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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Spirit’s Fruit: Peace Like Jesus

06/11 The Spirit’s Fruit: Peace Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170611_peace-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking at the fruit of the Holy Spirit; the character that the Spirit brings about in the life of a believer in Jesus. Today we will look at peace. Before we get into that, I want to look at something Jesus said about fruitfulness. Jesus told a story in Mark 4 about a sower and seed falling on different kinds of soil. Some fell along the path and was devoured by birds, some fell on rocky ground and was scorched and withered, some fell among thorns and was choked, and some fell on good soil and produced fruit. The seed is the word. From some the enemy snatches the word away before it ever took root. Some sprang up quickly but withered away when persecution came, because it had no depth of root. Some were choked out by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things.

The good soil produces fruit. The are differing proportions of fruitfulness; some 30, some 60, some 100 fold. But the seed consistently produces good fruit when it is in good soil.

We cannot change the nature of a seed. We cannot control the sun or the rain. But there are things we can do to prepare our soil to receive the word. We can cultivate the soil. With God’s help we can work toward a heart condition that is ready to receive his word. We ask God to give us attentiveness to his word and guard us against the enemy. We can invite God to till our hearts to break up hardness. We can clear ground to provide room for roots to go deep. We can be on guard against those things that choke the word and root them out.

We can cooperate with the Spirit’s work in our lives, but we cannot produce fruit. Only God, by the work of his Spirit, through Jesus Christ, produces this fruit in our lives.

What Peace Is and Is Not

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. Love is willing, costly self-giving for the good of others. Joy is a weighty delight in God that is unaffected by outward circumstances. Peace. What is peace? Where do we find peace? How does peace grow in us? What does peace look like?

We talk about having peace and preserving peace making peace and being at peace. When we are not at war, we say we have peace. When we say we have made peace, we mean that we have healed a damaged relationship. We say we are at peace when we have resigned ourselves to accept a difficult circumstance. All of this is helpful as far as it goes.

It may be helpful to clear the ground from what peace is not. We might define peace negatively as the absence of war, but peace is more than that. Peace is more than the absence of something. Peace is positive. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. We might say that we have peace when everything is going well, going our way. But as we saw with joy, that is not the kind of peace that is the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit produces peace that is unaffected by outward circumstances. And to say that we are at peace with an adverse circumstance, meaning that I am resigned to accept the inevitable is inadequate. The fruit of the Spirit is whole. All aspects come together. Love and joy must accompany peace. To say I am merely resigned to the fact but am not joyful is not the peace that the Spirit brings. Jesus talks about a peace that is different than the world’s peace.

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

…27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The Foundation of Peace (Romans 5)

We find peace throughout the Bible. Most of the New Testament letters begin with a greeting something like ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Grace is always first, because real peace is created by God’s undeserved grace. We cannot experience true peace unless we first experience God’s unmerited grace. Romans 5 spells out the foundation of our peace.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

No peace matters if we do not have peace with God. We can have peace in our world, we can make peace with our in-laws, we can be at peace with our cancer, but unless we have peace with God, we have no real, no lasting peace. What do we mean when we talk about peace with God? If you look down to Romans 5:10, we see that this peace is the reconciling of enemies. Romans 5 describes us as weak, ungodly, sinners, enemies. It speaks of being saved from the the wrath of God. We were at war with God. We rebelled against God. We were opposed to all that God is and stands for; we were ungodly. We deserved his wrath. But God is the best enemy we could ever have. When King David was given a choice between famine and invasion judgment of the Lord, he said “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (1Chr.21:13; 2Sam.24:14). God is the enemy who fights to win us not to defeat us. God is the only enemy who fights with the weapon of love. God fights his enemies by willingly giving of himself for their good. Here it is:

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Being justified – having been cleared of all charges because Jesus paid our penalty in full; having been justified by faith – in utter dependence believing, receiving the gift we have been offered; we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Our enemy through love has conquered our resistance and made us his friends. Through Jesus we now have access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We only stand in his presence in grace – an unearned gift.

This peace with God, reconciliation with God is the foundation of our joy in the midst of sufferings. That is what Romans 5:3-5 tell us, verses we looked at last week when we looked at joy. Joy and peace are inseparable. Joy and peace are grounded in justification; we have peace with God because we have been declared righteous as a gift by a holy God based solely on the finished work of Jesus.

The Practice of Peace (Philippians 4; 1 Peter 5)

As believers in Jesus we have this peace with God as an objective present reality. But we may not be enjoying this peace. How do we experience this peace and enjoy this peace? For this we can turn to Philippians 4. Philippians 4 also connects joy with peace.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

First, to enjoy this peace, our joy must be in the Lord. Fear and anxiety come when what we rejoice in is threatened. If our joy is in our possessions, we will have anxiety over losing them. If our joy is in our health, a new bump or lump will create fear. If our joy is in our family, any threat will cause us to lose our peace. If our joy is contingent on financial security, or job, or image, or relationship, we will be filled with anxiety.

Remember Jesus’ parable? The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things choke out his word and it becomes unfruitful. We lose our peace.

Anxiety can be a helpful warning light to identify the idols of our heart. What we are anxious about is what we treasure, what we take joy in. And if our joy is in the Lord, well, nothing can shake that!

Isaiah 26 says:

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

The Lord is at hand. He is not far off. He is not distant and aloof. He promises never to leave us. So if our joy is first and primarily in the Lord, then there is no reason to be anxious about anything. Is that really possible? To not be anxious about anything? Is there something you are worrying about? Stop it! That doesn’t work. This text is practical. We have a tendency toward anxiety. This doesn’t just tell us to stop it; instead it tells us what to do with our anxiety. Take it to the Lord. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Don’t be anxious about anything; take everything to Jesus. Make your requests known to God. He already knows about them, but when you take them to him, it is a way for you to leave them with him. Allow him to carry them. ‘Lord, I’m not sure what is going to happen. I have this fear. I think things might turn out in a way that ruins me and steals my joy. I am afraid that I won’t have what I need. But you promise that you cause all things to work together for my good; even the things I consider bad. Thank you. Thank you that you supply all my needs according to your riches in glory. Thank you that all I really need is you. If I have you, that is enough, and you will never leave. You will never fail.’ Take your worries to God. Ask with thanksgiving. That is very different from asking with whining or complaining or bargaining. ‘Lord, I need, gimme, gimme, gimme!’ We can only be thankful in our asking when we are confident that God is for us and will do what we would ask for if we knew all the possible outcomes. We can be confident that God is for us and will do what is best because we believe the gospel.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

When we keep God first in our joy, and bring the things that threaten our joy to him in prayer with thanksgiving, then

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is more than peace with God. This is the peace of God. God’s own quiet confidence that all is well and everything will work out for his best will be ours! This is a peace that can exist in the most troubling circumstances. This is peace that is beyond understanding. This is a peace that protects heart and mind from debilitating anxiety and fear.

He goes on,

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

What is true? 2+2=4? Does that give you peace? What is honorable? What is just, pure, lovely, commendable? Who is excellent or worthy of praise? This is another way of saying ‘fix your eyes on Jesus.’ Think about Jesus! Jesus is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of all praise. These are attributes of God. Think about who God is, think about theology. If we are looking at Jesus, delighting in Jesus more than anything else, we will have peace.

What have you learned and received and heard and seen in Paul? What is it that Paul proclaims? The Gospel! Jesus Christ and him crucified! The good news that God is for us. Practice these things. Live the doctrine, live the teaching, live the gospel. Rehearse the gospel. Enjoy the gospel. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice in the Lord, give him your anxious thoughts with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will protect you; meditate on who he is and the God of peace will be with you. The peace of God will protect you and the God of peace will be with you!

Understand this will not be easy. This will be a fight. A battle. You must wage war for peace. You must fight for peace. The flesh will not willingly comply. You must fight to rejoice in the Lord. You must fight to turn your anxieties over to him with thanksgiving. You must battle and discipline yourself to look longer at Jesus than you look at your troubles. You must fight for peace.

Look over to 1 Peter 5. Peter gives us more practical help in pursuing peace. He says

1 Peter 5:5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Humility. Pursue peace with humility. God gives grace to the humble. In humility cast all your cares on him. We tend to be proud. I can handle this. I don’t need help with this. I can carry this. Pride says ‘I can carry my own burden.’ Humility says ‘I am weak. I need help. I am anxious. I am afraid.’ Guard yourself against pride. Throw down your pride. In humility cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. He cares for you! He cares for you!

The Peace of Jesus (Mark 4)

Jesus says

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

…27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, gives us peace, even in the middle of tribulation, because our peace is not in our circumstances; our peace is in him.

Jesus told another story about seed and fruit in Mark 4.

Mark 4:26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

This is an interesting parable, and it comes shortly after the parable of the sower and the different soils. This parable is about the farmer who sows his seed and then goes to sleep. He is not lazy. He sows, he gets up every day and does his work. When the time comes he reaps. But he doesn’t worry. There’s a lot about the science of farming he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand seed germination and pollination and photosynthesis. He just scatters seed and goes to sleep. He doesn’t spend night after anxious night fretting about what is happening with his seed. He trusts. He rests. There is a lot that is out of his control, out of his hands. He is responsible with what is in his hands. But with the rest, he is at peace. He goes to sleep.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Look down a little further in Mark 4.

Mark 4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. …

Jesus had been teaching multitudes, and spending time privately with his disciples. He was exhausted. They took him ‘just as he was.’ He fell asleep. There was a great storm. The waves were crashing over the boat, filling the boat. Jesus was asleep. Even in the middle of a great storm, he was at peace.

Mark 4:38 …And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Where is your faith? Jesus was sound asleep, fully confident, resting in his Father’s good control. What has captured your attention? The storm that rages around you, or the one who is in your boat with you?

Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago. He and his wife Anna had five children. In 1871 their 2 year old son died of pneumonia, and in the same year they lost much of their business in the great Chicago fire. In 1873 his wife and four daughters were aboard a ship crossing theAtlantic. Mr. Spafford was delayed with business and planned to join the family later. Four days into the journey, their ship collided with another ship and went down, and his four daughters were lost. His wife was found floating on a piece of wreckage and brought to Europe. From there she wired her husband ‘Saved alone, what shall I do?’ Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship, and about 4 days into the journey, near the place where the ship went down, he penned these words:

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

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

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus

06/04 The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170604_joy-like-jesus.mp3

The fruit of the Spirit is joy. It is interesting that joy is mentioned second. In a list of nine aspects of the Christian life, love tops the list and joy comes right after it. I don’t want to make too big a deal about the order, because as we’ve seen, every aspect is essential. This is one indivisible fruit produced by the Holy Spirit. All these characteristics together make up the genuine fruit. I think people would agree that the most important character trait of a Christian is love. But what would you choose next? After love, what is the next attribute or characteristic you think of when you think of a Jesus follower? Do you think of someone who is patient or kind? Someone who is faithful? Self-controlled? What do you see most evident in the followers of Jesus you know? What do you see being produced in your own heart? Do you see joy? Would others look at you and say ‘I see love there, and I see joy’?

Remember, this is not a list of moral virtues like those other lists we find in ancient Greek literature, where it is agreed that a good citizen will be upright and honest and generous and chaste, because that is what is best for society. It is true, a Christian who has the fruit of the Spirit growing in his life will be the best citizen, and will do what is best for society, but that is not the point here. The point is not to produce outward conformity to a standard that is agreed upon as best for everyone. No, this is fruit, changed heart, changed desires, transformed affections. This is not ‘look at the areas where you fall short and with self-discipline and force of will improve yourself so that you can stay out of jail and make a positive contribution to society.’ No. this is fruit. Paul says it comes by faith; by believing; It is organically produced by God the Holy Spirit living in you. It comes by looking with faith to Jesus, falling in love with Jesus. It is a change at the very core of your being. It is a change of your identity. It is a change in who you are. You were a selfish person; now you are a loving person. You were a grumpy irritable angry sour dour down person; now you are joyful. This is something that can’t be explained naturally; this is supernatural change – Holy Spirit change. This is something you can’t change by trying. This happens by faith; trusting God to work this in you by his power. This is what we mean when we talk about being ‘born again.’ The Holy Spirit of God comes in and begins to change and re-arrange things, he creates new things and puts to death old things. The new birth is inward transformation that results in a changed way of viewing life, changed attitudes, changed patterns of thinking, changed responses to circumstances.

Now remember, this is fruit; it grows. Organically. Slowly. Often imperceptibly. But inevitably.

Joy Defined

So what is this joy we are after? What does it look like? What does it act like? To define biblical joy, which is Spirit produced supernatural fruit, I want to look at something Jesus said in the beatitudes in Luke 6. Typically when we talk about the beatitudes of Jesus you might turn to Matthew 5, where Jesus says ‘blessed are the poor in spirit… blessed are those who mourn… blessed are the meek…’ But did you know Luke also records Jesus’ beatitudes?

What Joy is Not

In Luke 6, Jesus is declaring blessings on his followers. Actually blessings and curses. There are two ways to live. There is the way of blessing, the way of happiness, the way of joy; and there is the way of woe, the way of cursing, the way of pain, the wide road that leads to destruction. Jesus is warning us that there is a counterfeit happiness that is temporary and leads to destruction. We need to hear this, because there are so many false teachers selling a false gospel that if you follow Jesus he will bless you and prosper you and meet all your needs. You are a child of the king; so you should live like a king. Circumstances will go well for you. You will be healthy and wealthy and wise, and people will like you.

I want to start down in verse 24 with the curses, and then we will go back to the blessings to see what real joy looks like. We need to hear these warnings and guard ourselves against the counterfeit.

Luke 6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Notice the temporary nature of the counterfeit. There is the ‘now’ and the ‘you shall’. Woe to you who are rich now, who are full now, who laugh now, who are well spoken of by all now. As followers of Jesus, there is no promise of those things now. Those who have it all now have all the comfort they will ever have now. They shall not be comforted then. They shall be hungry, they shall mourn and weep. They will be condemned like the false prophets.

Joy that Coexists with Suffering

So true joy is not connected with popularity or prosperity or plenty. Let’s look back at verse 20 to see what Jesus says about real joy.

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

Happy are the poor. Happy are the hungry. Happy are the sorrowful. Happy are the hated. This sounds contradictory. Remember this is not natural joy; this is fruit – supernatural joy. Notice there is an enduring character to the blessedness. There is a present circumstance; poverty, hunger, sorrow, persecution. There is a future hope; the kingdom, satisfaction, laughter, reward in heaven. But there is a permanent blessedness. They are blessed. There is a future hope, but there is a present and enduring blessedness. There is definitely a future aspect of joy, but this joy overlaps with the present persecution and suffering. In the day that you are excluded and slandered and hated, in that very day leap for joy! The future hope bleeds over into a present experience of joy.

So does this passage mean that we should we bankrupt ourselves and starve ourselves and become obnoxious so people hate us? Is that the path to blessing? Jesus did not tell everyone with possessions to give away all that they have, but he did tell the rich young man “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk.10:21) because Jesus loved him and perceived he was treasuring temporal things more than God himself. In Matthew 5 Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Happy are the ones who are aware of their poverty, their own spiritual need, and look to Jesus to rescue them. This rich man came to Jesus asking ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life’ (Mk.10:17). Jesus was showing him that it wasn’t what he could do; he had a heart problem. He loved the wrong things. He needed someone to transform his desires.

How is hunger a blessing? The Matthew passage says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The ones who are happy are those who understand their desperate lack of the righteousness that God requires and turn to him alone to meet their need.

What about persecution? We are not excluded and slandered and hated because we are obnoxious and rude and socially inappropriate; Matthew 5 says ‘blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” We are hated only because of our relationship with Jesus.

Joy Untouched by Circumstances

Notice this joy is a joy that is untouched by circumstances. How often is our joy a product of circumstances. Things are going well at work or in my relationships or with my finances and I have joy. But when money is tight and things are out of control and I’m facing frustrations, I experience fear and anxiety and become irritable. That is natural. But this joy is unaffected by circumstances. It actually thrives in adversity. It can coexist with grief and pain and loss.

In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples to stay connected to him, to abide in him. He says in verse 11:

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Then he commands them to love, and goes on to warn them that the world will hate you like it hated me. In chapter 16 he informs them that he is leaving, but promises the presence of the Holy Spirit. In 16:20 he says:

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.

Notice what he does not say. He does not say ‘you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will be removed and replaced by joy.’ He does not say that when you are done being sorrowful and circumstances change, then you will have joy.’ What he says is ‘your sorrow will turn into joy.’ Then he gives an illustration of what he is talking about.

John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Childbirth, I have been told, is painful. There is sorrow. You might even say anguish. Unless she has been medicated enough so that she cannot feel. The word there is affliction, persecution, tribulation; literally it means pressure. When the hour comes, there is pressure. So much pressure it is extremely painful. Then the birth happens. If all goes well, the room that was just moments ago a place of great agony is suddenly filled with joy. But the pain is not gone. She still hurts, and she will continue to experience pain for a long time after. But that pain is now overwhelmed by something else, something greater than the pain. The pain had purpose. The pain was worth it. The pain is overcome by the joy. It is not that the sorrow is removed and replaced with joy; the sorrow remains, but it is overwhelmed by joy. Jesus 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.

This is a joy that is unconquerable. This is a joy that is greater than all the sorrows we could face. This is not joy because you get to escape from sorrow. Remember, Jesus is saying this to his apostles. Have you ever read some of the stories of how the apostles were martyred? Jesus knew exactly what his followers would experience, the suffering they would endure, and yet he promises that no one could take their joy from them. He tells them ‘Your joy will be full, because it is my joy in you. No one will take your joy from you.’ This is Jesus’ joy in us.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…

Joy in Trials

This joy is a joy that can even rejoice in trials and suffering. James 1 says:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

We see this also in 1 Peter and many other places. Romans 5 says

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…

C.H. Spurgeon commented about trials

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.” [C.H.Spurgeon, M&E, Morning Feb 12, 2 Cor.1:5]

In 2 Corinthians 4, where Paul speaks of his affliction and persecution, he says:

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

Paul says that the affliction we endure is actually working in us, preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. He says in Romans 8:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul also uses the metaphor of labor pains. He calls them light and momentary. Not worth comparing. Really Paul? Countless beatings? Scourgings? Being stoned and left for dead? Shipwreck? Abandoned? Betrayal? Lack of basic needs? Light momentary affliction that is working in us an eternal weight of glory; not affliction that will be replaced by glory; but affliction that is accomplishing for us – that is digging deep my capacity for joy. In proper perspective the affliction is seen as light, momentary, transient. The glory, the joy is weighty beyond all comparison. The joy will overwhelm any sorrow and make it as if it were nothing at all.

But you don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what has been done to me. No, I don’t. And I don’t want to undermine or invalidate anything you have experienced. What I do want you to see, is that this is true for you. The joy promised us is greater, more immense, more weighty, more substantial than any suffering you have experienced. The wrongs done to you can be swallowed up in unquenchable joy.

I have tried to show you from the scripture that this joy is an enjoyment, a deep satisfying happiness, a weighty delight that is not grounded in outward circumstances. A joy that is not only not affected by circumstances, but can even thrive in the midst of and even because of adverse circumstances. A joy that is so weighty it can swallow up all sorrow. What is this joy and how do we get it?

Joy Linked to Love

Back in Luke 6, our passage on rejoicing and leaping for joy, even in the midst of suffering, Jesus links this kind of joy to love.

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

Every aspect of the fruit is linked to all the others. Rejoicing and leaping for joy while being persecuted is linked to love for enemies. Love is willingly, even joyfully self-giving for the good of the other. Joy accompanies this kind of love.

Jesus loved the rich man. He wanted him to experience real lasting joy. He wanted him to have the joy that moth and rust could not destroy, that thieves could not break in and steal. He wanted him to have joy in following Jesus. This man went away sorrowful, because of unbelief. He did not believe that the treasure in heaven was greater than his treasure on earth.

Fight for Joy with Joy

In love, Jesus calls us to make war against our fleshly desires. Do not settle for all those things that do not satisfy; insist on having the true joy that Jesus offers. We must fight for joy and we must fight with joy. We can overcome temptation only because we have something better. Are you enticed by the dollar store trinket when you are already in possession of the real thing? Yes! Yes we are, because our desires are deceitful (Eph.4:22). They lie to us and tell us that the plastic imitation is better than the genuine article. The rich fool went away sorrowful because he felt the change in his pocket was more weighty than an eternity following Jesus.

Joy in the Giver above the Gift

Contrast him to the man in Jesus’ story who found treasure hidden in a field and for joy sold all that he had and went and bought that field (Mt.13:44). He was not sorrowful over all he was losing. He was filled with joy because he knew that what he was giving up was nothing compared to what he was gaining. This is the joy of the Christian.

What is the treasure? What is the substance of our joy? What is it that overwhelms all our sorrows and outweighs all our treasures? Paul says

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him… 10 that I may know him…

The thing that is better than all the gifts we could possibly enjoy is the giver himself. That I may know him. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Being found in him. Abiding in him. Fullness of joy in relationship with him.

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” …5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; …8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. … 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Corinthians 8:9

12/04 The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Cor.8:9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161204_poverty-grace-christ.mp3

Last week we looked at a great Christmas/Thanksgiving verse at the end of 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

This week I want to turn back a chapter to 2 Corinthians 8, where we find another wonderful Christmas text.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Remember, the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is Paul reminding and encouraging the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints that he is taking to Jerusalem. He mentioned this in his first letter to this church (1 Cor.16:1-4) and he also mentions it in Romans 15:25-28, writing from Corinth in AD 57. Here in 2 Corinthians he takes two chapters to exhort the Corinthians toward generosity to their Jewish brothers and sisters who are in need. Paul begins this section in chapter 8 by encouraging them with the example of the churches in Macedonia.

God’s Grace Given

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Paul uses the word ‘grace’ to describe this gift. He uses the word ‘grace’ 18 times in 2 Corinthians. 10 of those times are concentrated in these two chapters on giving. Paul sees generosity and giving as an act of grace, rooted in the grace of God toward us and blossoming into a full display of grace that extends out from us who have experienced God’s grace in acts of grace toward others. Grace, remember, by definition is an undeserved kindness, a gift, unmerited, unearned, freely given. He describes what happened in Macedonia as ‘the grace of God that has been given among the churches.’ The generosity of the believers in the region of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea Paul recognizes as the grace of God. The fact that they gave, and the way that they gave, was evidence that demonstrated that they were recipients of God’s grace. Later in this chapter Paul refers to their giving to this special project as ‘this act of grace.’ But here, he is talking about God’s grace extended undeservedly to the Macedonian churches that resulted in their wealth of generosity. Remember, we love because he first loved us. We give because to us God has abundantly given. The Macedonians gave because they were first recipients of God’s abundant grace.

Grace Under Pressure

First Paul describes their circumstances. He says they were ‘in a severe test of affliction.’ They were undergoing persecution. They were in the middle of a trial. On Paul’s first visit to Macedonia (Acts 16-17), he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi and then asked to leave. In Thessalonica, the jealous Jews incited a mob and set the city in an uproar. Not finding Paul, they dragged Jason and some other local believers before the city authorities, accusing them of treason against Caesar, and proclaiming another king, Jesus. Paul and Silas were sent off by night to Berea, but the Jews from Thessalonica followed them there and agitated and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia. Although what kind of persecution they were now suffering is not specified, it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty.’ We are told in Acts that ‘when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go’ (Acts 17:9). Whatever their specific circumstances, they were ‘in a severe test of affliction’ and they were in the depths of poverty.

Unquenchable Joy

But their circumstances did not define their attitudes or their actions. Do you let your circumstances determine how you respond? How you act? Your attitude? Are your emotions controlled by how others treat you? The Macedonians, in the middle of severe affliction, had a superabundance of joy. This is not natural; this is supernatural joy, joy that is not dampened by any outside influence. This is the joy Jesus promised to bring to his followers.

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.

Begging for the Grace of Giving

The Macedonians had unquenchable joy in Jesus. And under severe pressure their joy combined with their extreme poverty like vinegar and baking soda to overflow in a wealth of generosity. Do you want that kind of joy? Would you like that kind of single purposed sincerity and bountiful liberality to come out when you are under pressure? When you are pressed and stretched? Verse 3 tells us that

2 Corinthians 8:3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

They gave more than they could afford. They gave voluntarily. Willingly. Their abundance of joy had to find an outlet; it had to express itself. They begged for the privilege of giving. Literally, ‘after much urgent request they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints’. They considered the privilege of giving beyond their means an undeserved favor from God. It was grace, and it was fellowship. Partnering with God in his care for his own, and partnering with the suffering saints in Jerusalem, sharing in their sorrows and spreading joy. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 8:5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

This generosity from suffering saints was beyond what they had hoped. They didn’t only give of their finances. They gave of themselves. They didn’t just write a check. They were personally invested. Their gave themselves first to the Lord. They recognized that they had been bought with a price. They understood that they belonged to Jesus. And so they delightfully offfered their very selves to God and to the service of the saints. What an example from the Macedonian churches!

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul now encourages the church in Corinth also to abound in this grace. He is careful to make it clear that this gift is voluntary. There is no obligation. This is not a command. It is an invitation; an opportunity. As the Macedonians begged to be involved, you also abound in this act of grace. And then he holds up Jesus as the reason.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

You know. This is not something new. You already know about the grace of our Lord Jesus. Paul reminds us of the good news we already know. He turns our attention back once more to Jesus. He is encouraging an act of free grace toward those who desperately need the help but didn’t earn it or do anything to deserve it. He reminds us that we can only give like that because we have already been on the receiving end of that kind of gift. Jesus freely extended his favor to those who did nothing to earn it, but desperately need it. Before you can ever hope to extend grace to others, you must first experience the grace that comes from Jesus.

Riches to Poverty for You

This is what that grace looks like. ‘that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.’ What does it mean that Jesus was rich? Jesus prayed to his Father in John 17

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus had glory in the presence of his Father before the world existed. He was eager to return to that glory. Jesus said in John 6:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus came down from heaven. He left his glory to come down and do the will of his Father. He goes on to say:

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Jesus claims to be the only one who is from God, the only one who has seen the Father. In John 8 he sets himself apart as the only one who is from above, who is not from this world.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

This is Christmas. Jesus left his glory and came down to this earth. John began his gospel this way:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Word was glorious in the presence of his Father. He is distinct from his Father, in relationship with his Father, and equal to his Father. He possesses all the characteristics of his Father. He is the Creator of all that is. He was rich.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

He became poor. He became flesh. He became what he was not. He became one of us. As the only Son from the Father he pitched his tent among us. He became poor. This is grace!

Why? Although he was rich, yet he became poor. Why? It was for your sake. For your benefit. For you!

Philippians 2 spells this out.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being rich, existing eternally in the form of God, equal with his Father, became poor. He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men, in human form. Being rich, he became poor. He humbled himself even to death, even death on a cross. Because Christmas is really all about Good Friday. Jesus became poor for your sake. He became human for your sake, so as a human he could take your place on the cross.

Bringing You Riches by His Poverty

But it doesn’t stop there!

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

By his poverty you become rich. This is undeserved grace! How do we become rich by his poverty? The riches may not be what we would think. Jesus, addressing the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 says:

Revelation 3:15 [to Laodicea] “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Their opinion of themselves was that they were rich and in need of nothing, but God’s perspective says that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. But to the church in Smyrna he says:

Revelation 2:9 [to Smyrna] “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) …

Like the churches in Macedonia, you may be in desperate poverty and undergoing persecution, but you are abundantly rich in joy. True riches come from Jesus.

Ephesians 1 says:

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

If we are in Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing! Paul prays:

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Our eyes must be opened to know the riches of his glorious inheritance! The benefits purchased for us by Christ are immeasurably great. Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Grace immeasurable! Grace rich and free. Resurrecting life transforming grace! Peter says:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

New birth. Born into an inheritance. All the riches of Christ belong to us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Christmas is about grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus, who was rich in glory in the presence of his Father, who emptied himself by taking human form; who became poor, humbled even to the point of being executed as a criminal. He did this for me! Christmas is about the greatest gift. God the Son was born in Bethlehem so that he could be crucified outside Jerusalem so that I could experience unshakeable joy in the riches of his grace.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

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

December 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hope of Christmas

12/13 Hope of Christmas; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151213_hope-of-christmas.mp3

Out in the fields around Bethlehem, to unsuspecting shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night,

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Good news of great joy! Christmas brings a message of good news! Christmas brings great joy! Great joy for all people! Good news of great joy that casts out fear!

So how are you doing this Christmas season? Is your heart overflowing with great joy? Are you free from anxiety and fear? Has the good news totally replaced all the bad?

Great Joy and Great Suffering

If it has, may I suggest to you that you are living in a bubble? Do you watch the news? I don’t, and I am still aware of things like the presidential campaign, the national debt, devastating earthquakes, suicide bombings, school shootings, ISIS beheadings, the war on terror. We live in a world that is messed up and broken. Do you know anyone that is sick? Injured? Fighting a disease? I spoke at two funerals this year. One was a very dear friend who degenerated from a debilitating disease. Good news! Great joy! Fear not! How do we bring together the joy of Christmas and the sick and broken world we live in?

Do we compartmentalize? We have a tree with lights and presents, and we live in relative safety. All is well with me, my family, my friends, my church, and that’s all I really care about? Turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters around the world who are being killed for their faith in Jesus? Turn a blind eye to the pain and despair in our own community?

Or do we despair? The Prince of Peace has failed to bring peace on earth. The Great Physician didn’t heal my friend, my loved one, me. This good news of great joy hasn’t brought me joy. God has failed.

Let me suggest to you that there is a better way. The good news of Christmas is big enough to bring light and joy into the darkest sickest corners of this broken world. The good news is big enough to embrace all the pain and despair in our hearts and infuse life giving hope.

Notice, for a moment, that the Christmas story didn’t exempt its participants from hardship. The angel announced to the shepherds:

Luke 2:12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

What?! Shepherds knew what a manger was. A manger is a stone watering trough for animals. Saturated with stable animal slobber. You don’t put fragile newborn babies in unsanitary mangers! Why was the promised Messiah, the Lord, in an animal watering trough?! Because there was no room for them in the inn. Why an inn? Why Bethlehem? Why not back home in Nazareth? Because the Emperor had imposed a tax. Tax? The Emperor? What Emperor? The Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Israel was under Roman occupation. This doesn’t sound like good news of great joy for Joseph and Mary! No longer free. Forced by the Roman Emperor to register. Forced to travel right at the time of delivery. Unable to find lodging. Seeking shelter like refugees in a cave.

God didn’t exempt Mary, Joseph, and his only Son from trouble. He could have. But he intentionally sent him into a troubled situation to bring peace in the midst of anguish. A year or two later, after Magi from the East arrive bearing gifts, the young couple have to flee for their lives with the baby to Egypt, and the tyrannical Herod slaughters every male child two years old or under in the whole region of Bethlehem. Good news of great joy? Try to tell that to all the mothers in Judea, weeping, refusing to be comforted (Mt.2:18).

Simeon and Consolation

Let’s learn a lesson from an old man. 40 days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple to offer the sacrifice for purification according to Leviticus 12. There was a man in Jerusalem, Simeon, to whom the Lord had revealed through the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah (Lk.2:25-26). It is said of him that he was ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’. He was waiting. He was filled with anticipation, longing, eager expectation, hope. He was waiting for consolation, encouragement, solace, comfort. He knew the prophecies. He was waiting. He had hope.

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 ​Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 ​Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 ​And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

God will come down and bring comfort to his people.

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 ​to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Jesus would bind up the brokenhearted. He would bring comfort to those who mourn. He would bring beauty from ashes.

Isaiah 66:10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; 11 that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” 12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. 13 As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. 14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice; your bones shall flourish like the grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be known to his servants, and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.

God will console and comfort and satisfy his people as a mother comforts her child. Have you seen a hungry infant, frantic, frenzied, demanding, inconsolable? And then satisfied, slumped in peaceful rest against his mother, with a trickle of milk running down his chin? This is the picture of comfort and satisfaction he paints for his people. This is what Simeon was longing for, eagerly expecting, anticipating.

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.

Anna and Redemption

Learn a lesson from an old lady, Anna, a prophetess, a widow who continually worshiped God with fasting and prayer. We are told:

Luke 2:38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Just as Simeon finished thanking God and pronouncing a blessing, Anna began to give thanks to God. Fasting and praying continually are indications that you are earnestly seeking something from God. She must have heard Simeon declare ‘my eyes have seen your salvation’. She began to speak of Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Again we see waiting, eager expectation, longing, anticipation. And she was not alone in this waiting. She began pointing all those who were longing for redemption to Jesus. They were waiting for redemption, for ransom. To ransom is to buy back something that once belonged to you, or someone that was sold into slavery to pay a debt (Lev.25:29, 48), or to pay for the release of something that was set apart to be offered to the Lord. (Num.18:16). We have sold ourselves as slaves to sin, and we are powerless to escape.

Psalm 49:6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? 7 Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, 8 for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, 9 that he should live on forever and never see the pit.

We are powerless to do anything about our own situation, and we cannot pay the infinite price for another. Even the riches of the richest man are insufficient to change the eternal consequences of his actions. Jesus said:

Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

But God says:

Isaiah 44:21 Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. 22 ​I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. 23 Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel. 24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

Our Creator is also our redeemer. He can pay the infinite price to blot out the debt of our transgressions and sins.

Psalm 130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

This world is sick and dark and twisted and broken and it is our sin that made it so. We rebelled against a good God and chose to go our own way, and sold ourselves into slavery to sin.

There were still some in Israel who understood the depths of their desperate situation, who cried out to the Lord as their only hope, who expectantly waited and hoped in and watched for the Lord, for his ransom, his redemption.

Good News For All

Christmas is about good news of great joy for all people. No one is beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love. When we look around at all those who are desperately sick and evil, murderers, predators, perpetrators, we need to see an opportunity for God’s magnificent grace. No one is too sick, too twisted, too broken, too far gone, that our good Lord cannot reach him or her. The good news of Christmas is that God sent a Savior, a Rescuer, a Redeemer, his only Son, God in the flesh, come down to pay our price in full.

My Need

Christmas is about recognizing our own desperate need and his infinite sufficiency. We must stop pointing fingers at God or at others and own our own guilt before God, recognize that what is wrong with the world is me, and God has set out to rescue me and purchase me and transform me and make me his own.

Receiving The Gift

Christmas is about accepting a free gift. God gave us the infinite gift of his own Son. Gifts cannot be earned. Gifts are to be received. We can do nothing to merit the gift, or to pay the gift back. A genuine gift is in a completely different category than a paycheck. Paychecks are earned; gifts are given freely, generously. Have you received God’s great gift to you? Have you believed?

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Already and Not Yet

Christmas is about anticipation, longing, hope. This world is not as it should be, not as it was meant to be, not as it will one day be. Christ has come, he has paid for our sins, he has begun a good work in us, but it is not yet complete. The expectation of Anna and Simeon has begun to be fulfilled, but it is not yet complete. God will one day make all things new. The grace of God has appeared, but we are still ‘waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. In the mean time we will sin against others, and be sinned against. Romans 8 tells us:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 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.”

In this life we may experience tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, we may be killed, we may be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. We should not be surprised at suffering, we should expect suffering. But even in the midst of this, we can be free from fear. Even in the midst of this we can experience great joy. Can any of these things separate us from the love of Christ?

Romans 8:37 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.

This is good news indeed. This is the hope of Christmas.

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

December 15, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Refreshing Saints and Apostles

07/12 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 Refreshing Saints and Apostles ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150712_1cor16_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί· οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς· 16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι. 17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν, 18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul is giving his closing exhortations to the Corinthians church. Back in chapters 9 and 10, Paul held himself up as an example to the believers in surrendering rights and seeking the good of others above one’s own good, and in 11:1 Paul says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Here at the close of this letter, he holds a member of their own congregation up as worthy of honor and imitation. He points to the household of Stephanas.

Firstfruits

Here he says that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of the region of Achaia. This is the same word ‘firstfruits’ that he used in 15:20 of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits was an Old Testament offering, a sample from the harvest, it shares continuity with the rest of the harvest, it was a part of the harvest, and it was a promise of more good things to come. In 1:16, he said that he had baptized the household of Stephanas. The household of Stephanas were some of the first to believe the gospel in that region, and Paul looked at them as a promise of more to come. The good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead had penetrated into a dark place, had created new life, and had begun to transform sinners, and he expected that to spread.

Devoted Themselves

Listen to how Paul describes these believers. He says that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This is not something that was pushed on them. This is not something they did unwillingly or half-heartedly. They devoted themselves. This word can be translated ‘to addict, to appoint, to determine, to ordain, to set.’ They addicted themselves to the service of the saints. They set themselves apart to this purpose. They were determined to serve. This was voluntary, eager service. This was not under compulsion, these were cheerful givers. They delighted themselves in serving others. They set themselves aside to be useful to the believers. Do you know anyone like this? We need people like this in our churches, people who are not looking for position or recognition, people who simply want to be useful to God by serving his people. This word service is where we get our word ‘deacon’ – it simply means a servant.

These are often behind the scenes people, people who are not interested in the limelight, selfless people who prefer to remain unknown and unrecognized. People who simply see a need and do whatever is within their power to care for that need. These are people who recognize their gifts and without drawing attention to themselves, simply get busy using their gifts to love and serve and build up others. These are truly selfless people, who genuinely care about others more than they care about themselves.

Household

Notice that Paul is not referring to one particular individual. He says ‘you know the household of Stephanas’. This was a family that served together. We aren’t told details, but a household would likely include Stephanas and his wife, his children, and possibly any servants he employed, possibly others who lived with them, who were under his care, who together found joy in serving the saints. This is family ministry. A whole family that was united to serve others. The family unit is a powerful thing.

Sometimes the gospel divides families. When an individual hears the gospel, he may have to choose to follow Jesus, knowing that following Jesus could destroy his relationship with his wife, with his children, with his family. Paul understands the dynamic where a family is divided over the gospel, and he gave practical instructions on how to handle these kinds of situations in chapter 7. But here he is looking at a family that is united by the gospel and transformed by the gospel with a passion to serve the people of God.

Joshua said ‘choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’. This is a household that has recognized the many different things that families are all about, the many different things families are passionate about and centered around, and they have chosen to center family life around service to the believers. They have prioritized in a radically different way than the culture around them and given themselves over to Christian service. Mother, father, children old and young, all looking away from themselves and their own wants and needs at how to love and serve and care for the body of Christ.

This is a radically different model for life and ministry. This is not the family making sacrifices so dad or mom can go off and serve in this or that ministry. This is the family together as a team loving and serving in ways that can only be done by a household. Certainly this includes hospitality, where the home is an environment defined by loving service to others, where others can be welcomed in and cared for and nurtured. Quite possibly, the church used the home of this family for their meetings, which would mean that the family took on the responsibility of preparing for and cleaning up after the meeting of the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculate showroom house, but it would include essential things like making sure the bathroom is clean and functioning, providing appropriate space for guests to feel welcomed and cared for, creating an atmosphere of others-focused selfless welcoming love.

What is your household like? Is your home a Christ centered home? Is your primary aim to advance the gospel? Is your home a place where believers can feel safe and loved and cared for and built up?

Servant Leadership

Paul holds up the household of Stephanas as an an example of what devotion to Christ can look like in a household. He encourages the believers to ‘be subject to such as these’. We often want leaders who are in control, who are determined, aggressive, forceful, who speak well and look good out front. But Paul has a different perspective. And this is in line with what Jesus taught. In Luke 22 we see:

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

It is startling to remember the context of this conversation. Jesus had just taken bread and said ‘this is my body broken for you’ and ‘this cup is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins’. He had told them that he was about to be betrayed and crucified. And they around the table are disputing about who is the greatest.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus initiated a different kind of leadership. His authority is not a top down controlling authoritarian you-serve-me kind of leadership. His leadership is a humble-hearted others-centered loving service. The household of Stephanas was a real life example of what this looks like, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to voluntarily submit to such as these. These and every fellow worker and laborer.

We see Paul hold up another example of a fellow-worker who gave him joy, ministered to his needs, and is to be honored and imitated. He writes to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Epaphras, like Stephanas, was a selfless servant who put other before himself, who filled up the lack and brought joy to those he served. He was a brother, a fellow-worker, a fellow soldier.

Some people talk about going into the ministry as if it were a glamorous career choice. Ministry simply means service, and service to people can be painful and messy and just plain hard. Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and laborer. This word laborer literally means to be weary or feel fatigue. Serving others, especially serving those who are disgruntled or opinionated or easily offended can be draining and exhausting. Ministry is eternally rewarding, but it can be just plain fatiguing.

Refreshing the Spirit

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

It seems the letter the Corinthian church wrote to Paul was delivered by these men. He says that these three filled up what was lacking on their part. Paul had strong affection for the Corinthians. These were people he led to Christ, people he had invested his life in. He walked life with them. He missed them. He truly enjoyed their company. The visit from these three brought the apostle much joy. They refreshed his spirit. We don’t often think of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as needing to be refreshed, maybe even becoming depressed and discouraged. But he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ In two of his letters, Paul describes himself as being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ (Phil.2:17; 2Tim.4:6). Even in the midst of fruitful ministry where many were believing the gospel and being baptized, Paul needed encouragement from the Lord.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul, afraid? Paul silent? Paul was human. He had needs. Emotional, spiritual, physical needs. He felt a poverty of spirit in being away from his beloved friends at this church. It brought him joy when dear friends came to visit.

Even leaders in ministry need other co-workers who will come along side them, others who understand the unique challenges and hardships of ministry, others who will bring refreshment to their spirits. This is what the coming of these three friends did for Paul, in the midst of something he describes as ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus’.

I have a dear friend and co-worker in the gospel who was so deeply hurt in the course of pastoral ministry that he describes it as if something deep inside him broke. He went into a deep depression, to the point where he had to take an extended break from ministry. God is healing him and giving him a renewed sense of vision and passion for ministry. I enjoyed the privilege of spending some time with him over the past week, and he was an encouragement to my soul.

There are some people who sap the spiritual energy out of you; who drain you of life and vitality. There are others whose love for Jesus and love for other people is a contagious overflow that refreshes your soul. Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus were that kind of friends, co-laborers in service to Christ, selfless servants who brought refreshment to everyone they were around. We need those kinds of people in our lives, people who are filled with the love of Christ, those who will just be a friend, who will love us as we are, who will be patient with our flaws and shortcomings, who will laugh with us, cry with us, hurt with us, just be with us, who will lay aside expectations and care for us.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

May we be those kind of people for others. May we refresh the spirit of those who are downcast. May we bring joy to those we are around. May we develop households who addict themselves to the selfless service of the saints. May we create places of refuge where broken sinners can be loved and nurtured and find healing and hope. May we be people who bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

July 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:5-12; Making Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God

06/28 1 Corinthians 16:5-12 Making Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150628_1cor16_5-12.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

5 Ἐλεύσομαι δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅταν Μακεδονίαν διέλθω, Μακεδονίαν γὰρ διέρχομαι, 6 πρὸς ὑμᾶς δὲ τυχὸν παραμενῶ ἢ καὶ παραχειμάσω, ἵνα ὑμεῖς με προπέμψητε οὗ ἐὰν πορεύωμαι. 7 οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἄρτι ἐν παρόδῳ ἰδεῖν, ἐλπίζω γὰρ χρόνον τινὰ ἐπιμεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος ἐπιτρέψῃ. 8 ἐπιμενῶ δὲ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἕως τῆς πεντηκοστῆς· 9 θύρα γάρ μοι ἀνέῳγεν μεγάλη καὶ ἐνεργής, καὶ ἀντικείμενοι πολλοί. 10 Ἐὰν δὲ ἔλθῃ Τιμόθεος, βλέπετε ἵνα ἀφόβως γένηται πρὸς ὑμᾶς, τὸ γὰρ ἔργον κυρίου ἐργάζεται ὡς κἀγώ· 11 μή τις οὖν αὐτὸν ἐξουθενήσῃ. προπέμψατε δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν εἰρήνῃ, ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρός με, ἐκδέχομαι γὰρ αὐτὸν μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν. 12 Περὶ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, πολλὰ παρεκάλεσα αὐτὸν ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν· καὶ πάντως οὐκ ἦν θέλημα ἵνα νῦν ἔλθῃ, ἐλεύσεται δὲ ὅταν εὐκαιρήσῃ.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity. 13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

We are in the closing section of Paul’s letter to Corinth. Here Paul gives some dated information on his travel plans, some closing exhortations, commendation of co-laborers, and personal greetings. This is a section we could easily set aside as totally irrelevant to us and simply move on to more relevant sections. But we know that

Deuteronomy 8:3 …man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

and

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

and

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

So with God’s help, we are going to open this passage together and see what God wants to teach us and how he wants to equip us for every good work.

Travel Plans

Paul communicates to the Corinthians his travel plans. If you remember back at the beginning of this letter Paul addressed the divisions in this church, in chapter 4, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Some were arrogant, acting as if Paul were not coming to visit. He assures them that his plan is to visit them soon, and he spells out the details of his plans here in the last chapter. He planned to pass through Macedonia first, and then spend some time in Corinth. We know that these plans did not materialize. As we piece together the details between Acts and 2 Corinthians, we see that after he sent off this letter, his plans changed. According to 2 Corinthians 1:15-16, his new plan was to pass through Corinth for a brief visit on his way to Macedonia, then visit them a second time before delivering the collection to the saints in Judea. From Acts 20, we see that what actually happened was that he left Ephesus after a riot, and traveled through Macedonia and then on to Greece, probably stopping in Corinth. According to 2 Corinthians 2:1 (and 13:1-2) this second visit was a painful visit. His authority was questioned and undermined. At some point he wrote them a second letter which was not preserved, and then he writes a third letter that we know as 2 Corinthians, where he answers their accusations of ‘vacillating’ and ‘making plans according to the flesh’ (2Cor.1:17).

Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God

What can we learn from all this? Paul made plans, and he communicated those plans to the churches, but his plans changed. Did you hear the kind of plans Paul made? In 1 Corinthians 4:19, Paul says ‘I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.’ Here at the end of the letter he uses words like ‘I intend… perhaps… wherever I go… I do not want… I hope… if the Lord permits’. Paul is making plans. He is not sitting idle waiting for life to happen to him. He is moving in a direction. He is using his God-given wisdom and insight to make decisions and formulate plans. But all his plans are made under the absolute sovereignty of an all wise and omnipotent God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

In making his plans, he was in complete recognition that God is free to thwart, re-direct, hinder, sidetrack, delay, shut down, or completely change those plans. The riot in Ephesus was not part of Paul’s plans. Paul had a will. He had ideas. He had desires. He had plans. But he recognized that those plans were subject to the sovereign pleasure of God to do all that he pleases. Later, in route to Rome, a risky journey by sea late in the season would end in a total loss of the cargo and shipwreck, all in order to bring the gospel to people on the island of Malta. This was certainly not part of Paul’s plans, and he was frustrated that his advice was not heeded to delay the journey and avoid the loss. But God considered those lost people worth more than the value of all the cargo and the ship that carried them.

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man,but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Paul understood this,so he made plans, but he said things like ‘perhaps… I hope… if the Lord permits… if the Lord wills.’

James understood this. He writes in chapter 4:

James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James warns us of the danger of the arrogance of leaving God out of our plans. He reminds us of the extreme brevity of this life. We have no guarantee of tomorrow. Our lives are like a mist that disappears in a moment. Our lives, our every breath is absolutely dependent on God’s mercy.

Jesus told a story in Luke 12 with a similar point.

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

This was a fool in God’s eyes. This was a life wasted. Notice the goal in Jesus’ story and in James. The aim is to make a profit, to to store up, to relax, to eat, drink and be merry, to find pleasure in life. The pursuit of happiness apart from seeking our satisfaction in God alone is a fools errand. Contrast this with Paul’s motive in his planning. Paul’s aim is to make Christ known where he has not yet been preached, to equip and encourage and strengthen the believers, to build up the church, to care for the poor. Paul. did everything he did to bring glory to God (1Cor.10:31). He made it his aim to please Jesus (2Cor.5:9). His hope is that ‘Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death’ (Phil.1:20). He did it ‘all for the sake of the gospel’ (1Cor.9:23). And Paul was aware that sometimes God is most glorified in a radical alteration of our carefully thought out plans. It is arrogant to think that we know better than God how to bring him glory. It is wise to plan and think and strategize on how best to bring glory to our great God, but it is wise to do this with an open hand, welcoming God’s wise and sovereign redirection in our lives.

I Hope to Spend Some Time With You

1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.

Notice that it was Paul’s desire to spend some time with the saints in Corinth. Throughout this letter we have sensed his loving care for the believers in Corinth. He doesn’t want to have to pass through town quickly. He wants to stay for a period of time, possibly spending the winter with them, a time that most travel was not possible. This church was full of problems, but he was not trying to keeping his distance. He was moving toward them, seeking to shepherd them through their problems. Corinth was not just a notch in his belt, these were people, people he cared deeply about, people he desired to deepen his relationship with, people he wanted to be with.

It is interesting to note that he assumed their hospitality toward him. They would have to take him into their homes, they would have to feed him, perhaps for the whole winter. Such was Christian hospitality. Not only did it go without saying that they would provide for his needs while he was with them, but he also expected that they would not send him off empty handed. Part of the expectation of Christian hospitality was that his journey when he left them would be provided for by them. This was Christian generosity which overflowed from being treated with abundant generosity by God, and now naturally flowed out to bless others.

A Wide Open Door with Many Adversaries

1 Corinthians 16:8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31). He preached in the synagogue, he taught the disciples daily in the hall of Tyrannus, and through this ministry all of Asia heard the word of the Lord. He established elders, he admonished them night and day. He taught both publicly and house to house. He poured into them by teaching and by example. People were being healed and set free from demonic oppression. People who had been involved in the magic arts turned from their old life and burned fifty thousand pieces of silver worth of books. A wide door for effective work had opened to him. Paul recognized the hand of God in opening wide a door for Christ exalting service in Ephesus, and he wanted to remain there to take full advantage of the opportunity. It seems that door closed with the riot instigated by Demetrius the silversmith.

Look what Paul puts together with the wide open door for ministry: ‘And there are many adversaries.’ Why put these things together? We might think that a wide open door for ministry would mean that the adversaries are all taken out of the way. But this is not what Paul expects. He links these two things together in the same sentence. A wide open door for effective work together with many adversaries. In Acts 19 we see that Paul’s preaching in the synagogue lasted three months, but ‘some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation’ (Acts 19:8-9). In Acts 20, we find that during his stay in Ephesus, he served with tears and with trials that happened through the plots of the Jews (20:19). He knew that imprisonment and afflictions awaited him in every city (20:23). Paul warns in 20:29-30 that

Acts 20:29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

There was a wide open door for ministry, and with that came many who opposed it.

Jesus told a story that indicated that something like this was to be expected in God’s kingdom.

Matthew 13:24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

This is what the kingdom is like. Good seed is sown, but an enemy plants weeds among the good seed. They are all allowed to grow together. There is a wide open door for effective work, and there are also many adversaries. Jesus told his disciples:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

Just because there is opposition does not mean that we should give up. We should expect that open doors for gospel ministry will go hand in hand with opposition. This gospel opportunity combined with opposition is by design. Paul speaks of the difficulties in Ephesus in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of 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. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

The opposition is for a good cause. If there were opportunity for effective ministry without any adversity, we might begin to think that we were capable of doing the ministry ourselves. The affliction caused ‘us to rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.’

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12:7 …a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Talk about an adversary! A messenger of Satan was given to harass Paul. This was to prevent conceit. This was intended to keep Paul humbly dependent on God. God’s grace is sufficient. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Our weakness, even satanic opposition, forces us to rely totally on the all-sufficient grace of God.

Timothy

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth when he was unable to go himself.

1 Corinthians 4:16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

Here he gives specific instructions on how Timothy is to be received. He is to be treated well. He is Paul’s co-worker, doing the work of the Lord. See to it that he is at ease, literally without fear among you. Timothy had a tendency to be timid. It would be intimidating to accompany a letter as direct and confrontational as 1 Corinthians. Paul wants the Corinthians to treat Timothy in a way that dispels any fears he might have. He is not to be despised. We see in 1 Timothy, written about 10 years after 1 Corinthians, that Timothy is still being despised because of his youth (1Tim.4:12). This must have been a very young Timothy sent to Corinth, and so Paul gave them clear instructions to treat him well. He was to be shown hospitality. Again he assumes the generosity of the believers to help him on his way in peace.

Apollos

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

It seems that the Corinthians had asked about their eloquent teacher Apollos. This letter started out with Paul addressing the divisions among the Corinthians over their favorite teachers. Some said ‘I follow Apollos’; some ‘I follow Paul’. Paul has affirmed throughout that there is no division or competition between himself and Apollos. He says:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

It seems the Apollos group was hoping for a visit from their favorite. Paul makes it clear that he is not preventing Apollos from coming. He strongly urged him to visit, but it was not the will. Grammatically, this could be referring to Apollos’ desire to come, but more likely Paul is referring back to the sovereign will of the Lord. It was not God’s will that he come now. He apparently had no opportunity. He will come when the time is right. God is in control. If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.

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

June 28, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:11-13; You! Take Heed!

05/25 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 You! Take Heed!Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140525_1cor10_11-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

11 ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς συνέβαινεν ἐκείνοις, ἐγράφη δὲ πρὸς νουθεσίαν ἡμῶν, εἰς οὓς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν.12 ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ,13 πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος· πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, ὃς οὐκ ἐάσει ὑμᾶς πειρασθῆναι ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε, ἀλλὰ ποιήσει σὺν τῷ πειρασμῷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑπενεγκεῖν.

1 Corinthians 9-10 [ESV2011]

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

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,3 and all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Paul holds himself up as an example. If there is a danger of disqualification even for the apostle, that he might be proven a fraud, shown to be false, how much more must we watch ourselves, to be sure that we stay connected to Jesus, remain believing, continue treasuring Jesus above all else?

Paul holds the Israelites up as an example. Every one of the Israelites shared in the blessings of being part of God’s people. They all were under the protection of God, were being led by God, had experienced his rescue from slavery, their enemies were destroyed by God, they were continually being sustained and provided for by God. But in spite of all the blessings God poured out on them, their hearts remained unchanged. They desired things more than God. Food. Sex. Comfort. Relationships. They were discontent with God and with what he provided. With most of them God was not pleased. That whole generation fell in the wilderness. They had heard God’s promises, but they never received those promises. They didn’t believe God, didn’t trust God, didn’t treasure him. Their bodies were strewn in the wilderness. They never entered into the promises of God.

Presumption is Deadly

These things happened to them as an example for us. As a warning. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall. Every single one of us is in danger of falling. Especially if you are thinking ‘I’m fine, this doesn’t apply to me’. If you think you stand firm, watch out! The Israelites thought they were safe. They had been rescued by God. They had been protected by God. They were being provided for by God. They were God’s privileged people. They presumed on the grace of God. They assumed that it didn’t matter what they did – they were safe. They felt so safe that they allowed their hearts to go after other things, things other than God. They put Christ to the test, speaking out against their God given leaders and going their own way. They grumbled and complained about God’s good provision, betraying a heart discontent with the good gifts God had provided. They felt there was no need to respond to God’s grace, no need for a transformed heart. They fell in the wilderness as a warning to us.

Presumption is deadly. Every moment we must recognize that we are absolutely completely dependent on the mercy of God. Jesus used the illustration of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-11).

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Jesus is the source of everything. As long as we remain in him, connected to him, abiding in him, depending on him, drawing our sustenance and energy and resources from him, we can bear much fruit. But on our own, apart from him, we can do nothing.

We tend to think we can stand. We do not like to depend, we are reluctant to trust, we are too proud to admit we have nothing to contribute. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. If we think we are beyond stumbling, if we think we are capable of standing on our own, then God may very well allow us to fall to show us our need for him, to teach us to depend on him.

Only A Remnant Will Be Saved

Many people say ‘I attend church regularly, I’m a good person, I help others out whenever I can’. Paul warns that most of the church in the wilderness fell in the wilderness and never entered the land.

What Paul says in Romans 9-11 may help us to understand this passage. Because of the unfaithfulness of the mass of Israel, it appears that the promises of God have failed. He says:

Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

He says that the promises of God were never directed toward a specific nationality, as if the mere fact that you can trace your bloodline back to Abraham was enough to include anyone in the promises. John said to the religious leaders of his day:

Matthew 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. It is those who have the faith of Abraham who are true descendents of Abraham. Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 3:6 …Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

Not all those who trace their ethnicity to Israel belong to God’s true people. It is only those who believe. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah in Romans 9:27.

Romans 9:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,

Only a remnant of Israel will be saved, only those who believe like Abraham. It is not connection with a group that matters. Only those who depend on God, trust in him, treasure him. In Romans 11, Paul uses the olive tree to illustrate.

Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

This is the same warning he issues to the Corinthians. Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Do not become proud but fear. Do not be arrogant toward those branches that were broken off because of their unbelief. The whole generation died in the wilderness, as an example to you. You stand fast through faith. Branches were broken off because of their unbelief. God will not spare you if you do not continue depending on and rejoicing in his undeserved kindness. Drink deeply from the nourishing root. Realize your dependence. Stay connected. There is no promise of protection if we turn our hearts away from God and toward other things.

Dangers of Idolatry

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let’s understand this in the context. The Corinthians are flirting with idolatry. They think they are wise. They think they are strong. They think that they are spiritual. They think they are mature. They think that they can participate in idol feasts without being led astray in their hearts. They think think that an idol has no real existence, no power, and on a level they are right. Idols are empty powerless nothings. They are right to not fear the power of idols, but they ought to fear the wrath of God (BECNT). If we go astray in our hearts, if we turn away from God to pursue our own desires, we are in danger of God’s displeasure. We are in danger of being proven false and experiencing the wrath of God.

Idolatry is seldom blatant and obvious. Idolatry is subtle. It creeps in unawares. Very few people wake up one morning and say ‘I’m going to commit idolatry today.’ Our hearts are designed to worship, and when we do not consciously, intentionally worship the one true God with our whole heart, our hearts naturally worship other things. We begin to value people, value things, value relationships more than we value God. That is the essence of idolatry.

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

This is a severe warning not to plunge into temptation presuming that God in his grace will rescue us. Some misuse this passage to say that they can dance on the edge of destruction because God is faithful and he will always provide a way out. But this is exactly opposite the purpose of the passage. This passage warns against presumption and over-confidence. There is danger of being shown to be false. Paul himself says that he exercises self discipline, self control and passionately pursues Jesus with every fiber of his being so that in the end he will not be proven false. The Israelites went astray in their hearts and desired other things, and they fell in the wilderness as a warning to us. This is not a promise that we can plunge headlong into sin and God will always rescue us. This is a promise that the adversity that comes in the path of obedience will always be accompanied by sufficient strength to persevere through it.

Typical Testing

Paul reminds us that every believer experiences temptation. The testing we are called to endure is not extraordinary. Every follower of Jesus will be tested.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

It is not strange that a follower of Jesus will experience the sufferings of Jesus. That is what we should expect. James tells us

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Faith untried remains unproven. In Jesus’ parable about the soils, it was the heat of the sun that demonstrated which plant had deep roots and which had none (Mt.13:6). In his teaching about wise and foolish builders, it was the storm that revealed which house was built on the rock and which was built on sand (Mt.7:24-27). Testing is normal for the Christian.

The Corinthians were facing overwhelming social pressure to conform. In order to separate from all participation in idolatry, they would have to decline dinner invitations, forgo family functions, risk the loss of employment. For the Corinthians, faithfulness to God and a firm stand against idolatry could mean social and financial ruin. This was a difficult test, and the temptation to justify participation in idolatry would be great.

Encouraged with the Gospel

Paul encourages them, reminding them that every believer faces temptation. He does not encourage them with their own ability. Just the opposite, he warns if they begin to think they can stand, they are in great danger of falling. He anchors their hope not in their own character, but in the character of God. God is faithful. That is the gospel. That is the good news. The good news is that it does not ultimately depend on me or my character or my ability. It depends on God and his faithfulness. God is faithful. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability. God is ultimately in control of the testing, and with the testing he provides the exit. The way out is the way through. God is faithful. With the temptation, God will enable you to persevere through it.

So abide in Jesus. Stay connected to Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus. You cannot stand, you cannot bear fruit, you cannot do anything apart from Jesus. Rejoice in Jesus. Draw your sustenance from Jesus. Treasure Jesus above all else. Look away from yourself and look to Jesus. Run the race with perseverance, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus because God is the one who is faithful. 

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

May 25, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

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

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three inappropriate attitudes for the present age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Apostolic Example

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Contrasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Appropriate Responses to Hardship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

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

hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

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

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

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

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

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

and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;

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

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

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

(Arthur Bennett, 1915-1994)

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

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

Exodus 17:1-7; Testing and Being Tested

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110501_exodus17_1-7.mp3

05/01 Exodus 17:1-7 Water from the Rock

Intro:

God has come to the rescue of his people. They groaned and cried out because of their slavery in Egypt. God promised to bring them out from under their burdens, to deliver them from slavery, to redeem them with mighty acts of judgment, and to take them to be his own people. God ruined Egypt and laid the pride of the Egyptians low, but he preserved and cared for his people. The presence of the invisible God was demonstrated to them in the visible form of a column of fire and cloud. He caused the army to pursue, and when there was no possible escape, he made a path for his people in the middle of the sea. He emboldened their enemies to follow, and he crushed them under the waters. Three days into the wilderness, and there was no water to drink. God tested his people, and when they came to Marah, the water was bitter. The people grumbled, and God made bitter waters sweet by the application of a tree. One month into the wilderness, and they were running out of food. The whole congregation grumbled, wishing to be back enjoying the good life of Egypt, rather than starving to death in the wilderness. God responded to their grumbling with abundant provision; quail for meat and bread for each day covering the ground. He gave them a day of rest each week, where their souls could be refreshed in God. God is testing his people to see if they would be obedient or not.

Here in chapter 17, we see God again testing and training his people, teaching them about himself, and they respond by putting God to the test.

Exodus 17:1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

My Perceived Needs

The people are following the cloud-fire manifestation of God as he leads them in the wilderness. Each day they are gathering and eating bread from heaven that God supernaturally provides. God again guides them to a place where there was no water. They have seen God turn water to blood, part the sea and cause dry land to appear; God has turned bitter water sweet, and he has created bread for them out of nothing in the desert. Now they are thirsty. They can’t see any water. So they protest against their leaders. Again they grumble. They are controlled by their own perceived needs. They are entirely self-centered. The world should revolve around me, even God should revolve around me. God should hurry to respond to my every demand. Doesn’t he love me? Everything else takes second place to what I feel that I need right now. Good is defined by what I think I need, when I think I need it.

God has already stated that he is testing his people. He is proving them. He has shown decisively that he is for them, on their side, fully capable of defeating their enemies and providing for their every need. God has good in mind for his people, but the good God has in mind is sometimes different than the good we think we need. ‘I’m thirsty and I want a drink.’ God says ‘I can use your thirst to create character in you, character that is much more valuable than what you think you need right now. You have a physical need that is real and it is urgent. But you have a spiritual need that is just as real and even more urgent that I want to address. Do you trust me?’

Instead of trusting God, the people make their demand. “Give us water to drink. Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us with thirst?” They are not walking by faith in a God who has over and over and over proven himself faithful. They are not trusting God to provide for them. They are not willing to allow God to refine them and develop character in them. They are not willing to allow God to be God and determine what is best for them. They are not loving God more than their own needs. They lack faith and patience and joy. They are not humbly making their request to God. They refuse to depend on God and instead make demands of God.

Putting the LORD to the Test

Moses asks the people “why do you test the LORD” and verse 7 concludes by Moses naming the place ‘quarreling and testing’ because they tested the LORD by saying “Is the LORD among us or not?” The people need to be tested by the LORD because testing demonstrates the areas in which they need to grow and change and be transformed. Testing reveals the character flaws that desperately need attention. But God is perfect. He has no character flaws. He cannot improve. God does not need to be tested. By their complaining and grumbling, the people are implying that God is failing to take good enough care of them. He must not be loving, or he would provide for their thirst. Maybe he is not powerful enough to give them water to drink. He is not faithful to meet their needs today like he did yesterday. He is not wise enough to lead them to the right places. By their grumbling they are putting God on trial, forcing him to prove himself to them. God’s character is being questioned, and they sit as judge to see if God will live up to their expectations or not. They are attempting to manipulate God to get him to perform for them, to blackmail him into doing whatever they ask.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is giving God’s commands to his people. Love God with all heart and soul and might. Do not forget the LORD who has delivered you. Fear the LORD your God and serve him only. Do not go after other gods. Do not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah (v.16). Jesus quotes this passage from Deuteronomy when tempted by the devil to force his Father’s hand and make him prove himself (Mt.4; Lk.4). We are not to put the LORD to the test, because he does not need to be tested. He needs to be trusted. We need to be tested. We can put our confidence in his proven character and promises that when he tests us it is for our good.

Moses’ Self-Interest

Moses doesn’t do much better than the people he is supposed to be leading.

Exodus 17:4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

Moses is demonstrating that he is also looking out for his own interests. He is afraid for his life. He is not trusting the LORD. God tells him to stop following the people and start leading them.

Exodus 17:5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Moses Strikes the Rock

Moses is instructed to take the staff of God with which he had struck the Nile river and caused it to flow with blood, and he is to strike the rock, and water will come out of it. Moses follows the instructions. Numbers 20 records a very similar event, but toward the end of the wilderness wanderings. In that event, Moses is told to speak to the rock and it will bring forth water. Moses arrogantly disobeys and strikes the rock twice, and disqualifies himself from entering the promised land. What is the big deal? God said that Moses and Aaron rebelled against his command, that they did not believe in him or uphold him as holy in the eyes of the people. The big deal is that the rock was only to be struck once. Paul gives us a hint on the bigger picture in 1 Corinthians 10.

1 Corinthians 10:1 I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, (Ex.16) 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. (Ex.17; Num.20); For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

The Rock was Christ

They drank from the spiritual Rock, and that Rock was Christ. Moses is an actor pointing to a bigger reality, and when he strays from the script and makes up his own lines, he does violence to the message that the drama is meant to communicate. The Rock was Christ. The Rock was to be struck once, but only once. The word here translated ‘strike’ in the majority of its uses in the bible means to kill. It shows up a couple times in Isaiah, clearly talking about Jesus:

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

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

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all.

Exodus 17:6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Moses is to take the same staff that brought judgment on Egypt, the same staff that made the river Nile flow with blood. In Exodus 4:20 and again in verse 9 of this chapter, it is called ‘the staff of God.’ God says ‘I will present myself on the rock and you shall strike the rock.’ The staff of God’s judgment coming down on God the Son, the sin-bearer. This was to be done in the presence of the elders of Israel. In Matthew’s account of Jesus on the cross, he records:

Matthew 27:41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him

The elders of Israel were witnesses of the Rock being struck to give life to the people.

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.

Living Water

When Jesus spoke to a sinful Samaritan woman beside a well, he said

John 4:10 … “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John records:

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Jesus said:

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

Is the LORD among us or not?

God knows our true need. He hears our self-centered grumbling and diagnoses our heart condition and provides himself as the cure. Jesus addresses our true need, our need for our sins to be forgiven.

In the face of irrefutable evidence, God’s people put God to the test. Supernatural rescue from Egypt, the visible pillar of fire to guide, bread from heaven that was at that very moment meeting their needs, and the people question “is the LORD among us or not?”

John sent his disciples from prison with a similar question for Jesus:

Matthew 11:3 … “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Is the LORD among us or not? Is there evidence? Is Jesus Emmanuel, God with us?

John 20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Rock was Christ, smitten by God, once for all. Believe and have life in his name.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.  

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

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 15:22-27; Bitter Waters Sweet

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110327_exodus15_22-27.mp3

03/27 Exodus 15:22-27 Bitter Waters Sweet

From Worship to Discontent

Last time we watched as the Lord saved his people. They saw his great power, they feared the Lord, they believed in the Lord, and they sang his praises. God is victorious; he is the source of strength; the theme of worship; he is rescuer; proven faithful; warrior, fighting for us; he is self-existent; all powerful; conqueror; he is rightly proud; he is justly angry; he is unrivaled; incomparable; totally set apart; awe-inspiring; he is active in power; he is our faithful lover; our purchaser/ redeemer; our caring guide; he dwells with his people; he is the perpetual king. 72 hours after they see their enemy crushed by God at the Red Sea, after they had praised his awesome attributes in song, now they are grumbling. It did not take God very long to get his people out of Egypt. As we will see, it takes much longer to get Egypt out of his people. But God is faithful. God saved his people by sheer undeserved grace. Now they must learn to walk by faith in that same grace. Here we see an amazing example of his grace toward undeserving people.

15:22 Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water.

The first observation we can make in this passage, is that Moses made the people set out from the Red Sea. They had just seen great victory, and we often want to camp out in the place of victory. But God was guiding by fire and cloud. And he was guiding into the wilderness. The people were understandably reluctant to follow. But God’s purpose was that they move from bondage to Pharaoh into glad service to their true King. They must learn what it is to walk with God and serve him, and that is a lesson that must be learned in the desert. God’s aim was that his people know him, that they know the LORD, and some of God’s attributes are only taught through difficult circumstances. This day they will learn a new name for their God.

We must not be too quick to judge the Israelites. Three days in the desert with no source of water would be disconcerting. They were traveling with families and flocks to water, and a three day supply would be a lot to carry. When water came into sight, they would drink whatever remained and prepare to refill. When they discovered that this water was undrinkable, they panicked. They targeted Moses, the visible representative of God, and they grumbled. They complained. They murmured. The root of this word means ‘to stay the night, to remain, abide, or dwell’. They camped out on their problem. They focused on their situation. They dwelt on their lack and it consumed them. All they could talk about was what they didn’t have.

Ruth and Naomi

The place was named Marah because the water was bitter. Marah is the Hebrew word for bitter. And bitter circumstances made bitter Israelites. There is another naming in the Old Testament, not of a place, but of a person who named herself ‘Mara’

Ruth 1:19 …And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Naomi’s name meant – ‘my delight, beauty, or pleasantness’. She asked that her name be changed from ‘delight’ to ‘bitterness’. She said:

Ruth 1:13 … for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the LORD has gone out against me.”

Ruth and her family had moved from Bethlehem in Judah to Moab because of famine. They remained in Moab for about ten years. Her husband and both her married sons died. Her life was bitter, and she blamed God. ‘The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. The LORD has brought me back empty. The LORD has testified against me, the Almighty has brought calamity upon me. The hand of the LORD has gone out against me’. She dwelt on her painful circumstances and delight was changed to bitterness. But this was not the end of her story. When she began to see the big picture, she exclaimed ‘…the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!’ (Ruth 2:20). Out of Naomi’s bitter circumstances comes the most beautiful picture of redemption we have in all of the Old Testament. The women whom she asked to call her ‘bitter’, by the end of the story say to her “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ (Ruth 4:14-15). Bitterness was turned to beauty again as Naomi became the great great grandmother to David the King.

Hebrews and James

The author of Hebrews argues that God’s discipline is evidence of his love toward us, and that ‘for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.’ (Heb.12:11) He goes on to say:

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

Bitterness is a highly infectious cancer that spreads rapidly and brings death. God provides bitter circumstances to train us in his grace. We can be teachable and allow it to blossom into righteousness, or we can allow bitterness to fester and erupt in a rottenness that contaminates those around us. Painful circumstances are evidence of God’s grace, an undeserved kindness to keep us looking to him, trusting in him, depending on him. Bitter circumstances can keep us from becoming self-sufficient and complacent and unbelieving. This is how James can write:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Will you look at your bitter circumstances, or will you look through you bitter circumstances? God provides us with circumstances to train us, to test us, to prove us. We can be patient and teachable, keeping our eyes on God and believing that he loves us and has good in store, or we can focus on the circumstances and putrefy in our own bitterness to the harm of those around us. Bitter circumstances do not cause bitterness. They only bring the bitterness that is already in our hearts to the surface so that we can see it and deal with it. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India (1867-1951) wrote:

For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” (Amy Carmichael, If p.46 cited in Jim Wilson, How To Be Free From Bitterness, p.15)

This is what Jesus told us:

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

This was a test

God had saved them and they had seen and believed in him, but now he was sending them into the wilderness, sending them a test to shake them, to see what was really in them.

15:25 …There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”

This was a test. You just sang that God is victorious, that God is sovereign over his enemies, that God is sovereign over the waters. Now will you live like you sing? Will your deeds and your attitudes match your words? They were self-centered, and focused on their own needs and what they could see. They had been three days in the desert with no source of water and they began to fear. They saw water and put their hope in what they saw. The water was bitter and they lost all hope and grumbled. God is gently lifting their eyes to look at him. Get your eyes off yourself and your problems and look to me! Your problems are simply a stage for me to show myself strong on your behalf. Listen listeningly to YHWH your God, do what is right in his eyes, give ear to his commandments, keep all his statutes. Get your focus off of you and your perceived needs and get your focus on God and what he wants. Become God-centered in your thinking and feeling. God allows our needs to go unmet to teach us that what we really need is him. He gives us wants to teach us to want him more.

Amazing Grace

God gives his people a promise. If you remain in relationship with me, I will not judge you like I judged the Egyptians. I will not give you what you deserve. I will deal with you out of my grace.

God’s grace is amazing in this passage. So quickly after God’s sovereign rescue of his people at the sea, they are grumbling and complaining, hearts filled with bitterness rather than praise. There is not a word of rebuke here from God. God met their grumbling with provision, with promise and with revelation. God provided for their immediate need. God showed Moses what to do and the bitter water was made sweet. God met their grumbling with a promise. He promised escape from judgment based on relationship. He met their grumbling with self-revelation. He responded by teaching them a new name for himself. He said ‘I am YHWH-Rapha or Jehovah-Rapha, the self-existent one, our Healer; our Physician. This is not the name I would expect in this context. God provided them with a basic need. I would expect ‘Jehovah-Jireh’, the Lord our provider. He is promising exemption from judgment; I would expect YHWH-El-Rakhoom, the Lord our merciful God. Instead we have Jehovah-Rapha – the Lord our healer, our doctor. In Ezekiel 47 this same word ‘rapha’ ‘heal’ is used to describe bitter water becoming fresh. The water is healed of its bitterness. God promises to put none of the diseases on the people in relationship with him that he put on the Egyptians. When we look at the ten mighty acts God unleashed against the Egyptians, most of them would not be described as diseases. Only the sixth plague, boils, and possibly the tenth, the death of the firstborn, could be described as sicknesses or diseases. But what God said he would do throughout the narrative was to cause their hearts to become hard. This fits well with the bitterness we see in this passage. God is the healer of bitter waters, and he is the one who heals our sick hearts that are callous toward God and are consumed so easily with bitterness and self-centeredness. Praise God he is a physician of sin-sick souls! He has the wisdom to properly diagnose my condition, and he has the power to apply the cure. We see this so beautifully in Jesus, the Great Physician.

When some people carried a paralyzed man on his bed to Jesus, Jesus responded ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven’ (Mt.9:2). When a religious leader in Israel came to him under cover of darkness impressed by his miracles, Jesus saw his heart and said to him ‘you must be born again’ (Jn.3:7). When a disreputable sinner came to a well to get water, Jesus pointed her to himself as the source of living water that would satisfy her deepest longings (Jn.4). He confronted the unbelieving Jews who refused to hear him, to honor him, to come to him, to believe in him, to set their hope in him so they can have life (Jn.5). Jesus confronted the crowds who were following him for a free lunch “do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (Jn.6:27). To the Jews who boasted in Abraham he said “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:34-36). To a woman grieving the death of her brother, Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn.11:25-26). When a condemned criminal who was being executed confessed his own sins and recognized the sinlessness of Jesus and cried out to him, Jesus said “Today you will be with me” (Lk.23:43). When Thomas was wrestling with doubts about the resurrection, Jesus said to him “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (Jn.20:27). Jesus, the Great Physician, can see right into the sin-sick condition of our heart and give us himself as the cure.

The Tree

Did you notice how the bitter waters were made sweet?

15:24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

The Lord showed Moses a log. In Deuteronomy 21:22-23, this same word is translated ‘tree’ and it is a means for execution of someone convicted of a capital crime. This verse is quoted by Paul in Galatians:

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

Moses threw a tree into the bitter waters and they were made sweet. Jesus became a curse for us by being nailed to a piece of wood. He redeemed us from the curse of the law by paying the death penalty we deserve with the price of his own perfect life. He turned God’s curse into a blessing for us. Peter puts it this way:

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.

The tree that brings healing to hearts bitter with the guilt of sin is the cross. Jesus, the Great Physician, bore our sins, sins of hard heartedness, bitterness, self-centeredness, pride. He bore our sins in his body on the tree. Because of his wounds he is YHWH-Rapha, the Lord our Healer. When the cross is applied to us, it brings death to the bitter bondage of sin, and makes us alive to God in his righteousness.

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Oh, let Christ the Great Physician cure your heart today!

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

March 27, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment