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2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance – Wounded to Heal

07/14_2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance; Wounded to Heal ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190714_2cor7_9-11.mp3

Review: Grief According To God

We are in 2 Corinthians 7. Paul has met Titus in Macedonia and been encouraged by him, especially by the report he received about their response to his severe letter. Their grief caused Paul to rejoice.

2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

We looked last week at some examples of grief according to God that led to repentance, Rahab and David, in contrast to examples of worldly grief that ended in death, Achan and Saul.

Today I want to look more carefully at repentance, what biblical repentance is, what the outcome of repentance is, and how grief according to God can lead to repentance.

Preaching Repentance

First, what repentance is. Jesus came

Mark 1:14 …proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The good news of God, the time is fulfilled, the kingdom has appeared, repent and believe the good news. Jesus said in Luke 15:

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

After he rose from the dead, Jesus commissioned his followers

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Repentance is to be proclaimed in the name of Jesus to all people. Repentance is what sinners do that brings joy to God. Repentance is connected with the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is connected with believing the good news.

Defining Repentance [μετάνοια]

Repentance comes from the Greek word μετάνοια, a compound word made up of μετά (after, a prefix that indicates movement or change) and νοιέω (to think, to consider, the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes); it means to think differently in retrospect, to have a change of heart and mind. This is a deep inward change.

This word ‘repent’ is sometimes found with a different word [ἐπιστρέφω], a synonym that literally means to turn around. When Peter preached in Acts 3, he said:

Acts 3:18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, [μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε] that your sins may be blotted out,

Forgiveness of sins is contingent on this change of mind and change of direction. In Acts 26, Paul described his life and mission:

Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. [ἀπήγγελλον μετανοεῖν καὶ ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἄξια τῆς μετανοίας ἔργα πράσσοντας]

Conversion is another English word that has been used to try to capture this idea of turning, this new thinking, new direction. Conversion or repentance is a change of mind, a deep inward change, a turning away from what you were trusting in, hoping in, holding on to, a turning toward God, to treasure him, to trust him, to cling to him.

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

This inward transformation produces fruit. People who truly turn, truly change, begin to live consistent with their new direction. John the Baptist called people to be genuine, to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt.3:8).

The Duty of Repentance

Jesus commanded that we have this deep inward change of heart and mind, and believe or depend on the gospel. He instructed his followers to proclaim to the nations that they experience this inward change and their sins would be forgiven in Jesus’ name, because he suffered in their place. He said there would be consequences, condemnation for those who refuse to repent.

Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

This turning, this genuine inward change of heart and mind is required for the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.

God’s Kindness and Patience Lead to Repentance

And we see that God is kind, he is eager for us to repent, to experience that inward change, to receive forgiveness for our sins.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

God does not immediately pour out the consequences of our sins on us. He is patient, he forbears, all in order to lead us to repentance.

Our Turning and God’s Creative Act

Paul used this other word ‘turning’ in 2 Corinthians 3:16 to describe the turning of Jewish people to Jesus as the overcoming of their hardness of mind and the removing of the veil on their hearts that prevents them from seeing the light of the good news of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:14 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 [ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς κύριον], the veil is removed.

How does repentance come about? He says their minds are hard and their hearts are veiled, but if one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Only through Christ is it taken away. How does this turning happen? He says in chapter 4 of those whose minds are hardened, whose hearts are veiled, those who are perishing,

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

He says it is Satan who blinds minds, but through the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord,

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

Satan blinds minds and hardens hearts, but God creates light and removes veils. God works through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people to create life and speak light into hard hearts, and blind minds see! We see the glory of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ and seeing, we are being transformed! When a blind mind is given light, it begins to see things differently; there is an inward change of mind and heart. What was once distasteful or unimpressive now becomes beautiful. Blind minds are enabled to perceive the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Gift of Repentance

The apostles in their preaching celebrated God’s gift of repentance. Peter, answering the Pharisees in Acts 5 said of the crucified and resurrected Jesus,

Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel [τοῦ δοῦναι μετάνοιαν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ] and forgiveness of sins.

God the Father exalted Jesus to give repentance to Israel. A few chapters later, in Acts 11, Peter is reporting to the Jerusalem church the conversion, the turning of the Gentiles in Caesarea. He recounts to them that the Holy Spirit fell on them as he began to speak. He says:

Acts 11:17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life [ὁ θεὸς τὴν μετάνοιαν εἰς ζωὴν ἔδωκεν].”

God gives the repentance that leads to life. Repentance is a gift from God. (cf.2Tim.2:25).

Wounding to Heal

How does God give this gift? We have already seen in these passages that God gives repentance through preaching, through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people. He leads us to repentance through his kindness and forbearance. If we return to 2 Corinthians 7, we see that God uses grief to bring about repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Godly grief, or grief according to God; not ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ or ‘I’m sorry that there will be consequences’ but ‘I am grieved that I displeased God, that I dishonored his name.’ This grief, this true sorrow over sin brings about repentance that leads to salvation.

We can see this pattern in other places in Scripture. Last time we looked at David’s repentance after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan with his sin. We looked at his prayer of confession in Psalm 51. He says in verse 8

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

David says that God broke his bones. God crushed him. God caused him to sorrow over his sin, and that genuine grief led him to repentance, and the outcome is a restoration of his joy.

God said in Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

God claims to be the one both to kill and to make alive, to wound and to heal. The context here is the disobedience and idolatry of his people, and his use of other nations to discipline them and to make them jealous. The sequence is intentional. Before God makes alive, he kills. Before God heals, he wounds. He causes grief – grief according to God – to bring about repentance, a deep inward turning, a changing of heart and desire. He breaks our bones in order to restore to us the joy of our salvation.

The prophet Hosea says

Hosea 5:13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 15 I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

God here likens himself to a lion that tears and carries off. They go to Assyria for healing, but in vain. God says, I tear them like a lion, and then I wait for them to acknowledge their guilt and seek my face. God causes distress and grief to bring his people ultimately to himself, for their ultimate good. Hosea continues:

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 ​Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

God has torn us that he may heal us. He has struck us down so that he can bind us up. Do you feel torn, struck down, broken by the Lord? Is he trying to get your attention? He is pursuing you, eager for you to turn, to return to him, to seek his face, to earnestly seek him; not his gifts, not a change in circumstances, but him. He has torn, yes, but he has torn in order to heal; he has struck down in order to bind us up. He intends to raise us up to life, eternal life in his presence. He cares enough that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get your attention, to cause you grief to bring you to repentance, to a change of mind, a change of allegiance, to bring you to depend completely on him, to seek not his gifts, but him, to earnestly seek his face. He says:

Hosea 6:5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.

God uses his people to speak his words to grieve us into repenting, he slays us with the words of his mouth to lead us to salvation.

God used Paul’s severe letter, the gospel forcefully applied to their situation, to grieve them, to crush them, to bring them to a change of heart and mind. Paul rebuked them, he caused them grief, but for a good purpose.

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul said the hard things, even for a time regretting what he said, so that he could say ‘you suffered no loss through us.’

Does God want to use you to speak some hard things into someone’s life, not to unload and make yourself feel better, but to love and serve him, to preach the gospel to him; that your sin displeases God and drags his good name through the mud, the good news that God loves you and sent his only Son to die for that sin, so that you can turn to him and experience forgiveness and transformation and life the way it was meant to be. Allow him to change you deep inside, your mind, your heart, your desires, so that you are eager to live consistent with those new desires.

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

July 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God

07/07_2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190707_2cor7_8-10.mp3

Good Grief!

Charlie Brown walks by the doghouse where Snoopy is doing something ridiculous. “Good grief!” he exclaims. Good grief. That’s what we are talking about today.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul wrote the Corinthians a severe letter. He was anxious about how it would be received, so anxious that he passed up an open door for gospel ministry in Troas. But in Macedonia, Titus came and announced good news to Paul. Titus announced the Corinthians’ longing, their mourning, their ardor on Paul’s behalf. This brought Paul still more joy. Why does intense desire, moaning or lamentation, and jealous indignation elicit joy? This is an unusual combination. Titus announces that the Corinthians were grieved by his letter, and now Paul rejoices? Why? Paul rejoices over the Corinthian’s grief? Is it right to rejoice over the sorrows of others? Paul in Romans tells us to

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Paul had told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

But here Paul rejoices over their grief. Isn’t this cruel? Paul explains. Because even if I grieved you in my letter, I do not regret it. Even if I did regret it. Because I see that that letter if even for an hour grieved you. Now I rejoice. Not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved to repentance.

Grief According to God

His joy was not over their grief only, but over the outcome of their grief. Their grief was godly grief, literally grief according to God.

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There are different kinds of grief. It matters what kind of grief you experience. What is grief according to God? And what is the grief of the world? The text says that grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss. Worldly grief in contrast works death. But both are called grief. What is the difference? How do we know which is which? This is important, because one works itself out in death, and one results in salvation. It matters that we experience the right kind of grief.

Achan and Rahab

Some illustrations might help, and the Bible is full of them! First, Rahab and Achan. Achan was an Israelite during Joshua’s conquest of Jericho. They were commanded to devote everything in the city to the Lord, to destruction.

Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

After Israel’s defeat at Ai, and Joshua is asking ‘Why?’,

Joshua 7:10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’” 16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Achan knew what he had done. He watched this whole process of selection unfold, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, household by household, man by man, which certainly took some time. Not until he was singled out and confronted as guilty did he own up to what he had done. He took of the spoils that were devoted to God, in effect stealing from God. He acted as if God didn’t exist, as if he would get away with it. He idolized the treasurers of the idolaters more than he treasured the true God of Israel. He was sorry that he got caught. His was a worldly sorrow, and it brought death.

But a few chapters earlier, when the two spies entered Jericho, they were hid and protected by the pagan prostitute Rahab,

Joshua 2:8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

This pagan prostitute turned, she repented; she hid the spies from her own people who were searching for them, she took a risk; she extended hospitality to enemies, she transferred her allegiance to the God of the Israelites, who she acknowledged as ‘God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.’ She experienced grief; her heart had melted within her, but she cast herself on God’s mercy, and her turning, her repentance was according to God, without regret, and resulted in the salvation of herself and her family.

Joshua 2:14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

Rahab turned from trusting in false Gods to the one true God, and she acted consistently with what she said she believed. Achan, although in name an Israelite who should have worshiped the one true God, acted as an idolater and lived as if God didn’t exist.

Saul and David

Here is another example. Saul and David. Saul was anointed king by Samuel. Saul was commanded in 1 Samuel 15 to strike the Amalekites, and devote everything to destruction.

1 Samuel 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. 10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night. 12 And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

There’s already some troubling things in this story. The despised and worthless things they devoted to the Lord, but the best things they refused to destroy. And Saul set up a monument for himself! (That’s just weird.) And when he sees Samuel he gives him a spiritual sounding greeting and says that he has obeyed the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 15:14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”

You see what Saul is doing here? When confronted with his sin, he shifts the blame. He says ‘they, the people’ did this. And he makes excuses. He says it was for a good motive. He says that their disobedience was supposed to be an act of worship, a sacrifice to God.

1 Samuel 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.” 17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

Saul persists in making excuses and attempting to clear himself. He won’t admit guilt. He insists that he knows better than God, that disobedience can be an act of worship.

1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the LORD.”

You see what happens here? When faced with the consequences of his sin, his rejection, then he admits guilt. But he still deflects, saying it was out of fear of the people. He asks for pardon, and he wants to save face publicly.

1 Samuel 15:26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” 30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.”

Saul is remorseful faced with the consequences of his sin, but he is eager for public honor more than for pleasing God. His grief stems from the consequences of his sin, not out of a genuine remorse for displeasing God. He is content with an outward show in place of inward reality.

Consider on the other hand, David. King David has experienced abundant blessing from the Lord. But he indulged the flesh, and now he has committed adultery and murdered to cover it up. The prophet Nathan confronts David;

2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

Note that his sin is no less serious than Saul. He despised the word of the Lord. He did what is evil in his sight. Adultery. Murder. This seems too easy. “I have sinned against the Lord.” How can that be true repentance? Its beauty lies in its straightforward simplicity. He doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t deflect blame. He owns it. He doesn’t complain about the consequences of his sin. He doesn’t say much, as if an eloquent confession holds some merit. He acknowledges his sin against the Lord, and he is forgiven. This is the gospel! He doesn’t say much here, but we get a glimpse into his heart when he writes Psalm 51

Psalm 51

[To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.]

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 ​Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 ​Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 ​Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 ​Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 ​Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 ​For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; 19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

David is convicted of his sin. He agrees with God about his sin. He acknowledges that his sin is against God, and he throws himself on God’s mercy. He pursues a heart change that only comes from God. His repentance is focused on God. It is not concerned with what others think. It is not proud, seeking to save face. It is not self-focused, seeking to escape punishment or discomfort. He owns what he deserves. He recognizes that he has dragged God’s glorious name through the mud. And he boldly asks for the joy of his salvation to be restored. He doesn’t wallow in guilt and regret. He asks for inner transformation.

Grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss.

Treasure with me the gospel. Treasure today the simple beauty of 1 John 1:8-9

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

***

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

July 7, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isaiah 25:6-9; Death Swallowed Up Forever

04/01_Resurrection Sunday; Isaiah 25:6-9; Death Swallowed Up Forever; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180401_resurrection-sunday.mp3

It is Resurrection Sunday; the day we celebrate the triumph of our Lord Jesus over sin and death and hell.

The Wine and The Cup

Last week, Palm Sunday, we looked at Isaiah 24; God made everything very good, but because of our rebellion, sin and guilt:

Isaiah 24:4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish. 5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. 7 The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. 8 The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. 9 No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter. 11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished. 12 Desolation is left in the city; the gates are battered into ruins. 13 For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done.

All joy has grown dark, the gladness of the earth is banished. Every worldly pleasure will leave us empty, longing for something more, something satisfying.

And we looked at Jesus in John 2, where at a wedding in Cana that ran out of wine, he performed the premier of his mighty works which displayed his glory; he turned over 100 gallons of water into the finest aged wine for the celebration. Jesus is saying that when the wine runs out and all joy has grown dark, it is right to look to him. Jesus is the one we must look to for true enduring satisfaction and fulfillment.

But Jesus it seems was looking past this wedding to something else, something sobering. He said to his mother ‘what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come’ (Jn.2:4). His hour was the hour of suffering that he had come to this earth to face, the cup of God’s wrath against the sins of mankind, a cup that he must drink.

Mark 14:34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

This was a cup and an hour that he asked the Father in the garden if there was any way possible for it to pass from him.

Matthew 26:42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Jesus was horrified staring into his hour and the cup of the wine of the fury of the wrath of Almighty God against the sins of the world (Rev.16:19). And yet, if he must drink it, he will.

Luke 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.

God’s answer was to send and strengthen him for what he was about to face, so that he was able to resolutely say some brief moments later:

John 18:11 …“Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus had come to drink the bitter cup. It was for this reason he had come to this hour (Jn.12:27).

Hope in the Midst of Judgment

It is against the dark backdrop of Isaiah 24, where:

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt…

Isaiah 24:11 There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken.

But even in the midst of this scene of global judgment against sin we see rays of hope shining through.

Isaiah 24:16 From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One. …

Isaiah 24:23 …for the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders.

And then Isaiah 25 breaks out in a word of hope.

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

What are these wonderful things he has done, these plans formed of old? Where does this hope come from, faithful and sure? I believe we get a hint if we keep reading in Isaiah 25.

Death Swallowed Up

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Salvation comes from the Lord. He saves us. He will take away our reproach. He will wipe away our tears. He will swallow up death forever. He will make a feast of rich food and well aged wine. And Jesus, in the first of his signs in which he displayed his glory, made more than 100 gallons of well aged wine for a feast.

It will be said on that day ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him; this his the LORD; we have waited for him.’ When ‘there is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine,’ when ‘all joy has grown dark,’ when ‘ the gladness of the earth is banished,’ enter Jesus, the true Master of the feast. Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.

How does Jesus provide this feast? It says he will swallow up the covering, the veil, he will swallow up death forever. We know from Romans 6 that death is ‘the wages of sin’. God created the world very good, but he warned that in the day we disobey his good command, ‘you shall surely die’ (Gen.2:17). Romans 5 tells us that ‘sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.’ Death was not a part of God’s good creation; death was a consequence of our rebellion. Death is a part of the curse that hangs over all creation like a veil. And Isaiah 25 tells us that the coming one, God, the LORD will save us by swallowing up death forever.

The Gospel

How does Jesus swallow up death? 2 Timothy 1 says

2 Timothy 1:8 …God 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Our Savior Christ Jesus abolished death. 2 Timothy says he abolished death through the free gift of God’s purpose and grace, through his ‘plans formed of old,’ through the gospel.

If we go to the great gospel chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, which lays out plainly the simple message of good news, a reminder of ‘the gospel I preached to you;’

1 Corinthians 15:3 …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

1 Corinthians 15 is a great place to go if you are ever confused on the content of the gospel message. This is the gospel by which we are saved; that Christ (the promised Messiah) died (was crucified) for our sins (he didn’t deserve to die, we did; he died in our place) in accordance with the Scriptures (it was prophesied; the whole Old Testament points to this sacrifice of the Son of God). That he was buried (as evidence that he was really and truly dead), that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (thus undoing death and the curse), and that he appeared (giving verifiable evidence that he was really and truly alive).

The gospel, the good news, is that Jesus paid in full for our sins by his death on the cross, and that he conquered death by rising again. 1 Corinthians 15 links Jesus’ resurrection with ours. It looks forward to the day when:

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a combination of quotes from Isaiah 25 and Hosea 13. ‘He will swallow up death forever.’ The sting of death is sin, and that sting of sin was buried in Jesus’ body on the tree. The power of sin is the law, and Jesus fulfilled the law perfectly, and he writes his law now on our transformed hearts, so we are eager to love as he has loved us. God gives us the victory over the law and sin and death through our Lord Jesus.

Death Swallowed Up from the Inside

Jesus said in John 10

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. …17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The good news is that Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. And he lays down his own life in order that he may take it up again. The authority to take up his life again comes through the command of the Father, through his freely laying down his life.

In the next chapter, at a friend’s funeral, he tells a grieving sister:

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus is the resurrection. He gives eternal life to all who believe in him. He can do this because he lays down his life freely for others. The curse of sin must be broken. The wages of sin must be paid out, either by the offending party, or by a willing substitute.

Hebrews 2 points to Jesus in his incarnation,

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God the Son became human so that he might taste death for you. This is grace, the undeserved kindness of God. I deserve death, but he who is life itself tasted death in my place, so that he could absorb the sting of death, abolish and swallow up death forever, and give eternal life to all who believe in him.

How did he swallow up death forever? Jesus swallowed up death by being swallowed up by death. He conquered death from inside death, by himself dying. He paid a debt he did not owe, and through his death he broke the power of death and the curse.

Hebrews goes on to say:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Jesus became human so that he could conquer death by dying. Through his own death, he robbed death of its power, he stripped Satan of his power, he set us free from our slavery to the fear of death. Through his death, Jesus removed the sting of death and swallowed up death forever.

Joy and the Feast

Jesus told his disciples

John 16:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. …22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Their sorrow over his death was transformed into joy when they saw him again alive and understood what his death meant, what his death accomplished. Their sorrow turned into joy. And so our hearts rejoice. And no one, no one can take our joy from us now!

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Jesus our Lord and our God has conquered sin and swallowed up death by dying, and he rose victorious from the grave. The LORD has spoken. This is his wonderful plan, formed of old, faithful and sure. He will wipe away every tear, making the sufferings of this present time not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us (Rom.8:18). All our reproaches have fallen on him (Ps.69:9) and he has taken them away. We have waited for him that he might save us. Jesus, the Lord of the feast, now invites every tribe and tongue and people and nation to his feast. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation!

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

April 3, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted By Satan

03/11_2Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted by Satan ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180311_2cor2_10-11.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. Paul is talking about why he did not come as planned, why he wrote them a letter instead. He defends his clear conscience, how he is working with them in everything to pursue their joy. He wrote a letter that caused them sorrow, but even in that he is pursing their joy, and it was an expression of his abundant love for them. The context here is an issue of church discipline. Back in 1 Corinthians 5, he addressed a situation of immorality in the church that rather than dealing with the church was priding itself in. He demanded that the guilty party who refused to receive correction be expelled from the church.

Last time we looked at church discipline for your joy; we looked at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline, the process of, the heart behind and the goal of church discipline. Jesus and Paul both teach that church discipline is for joy; for the joy of the one disciplined, for the joy of the church, for the joy of God. He is pursuing our greatest good; so that we will find joy not in the counterfeit pleasures of sin, but in the genuine and eternal enjoyment of God himself.

In this passage we will see that we have an enemy, an enemy to our joy.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

This passage tells us some really important things. It tells us that we have an enemy. It tells us that he has an agenda. And it tells us how to defeat him.

We Have an Enemy

Jesus warned of an enemy. He told Peter “behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Lk.22:31). Jesus warned his disciples to watch and “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk.22.40, cf. Mt.26:41). Later, Peter wrote

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Peter understood he had an adversary. And this adversary is bent on our destruction. He demanded to have Peter, to thresh him out. Peter knew from first hand experience that he had an enemy, the power of his enemy, the ferocity and intent of his enemy. The name Satan is a Hebrew word that means adversary; and devil means accuser or slanderer. Revelation 12:10 celebrates the day when “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Satan, the chief prosecuting attorney, stands day and night accusing us before the throne of God. He seeks our eternal destruction. Jesus thought it was important for Peter to know that he had an enemy, and who his enemy was.

We understand from places like Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, that Satan was an angel, a personal created being of the highest order, who became proud and rebelled against God, seeking to become equal to God. From places like Revelation 12 we understand that he led a third of God’s angels astray in his rebellion, who are commonly referred to as demons.

It is important to keep in mind that while God is the triune uncreated creator of everything, all powerful and unrestrained by time or place, Satan is a single created being, who is limited by both time and space, and who is limited in knowledge. Charles Simeon, who served Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 49 years until his death in 1836, put it this way; “It must not be forgotten, that, though we speak of Satan as one, he has millions of other spirits at his command, all cooperating with him with an activity inconceivable, and an energy incessant. …Hence, though Satan is limited both as to space and knowledge, he is, by his agents, in every part of the globe, receiving information from them, and exercising rule by means of them: and hence his devices, founded on such a combination of wisdom, and carried into effect by such an union of power, become so manifold as to exceed what on any other supposition would have been within the power of any finite creature to devise and execute.” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

We have an enemy; an enemy so powerful that even “the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, …did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9).

Satan’s Designs

And this enemy is bent on our destruction. Paul’s goal in naming our adversary in this passage is ‘so that we would not be outwitted by Satan’ This word translated ‘outwitted‘ is a verb derived from the noun ‘covetousness‘ or ‘greed.’ This word shows up 4 other times in the New Testament, three in 2 Corinthians (2Cor.7:2; 12:17,18), each translated ‘take advantage of,’ in the sense of financial defrauding or ripping someone off. This word also shows up in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 in the context of sexual immorality; that we are not to sin against or take advantage of a brother. We are not to use one another as objects to satisfy our cravings. This is what Satan seeks to do; to defraud us, to rip us off, to take advantage of us, to use us at our expense for his own pleasure.

Jesus warned in John 10, in the context of vulnerable sheep and the danger of false shepherds and wolves and thieves, himself being the good shepherd,

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus came for our joy, to give us life, abundant life. He came to give us life at the cost of his own. The enemy comes to rip us off, to defraud us, to take advantage of us, to use us and then throw us away.

The word in 1 Peter 5:8 translated ‘devour,’ “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 2:7 “or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This is a graphic word; literally it means to drink down, to gulp down, to be swallowed up by. We see a vivid illustration of this in Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ authority.

Numbers 16:31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”

This is what our enemy is out to do. He is out to swallow us up. And Paul warns that if the congregation doesn’t turn and forgive and comfort the repentant sinner, he might be swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

Satan is crafty. Later in this book (11:14) we learn that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” He tricks us into thinking we are doing what is best. The church was reluctant to take action on this matter of sin in the church. No doubt they were celebrating God’s amazing grace, which has the power to overcome even the darkest sin. They had been tricked into thinking that by tolerating sin they were highlighting God’s grace. Now finally, they had zealously obeyed. They were displaying God’s justice. And they were looking for Paul’s confirmation or affirmation of their disciplinary action. Rather Paul says ‘confirm’ or ‘reaffirm’ your love for him.

Simeon again says: “whole Churches are often grievously distracted by this powerful adversary. Where Christ is sowing wheat, he will be active in sowing tares. …If we neglect to purge out the old leaven, the whole lump will soon be leavened: and if with too indiscriminate a hand we attempt to pluck up the tares, we may root up also much of the wheat along with it. We are in danger on every side… ” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

How Not to Be Defrauded by Satan

We have an enemy. He is real, he is personal, he is powerful. And he is out to swallow us up, to steal our joy, to destroy us. What do we do? How can we guard against being ripped off and taken advantage of by our accuser and adversary? Look at Paul’s instruction here.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

How are we not outsmarted by Satan? There are two extremes to avoid. The first, which he addresses in 1 Corinthians 5, is to not take sin seriously. He confronts them over their boast of being accepting and non-judgmental; their tolerance of sin; their failure to call sin sin and confront it. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Are we willing to confess, to say what God says about our sin? Are we willing to take it seriously? Sin will send you to hell; sin is why Jesus had to die; sin is what Jesus came to rescue us out of. To say to Jesus, ‘no, we actually like it here’ is to reject his salvation.

The second extreme is what he deals with here in 2 Corinthians. Do we uproot the wheat with the tares? We may come down hard on sin, but is it with the Shepherd’s heart of restoration? Do we know how to forgive? To reaffirm our love?

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul says to hand the unrepentant sinner over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Satan there is instrument of judgment to bring about his ultimate salvation on the day of the Lord.

Here in 2 Corinthians, unforgiveness allows Satan to rip off the body of Christ. The one who is being corrected is in danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow if he is not welcomed back in.

I have to ask here, what does this tell us about the body of Christ? Is this an understanding we have? Would it be devastating for you if you were disconnected from the body of believers? Are you overwhelmed by excessive sorrow if you are unable to gather with the saints for a few Sundays? Is your connection with your brothers and sisters your lifeline? This whole passage seems a bit foreign and obscure to us because of how so many view the church. It’s just a casual take it or leave it acquaintance. ‘I was up a little late last night; I had a busy week; I needed a down day; I just wasn’t feeling it.’

If you were told that because of your persistence in sin and refusal to listen to loving correction that you couldn’t come to church, would you be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow? Or would you say ‘good riddance, I don’t want to be around you judgmental types anyway’ and after a few scathing posts on social media you go find a church that is more ‘accepting’?

Why are we not desperate for fellowship, hungry to hear God’s word, longing to worship together with the saints, eager to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters? What are we missing?

There is danger of being defrauded by Satan. There is danger for the one being corrected. The danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

There is danger for the Apostle and each individual in the church. If anyone refuses to forgive, if anyone harbors bitterness, that bitterness will eat you alive, and Satan wins.

There is danger for the entire church body. Satan seeks to divide and conquer. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. If we make the sinner out to be the enemy, we lose.

And there is danger for our community, that they would miss hearing the message of the gospel. That comes up in the next verses, and I plan to look at that next week.

Forgiveness and Grace

What is Paul’s remedy? How do we avoid being taken advantage of by Satan? Forgive. This is fascinating. There are two main word groups for forgiveness in the New Testament. The most common word group is ἀφίημι (v.) or ἄφεσις (n.). This word group has a range of meanings from ‘release, allow, permit, let’ (35x) to ‘leave’ (58x), even ‘divorce, forsake, abandon’ (5x), and ‘forgive’ (62x). From this range of meanings, we see it carries the meaning of forgiveness in the sense of releasing from a debt or obligation. It is a more passive term; let it go. That is not the term used here.

The word for forgiveness here in 2 Corinthians 2 is the word χαρίζομαι (v.) from the noun χάρις which is the common New Testament word for grace. This word is used 11 times for ‘give, grant, freely give’ and a dozen times for ‘forgive’. It is a much more active, positive term; extend grace, positive favor. One commentator says: “forgiveness must give, not merely take away. God has extended grace toward us, so forgiveness must be a fundamental aspect of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ, the extension of grace to one another” [Guthrie, BECNT, p.134].

Back in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said he had already passed judgment as if he were present. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he had already forgiven; that he had already extended grace.

How do we escape being ripped off by Satan? Forgive. Extend God’s grace, undeserved grace toward others, even toward those who have wronged you.

Do we have the heart of the Father toward his prodigal son? Are we watching, eagerly looking for, expectantly and prayerfully awaiting his return? Do we run out to meet him and embrace him with forgiveness, with God’s grace? Are we quick to clothe him, restore him, kill the fatted calf and celebrate? When that which is lost is found it is a time for rejoicing!

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

March 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Sorrow and Joy in the Body of Christ

02/25_2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Joy and Sorrow in the Body of Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180225_2cor2_1-4.mp3

Tension of Sorrow and Joy

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by pointing us to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. …if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. (1:3-6). He points us to a God who brings comfort out of affliction; and here in chapter 2 he points us to a God who can even bring joy out of a painful relationship.

This passage uses the language of pain, or sorrow or grief. In all of Paul’s letters, he uses the noun and the verb form of this word ‘sorrow’ 24 times; 18 of those, a full ¾ are here in 2 Corinthians. And 16 of those show up between the first verses of chapter 2, and where he picks this narrative back up in chapter 7.

In chapter 2, he uses the word grief or sorrow or pain 8 times, and when he picks back up in chapter 7, he uses it another 8 times. He also uses words like affliction, anguish of heart, tears. Some have said ‘If Philippians is known for the predominance of the word “joy” in the letter, 2 Corinthians should be known for the predominance of the word “pain.” The Corinthians were his problem children’ [Garland, p.113].

Indeed the letter to the church in Philippi is characterized by joy. But when I looked, the words joy or rejoice show up 14 times in Philippians and 13 times in 2 Corinthians. The next closest concentration of ‘joy’ is 6 times in 1 Thessalonians. Although 2 Corinthians is a letter characterized by sorrow, there is a real tension and interplay here between sorrow and joy.

At the end of chapter 1, Paul made it clear that he is not attempting to lord it over their faith; rather he is pursuing their joy; laboring along side them for their eternal happiness. Paul is working for their joy, and there is a tug-of-war going on in these verses, and in his heart, between joy and sorrow.

Last time we saw that God actually commands our joy in him, that Christianity is not a religion of duty but a relationship of delight, God delighting in us, and our responding to him with delight. We can rejoice in God himself with deep unquenchable joy, because God himself is full of joy. But this joy doesn’t stop with our vertical relationship with God; it extends to horizontal relationships with other people. And that’s where it gets really messy.

Joy of Fellowship with Other Believers:

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul is working with them for their joy. He is pursuing their eternal joy. He is making his travel plans with their joy in mind. His last emergency visit was painful for him. If he visited again now, the visit would be painful for them. Instead he wrote a painful letter, not to cause them pain, but to change their hearts, so that when he did visit, it would be an occasion of rejoicing.

Paul is saying in this passage that his joy is all intertwined and wrapped up in their joy, and that their joy ought to be interconnected with his joy.

2 Corinthians 2:2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

I caused you pain; you should make me glad; I might suffer pain from you; you are my joy; my joy is your joy.

Last time we looked at unquenchable joy, Jesus’ own joy that no one could take from you. Now is Paul saying here that his joy is dependent on the Corinthians? That his joy is circumstantial? How do these go together? What is the relation between our unquenchable joy in Jesus, and our joy or sorrow in our brothers and sisters?

My Joy is Your Joy

This is not the only place he talks like this. Let’s take a minute to look around at some of the things that touch on this subject of horizontal joy in other believers.

In Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, he calls his readers ‘my joy and crown of boasting’; ‘you are our glory and joy.’

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Do you hear his heart of tender affection toward them?

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

In Philippians 2:2 he asks them to complete his joy.

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

They unity of the believers, their Christ-like others-focused sacrificial humility and love fills up and completes the joy of the apostle.

Paul derived much joy from Philemon.

Philemon 1:7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Springing out of the love of Christ, Philemon’s love overflowed to refresh the hearts of the saints. Hearing of this outworking of the gospel in the life of a brother brought Paul much joy and comfort.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 we see something like what Paul longed for and was working toward with the Corinthians.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,

Do you hear what he says? The good news of their faith and love brought the apostle joy. The gospel had taken root, and they were standing firm in believing. The gospel had taken root and was producing the fruit of love among them. Their belief in the gospel had created warm affections for the one who came and preached to them; they longed to see him again. There was mutual affection and mutual joy. Paul, in the midst of distress and affliction, says ‘now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.’ You see this triangular relationship. Paul is loving Jesus and finding joy in Jesus. That love and joy overflows horizontally and he brings that good news to the Thessalonians, so that they can find love and joy in relationship with Jesus. As he sees them enjoying God together, it increases his joy. He finds joy in their joy, and his joy is their joy.

Paul is not the only one who talks like this. John makes it clear what brings him joy.

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

…12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

His greatest joy is to see other believers enjoying Jesus, walking in the truth.

He says it most clearly in 1 John.

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We (the apostles) proclaim what we have seen and heard (the gospel of Jesus Christ) so that you may enter into our fellowship with the Father and the Son; as we have a reconciled relationship with God and enjoy intimacy with Jesus, when you believe the gospel you also enter in to fellowship with God. And when you enter into that fellowship, our joy is complete. There is vertical fellowship with God, and there is horizontal fellowship with other believers. When that triangle is complete; when I am enjoying God, and you are enjoying God, and I see you enjoying God, I rejoice in your joy in God, and my joy is your joy; then our joy is complete.

C.S. Lewis writes “It is frustrating …to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch…” Our joy is fulfilled when it is shared.

This is the joy of the triune God. Last time we said that we can enjoy God because God is joy. For God’s joy to be full, it must be joy in another; and yet for the joy to not be idolatrous joy, it must be joy in God. The Father delights in his only Son, and the Son delights in the Father. The Spirit delights in the Father and the Son, and the Son delights in the Spirit’s delighting in the Father and the Son, and so on, and so the joy of God in God is shared, and is complete. This is joy in relationship; shared joy.

Joy and Grief Shared in the Body

Paul has pointed to this shared joy already in 1 Corinthians 12 with the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

24 … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The members of the body are meant to be unified, to care for one another. Because we are part of a body, when one member is pained, the whole body experiences the pain. When on member experiences joy, the whole body rejoices together. This is God’s design. God has so composed the body. Paul is working for their joy, because they are connected. Their joy is his joy, and his joy is theirs.

Listen to Paul’s confidence in verse 3; ‘for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.’ Paul is confidently pursuing their joy, even by bringing them pain, because he is persuaded that when his children are walking in the truth, he can rejoice, and this will also bring them the greatest joy. Paul has a theological confidence in the way God designed the body that frees him to seek their greatest good even when it causes him pain, because he knows that pursuing their joy will bring him the most joy in the end.

The Way of the Cross

Paul would have been tempted to come, to clear his name, to defend his honor, to set things straight. Instead, he chose the way of the cross. He chose to be wronged rather than to demand his own way. He chose to spare them, to extend mercy, to give them time to repent. He himself bore the pain.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul had mentioned his affliction in Asia in chapter 1.

2 Corinthians 1:8 … the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death….

Now he says he wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart. In chapter 7 he mentions:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within.

Here he may be talking about his fears within. Much affliction and anguish of heart heaped on top of the burden beyond strength despairing of life itself. Anyone who has experienced relational conflict and tension understands the soul draining energy sapping fatigue of being emotionally spent. Paul writes through his tears, not to cause pain, but out of pain. He writes to open his heart to them.

In verse 4 the word order is emphatic; but the love, in order that you might know that I have abundantly to you. Paul has to let them know right up front that it is love, not in order to grieve, but his abundant love for them, in order that they know that he has abundantly toward them. Paul did not write to hurt them, to spite them, because he was angry with them; it was love. He doesn’t even directly say that they hurt him; he wrote out of affliction and anguish of heart, but he doesn’t blame. Instead he seeks to avoid causing them unnecessary sorrow. He wants to spare them. He loves them. His decision making, his life, his ministry is modeled after the cross. Jesus doesn’t say ‘wow, look how much you hurt me, look how terrible you are.’ No, he says ‘I want you to know how abundantly much I love you. I want you to experience joy. I want a relationship with you.’

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

We worship a God who brings comfort to us in all our affliction, and who can bring joy even through the pain of relationships. God is working with us for our multiplied joy.

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

February 25, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 25:1-22; Jubilee and Rest for the Land

03/26 Leviticus 25:1-22; Jubilee and Rest for the Land; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170326_leviticus-25_1-22.mp3

Sabbath Structure; Outline

Leviticus 25 connects back to Leviticus 23 on the subject of holy time, and it connects the concepts of holy land and holy people. The chapter divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.” The first section of this chapter deals with the holy times of a sabbath rest for the land, and the year of jubilee. This first section concludes at verse 17 with the phrase ‘I am the LORD your God,’ which is followed by a sort of appendix, answering an objection and encouraging faith in God. The second section, verses 23-38, deals with the possession, sale and redemption or release of land, and concludes with ‘I am the LORD your God.’ Verses 39-55 address the possession, sale, and redemption or release of people, and conclude with the phrase ‘I am the LORD your God.’

Leviticus 23 began:

Leviticus 23:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. 3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places. 4 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.

The chapter began with weekly sabbaths, and continued to describe the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the Firstfruits and Pentecost, the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Booths. Chapter 25 picks up on the concept of a Sabbath rest and moves from a weekly Sabbath of rest for living creatures, to a seventh year Sabbath of rest for the land, to a great release year after a cycle of seven Sabbath years.

Jubilee: Sabbath for the Land

Leviticus 25:1 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

This chapter begins with the phrase we have heard repeatedly in Leviticus ‘The LORD spoke to Moses’. This book is a collection of words from the LORD. This is God’s very word to his people; divine revelation. Living and active and powerful. This particular word of the LORD was spoken on Mount Sinai. This is the first mention of Sinai since the conclusion of the instructions for sacrifices at the end of chapter 7. The book begins with the LORD speaking to Moses from the tent of meeting. Here we have a reminder that Israel is still camped at Sinai, and God is authoritatively instructing his people.

In Chapter 23, he commanded that“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest.” Here in chapter 25, he declares “the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD, …in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD.” In 23, people and animals rested every seventh day. Here in 25, the land is to rest every seventh year. Like the weekly Sabbath, the Sabbath year was ‘a Sabbath of solemn rest.’ In the weekly Sabbath, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work.” In the Sabbath year, the land was not to be worked.

Leviticus 25:3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.

There was to be no sowing, no pruning, no mass harvesting. The land was to be allowed to rest. This is restorative to the soil. Allowing the earth to rest reduces the sodium content of the soil. Modern farming rotates crops in different years for the same reason.

God’s Detailed Care

God cares for every part of his creation. We saw in the Sabbath day that every person, slave and free was to rest. We also saw that this weekly rest even extended to work animals. They were to be cared for and given a weekly day off. Here we see God’s care for the land itself. Every seventh year the land was not to be worked.

We see creation personified in Romans 8

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

We actually see a lot of personification of creation in the Psalms and the prophets, anticipating the coming of the King.

Psalm 96:11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

We tend to skim over these kind of passages because of their familiarity, but pause to think about what this looks like. The earth is spoken of as rejoicing, fields exulting, language of emotion; language of worship. I don’t know if this is merely figurative language or something more, but what is clear is that everything the LORD made he made for himself, for his glory, to worship him. Creation was meant to bring him glory and praise. When the land is managed wisely, in obedience to him, it receives his blessing, it becomes more fruitful, it brings glory to the great Creator who cares for all of his creation.

Sabbath Provision

Leviticus 25:6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

The people were not permitted to sow their fields and they were not allowed to engage in normal harvesting operations, but they were allowed to go into the fields an take what they needed for their families. They were allowed to glean as if they were all sojourners in the land. Leviticus 19 and 23 require the landowner to leave gleanings in the field to care for the poor and the sojourner. Every seventh year, every land owner was to act as if he had no land of his own, but was allowed to glean in the field of another. This would serve several purposes. This would help the landowners to identify and empathize with the poor and the foreigners living among them. Every seventh year they were required to live like them. It would also force them to relax. Farming and agriculture is hard, stressful work, as our farmers would attest. Rise early, plan wisely, watch the seasons, is it too early?, will it freeze?, will we get enough rain? or too much?, will the weather cooperate? and pray a lot. God says ‘relax! Take a year off. Rest. Stop worrying. Enjoy. Set aside the normal tasks of agriculture. Let the land do its thing. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you. God promises that it will be enough for yourself, for your servants, for your hired workers, for the sojourners who live among you, for your livestock, and even enough for the wild animals. God holds himself up as the abundant provider, the one who cares for all his creatures

Jubilee (Yobel)

Verse 8 begins a section on what is known as the year of Jubilee.

Leviticus 25:8 “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field. 13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.

The pattern of sevens is extended here. Every seventh day is a holy Sabbath day Every seventh year is a Sabbath year. The seventh Sabbath year, or the 49th year, introduces the year of jubilee. God built a cycle of work and rest into his creation. Even in Eden, his perfect creation, there was a cycle of fruitful labor for six days and a day to enjoy God and his good gifts. He built into creation a sense of expectation, longing, anticipation, hope. The Jubilee was the fiftieth year. For most Israelites, this would be a once in a lifetime event.

The Jubilee was announced on the Day of Atonement, the day of national mourning over sin and its consequences.

Leviticus 16:29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 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. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.

Think of this; on the day when the nation was grieving over their sin, on the one day when the great high priest brought the sacrificial blood in to the holiest place,the one day blood was splattered in front of the mercy seat, the day the nation saw what it took to be clean before the LORD from all their sins, a trumpet would sound throughout the land announcing liberty, release, restoration. Do you see this connection? This one day that the nation was acutely aware of its sin, and a trumpet would sound throughout all the land announcing liberty!

This may provide the background of the trumpet blast we see in a few passages in the New Testament.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus responded:

Matthew 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Paul taught on the resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

The Jubilee was a time of liberty to slaves, a restoration of the inheritance. It was a time of return and of rest. The jubilee was another year like the Sabbath year with no sowing or reaping.

Jubilee and Sin Nature

Because the Jubilee was a year of release, it would create a unique opportunity to abuse the system. God understands our inclination to greed and self advancement, and so he gave rules for the protection of his people.

Leviticus 25:14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. 15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. 17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God. 18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

It is sad that something so glorious as the Jubilee, liberty and restoration, has to be guarded against misuse to wrong another. But such is the sobering reality of our fallen condition. Left to ourselves, we will take a great blessing, given by God for our good, and twist it around and use it to injure another person. The promised release must be taken into account for fair business dealings. What is being bought or sold is not the land itself, because the land belongs to the LORD, but the produce of the land for a given number of years.

The reasons given here for not wronging one another is fear and promise. Do not take advantage of others, because God is to be feared. Remember what the LORD did to Egypt when they took advantage of you. Do not think that God will not stand up against you if you take advantage of his people. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of the LORD is a motive for obedience.

Promise is also a motive for obedience. God promised that if they would do his statutes and keep his rules and perform them, “then you will dwell in the land securely.” Safety, security, peace is promised as a reward for obedience. It is amazing that God gives us rules that are for our good and for our happiness, and then he promises to heap up reward on us when we obey!

Jubilee and Unbelief

Leviticus 25:19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.

This appendix to the Jubilee instruction alerts us to another tendency of our nature. We are inclined toward unbelief. We have a tendency toward worry and doubt and fear. God proclaims liberty and we say ‘but how is this going to work?’ The Jubilee would be a second year of no sowing and no reaping, following the seventh Sabbath year. If we don’t sow or reap for two years, how will we survive? What will we eat? One year of no sowing or reaping is enough to cause doubt and anxiety and fear. God meets us where we are, in our unbelief at his promises. If we say ‘What shall we eat?’ God answers ‘I will send my blessing.’ And God meets us where we are in our doubt and fear and tells us how he will provide. He will bless the produce of the sixth year such that it will sustain you for three years. God promises to provide not just the bare minimum necessary, but he provides abundantly. He says “you will eat your fill.” Our abundant God promises to satisfy us abundantly. Our happiness does not come from what we can store up for ourselves in bigger barns.

Jesus warned:

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

He continues:

Luke 12:21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” 22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Jesus addressed those with little faith.

Luke 12:28 …O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus invites us to treasure God above all this world has to offer. He invites us to rest, to trust, to obey, to depend.

As we will see more clearly in the coming weeks, Jesus is our Jubilee. Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Jesus is our sufficiency. Jesus is liberty to the slave. Jesus is freedom from anxiety.

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

March 27, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday – John 12:12-33 – We Would See Jesus!

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110417_palm-sunday.mp3

04/17 Palm Sunday – John 12:12-33

Intro:

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. I want to look at the text from John’s account of the gospel that is the history behind this day. We find this in John chapter 12. (The events are also recorded in Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19). Jesus is in his final week, the passion week, leading up to his crucifixion. He had raised his friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days, from the dead. Jesus was now back at Lazarus’ house in Bethany, the home of his dear friends Martha and Mary. Mary, in an act of devotion and love, broke open a vial of ointment worth about one year’s salary, and anointed Jesus. Jesus defended her action, saying that she was anointing him for his burial. Crowds were gathering in Jerusalem for the upcoming Passover celebration, and many were taking the short trip to Bethany to see Jesus and the man he had raised from the dead. So many Jews were believing in Jesus because of this, that the chief priests were plotting to have Lazarus put to death. This is where we’ll pick up the story:

John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Hero’s Welcome

This is where we get the name ‘Palm Sunday’. This was a hero’s welcome; a royal welcome. This was a king’s welcome. The newly crowned king would be welcomed in this way by his subjects as he came to take his throne and rule. The people are welcoming Jesus as king. But not just any king. The people are quoting Psalm 118, a Psalm of victory over the enemy, a song of triumphant return from battle. This is the valiant king, commanding that the gates be opened to welcome him. In Psalm 118:22-29, it says:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. 29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Hosanna!

Verses 25 and 26 say ‘Save us we pray, O LORD!… Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!…’ This is what the people are quoting as their King rides to Jerusalem. The Hebrew word “Hosanna” means ‘save us we pray’. Israel is under Roman occupation. The Jews are looking for their Messiah, the anointed king that would rescue them, that would deliver them from the power of the Romans and give them back their freedom. The people are looking to Jesus to be this victorious king. In John 6, after Jesus had fed the multitudes, the people declared that he was the promised Prophet who was to come, and they wanted to take Jesus by force and make him their king, but Jesus withdrew by himself to the wilderness. This time, when the people are crying out ‘Save us, King of Israel who comes in the name of the LORD’ and giving him a royal welcome, he does not avoid them; in fact, he encourages them.

14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

The Donkey

Here we see Jesus intentionally fulfilling prophecy. The quote is from Zechariah 9:9

Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

In the other three gospel accounts, we are told that Jesus sent disciples ahead to get this donkey so that it would be ready. Typically, the king would come triumphantly riding his war horse. But Jesus is a different kind of king. He comes in humility, riding on a donkey.

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

The World has Gone After Him!

The Pharisees entirely miss the point. They think they are in a popularity contest and they are losing. Jesus by his actions is teaching the people that he is a different kind of king than what they expect, and his salvation will be different from what they expect. He is indeed coming as King to save them, but in humility, not pride. And he will save the people, not from the Romans, but from themselves. The Pharisees, though, unknowingly make a profound analysis. Look, the world has gone after him. John uses this statement as a connection to some Greeks who were seeking Jesus.

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

The Greeks Seek Jesus

Greeks were coming to see Jesus. Among the crowds of Jews who came to worship at the Passover feast, were some Greeks, probably God-fearing Greeks, those who were intrigued by the Jewish scriptures and believed that the God of the Jews was the one true God. Possibly proselytes – those who had no Jewish genealogy, but who believed in God and became Jews through circumcision. They would be allowed into the temple’s court of the Gentiles to worship. They don’t feel they have any access directly to Jesus, so they go through the disciples. Their request is simple yet profound. ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’. Simple faith! Would that we had this kind of desire, this kind of boldness. The world has gone after Jesus. Now there are Greeks that want to know Jesus. They come to Philip, Philip goes to Andrew, Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. Look how Jesus answers:

23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The Glory of a Seed

At first read, this seems like a strange answer, if it is even answering the question at all. Greeks want to see you Jesus, and you start talking about being glorified and planting wheat and hating life. How does this answer their question? We need to understand what Jesus means when he says ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. Throughout the gospels, Jesus had been saying ‘my hour has not yet come’. Now he says ‘The hour has come’. The time is now. His whole life was leading up to some focal point, some climax. He uses his favorite title for himself ‘the Son of Man’, a title that comes from Daniel 7, a title showing his perfect humanity, but a title of the one who is the everlasting King. ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. What does he mean ‘glorified’? To glorify is to honor, to cause the dignity and worth of someone to be made known. The climactic time has come for Jesus, the perfect human representative, to be put on display and seen for the all the excellencies of who he is. What climactic event is he referring to that would put his glory on display? This royal welcome into Jerusalem where he was hailed as king, with everyone laying down cloaks and palm branches for him to walk on was pretty impressive, but that is already past. What is going to bring him the greatest glory? He tells us clearly in the context. He chooses the metaphor of a seed. A seed is very unimpressive if it is kept on the shelf. To unlock the potential of the seed, it needs to go into the dirt. A seed on a shelf is not seen for what it really is. It might be safe, but its real potential is lost. It remains alone. Jesus talks about the necessity for wheat to fall into the ground and die so it can bear fruit.

Remember, this is all in response to the Greeks who want an audience with him. How is this answering their request? ‘We want to see Jesus.’ It is time for the Son of Man to die so that he can produce much fruit and be seen for who he really is. Jesus is the Jewish King, coming to save, but he will save not just the Jews, but also the Greeks, and he will save, not by military might from political oppression, for that would be no help to the Greeks; but he will save us from our sins by dying for us. King Jesus marches in to Jerusalem to take his throne, but his throne is in the shape of a cross. He will be nailed to this throne and lifted up for all to see. The hour has now come for the Son of Man, the representative of all men not just Jews, to be exalted by dying in order to bear the fruit of salvation for anyone that will follow him, including these Greeks. The whole world has gone after him! ‘Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me he must follow me, he will be with me, and my Father will honor him’. Jesus is pointing the Greeks to his death as the event that will open up to all men the way of salvation. Are we on the right track in understanding what Jesus is saying? Let’s keep reading:

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

The Troubled Soul of Jesus

Jesus’ soul is troubled? What would trouble the soul of the Prince of Peace? What would cause anxiety in the heart of the one who taught us not to be anxious? What would incline him to desire to be rescued by his Father out of this hour? What would the Savior want to be saved from? If we ask why he came, we get some indication of what is troubling his soul. In John 10, Jesus said ‘I lay down my life for the sheep’ (v.15, 17). ‘I give [my sheep] eternal life and they will never perish’ (v.28). In John 6, Jesus said ‘the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh’ (v.51). In Mark 10, Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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

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

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

What troubled the soul of Jesus to the point that he would desire escape is the prospect of bearing my sins. For the holy God who abhors sin to bear my sin, to take my sin upon himself, for the spotless lamb of God to become sin, for the innocent guiltless one to have my iniquity laid to his account would be unthinkable. For the first time in eternity the Father would look on his beloved Son not with love, affection and approval but disgust, anger, and judgment. Yet Jesus says ‘But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father glorify your name’. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took on flesh, entered history and became human, with the sole purpose of being executed as a sin-bearing substitute for guilty mankind. Jesus looked at the prospect of being forsaken by his Father and it sent his soul into turmoil. ‘Nevertheless,’ he prayed, ‘not my will, but yours, be done’ (Lk.22:42)

28 …Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

So here we are explicitly told that he is talking about his crucifixion – the death of being lifted up. The deepest expression of love and obedience – ‘Father save me’? No, but ‘Father, glorify your name’. His Father answered him from heaven. The glory of the Father and the glory of the Son is seen in the crucifixion. God’s character and nature is displayed for all to see. Absolute in holiness, perfect in righteousness and exacting justice, impossible to let sin slide, yet abounding in mercy and grace, eager to forgive offending sinners, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. Satisfying the demands of justice and righteousness while extending undeserved mercy to wicked sinners by absorbing in his own person the weight of the injury. ‘Now is the judgment of this world’. God’s holy wrath against all our sin is poured out now – absorbed in the perfect Lamb that God himself provided. ‘Now the ruler of this world is cast out’ -because the rightful ruler has taken his throne. Jesus the King, lifted up on a cross, enthroned in glory dying for the sins of the world, now draws people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation to himself.

Jesus wants to draw you today. Jesus is a different kind of King and offers a different kind of salvation. He comes to conquer, but to conquer by dying. He comes to conquer, not our enemies, but us. He comes to conquer our hard hearts by loving us, by entering our pain and bearing our guilt before his Father. Do you see him as glorious? Do you recognize the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son revealed on the cross? Do you see the point at which absolute holy justice and free and undeserved mercy meet? We would see Jesus! We would see Jesus! We would see Jesus!

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

April 17, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 4:1-6; Victory Through Suffering

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090510_1peter4_1-6.mp3

05/10 1 Peter 4:1-6 Victory through Suffering

1 cristou oun payontov sarki kai umeiv thn authn ennoian oplisasye oti o paywn sarki pepautai amartiaiv 2 eiv to mhketi anyrwpwn epiyumiaiv alla yelhmati yeou ton epiloipon en sarki biwsai cronon 3 arketov gar o parelhluywv cronov to boulhma twn eynwn kateirgasyai peporeumenouv en aselgeiaiv epiyumiaiv oinoflugiaiv kwmoiv potoiv kai ayemitoiv eidwlolatriaiv 4 en w xenizontai mh suntrecontwn umwn eiv thn authn thv aswtiav anacusin blasfhmountev 5 oi apodwsousin logon tw etoimwv krinonti zwntav kai nekrouv 6 eiv touto gar kai nekroiv euhggelisyh ina kriywsin men kata anyrwpouv sarki zwsin de kata yeon pneumati

Peter is encouraging suffering believers that it is worth it to suffer for Jesus’ sake. Suffering is the pathway to victory in the Christian life. There is no need to fear, because Jesus also suffered and he was ultimately victorious. He will ensure that we who are suffering for him will be brought victoriously to God. The rescue of Noah and his family illustrates the triumph of Christ and the preservation of his people. We looked at the goal of Jesus in his death as our substitute to bring us to God:

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

And we ended up last time with a view of Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father having conquered every spiritual power by his resurrection from the dead.

21 …through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Peter now goes on to draw practical instruction for us:

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

We are at war. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are at war. You are in a war with sin. Happy Mother’s Day! Here’s how I’m going to tie this passage in with Mother’s Day. My mother recognized the battle that is raging for my soul and she engaged in the war. She wore out a pair of knees praying for me and my siblings. And during some critical years in my life when she saw the spiritual forces of temptation and sin that were seeking to destroy me, she did battle every morning. She would get up before school and fix my breakfast, and then, while I sat to eat, she would take up the Sword of the Spirit and read me a Proverb – whether I liked it or not. This passage deals with how to obtain victory in the war with sin. So, although this would probably not be my first choice of a passage for Mother’s Day, this is where we are in our study of 1 Peter, and I think that it has some important things that we need to know as we wage war for our souls and for the souls of our children.

Peter is drawing instruction from the example of Jesus, and he puts it in military terms.

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

The military metaphor for the Christian life is common in Paul’s letters:

Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

2Corinthians 6:7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

2Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…

1Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

Here, the weapon we are to take up in our spiritual battle is a mindset, a resolve or intention. Peter has given us a similar idea in:

1Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober–minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This is something we decisively do. We are to arm ourselves with this way of thinking. That means that we need to study, to ask ‘what was the mindset of Jesus?’, and ‘how practically can I resolve to think the same way?’

Here, the mindset we are to have is the mindset of Jesus toward suffering.

Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”…51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem….53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

Jesus was resolved to go and suffer.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus knew that suffering was a necessity. He had his mind set on the things of God, in contrast to Peter, who was setting his mind on the things of man.

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

Jesus kept his purpose in mind.

Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Jesus was willing to set aside his own preferences for the will of God.

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

Jesus looked past the suffering to the ultimate goal.

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

The suffering was once. It had a definite end, and there was a good purpose.

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

We arm ourselves with the resolve to suffer the way Jesus suffered, recognizing the purpose of God in our suffering, knowing that it is the plan of God and it is necessary, knowing that our suffering will be short, that it is the pathway to glory and it will result in victory over sin.

Peter gives us great encouragement here. He tells us that ‘whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin’. Peter is not holding out the possibility of sinless perfection; there are too many clear passages of scripture that rule that out (1Ki.8:46; Pr.20:9; Ecc.7:20; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:8). What he is saying is that someone who has resolved to obey God even when it means physical suffering is engaged in a mindset where obedience is even more important than our desire to avoid pain. We must abhor sin so much that we would willingly suffer for righteousness – like Jesus did. When we come to this place – where there is no more enjoyment left in sin – then we are done with sin. We will no longer live for sin. We will stumble. But we have made a clean break with sin. We live for a higher purpose. Peter draws the contrast in verse 2:

…whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

We are no longer driven by human passions. Peter has already told us:

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

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.

We are no longer motivated by what motivates the rest of humanity. Our fleshly cravings lead us in many different directions to find satisfaction. We now have a single unifying goal. We live for a higher purpose. We live for the will of God. Our driving purpose and passion is what God wants, not what we want. Our desires fall in line with his desires.

…whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

The Psalmist expresses the thought well:

Psalm 119:65 <TETH> You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word. 66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. 68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. 69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; 70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. 71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. 72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Peter goes on to give us reasons for our willingness to suffer for righteousness.

3 The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Parties, alcohol and sex. A shameless lack of personal self-restraint; trying to satisfy the inward cravings in things that leave you empty. If I become a Christian, will I have to give up _______? I’d like to follow Jesus, but I’m not sure I’m ready to give up ______. Stop filling your mouth with gravel and come to the living water and drink, drink, drink. You’ve wasted enough time and energy and life in pursuit of worthless things. Don’t spend any more days building future regret. Social parties, drunkenness and sexual gratification – Peter concludes his list with ‘lawless idolatry’ – worshiping, pursuing, loving something that is not God, pouring out your affections on anything beside God. Stop wasting your life! Wherever you are today, the time that is past was more than enough. Don’t continue in it; don’t look back; don’t go back. It’s all idolatry.

4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;

Your old friends are shocked at the change in you. The community is offended that you no longer participate in the status quo. There has been a clean break from your old lifestyle. You no longer plunge with them into the torrent of pleasure seeking. This is the word that described the prodigal’s living in Luke 15:13. The word is ‘a-sotia’ [aswtiav] – the negative of saving. They plunge into everything that is devoid of any saving quality. When you refuse to join them, they defame you. The word here is literally ‘blaspheme’ – they slander your name, and insofar as you are following Christ, they are blaspheming God himself. No-one slanders God’s holy name and escapes punishment. Peter goes on:

5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Just as Peter has pictured our salvation as ‘ready to be revealed’…

1 Peter 1:5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

…So the One who is to be the Judge of all mankind stands ready to call all people to give account for every careless word:

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,

The living and the dead is a way to say that no one is excluded. Those who slander and persecute the believers will give account to the Judge. Even the dead cannot escape the final judgment. Peter takes his phrase ‘the living and the dead’ and expands on it to give further encouragement to us to persevere.

5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

Your former friends do not understand the change that has taken place. It is a continual surprise why you no longer join them in their fun. ‘Come party with us!’ From their perspective you are missing out on a great deal of enjoyment and you have nothing to show for it. Christians die just like everybody else and they end up as worm food pushing up dandelions just like everyone else. ‘You say you have received new life. What’s the great advantage of following Jesus? You give up all the fun and have nothing to show for it in the end.’ This is why the good news was preached (past) to those who are dead (present). People who heard the gospel and believed it, are now dead, and according to human judgment – in the flesh – they are just dead; they wasted their life; but according to God – in the spirit – they have real life – eternal life. Those who received the gospel are not just dead – they are the ones who have real life. Even though the immediate result of receiving the good news is condemnation and disapproval in the eyes of the world, the ultimate result is eternal salvation.

-summary

Jesus has suffered for sins once in order to bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. Resurrected, he is now seated at the right hand of God with angels, authorities and powers having been subjected to him. Since he suffered in the flesh and conquered sin once for all, our battle with sin is a battle against a defeated foe. We can fight against sin by taking the attitude of Jesus toward suffering – we can resolve to face the suffering that comes to us knowing that it is the will of our loving father and it is for our good. We know that it is temporary and will soon be replaced by inexpressible joy. And we know that our suffering is the pathway to joy and will result in victory over our sins. We no longer live chasing our own desires; we live the rest of our few short days pursuing the will of God. We’ve wasted more than enough time already chasing pleasure in things that don’t satisfy. We are slandered by our old companions who feel condemned when we refuse to join them in wasting life. The judge stands ready and everyone will answer to him for how they spent their life. Believers who have died already and seem to have gotten nothing for their faith have been brought successfully to God and are enjoying their reward. It is worth it to suffer for Jesus’ sake! Life is our reward. Peter has quoted Psalm 34:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 …those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.’ 11 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. [1 Peter 2:3; 3:10-12]

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

May 10, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 3:13-17; Suffering the Pathway to Blessing

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090419_1peter_3_13-17.mp3

04/19 1 Peter 3:13-17 Suffering the Pathway to Blessing

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Last time we were in Peter we saw him quote Psalm 34 and encourage us in our pursuit of life and joy to pursue the favor of God by righteous living. The abundant life that Jesus promised is a life lived in relationship with God; within the parameters of God’s rules. We want the eyes of the Lord to be on us and his ears open to our prayers. We don’t want his face to be against us. But the standards are high. We are to control our tongues – something James tells us is humanly impossible. We are not merely to avoid evil, but to actively do what is good, to seek peace and vehemently pursue it. This kind of righteousness is clearly beyond our grasp, and Peter is well aware of this. He has highlighted the fact that we were chosen by God ‘to be a people for his own possession, that we might proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light’ (2:9). It is only possible because we have become recipients of God’s mercy. It was ‘according to his great mercy he caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1:3). When we live this way, we demonstrate that it is God’s resurrection power at work in our lives and not our own strength, so that the glory and praise goes to God and not to us.

2:12 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.

Peter in these next verses addresses the issue of when Christians suffer for doing what is right. He tells us that ultimately, no lasting harm can come to someone who is living in the favor of God. Any suffering we do experience in this life is merely a pathway to blessing. Practically speaking, there are things we are not to do and other things we are to do when these circumstances come. Negatively, we are not to fear or be troubled. Positively, we are to set apart the Lord Jesus in our hearts. We are to be prepared to give reason for the hope that is in us, living in the fear of God with such integrity that those who slander us will be ashamed.

Peter starts with a rhetorical question: who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? In 2:14 Peter has pointed to good government that is sent by God to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. If we do what is good, we should have nothing to fear. Here we are described as ‘zealous for what is good’. Titus 2:14 tells us that he redeemed us…

Titus 2:14 …to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

More than avoiding evil, more than grudgingly doing what we know we ought, we are to be passionate and fervent for what is good. There is to be an intensity that characterizes our pursuit of good. We should have a burning desire to do what is right. In our relationship to our government, in our relation with our employer, in our relationship with our spouse, in our relationship with one another, we are to be zealous for good. How do you zealously pay your taxes and enthusiastically obey the speed limit? How do you zealously submit to a stupid boss? This is where an understanding of the bigger picture is essential. You don’t submit to your boss for the sake of your boss or the company. You don’t obey the government for the sake of the government or the country. We submit to and obey every human institution so that the reputation of God in our community is seen to be excellent and praiseworthy. We can be fervent and passionate about putting the glory of God on display through our relationships with those around us. If that is our goal, no-one can frustrate it. Yes, there may be those that seek to destroy what we are doing, but if we are truly seeking God’s glory and not our own, by God’s grace we can maintain a positive attitude in spite of whatever men do to thwart us. In fact, opposition provides a platform on which to elevate God’s glory even more. It is not surprising to find someone working hard and doing a good job when their boss is treating them well and acknowledging their hard work. But if someone continues to work diligently and cheerfully in order to make their abusive egotistic ungrateful boss look good, that is nothing short of supernatural.

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.

Suffering for doing what is right is not the norm. Good government does not punish good citizens. But, if you believe in absolute truth and Jesus as the only way to God, you may be seen as subversive and a threat to society. In fact, if you are really zealous for what is good, you might feel hostility from those who are apathetic toward justice. Your fervent passion for righteousness is intimidating to those who are excelling at mediocrity. The world does not hate benevolence in itself, but when good is done in the name of Christ, it arouses vehement anger. The bible is clear that in the world we will have difficulty.

But as Jesus said: Matt. 5:6,8,11-12

Matthew 5: 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. … 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. … 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Peter has used two different words for blessing; in 1:3 the focus was on God as the source of blessing, the word here concentrates on the happy result. This is not merely a good feeling, but a deep sense of joy when one looks on life from the perspective of God. Indeed, the present suffering is not a sign of punishment, but of God’s favor both now and in the future.

First, Peter gives us what we are not to do in response to suffering for doing good; ‘have no fear of them, nor be troubled’. Literally, this phrase is ‘do not fear the fear of them’. Jesus taught us:

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

Peter has been very clear that we are to fear God alone. We may be inclined to fear those that threaten us, but we are to consciously calculate the impact of their threats and their ability to carry it out and compare it to God. Then we can exclaim ‘I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ (Heb.13:6). ‘Neither be troubled’ – we are not to be upset, agitated, disturbed or shaken. This refers specifically to emotional turmoil. He has already instructed wives in 3:6 to ‘do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.’

Verse 15 gives the positive; what we are to do instead. This is the main thought of the verse: ‘in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy’. Peter is quoting from Isaiah 8:12-13

Isaiah 8:11 “For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.

He has already referenced this passage in 2:8 in reference to Christ as the stone of stumbling. Here again, he makes explicit his belief in Jesus as the YHWH of the Old Testament. ‘The LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy’; Peter adapts to read ‘in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy’. Jesus is the YHWH of the Old Testament. Jesus is to be sanctified, set apart, regarded as holy. This is the same word we find in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name” or “may your name be treated as holy or reverenced”. Jesus is the Holy One of Israel. Jesus is the sovereign Lord, the one who reigns supreme over all creation. That is the objective fact. Jesus is Lord. The question we are to ask is ‘have we acknowledged him as such?’ Have we bowed the knee to his sovereign demands? Is Jesus our fear and our dread, or are those who threaten us? Who causes us to tremble? In your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Jesus is King. Do we own him as our only absolute authority? Have we bowed our hearts to him? Specifically in suffering, do we surrender to him as ultimately in control of our painful circumstances? Do we really believe that it is Jesus, and not our enemies, who is truly in control of our circumstances? And do we believe that he is holy, doing only what is right and good in bringing these trials to us? In the midst of suffering unjustly, can we bow to his sovereign hand and say:

Job 1:21 … The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Now Peter describes for us what will naturally flow from the authority of Christ in our lives. As we joyfully surrender to a higher authority, the hope in us will be so apparent that it will elicit questions from unbelievers.

15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;

Hope is the defining characteristic of the Christian life. Hope is what we were born again into; (1:3) According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope’. Hope is the first command that is given in this letter; (1:13) ‘Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. Our hope is fixed firmly in grace and firmly on God (1:21) ‘who through him are believers in God … so that your faith and hope are in God.’ Hope is what the unbelieving world notices. Hope is what we are called to give reason for. The hope of the believer must be so noticeably different from that of the uncertainty and fear of the world around that unbelievers are driven to find out why. What is the reason for the hope that is in you? This question assumes that there are reasonable solid intellectual grounds for the hope of the gospel. The truth of the gospel is objective public truth that can be reasonably defended in the public arena. Christianity is rooted in indisputable objective historical facts centered around the person of Jesus. And we all are to be prepared to give defense of that hope – at any time to any one. Martin Luther put it this way:

“We must here acknowledge that Peter addresses these words to all Christians – clergy and laity, male and female, young and old – of whatever state or condition they may be. Hence it follows that every Christian should know the ground and reason of his faith, and he should be able to maintain and defend it where it is necessary.” (p.158)

And he goes on to discuss this key part of the reformation, to get the scriptures into the hands of every believer. This is not to say that every believer must become an expert in philosophy and apologetics. But every one of us should know what we believe and be able to explain why we believe it – at any time and to any person.

Peter goes on to describe how we are to defend what we believe. This has been widely misunderstood. ‘yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience’; literally, ‘with humility or meekness and fear’. These are primarily Godward attributes. We are to fear God and God alone, so the ‘respect’ is first respect or reverence or fear toward God. Meekness or humility also describes our relation to God. A proper view of the gospel throws out all pride. As Peter has said ‘Once you were not a people; …once you had not received mercy; …but now you are God’s people; … now you have received mercy’ (2:10). There is nothing in us that is better than any unbeliever. The difference – the only difference – is that we are sinners who have been shown mercy. Out of reverence for God and his ultimate authority, out of humility that we were sinners deserving of judgment and are no better than those we speak to – it is out of this humble Godward attitude that we give reason for the hope that is in us. This is the same attitude that Paul promotes his Gentile readers to have toward Jewish unbelievers in Romans 11:

Romans 11:18 do not be arrogant… If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you… 20 They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast though faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe… 30 Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.

Do not become proud but stand in awe. God has shown mercy to you. He may also show mercy to them. Having a good conscience – this is your personal integrity before God. We live under the watchful eye of God in everything we do, so we must confess our sins to him and maintain a clear conscience. Fear of God, humility before God, and nothing to hide must define our tone and attitude when we speak to others on behalf of God.

The purpose of our defense is now given:

16 …so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

This is a different purpose than the one stated in 2:12

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.

There the purpose is that the unbelievers would turn and give glory to God. And it is different from the purpose of the wife in submitting to her unbelieving husband in 3:1

…so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…

There again the purpose is the conversion of the unbeliever. The silent testimony of the wife’s conduct may win the unbelieving husband to Christ. But here the purpose is different. The conversion of the unbeliever is not the only possible outcome. There are some that will persist in unbelief right up to the day of judgment. They will be put to shame by God himself and forced to admit the goodness of your behavior as a testimony against them. Notice, they are reviling ‘your good behavior in Christ’. Any behavior that is truly good is done ‘in Christ’ – by his power and through his Spirit. There is no good behavior that is truly good outside of Christ. That is why the ‘good deeds’ of unbelievers are considered ‘filthy rags’ in God’s sight:

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.

Peter concludes ‘For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.’ There is a blessing attached to suffering for your good behavior in Christ. The promised presence of God both now and forever is yours if you are in Christ. However, there is suffering for doing evil. Peter has already addressed the possibility of Christians suffering because they have violated laws in his instructions to slaves in 2:18-20

20 For what credit is it if, when your sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

But he is saying more than that here. It is better to suffer now at the hands of persecutors for doing good and enjoy eternal fellowship with God than it is to suffer at God’s hand on the day of judgment for doing evil. It is better to suffer for doing good because that is a powerful witness to unbelievers, bringing them to faith in Jesus, or to shame in the presence of God on that day.

‘It is better… if that should be God’s will…’ Literally ‘if the will of God should will it’. God’s will is supreme, even in suffering. Any suffering that comes to a believer was filtered through the loving hand of God, and it is ultimately for my good.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

We can take great comfort in this, that our suffering is designed by the affectionate hand of our creator to do us good. There is no random occurrence in the universe. There is purpose. There is order. God is ruling in this world. Even Satan must obey his command and can go no further than God allows. God has given you new birth to a living hope, he is keeping your inheritance in heaven for you, and by his power he is guarding you for it. Necessary trials prove the tested genuineness of your faith so that it will result in praise and glory and honor and joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. (1:3,5,6-8)

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

April 19, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 3:10-12; The Reward

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090405_1peter_3_10-12.mp3

04/05 1 Peter 3:10-12 The Reward

8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Last time we saw that Peter commands us to connect – mind, emotions and will, with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to have unity and humility of mind, sympathy and tender heartendness, and brotherly love. And when we are wronged or spoken against, we are not to respond in kind. Instead, we are to respond by blessing. Jesus said:

Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

And Peter tells us that we were called by God to respond in this way. In return, we will inherit blessing from God. We are going to look today at some big questions: What is the blessing that is promised? What is required to receive it? And should we even pursue a reward?

-Should We Love Our Life?

Psalm 34 is Peter’s favorite Psalm. He has referred to already ‘if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good’ (1Pet.2:3)

Peter rephrases the Psalm: ‘whoever desires to love life and see good days’. Is this a bad thing, a neutral thing, or a good thing? Are we supposed to ‘love life’? Jesus said

Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

1John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

And in revelation those that ‘loved not their lives even unto death’ are commended.

Revelation 12:11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

We are clearly not to become too enamored with this life. So how do we ‘love not our lives even unto death’ and ‘not love the world or the things in the world’ and yet ‘desire to love life and see good days’? Isn’t this contradictory? It seems that Peter is not condemning those that ‘desire to love life and see good days’; in fact he is using this scripture to support his statement that ‘you may obtain a blessing’. Is pursuing blessing a legitimate way to live the Christian life? Is it OK to seek the reward? Should we ‘desire to love life and see good days’? Shouldn’t we ‘deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him’? How do these things fit together? We believe that all scripture is breathed out by God and that God does not contradict himself. Let’s look at the Psalm Peter quotes and see if we can find help there.

Peter is quoting Psalm 34:12-16. This Psalm was written by David when he was running for his life from King Saul. He went to the town of Gath, (remember the giant Goliath of Gath – this is his home town – enemy territory), and he was brought before the king. David perceived that the king saw him as a threat and intended to harm him, so David acted as if he were insane and the king released him [1Sam.21:10-15]. This is a Psalm of praise to God for his deliverance from danger. We’re going to see that David assumes the desire for life and happiness is common to all people, and his instruction points us toward finding fulfillment in God.

Psalm 34:11-16 Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.

It is a given that it is the common experience of all humanity to desire life and love many days. When we look closer we find nothing in scripture to tell us this is an evil desire. In fact we find just the opposite. Jesus himself said

John 10:10 I came that they might have life and have it abundantly

John 15:9-11 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Jesus wants us to live the abundant life; Jesus wants our joy to be full. He even compares the experience of his disciples with the experience of a woman in childbirth and he says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 24 …Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

John 17:13 …these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

So the joy that Jesus offers is rich and full, permanent, lasting, indestructible. It is a joy that is found in and defined by relationship with God:

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

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Peter has already pointed to this in:

1 Peter 1:8 though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory

Joy is the second thing listed in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22)

In fact, throughout the bible joy is commanded:

1Chronicles 16:10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! (Ps.105:3)

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

1Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always,

So David’s logic, and the logic Peter picks up from Psalm 34 and uses goes like this: You want to live a good life, to enjoy life to the full? Doesn’t everyone? And you should. God created you with that desire. Here’s the only way to find those desires fulfilled: Fear the LORD; be righteous. Life lived within the parameters that God commands will receive his blessing. This is in direct contradiction to the lie of the serpent in the garden – God is withholding good from you – he made rules that prevent your full enjoyment of life. You will find more pleasure if you disobey and live outside God’s will and God’s commands. Both David and Peter are flatly contradicting that lie of Satan and affirming that true joy and lasting fulfillment are found inside obedience to the Lord. Do you want true satisfaction in life? Good! Pursue that satisfaction. Pursue it passionately by living life in the fear of God. Live in righteousness. James tells us that if you don’t stumble in what you say you are perfect (Jam.3:2), so David focuses our attention on avoiding sins of speech. ‘Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.’

-The Requirements

Let’s look at the requirements. Peter has already told us that we are to bless in the face of persecution and mistreatment. Now he goes on:

10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.

We start out with sins of the tongue and the lips. This reminds us of the example of Jesus:

1 Peter 2:22-23 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten…

This is truly the most difficult area. Here’s what James says about the tongue:

James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Your mouth can cause a lot of irreparable damage. If you would live the joyful life, you must keep a close guard on what you say.

Peter goes on; ‘let him turn away from evil and do good;’. We must turn away from evil. Is evil tempting you, pursuing you, chasing you down? You must turn away. Shun evil. Turn your back on it. Walk away. Run like Joseph ran – leave your coat behind and run. Get out. Get away.

But that is not enough, merely to avoid doing evil. He says we must do good. Do you want to hear a verse that I really don’t like? When I was first introduced to this verse as a young man, I winced. I wished it wasn’t in the bible. I wished I hadn’t heard it. But once you’ve heard it, it’s too late. There’s no going back. Are you ready?

James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

I first heard it in the King James:

James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Let that sink in. This is what’s called sins of omission. It’s not enough just to avoid doing what is evil. We must do what is right. When we know the right thing to do and we do nothing, God calls that sin! Neglect is sin! Failure to do good is sin! This is weighty. But Peter goes on: ‘let him seek peace and pursue it’. We are to actively and aggressively pursue peace. We are to go after peace with all our might.

The author of Hebrews puts it this way:

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

-The promise of Blessing

Now let’s look at the promised reward. If we live this way, what do we have to look forward to? Peter has already referenced Psalm 34 in 2:3:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 …those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.’

Peter picks up on the Psalm’s promise of blessing and reward for righteous living. There is direct correlation between obedience and blessing. Blessing comes to those who live inside God’s commands. You live inside the joyful abundant life when you bless those who persecute you. You find true joy when you return blessing for insult. You find satisfaction when you restrain your tongue, turn from evil, do good and pursue peace.

We need to clarify something here. Does this mean that if you live this way, that everything will go well for you? Psalm 34 says ‘those who fear him have no lack .. those who seek the LORD lack no good thing’. Is this a promise from God that a Christian will never go hungry? Does this mean that a believer will never suffer from physical needs? Maybe I can claim this promise and say that since ‘those who seek the LORD lack no good thing’ and a Hummer would be a good thing for me to drive, if I seek the Lord he will give me my Hummer. This would be an abuse and misinterpretation of these verses. In fact, if we claim that this is a guarantee from God that we will have adequate food and clothing, we would be misreading it, putting our own spin on it. God certainly provides for his people in miraculous ways. He has also allowed some of his followers to starve or to be killed. Does that mean he was unfaithful to his promise? What we must do to rightly understand these verses is ask the question ‘what does ‘good’ mean? How does God define ‘good’? I think that food on the table and a roof over my head and a Hummer or two in the driveway is ‘good’. But is that the definition that God has in mind? We must either accuse God of lying, or find a definition of ‘good’ that includes both the plenty that we enjoy and the starvation of our brothers and sisters in Kenya and North Korea. We need to understand ‘good’ to include my health and our fellow believers who are suffering the ravages of disease. ‘Good’ must be understood to include both the circumstance where an angel led Peter out of prison and miraculously delivered him and when Caesar Nero had him crucified upside down.

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

How do we fit this all together? Let’s look at another passage that describes in more detail how God defines good:

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

Just what is the good that all things are bringing about? It is the love of Christ:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Notice, Christians were experiencing tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword; he even describes them as ‘being killed all the day long’. This is part of the ‘all things’ that are working together for our good. It is not apart from all these things, but ‘in all these things we are more than conquerors’. Why? Because even in the midst of these circumstances, the love of God in Christ Jesus holds us firm and will not let us go.

Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Look over at how the apostles describe their own condition:

2Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. …16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight 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.

There it is. The outer nature and the inner nature. The outer nature is wasting away. The inner nature is being renewed. The afflictions we suffer are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. We look to the unseen permanent reality. God will not withhold anything that is good; anything that is necessary to prepare our souls for glory. The medicine may taste bitter. The shot is painful. But the great physician tells us ‘this is for your own good’. This is preparing you for a good that is beyond your wildest imagination.

Look back at Peter so that we can see this in what he says there:

12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Blessing, good, the abundant life consists in life lived in the presence of God. God can’t take his eyes off you; He is listening intently to you. God cares for you more than you care for yourself. To have the favor of God on your life is the richest blessing imaginable. And it was made possible only by the finished work of Jesus. The righteousness I have is not my own. It is a gift given to me. I was an evil doer, and God’s face was against me. But in Jesus I am freed of my guilt, clothed in his righteousness, and can now delight in the favor of God.

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

April 5, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment