PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Fruit and Abiding in Jesus; John 15:1-17

09/10 Fruit and Abiding in Jesus; John 15:1-17 Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170910_fruit-abiding-in-jesus.mp3

We’ve taken the summer to look at the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the believer. We saw that love love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Joy is unaffected by circumstances, overwhelms suffering, rejoices in trials. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. Patience bears a long time with others and graciously forgives the wrongs of others. Kindness is palatable, functional, fitting; not severe, biting, harsh or chafing. It is redemptive. Goodness is the generous outward expression and overflow of a kind heart, especially to the undeserving. Faithfulness is doing what the Master commands when he commands, in utter dependence on him, taking risks in service to others. Gentleness or meekness is an awareness of deep personal need, my own spiritual poverty, and in helplessness seeking help from God alone. Self Control is Spirit supplied inner strength over lesser desires.

We have seen that this is not nine things; this is one thing; fruit. It is whole Christian character. In Isaiah 40:26 God brings out the starry hosts ‘by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.’ Spirit produced character will be comprehensive; the whole fruit will be growing.

Last week we looked at 2 Corinthians 3 and saw that this spiritual transformation comes through looking. Looking to Jesus.

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

Today I want to look at Jesus’ teaching on fruitfulness in John 15. Jesus talked a bit about fruit. He said that a healthy tree bears good fruit, and that a tree is known by its fruit; you will be able to recognize a false teacher by the fruit they bear (Mt.7, 12; Lk.6). He told a parable about fruitful and unfruitful soils (Mt.13; Mk.4; Lk.8). He told a story about efforts to get an unfruitful fig tree to produce fruit (Lk.13), and he even cursed a fig tree that had leaves but no fruit (Mt.21; Mk.11). He told a story about a vineyard that the master developed and rented out to tenant farmers, and when he returned to receive his share of the fruit, they refused (Mt.21; Mk.12; Lk.20).

Jesus talked about fruit as evidence of the nature of a tree, and warned about some of the things that prevent fruitfulness. But in John 15, he tells us how to be fruitful, how to bear much fruit. In the gospel of John, the word ‘fruit’ appears 10 times, and 8 of those are in John 15:1-16. Jesus is instructing us how to bear much fruit.

In John 13 Jesus says:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The fruit of love is evidence of a relationship with Jesus. He repeats this new commandment to love in 15:12 and 17. We are to have Jesus’ own love in us. He says in John 14

John 14:27 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.

Jesus gives us his own peace. Then in John 15:11 he says

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

Jesus gives us his own joy. Love as I have loved you, my joy in you, my peace I give to you. Jesus’ love, Jesus’ joy, Jesus’ peace in us. Oh, and Jesus talks much about the promised Holy Spirit in John 14-16. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ own love, joy, peace in us.

The False Vine and the True

Look with me at John 15 to see how this fruit is produced in us.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Fruit is the issue of this passage. The vine is meant to bear fruit. In using a vine as an illustration, Jesus is not making something up. He is picking up an Old Testament illustration that would be familiar to his hearers. Many times in the Old Testament, Israel is compared to a vine. Isaiah 5 is one place we could look.

Isaiah 5:1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Sound familiar? This is almost the same story Jesus tells after he cleansed the temple, when his authority was challenged. The master of the vineyard is looking for fruit. Isaiah 5:7 says:

Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

Israel was a false vine that yielded wild grapes, that refused to give the master the fruit that was his due. Jesus is contrasting himself with unfaithful Israel. I am the true vine. I will produce good fruit for my Father in the proper season. Notice, Jesus says ‘I am the true vine’ and he says someone is caring for the vineyard. Someone is cultivating and tending the vineyard to ensure maximum fruitfulness. My Father is the farmer. Look at Isaiah 27.

Isaiah 27:2 In that day, “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! 3 I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest anyone punish it, I keep it night and day; 4 I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would march against them, I would burn them up together. 5 Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.” 6 In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.

Jesus is the true fruitful vine. His Father is the vinedresser. Fruitful branches are tended to maximize fruitfulness; dead wood is cleared away to allow room for healthy growth.

Pruning and Cleansing

John 15:2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

He prunes fruitful branches to maximize fruitfulness. Anyone familiar with this? Anyone have any experience with this? There is a play on words here in the original. Takes away is [αἴρει] and prunes is [καθαίρει]. They sound similar. And then in verse 3, clean is [καθαροί].

These two words are related. In fact, verse 2 might be translated ‘every branch that bears fruit he cleanses that it bear more fruit. Already you are clean.’ We find this exact phrase ‘you are clean’ [ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε] if we turn back two chapters to John 13, where Jesus laid aside his outer garments and washed his disciples’ feet. When Peter objected, Jesus answered him

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

Judas was a picture of the dead branch that was taken away. Peter was completely clean. He had had a bath. But he needed his feet washed. Two chapters later, in John 15, Jesus clarifies.

John 15:2 …every branch that does bear fruit he [cleanses], that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Peter was completely clean because of the word Jesus spoke. Peter was cleansed with a word. But Peter who was completely clean needed his feet washed. Fruitful branches are branches that are already clean because of Jesus’ word. But fruitful branches need to be cleansed, that they may bear more fruit.

Ephesians 4 picks this up; cleansed by the washing of the water with the word.

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

We see the tension here between the already and the not yet. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. You are completely clean. You are justified. By the blood of Jesus you have been once for all cleansed of all your sin. But there is an ongoing tending of the vine, washing of the feet, cleansing, pruning, in order to maximize fruitfulness. The Father is the vinedresser. The Father is faithful to cleanse those who are are already clean. The Father is actively tending his vineyard.

Abiding and Independent Inability

Notice, we have not yet been given the identity of the branches. So far, we have Jesus the true vine, and his Father, the vinedresser.

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.

Abide. The branch is incapable of bearing fruit apart from the vine. Here we finally get the identity of the branches. Jesus is the true vine, we are the branches. Not until we are told that we are incapable of bearing fruit apart from the vine are we told that we are the branches.

I grew up with a grapevine in our backyard. It is almost impossible to tell where the vine ends and the branches begin. They are one. That is Jesus’ point. The branch is in the vine, and the vine is in the branch. They are one. They are virtually indistinguishable. There is a vital connection. Abide in me and I in you. Jesus is in me, and I am abiding in Jesus. I am totally dependent on Jesus. I can bear no fruit without being connected with Jesus. This is why there are good works that are called dead works that are not the fruit of the Spirit. There are a lot of kind, generous, loving, patient, self-controlled people in the world who don’t know Jesus. They may be loving, but it is not Jesus’ love. It is not Jesus’ sap running through their veins that produces supernatural self-sacrificial love. And it may look great. But it is worth nothing if it is apart from Jesus. Only fruit that is produced as an outworking of Jesus in me is worth anything at all.

Don’t forget the connection here with pruning and cleansing. We could look to Hebrews and see that ‘the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives’ (Heb.12:6).

Hebrews 12:10 …he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 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.

Pruning, cleansing, discipline is painful. But it is ‘that we bear more fruit’ that ‘later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.’ As the Father is faithful to prune and cleanse, we are to push in to Jesus and draw our everything from Jesus. It is for our good. The Father is the vinedresser, and he is at work for our good. We can trust his good design even in the painful process of pruning.

Practical Help for Abiding

So Jesus is the true vine, the Father is the vinedresser, we are clean and connected to Jesus through his life-giving word, and as we are being pruned for maximum fruitfulness we are to press into Jesus as Jesus lives his life in us and through us.

Jesus Word in Us, Pursuing God’s Glory, Asking in Dependence

Practically what does it mean to abide? What does this abiding look like? Day to day? Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

What does it mean to abide in Jesus and have Jesus abide in us? To have Jesus abide in us is to have his words abide in us. Remember, we are clean because of his word spoken to us. He says to dead things ‘LIVE!’ and there is life. And he sustains that life by his word. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and he abides in us as his words are the life in our veins. Get Jesus’ words into you! Meditate on his words for they are your life! Listen to him! Hide his word in your heart! Let his heart capture your heart. What is Jesus’ heartbeat? What is Jesus’ passion? ‘By this is my Father glorified.’ Jesus lives to glorify his Father. Let his heart be your heart. Let this be your supreme want. I want in all things to glorify the Father. I want in all things to have Jesus’ character shine through my life, for this glorifies the Father. And ask! Ask God to work his fruit in you. Ask Jesus to put his love in you, his joy in you, his peace in you for the glory of the Father. Ask whatever you wish as you pursue more than anything else the Father’s glory. Ask the Father through his pruning in your life to put Jesus on display for all the world to see!

Get Jesus’ words into you. Let Jesus’ words permeate your thinking. Pursue the glory of God above all else, and ask whatever you wish! This is what it looks like for Jesus to abide in you. Meditating on his word, pursuing his glory, coming to him needy, acknowledging your dependence and inability and asking.

Receiving Jesus’ Love and Joyfully Loving

What does it look like to abide in Jesus?

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

What does it look like to abide in Jesus? Abide in my love. Let my love wash over you and saturate you. Place yourself under the Niagara Falls of my love until it permeates every pore of your being and defines you. Do you have any idea how much the Father loves his only begotten Son? Jesus’ love for us is that love; the overflow of the Father’s love for him! The Father delights in every perfection of his only Son. Jesus takes perfect pleasure in you! As the Father delights in Jesus, Jesus delights in you! To abide in his love is to receive. To feel his pleasure. To enjoy.

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

Do not misunderstand. This obedience, the Son’s obedience to the Father is not in order to earn his love. The Son is forever secure in the Father’s love. The obedience of the Son is not tedious and burdensome. The obedience of the Son to his Father is the joyful response and overflow of love received. It is the joy of the Son to pursue what pleases his Father.

What is the command we are to keep out of the joyful overflow of being securely loved?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

The joyful overflow of abiding in Jesus’ love is loving others with the love with which he loved us. This is not burdensome obedience; it is joyful obedience. It is not slavish obedience, blindly doing what I am told without understanding why. No, Jesus has called us friend! Jesus invites us to knowingly join him in his ultimate pursuit of glorifying his Father. Abiding in his love and advancing the Father’s fame by loving others with the love with which he loved us.

Confident Certainty

Jesus says:

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Jesus is the true vine. This is all Jesus’ doing. We are selected by Jesus, cleansed by Jesus, appointed by Jesus to abide in him as he abides in us, to bear fruit in him, and that our fruit should abide. This is the certainty we have. This fruit, this love is not temporary or intermittent. This is abiding, lasting. It can only be lasting because it is not my love. This is Spirit produced Spirit sustained supernatural love. It is Jesus’ love in me, flowing through me to others. Jesus’ words abiding in us, abiding in Jesus’ love for us, joyfully pursuing God’s glory by loving others, in prayerful dependence on his strength and his abundant supply.

Galatians 2:20 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.

Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

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

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September 11, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whole Fruit; Spirit Produced Character

08/27 Whole Fruit: Spirit Produced Character Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170827_spirit-produced-character.mp3

In Galatians 5, Paul lists 9 attributes or character qualities that he says is the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is what the Spirit controlled life looks like. This is one fruit. Fruit is singular. It is not a buffet line where you take what you like an pass on the things you are not so fond of. No, the Spirit controlled life is all of these things in perfect balance and symmetry.

The Spirit’s fruit is not like the Spirit’s gifts. The Spirit ‘apportions’ the gifts ‘to each one individually as he wills’ (1Cor.12:11), ‘each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another’ (1Cor.7:7). Not any person has all the gifts. But every believer is expected to produce fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit consists of all these characteristics together. In every Christian all the gifts are under development. The gifts without fruit can be abused as happened in Corinth. I Corinthians 13 tells us that the gifts without love are nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all. Love is fruit.

The Spirit’s fruit is not occasional. The follower of Jesus is not to be sometimes loving, sometimes patient, sometimes gentle. The person who is sometimes self controlled does not have self control. The person who is occasionally joyful is not a joyful person. A person who is joyful when things are going well does not have the fruit of the Spirit. It is natural to experience joy when things are good. But the Spirit’s fruit is supernatural. The Spirit’s fruit becomes evident especially when things are not going as hoped or as planned. The fruit is to characterize the follower of Jesus all the time. 24-7; 365; Sunday through Saturday.

This does not mean that you never have a bad day, that you’re never down. Paul got discouraged. When he was in Corinth, he was so discouraged that Jesus appeared to him to encourage him.

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 was afraid. He was understandably tired of being attacked and beat up for his faith. He was tempted to just be quiet and stop proclaiming Jesus. He was discouraged over a lack of ministry effectiveness. The Lord himself appeared to him in a vision to encourage him. Paul struggled. We all struggle. This does not mean that the Spirit is not at work producing his fruit in our lives.

Paul said:

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.

Paul felt burdened beyond his ability to handle it. Paul experienced despair. Paul felt hopeless. Paul came to the end of himself.

2 Corinthians 1:9 …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.

Notice the purpose? There was divine purpose in his despair. This was to make us rely on a resurrecting God. This was to keep us from relying on ourselves, our strength, our gifts, our abilities. This was to turn our focus to the God who gives supernatural life to dead things. This is the Spirit’s fruit, that in the midst of despair we set our hope on God. The fruit grows as we believe in God, trust God, rely on God and not on ourselves. Fruit grows by faith.

Remember, the Spirit’s fruit grows. It is not suddenly ripe the day after we trust Jesus. It is there, but in seed form. It will grow. We can encourage growth, we can take steps to produce an environment where growth is facilitated, we can remove obstacles to growth. But God himself produces the growth.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

The power belongs to God and not to us. The surpassing power to bear this kind of fruit even in the midst of adverse circumstances. The Spirit’s fruit is the life of Jesus manifested in our bodies.

Fruit Described

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Biblical love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Real joy is unaffected by circumstances, overwhelms suffering, rejoices in trials. Peace is a quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is well. Patience or being slow-to-anger bears a long time with others and graciously forgives the wrongs of other. Kindness is palatable, functional, comfortable; not severe, biting, harsh or chafing; it is redemptive. Goodness is the generous outward expression and overflow of a kind heart, especially to the undeserving. Faithfulness is doing what the Master commands when he commands, in utter dependence on him, taking risks in service to others. Gentleness or meekness is aware of deep personal need, spiritual poverty, and in helplessness seeking help from God alone. Self control is Spirit supplied inner strength over lesser desires.

This is a comprehensive list of Christian qualities, but it is not an exhaustive list. Paul often gives lists that cover a topic, but he varies his vocabulary, and in different contexts, he gives variations on the content.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul points to the more excellent way of love over even the greatest gifts. In his description of love, he includes joy or rejoicing, patience, kindness, faith or faithfulness, and he adds hope, endurance, and bearing all.

In Ephesians 4, Paul urges us to

Ephesians 4:1 …urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

To love, peace, patience, faith, and gentleness he adds humility, unity, hope, and bearing with one another.

Ephesians 4:23 commands that we

Ephesians 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness….32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Here he adds to kindness a tender heart, forgiveness, righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3 tells us to

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

To love, peace patience, kindness, and meekness, he adds humility, compassionate hearts, bearing with one another, forgiving, and thanksgiving.

Paul says to Timothy

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

In 2 Timothy he says:

2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. … 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. …

Even Peter points us to this divine power given to us through the knowledge of him

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter mentions the fruit of love, faith, self-control, and adds virtue, knowledge, steadfastness, godliness, and brotherly affection.

If we look at Ephesians 6 from this perspective, we see among the full armor of God, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the gospel of peace.

This armor imagery is Old Testament imagery. In Isaiah 11, after describing the Spirit of the LORD that rests on Jesus as the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the LORD, we are told that

Isaiah 11:5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

1 Thessalonians 5 also points us to our armor.

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

If we put this all together, we get this composite picture of the Christian life controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Love selflessly seeks the good of the other. Joy is unaffected by circumstances. Peace rests in God and his control of all things. Patience is slowness-to-anger and bears with others and graciously forgives the wrongs of others. Steadfastness or endurance stands firm under adverse circumstances. Kindness is fitting, functional, comfortable, tasteful; not severe, biting, harsh or chafing. Merciful compassion, a tender heart, literally inward affections moved for others; brotherly love. Goodness gives especially to the undeserving. Faithfulness steps out in total dependence on God, taking risks to serve others. Gentleness, meekness or humility is aware of deep personal need, and seeks help from God alone. There is a pursuit of unity, a priority on truth, knowlege, virtue, righteousness, godliness, holiness. We determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. Our righteousness is not our own but is Christ’s righteousness credited to us. He changes our hearts to love what is right and just and true. He sets us apart as holy, begins to form God’s own character in us. Self control is Spirit supplied inner strength over lesser desires. All this is saturated in thanksgiving, because all this is a gift from God, by grace, through faith. It is character produced in us by God’s Holy Spirit. It is fruit.

Simplicity in Jesus

This is whole fruit, well rounded integrated all of life character. If that’s too complicated, too much to remember, let’s let Paul boil it all down for us. In Romans 13, he picks up the put off / put on clothing metaphor, laying aside those things that were characteristic of our fleshly desires and putting on those things that flow out of our new life with Jesus, and weaves it together with the armor metaphor and the contrast between light and darkness.

Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. … 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

This is it. Simplicity in Jesus. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Clothe yourself in his character. This is the fruit of the Spirit. Put on Jesus. Clothe yourself in Jesus. Remember the gospel. How did Jesus treat us? How did Jesus interact with people? How did Jesus respond to difficult circumstances? How did Jesus respond to difficult people? Treat others the way Jesus treated you. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

August 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Self-Control like Jesus

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

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

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

The Problem of Powerlessness

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

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

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

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

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

He says a few verses later

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

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

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

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

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

The Hope of Victory

The Bible is clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idols and What We Treasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temptation, Opportunity and Desire

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

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

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

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

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and [without inner strength].

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

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

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

Changing Desires

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

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

Desiring God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 12 tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

The Spirit’s Fruit: 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