first 10 verses covers subjects like authority, time, idolatry, worship, and giving. The next 8 verses deal with respect for others, respect for personal property, respect for God’s name, respect for neighbor, for employee, for the disabled, respect for the legal system, respect for those who have personally wronged you.

The final sections deal with topics ranging from agricultural practices, to sexual harassment, the occult, prostitution, holy days, holy places, respect for the elderly, care for immigrants and foreigners, and fair commerce. Holiness is comprehensive. It deals with all of life.

Verses 1-10 fall into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD your God.” Verses 11-18 also divides into four sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am the LORD.” The final section, verses 19-37 is bracketed by the phrase at the beginning of verse 19 “You shall keep my statutes” which is repeated and expanded in verse 37 “And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them“. This sections uses the prases “I am the LORD your God” and “I am the LORD” 4 times each in an alternating ‘abba’ then ‘baab’ pattern.

We are to be holy because the LORD our God is holy. But what holiness looks like for us will differ in many ways from what holiness looks like for God. We are to be holy because God is holy. But our holiness will be the holiness of a creature, where God’s holiness is the holiness of the Creator. We cannot be holy in the ulitmate sense of the word, totally unique, distinct, separate, other; absolutely unique and unparalleled. God’s holiness means that there is no one like God. But we are to be separate, distinct, set apart from sin, from the world.

Leviticus 19 is addressed to the nation of Israel after they had been delivered from Egypt and before they entered the promised land. This chapter gives instructions for what holiness was to look like for them then. What holiness looks like for us will be different in some ways from what holiness looked like for ancient Israel, and in some ways it will be very much the same.

Holiness then as now was never a way to gain favor with God, but rather it is a response to God’s unilateral forgiveness toward sinners, who has made a way for us to enjoy relationship with him. ‘If you love me you will keep my commands’ Jesus said. And we only love because he first loved us. Holiness is a response to God’s grace and love.

Holy Mixture

Leviticus 19:19 “You shall keep my statutes.

You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind.

You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed,

nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

There is no reason given in the text for these commands. This echoes back to the creation where God made plants and animals to bear fruit and reproduce each after its kind [different Hebrew word “miyn”; here “kil’ayim”]. We may get a hint of why in a parallel passage in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 22:9 “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited [lit. become holy] , the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.

The word translated ‘forfeited’ [qadash] is literally ‘become holy,’ or set apart, dedicated to the LORD. Mixtures of different kinds were set apart to the LORD. We know from Exodus 30 that the specific blend of aromatic spices that made up the holy incense was not to be made for common use. We know from Exodus 28 that the holy garments to set apart the priesthood were to be made of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and and fine twined linen. We also learn from Ezekiel’s description in chapters 1 and 10 of the cherubim around God’s throne that they were composite beings, each with the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. So it is possible that these laws were meant to guard the holiness of God’s sanctuary.

Sexual Assault

Leviticus 19:20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the LORD, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.

This is an interesting case. In the very next chapter (Lev.20:10) the consequence for adultery is that both the man and woman are to e put to death. Deuteronomy 22 addresses adultery the same way, then goes on to the case of a man who has relations with a betrothed woman. If it is in the city, where she could have cried for help but didn’t, they are both killed. But if it was in the country only the male is killed because it is assumed that she cried for help but there was no one to rescue her. In the case of a man who has relations with a woman who is not betrothed, he is required to marry her, and to give her father the full bride price. In this chapter, at issue is a slave woman. She has no consequences, because she is not free, and may not have felt she could resist. He is held accountable to the LORD for his actions. He has sinned against the LORD, and must bring a guilt offering Sexual assault against someone who is vulnerable is a sin against the LORD, and the wages of sin is death. In this case, God mercifully accepts the sacrifice of a substitute.

Horticulture and Firstfruits

Leviticus 19:23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the LORD your God.

Notice this is a law specific to entrance into the land of promise. Literally this says ‘you shall regard its fruit as uncircumcised. A common practice in orchards is to pinch off the buds of young trees for the first years to strengthen them so that they produce more later. The fruit of the fourth year is a specific type of firstfruits offering, a setting apart all the fruit for the Lord, a recognition that every good thing belongs to the Lord and comes from the Lord. It is given back as an offering of praise to the LORD

The Occult

Leviticus 19:26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it.

You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.

27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.

These laws specifically forbid occult practices. Eating blood, interpreting omens, telling fortunes, cutting the edges of the hair or self mutilation were connected to worship of false gods. We have a graphic illustration of this in 1 Kings 18 with the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18:28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

God’s people are not to engage in occult practices of any kind, self harm or self mutilation.

Prostitution, Holy Times, Holy Places

Leviticus 19:29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity.

30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.

Prostitution was often connected with false worship. Greed is a manifestation of false worship. It is demonic for a parent to offer a daughter as a prostitute for the sake of money. Even in desperate poverty, we are to look to the LORD to provide for our needs, and to walk in obedience. God reminds his people of proper worship; keep my Sabbaths. Reverence my sanctuary.

The Occult

Leviticus 19:31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.

We have an example of this in 1 Samuel 28, when Saul was afraid and ‘enquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him’ (v.6), so he turned to a medium to conjure up Samuel from the grave. Attempts to seek information about the future are inappropriate outside of biblical revelation. God is the one who holds the future, and it is his to reveal or conceal what will take place. It is ours to trust him. When we don’t know what will happen, we are to walk in faith filled obedience to what he has told us to do.

Honor the Aged

Leviticus 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Verse 3 told us we are to fear mother and father. Here we are taught to honor and respect the elderly and fear God. In a culture that questions the value of the elderly and dismisses them as irrelevant we would do well to listen to this instruction. In a culture that considers disrespect as funny and cool, we need to regain a proper fear of the LORD, who tells us to rise before the gray head, and honor the face of the old man.

Love the Stranger

Leviticus 19:33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

This is the counterpart to verses 17 and 18; to the brother or neighbor who wrongs you, love him as yourself. Now we are told; do not wrong a foreigner, but treat him as a native, and love him as yourself. The motive? You know what it is like to be a foreigner and to be mistreated. Love, actively seeking the good of the other, even when it costs us, is to characterize our relationships, especially with those we would tend not to love. We are to love those who have wronged us. We are to love those that are different from us and potentially vulnerable in society. We are not to take advantage of them. Rather we are to treat them as we would want to be treated.

Fair Commerce

Leviticus 19:35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity.

36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

If you’re selling something, describe it accurately. Deal honestly. Do not seek to increase profits by deceit. Why? Because the LORD is God. He is our deliverer, our rescuer, we bear his name, so he can define how we are to conduct ourselves as his representatives.

Live Different

Leviticus 19:37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the LORD.”

God cares how we act. Holiness matters. We are his ambassadors. His representatives. In everything we do. In every area of life. All the time. We are to be men and women of character, of integrity, of love. We are to live in a way that is different than the world.

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

You know how the world works. But it shall not be so among you. Serve others, because Jesus came to serve you. Love others, because Jesus first loved you. Give your life for others, because Jesus gave his life for you.

Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal. Rather work so you can give. Honor your parents. Honor the elderly. Treat the poor the disabled and the vulnerable with digninty and resepect. Don’t take advantage of anyone. Love your enemies. Love them as you love yourself. Show hospitality to strangers. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Be holy in all your conduct.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

You belong to God, so glorify God in your body. In everything you do.

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

Holiness touches all of life. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

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

November 22, 2016 Posted by | podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness

10/30 Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161030_leviticus-19_1-10.mp3

Today we come to one of Jesus’ favorite chapters of the Bible; Leviticus 19. Jesus used the teachings of this chapter as the cornerstone of his famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5; especially verses 43-48. Jesus referred to it in Matthew 19, talking to the rich young ruler about the commandments he needed to keep.

In Luke 17, Jesus told a story to explain one particular word in Leviticus 19, a story we know as the parable of the good Samaritan.

When asked about the greatest command in Matthew 22, he cited one from Deuteronomy 6 and a second like it from Leviticus 19. Jesus said

Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Paul took his cue from Jesus. In Romans 13 he said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

And in Galatians 5 he said:

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The whole law is fulfilled in one word; all the commandments are summed up in one word. James called this the royal law, the perfect law, the law of liberty.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

In fact, we could argue that the letter of James is an extended New Testament commentary and application of Leviticus 19. At least half a dozen of his statements are lifted directly out of Leviticus 19.

Peter also drew heavily on Leviticus 19 in his first letter, stating:

1 Peter 1:15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 19 deals with everything. It deals with family, with farming, with worship, with employment, with business, with personal relationships, with sex, with time. It deals with the occult, with prostitution, with cutting, with justice and legal issues, with the poor, with foreigners. It even addresses how you should look and what you should wear. It touches each of the ten commandments from Exodus 20; we could even look at it as an application and explanation of how the 10 commandments are to be applied. We will look at the first 10 verses today, an illustration of practical holiness.

Be Holy For I Am Holy

Leviticus 19:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Remember, as we saw last time, Leviticus 19 is in the last half of Leviticus. It answers the question, ‘now that I have been forgiven of all my sins through the sacrifice, how should I live my life?’ This is addressed to people already in a relationship with the LORD God.

This entire chapter is rooted in who God is, and our relationship with him. God demands that we as his people reflect his character in every area of our lives. At first read, this chapter seems like a jumbled up mess of random unrelated issues all thrown together for lack of a better place to put them. But even in this God is telling us something. God is communicating that in all the various aspects of our daily lives, in every area, we are to consciously, intentionally reflect him.

He calls us to be holy because he is holy. But what does it mean to say that God is holy? He is different. He is unique. He is set apart. We are to be a reflection of who he is. But what does that look like? What does it mean to be holy? We need some practical instruction. And this chapter gives us exactly that. This chapter is more than anything else about God. We are to be holy because God is holy, and this chapter lays out what holiness looks like in various everyday situations.

Authority

Leviticus 19:3 Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, (V)

This chapter on practical holiness begins in the home, because holiness must begin at home. It matters how you treat your parents. Whether you are living under their authority, or caring for them when they are elderly, holiness begins by a proper respect for authority. This is a restatement of the 5th commandment, but here rather than saying that you are to ‘Honor your father and mother,’ we are told literally to ‘fear’ them. This is a word that is usually reserved for the fear of the LORD in the Bible, but here it is applied to the authority of parents. Parenting is a weighty responsibility. Parents carry the delegated authority of God in a child’s life. So even if they are not godly, even if they abuse their authority, even if by their character they are not worthy of respect, their position is to be respected. Notice that mother is listed first here in a place of honor. Parenting is a team sport, and it functions best when mother and father work together as a team.

Time

Leviticus 19:3 …and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. (IV)

Honoring sacred time comes next. You shall keep my Sabbaths. This is a restatement of the 4th command.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work,…

Time is something we never seem to have enough of, something we often run out of. Time is a precious commodity that we spend. God is to be honored with our time. We need to be wise with what we spend it on. God demands that we set aside some of our time as holy, set apart for God. We are to rest, we are to remember, we are to worship. We are to be different in the way we use our time.

Idolatry

Leviticus 19:4 Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God. (I, II)

This recalls the first two commandments. We are to have no other Gods, and we are to make no images. The word here for idols emphasizes the weak and worthless nature of false gods. We are not to turn to worthless things to put our hope in them. It is futile to look for help from the things our own hands have made. God says “I am the LORD your God.” We have the real thing. Why would we turn away to cheap imitations?

Obedient Worship

Leviticus 19:5 “When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. 7 If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, 8 and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from his people.

This looks back to chapter 7, which gave detailed instructions about peace offerings. This was the one type of sacrifice from which the worshiper was invited to eat. But holiness meant that the God’s instructions were to be followed carefully and exactly. That which is holy, set apart, is not to be treated as common or ordinary. We cannot come to God any way that we like. “When you offer a sacrifice… you shall offer it so that you may be accepted.” God must be obeyed in the way that we approach him.

Care For the Poor

Leviticus 19:9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Holiness means not taking everything for yourself. Holiness in business means not wringing out every last cent of profit. Holiness must be generous. God’s holiness must be reflected in our care for the poor and for the displaced, those from whom we can expect nothing in return. We are to acknowledge that everything belongs to God, and everything that we have is a gift from him, and that he gives us more than we need so that we can give to those who are in need.

This method of giving retains the dignity of the needy and requires little more from the landowner than a heart of generosity. He was not asked to gather extra grain, process it and package it, then identify the most needy in his community and deliver it to them. He was actually invited to do less work. Don’t go back over your field a second time to pick up what you missed. Just leave it. Take enough and leave the rest and then rest. Enjoy what you have. Resist the urge to relentlessly pursue maximum profit.

The needy person was then required to do the extra work, to go out to the field, to pick up what he needed, to bring it home to feed his family. This provided an opportunity for the dignity of honest work to provide for the needs of one’s own. And the one who benefited would recognize this ultimately not as a gift from the landowner, but as a gift from God, who generously provides for our needs.

Ruth

We see this holiness in action in the story of Ruth. Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabite woman, and a widow. She had married into a Jewish family, and even after the death of her husband, she showed honor to her mother-in-law. Naomi was a bitter woman, and she had lost her hope in God. She even asked to be called ‘Mara’ – Bitter. Naomi was returning to Israel empty handed. Yet Ruth renounced the idolatry of her people, and declared

Ruth 1:16 … where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

Ruth was honoring her mother-in-law, even if she was not altogether worthy of that honor. And Ruth honored her mother-in-law in very practical ways. She worked hard to provide for her needs.

In chapter 2, we are introduced to Boaz, a worthy man, who is a landowner.

Ruth 2:4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.”

This is a unique relationship between an employer and his employees. This sounds like a pleasant positive encouraging work atmosphere. The boss genuinely cares, and everyone knows it. How often do you hear employees blessing their boss? If you have anyone under you, strive to create this kind of an atmosphere. This is a man who put God first. This is a man who took time to worship God and to serve others.

Ruth 2:14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

This is generosity above and beyond. Boaz had provided generously for the needs of his workers, He ate and had fellowship with them, and he gave to this stranger more than she needed. Then he instructed his employees to be intentionally wasteful and careless in order to provide abundantly for this woman. Boaz is sacrificing his own profitability in order to bless a stranger, from whom he could expect nothing in return.

This is an illustration of what holiness practically looks like. Boaz is obeying Leviticus 19, caring for the needs of his employees, extending love to the stranger, providing generously for the poor. But Boaz is only able to be like this because he is enjoying relationship with a God who is like this.

Jesus

Remember we are commanded to be holy because God is holy. God is the one who demonstrates what it is to love the stranger, the outsider, the foreigner. God is the one who demonstrates lavish generosity to those who can never pay him back.

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We love because he first loved us. We can love like this because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This is all a gracious gift. While we were weak. While we were ungodly. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! What lavish generosity to strangers, even enemies!

Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, 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. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Remember. You were separated. You were alienated. You were strangers. You had no hope. But, the boundless riches of his mercy, you who once were far off have been brought near. At what cost? By the blood of Christ! Infinite cost. Unparalleled generosity to those who can never pay back. Now strangers no longer. Aliens no longer. Fellow citizens, saints, members of the house! We have been brought near! He has welcomed the foreigner!

Colossians 1 says:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

You were once alienated. Not alienated through unfortunate circumstances, but alienated by your own hostility. Your own open rebellion. You chose to be hostile. You made yourself his enemy. And yet he pursued you! Jesus pursued his rebellious creation by entering into the creation he had made, taking on our flesh and becoming one of us, so that he could pay the ultimate price for us, he died for you so that he could present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. He took away your shame! He took away your indignity. He brings reconciliation to hostile enemies. He brings us in to relationship. Because we have been so loved, we are set free to so love.

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

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 18; The Gospel and Human Sexuality

10/23 Leviticus 18; The Gospel and Human Sexuality; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161023_leviticus-18.mp3

We are in Leviticus 18, and to understand what we are studying, we need to understand where we are in the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus 1-7 Sacrifices

Leviticus 8-10 Priests

Leviticus 11-15 Uncleanness

Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement

Leviticus 17-27 Holy Living

The first half of Leviticus gives the sacrificial system, dealing with uncleanness and how to be cleansed from uncleanness. Leviticus 16 brings us to the great Day of Atonement, where we are told:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

No work was to be done by the people on that day; rather work was done for the people by the priest. The people were to be completely cleansed by the work of their high priest.

The remainder of the book deals with the conduct expected of God’s redeemed, cleansed, and forgiven people. What does life in relationship with the holy God look like? Having been decisively forgiven, how do we now live to please him? Notice carefully the sequence. We are forgiven and cleansed so that we can live lives that please the Lord. We must not reverse this order. We cannot attempt to please God with our conduct in order to be forgiven and accepted by him. God’s grace and forgiveness always comes first. The power to live a transformed life comes from being already forgiven by a merciful God.

The Reason for The Rules

Leviticus 18:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

Notice, this is based on relationship. God says in chapters 18-20 almost 50 times “I am the LORD your God.” The foundation for these regulations is relationship. Because I am your God and you are my people, this is how you must live. I am the LORD your God, who saved you out of the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God, who is giving you the promised land of Canaan. Therefore, because you are already my people, because we are in relationship, this is how I expect you to conduct yourselves. Because you are my people, your lives must be different from the cultures around you. This is linked to the previous chapter. Other people follow false gods. Other people live with a different world view. Don’t live like those who follow other gods. If I am your God, then you must follow my rules.

There is a promise here of life for obedience. We are tempted to see God’s rules as restrictive, stifling, oppressive, limiting. Rather, God designed his rules to be life giving, protecting, liberating, the path to lasting joy. Obedience to God’s rules leads to life. Abundant life. Disregard of God’s rules leads to pain and heartache, hurt and ultimately death. God gave us rules for our own good, for our happiness, to bless us.

Human Sexuality; Incest

Leviticus 18 is about human sexuality. Our sexuality matters to God. How we live, how we conduct ourselves matters to God. God is not silent on matters of sex. God does not leave us in the dark wondering, trying to find our own way. Graciously, God communicates clearly and openly to us.

Leviticus 18:6 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, brought up in your father’s family, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s relative. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s relative. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. 18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.

Some things ought to go without saying. But praise God, he said them, because our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer.17:9). We need clear boundaries. Our country today is clear evidence that it needs to be said, or anything and everything will be up for grabs. We see this danger addressed in the church in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.

We see here clearly God’s heart of protection for his people. This section deals in detail with incest. These laws are fences, boundaries to protect his people, to protect those who may be weaker from being victimized. This protection extends to mother, sister, granddaughter, and aunt. Many of these relationships in the culture of the middle east would be found living in the same household in an extended family. These laws were necessary for Israel particularly, because the Israelites were forbidden to marry foreigners, and because the land was to be kept within a tribe marriages were typically within the tribe. These laws would prevent marriages with close relatives that would tend toward defects common to inbreeding.

One Flesh

But this was not the only reason. Inappropriate relationships extend even to in-laws, those related not by blood but by marriage. This included step-mother, step-sister, step-daughter, step-granddaughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law and aunt by marriage. In this chapter we find a great honoring of the marriage relationship. Jesus said:

Matthew 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The one flesh marriage relationship means that to uncover the nakedness of a woman is to uncover the nakedness of her husband, and to dishonor her husband, because the two are one flesh. The marriage relationship is to be honored.

Pornography and Petting

I find it interesting that the phrase this passage uses for the sexual relationship is ‘to uncover the nakedness of.’ This is clearly a euphemism, but I think we can glean some insight from it into our digital age. I’m talking about pornography. Many attempt to justify their sin by saying ‘I’m not hurting anyone. I’m just looking. After all, they are the ones who put the pictures out there.’ This passage says ‘you shall not uncover the nakedness of.’ Although this passage doesn’t directly deal with this issue, Jesus does. He says:

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

And I think we also get clear help on the question ‘how far is too far?’ ‘We didn’t actually go all the way.’ But ‘you shall not uncover the nakedness of…’ to have any kind of sexual encounter with anyone who is not your spouse, is not appropriate for the follower of Jesus.

Protection of Women

There is protection here for women. To have relationships with a woman and her daughter or granddaughter or sister would be damaging to that natural relationship. The language of verse 18 forbids the polygamous situation of taking a rival wife while her sister is still alive. We see the damaging results of this kind of rivalry in the story of Jacob with Leah and Rachel in the last half of Genesis.

Leviticus 18:19 “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness.

There is protection of a woman here even from her own husband at inappropriate times.

Leviticus 18:20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her.

This is a restatement of the seventh commandment “you shall not commit adultery” (Ex.20:14). This whole chapter is a working out in detail the implications of this command, along with the 5th command to honor father and mother, and the 10th to not covet your neighbor’s wife.

Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

This command is expanded in chapter 20, so we will deal with it in more detail there.

Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

Homosexuality and bestiality are condemned here. ‘Abomination’ speaks of something utterly repulsive. ‘Perversion’ speaks of something that violates the created order of things. This is a violation of God’s order in creation. Jesus points us back to God’s design for marriage.

Matthew 19:4 …he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

And the entire New Testament reinforces this teaching that marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life.

Leviticus 18:24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

Incest is an abomination, polygamy is an abomination, adultery is an abomination, idolatry is an abomination, homosexuality is an abomination, bestiality is an abomination, pornography, lust of any kind is an abomination. These are not laws merely for Israel; Egypt and Canaan knew better and were being judged for their violation of this universal morality. Centuries earlier, God had said to Abraham,

Genesis 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God is incredibly patient. But he will punish sin. And we learn from the later prophets that Israel did not listen, and violated these laws, and the land did indeed ‘vomit them out;’ they were conquered by foreign nations and went into captivity.

Application

I have said as we have been going through Leviticus that we are not looking for laws to obey, we are looking for glimpses of Jesus. And in this passage we get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus, the heart of Jesus to protect people, to care for women and children, widows and orphans. To protect people from relational suicide and self-destructive behavior. To protect his people from destructive temptation that will destroy life and steal joy. We get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus, who offers us life and life abundantly, if we will follow him.

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We were meant for more than sexual immorality. Our bodies were created for a high purpose, to be a dwelling place for the Most High God, to bring glory and honor to him.

We get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus that is repulsed by the lukewarm church of Revelation 3. He says

Revelation 3:15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Jesus says ‘I am about to vomit you out;’ Jesus has a violent emotional reaction against those that are complacent about him. You might be offended by Jesus, or you might become a passionate follower of Jesus, but to just be ho-hum is not an option. To just be a casual cultural Christian without a real vital relationship with Jesus is violently repulsive to Jesus. Better to be a Saul of Tarsus, vehemently persecuting and imprisoning followers of Jesus, than to be a Pilate, who comes face to face with Jesus and shrugs his shoulders and says ‘what is truth?’

And we get a glimpse of the transformational power of the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Jesus “came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk.5:2). About the woman of the street who had a reputation known to all, Jesus said:

Luke 7:47 …her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

To the woman caught in the very act of adultery and dragged out to be judged by Jesus, he said:

John 8:11 …And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

1 Corinthians 6 says:

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.

This is quite the laundry list of sins that are abominable, detestable, abhorrent to a holy God. But not one of these sinners is beyond hope! Not one of these sinners is too fare gone for the grace of God. Not one is beyond the reach of the transforming power good news that Jesus came to rescue sinners! Jesus came to die for sinners. Not one of these sins defines you. 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! What you were you are no longer. You can be clean! There is hope in Jesus for the sexually immoral, for the adulterer, for the homosexual, for the thief, for the drunk, for the selfish. Jesus’ love reaches out to such as these. Jesus came for these. Jesus came to give us a new identity! Jesus came to set us free!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

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

October 24, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment