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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

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

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

~prayer~

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

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

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

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

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom to Want

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

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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

War of Desires

Paul warns:

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

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

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

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

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

Works of the Flesh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

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

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

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

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

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

Contrast Works and Fruit

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

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

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

Romans 8 tells us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intro:

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

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

(Prayer)

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

Who were the Amalekites?

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

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

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

What did Amalek do that was so bad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened to the Amalekites?

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

The Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Spurgeon said this:

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

Christ our Intercessor

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

Hebrews 7:22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. …24 …he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died––more than that, who was raised––who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 2:11-12

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081130_1peter_2_11-12.mp3

11/30 1 Peter 2:11-12 conduct that glorifies God

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

11 agaphtoi parakalw wv paroikouv kai parepidhmouv apecesyai twn sarkikwn epiyumiwn aitinev strateuontai kata thv quchv 12 thn anastrofhn umwn en toiv eynesin econtev kalhn ina en w katalalousin umwn wv kakopoiwn ek twn kalwn ergwn epopteuontev doxaswsin ton yeon en hmera episkophv

Peter has reminded us of our identity in verses 9-10. We have been chosen by God, to be priests to God, set apart as holy for God, we are now the possession of God, in order to make proclamation about the great worth of God. God called us out of darkness by an act of his great mercy. Our ultimate purpose is to proclaim his excellencies. We have been chosen, set apart, given the office of priests, possessed by God so that we can make proclamation to others about the greatness of God. Our primary purpose is proclamation. And the content of our proclamation is God – the beauty of his nature and the excellencies of his character. We are to noise abroad the supreme worth of our redeemer who by his life giving word called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We exist to make him known.

Verse 11 begins a new section of the letter. Peter starts this section of the letter by addressing his readers as ‘beloved’. He will start the next section of his letter in chapter 4 verse 12 by again addressing them as ‘beloved’. This section begins and ends with reference to the theme of God’s glory.

1 Peter 2:12 …they may see your good deeds and glorify God …

1 Peter 4:11…–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

In this section, Peter fleshes out how we are to proclaim God’s excellencies to the hostile community in which we live:

We glorify God in our lifestyle by our attitude of submission to authority; in 2:13-17 we are to be submissive to the governing authorities; in 2:18-25 slaves should submit to masters; in 3:1-6 wives should submit to husbands; in 2:21-25 Christ’s suffering is set up as the supreme example to imitate. The goal in every instance is to live in such a way that unbelievers will glorify God and repent and believe.

Verses 11 and 12 are the introduction to this new section. They give us a two-pronged approach to proclaiming the excellencies of Jesus with our lives; first negatively and then positively. Negatively, we are to abstain from certain desires; positively, we are to make sure that our conduct in the world has a certain integrity. All this is for the purpose of bringing glory to God. That’s the big picture; now lets look closer at the details of verses 11-12.

Back in the first line of this letter, Peter pointed us to God’s call or selection of us as the basis for our alienation from the world:

1Peter 1:1 …To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion..

Now he looks at our alien identity as a base from which to wage war against the desires that linger in our flesh. This is how Abraham identified himself when he was seeking to buy a burial plot for his wife Sarah.

Genesis 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”

He had no permanent possession. He was an outsider in their community. He worshiped a different God. His customs and culture were distinct from theirs. His world view was completely different from theirs. He understood their culture and was able to make a business transaction in it, but he maintained his distinct identity. Because of who we are – we are sojourners and exiles – our conduct should not match the conduct of the citizens. If our citizenship is truly in heaven, there should be a distinction between our conduct and our values and our desires and the conduct and values and desires of a worldling.

Peter begins by addressing us as ‘beloved’. The word is ‘agapetoi’ (agaphtoi) from the root ‘agapao’ (agapaw) which is God’s undeserved love. Peter is expressing his affection for his readers, but his primary meaning is to remind us again of our position. We are the beloved of God. And because of this, we are sojourners and exiles. This is a re-statement of what he said in 1:1-2 that we are ‘elect exiles … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’. God loves you – you are the beloved. Because you are dearly loved by God, your character must be affected.

The Apostle urges us as elect exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh. No mere abstinence from the outward acts of sin is commanded here, but an all-out attack on the root and power of sin within; an attack on the inclinations and desires of the soul. Christianity is not a list of do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations. Christianity is a genuine transformation of our wants and desires. The word here translated ‘passions’ can refer to good or bad desires. We are to abstain from our natural desires in contrast with desires that are renewed by the Spirit of God. Our desires are to be different from the desires of the world. Desires for possessions and power and honor and pride, position and prestige, comfort and leisure, these things are not to be the driving impulses of the believer. The Spirit of God produces new desires and new affections in our souls – desires to bring him honor and praise, desire to bless others, desire for God to be made much of in our lives, desire to be weak so that his strength is seen through us, a contentment with what we have, joy and delight in knowing who we are in Christ, desire to see others come to know him, desire to bring him pleasure in all our thoughts and desires.

We will never have victory over the stranglehold sin has in our lives until we dig down and sever the root of desire. We may cut off the weed at ground level, but it will grow back quicker and its roots will be deeper and stronger. Our desires must be transformed if we are to have any lasting victory in our battle with sin. We must root out the old desires and fight to cultivate new desires to take their place. I think our text hints at the solution – as the beloved of God, abstain from desires of the old nature. God loves you, so fight against the things that would separate you from that love. You are loved by God – desire to please him.

Peter alerts us to the gravity of the situation. These desires are waging war against our souls. This is no game. This is all-out war – life and death. The eternal destiny of your soul is at stake. If your natural desires are allowed to grow up and choke out the word so that it cannot bear fruit to God in your life, you will be thrown into the fire and burned. Natural desires unchecked are lethal to the spiritual life.

Jesus said:

John 15:5-6 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.

Paul says:

Galatians 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. …21 …I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. … 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Your hope in the superior value of the inheritance that God has secured for you should cause you to sever the root of anything that might jeopardize the realization of that blessed hope. Our society spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince you to use the right kind of soap and drink the right brand of cola, but we give no thought to the importance of eternity and the value of the human soul. Something is seriously out of balance here. We are passionate about the trivial and totally neglect the weighty issues of eternity. The most important matter in the universe is off limits in most discussions. We must crucify the flesh with its passions and desires so that we are not robbed of our eternal joy. Crucify those things that Peter listed:

2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

Peter goes on to give the positive:

12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Victory in this inward spiritual battle will have observable outward effects. Your walk of life will be admirable and attractive even to your enemies. And if you are following Jesus, you will have enemies.

In Peter’s day, Christians were accused of being atheists because they didn’t bow to the gods that the people worshiped. Because they refused to bow to the emperor, they were considered enemies of the state. Since the Christians did not honor the gods of the community, they were viewed as subversive and evil. The were viewed with suspicion and hostility because they did not conform to the unbelievers way of life. False accusations and slander were directed toward Christians. The reference to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters was misconstrued to indicate incestuous practices, and the celebration of the Lord’s supper won them the accusation of cannibalism.

What was to be the response of the Christian community to such accusations? Go on a truth campaign and correct all the errors? Track down the source of the rumors and put them to rest? Peter’s response was simple: do good. Keep your heart right and your actions pure. And the motive for doing good was not simply to clear your name. The motive was evangelistic. Peter’s desire was not that the Christians be exonerated. His driving desire was that God be glorified. Good deeds are never an end in themselves, and they are never a means to earn favor with God. Good deeds serve to bring glory to God as the author of the new life which produces the good deeds. Good deeds flow from a transformed life and God is the one who has caused us to be born again (1:3). Peter’s desire is that even though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God. You can proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light by continuing to do good even when you are slandered. Do good with the hope that your accusers will be persuaded by your transformed life to want what you have and come to Christ. Peter’s goal is that those who slander the Christians are persuaded by the moral integrity of the Christians to trust Jesus and so glorify God.

Peter probably has in mind the saying of Jesus recorded in:

Matthew 5:10-16 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. …14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Christians in the face of persecution and slander are to so let their light shine publicly that all those that observe will give glory to God. The good works must be public – not done in order to be seen by men and be praised for them; but a public display of the glorious mercy of God. We must let our light shine publicly in such a way that we are not given credit for our good works. Our light must shine so that God is given credit for the transformation that he has accomplished in us.

The day of visitation can have implications of condemnation or salvation. On that final day even the knees of unbelievers will bow to Jesus and give God glory, but Peter has in mind the day when God visits the unbelievers with mercy and brings them to faith in Christ. God is glorified when his people exhibit his greatness so that others are attracted to him and transformed by him. Are you being persecuted? Slandered? Misunderstood? Rejected? You have the opportunity to put God on display in such a way that unbelievers are attracted to Jesus and put their trust in him! Alexander Nisbet, a minister in Scotland, in his commentary on Peter first published in 1658 writes:

The children of the Lord should not lose their hopes nor quit their endeavours of gaining the greatest enemies to God or themselves, among whom they live, considering how soon and easily the Lord can make a change upon them: for the Apostle would have them looking upon those that were heathens and speaking against them as evil doers, as such whom God might visit in mercy, and in whose conversion they might be made instrumental…” (A. Nisbet, p.89)

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

November 30, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment