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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry

03/24_2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190324_2cor6_6-7.mp3

Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. The Corinthians were looking for outward evidence of God’s blessing on his ministry, and they were beginning to question his authenticity. They were looking for power, prosperity, praise, eloquence, something flashy. Paul commends his ministry as a ministry that gives obstacles in nothing and to no one. Paul’s goal is that no fault could be found with the ministry. In all things he commends himself as God’s minister. He cares much more about what God thinks of his ministry than what anyone else thinks.

And the way he commends himself is not what anyone would have expected. What he includes in his resume is in the way he responds to adversity: ‘in much endurance’. And he lists three general hardships: ‘in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities’; then three specific types of persecution: ‘in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots’; then three hardships he willingly endures for the sake of the advance of the gospel: ‘in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers.’ Nine hardships, faced with much endurance.

The Manner; Four Essential Characteristics for Ministry

Now beginning in verse 6 he lists eight means of ministry; four essential character traits for effective ministry, followed by four enablements for effective ministry.

He started the list in verse 4 with the character trait ‘much endurance’; remaining under these nine different types of hardships. Now he gives four more character traits; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. These describe the manner of his ministry, not so much what he does as much as how he does it, and ultimately who he is. Character. When hiring for a position, many companies are looking for skills, abilities, experience. Have you been trained in this field? Do you have the knowledge necessary to carry out the task? How much experience do you have in this field? What are your accomplishments, successes, abilities? Paul emphasizes not so much what he does as how he does it, who he is.

Who are you? Are you a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker? That is not who you are; that is what you do. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a pastor. Those are roles, hats I wear. They define my relationships to other people. I was born in a Christian home, raised in a healthy two parent family in Minnesota, the youngest of five. That is some of my history, my background, where I come from. That is not who I am. I like to hike, canoe, to be outdoors, to be creative, build things, fix things. Those are hobbies, likes, preferences. But who are you? Strip all that away, who are you when no one is looking? What is your character?

6 In Purity [ἐν ἁγνότητι]

Paul starts with purity. This word shows up only here and in chapter 11. The verb shows up in the gospels and Acts referring to ceremonial purification, and in James, Peter and 1 John it shows up in reference to heart and soul purified through the new birth. The adjective shows up a little more frequently in contexts of moral purity, blamelessness, innocence, integrity. In 11:2 the adjective is used in the metaphor of betrothing a pure virgin to her husband, and in 11:3 this noun shows up alongside sincerity, and in contrast to being seduced or beguiled with trickery or cunning, being defiled, spoiled or corrupted.

In 1 John 3:3 the adjective describes the character of God;

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

We become like God as we see him as he is; through our hope in him, in looking to him, we purify ourselves as he is pure.

Paul points us to his innocence, blamelessness, integrity, moral purity. This purity is not because he always had clean hands and a pure heart; rather his blood-stained hands were washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and through the new birth he stands pure and holy, a new creation in Christ.

In Knowledge [ἐν γνώσει]

Next he lists knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. He recognized that they were ‘enriched in all knowledge’ (1Cor.1:5). But he drew a contrast between the knowledge they claimed and love for brother and sister (1Cor.8:1,7,10,11; 12:8; 13:2,8). They prided themselves in their knowledge.

But as Paul had already made clear,

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

For Paul it was not about what you know, but it had everything to do with who you know. He was in everything pursuing and advancing the ‘knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5).

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

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

Paul was spreading the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul everything else was worthless, except “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know him” (Phil.3:8,10).

In Patience, In Kindness [ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] [ἐν χρηστότητι]

Next he mentions patience and kindness. The word translated patience is literally ‘slow to anger’. These two words are listed side by side in Galatians 5:22 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Both patience and kindness are attributed to God in Romans 2

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

Where patience or slowness to anger is negative, refraining from responding immediately in anger even when there is something to be rightly angry about; kindness is its positive counterpart, actively doing good to those who have wronged you. God not only refrains from immediately punishing our sin; he also shows us his undeserved kindness. As Jesus instructs in Luke 6,

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

We are to extend kindness even to our enemies; in doing so, we reflect the character of God. In being patient and kind, we are living out the gospel; we are conducting ourselves toward others how God has been toward us.

It is clear that these character traits are not natural. Who joyfully endures afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleeplessnesses, hungers? Who extends patience and kindness to enemies? These are supernatural character traits. In Colossians 1 Paul prays:

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

He combines endurance, the first on his list, and patience, and he says that we need God’s strength; we need the glorious might of divine enablement to respond to circumstances with endurance, slowness to anger, and joy. He says in Colossians 3:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

He tells us that because we have been raised with Christ (3:1), because we are his chosen ones, because we are holy and beloved, because we have been strengthened with his mighty power, we can clothe ourselves with kindness and patience.

The Means; Four Divine Enablements for Ministry

When we understand how Paul uses these words, it makes complete sense where he goes next in this list. He gives four divine enablements for ministry. The character, endurance, purity, knowledge, slowness to anger and kindness is fruit. It is not Paul as he is naturally; this is Paul as he is empowered by God through his Holy Spirit for the ministry to which he has been called.

In Holy Spirit [ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]

After four character traits, fruit necessary for ministry, Paul turns to the source. In the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time he has brought up the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in this letter.

In 1:21 he mentions God in Christ by the Spirit who establishes, anoints, seals and guarantees us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (and then again in 5:5). In chapter 3 He announces the new covenant ministry which has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, who writes on tablets of human hearts (3:3); who gives life (3:6); who brings freedom (3:17); who effects transformation in us (3:18). He said

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. …

His competency is not from himself but from God through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has made Paul competent for the ministry. This is God a ordained, God empowered, God initiated, God sustained task.

In Love Unhypocritical [ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ]

In love unhypocritical. Paul seems to have shifted gears when he mentioned the Spirit from a list of four character traits or fruit to the means or divine enablements for ministry. Is he switching back to character traits here when he mentions sincere love? Is this his love for others, or God’s love for him that enables him for ministry. To see this as God’s love for him seems to fit his flow of thought, as well as the context. He has just said (in 5:14) that ‘the love of Christ compels us’ and there he defines that love concretely as Christ dying for us; that God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. God’s love is a compelling force for ministry. It is when I know that I am loved, sincerely loved, loved without a mask, that I am freed to love others as I have been loved. It is seeing the gospel in action, that God so loved me that he sent his only Son to die for me, that I am freed from the need to seek love, freed and empowered to give love freely away. Love without a mask.

7 In Word of Truth [ἐν λόγῳ ἀληθείας]

In the word of truth. Here again we could ask, is he referring to his own integrity? Should this be translated ‘in truthful speech’ (NIV, ESV) or ‘in the word of truth’ (NASB, KJV)?

So far in 2 Corinthians, Paul has referred to how he handles God’s word, speaking in Christ (2:17); he refuses to tamper with God’s word but openly proclaims the truth (4:2). God has entrusted to him the word of reconciliation. If we turn to Ephesians we see that he refers to ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (1:13). And in Colossians he points them to ‘the word of the truth, the gospel, which… is bearing fruit and increasing,… since … you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth’ (1:5-6). Paul encourages Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2Tim.2:15). Peter says that we were born again ‘ through the living and abiding word of God’ (1Pet.1:23), and James says that God ‘brought us forth by the word of truth’ and that we are to ‘receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls’ (Jam.1:18,21).

What ultimately authenticates Paul’s ministry is the content of the gospel he proclaims. It is not a mere human message. It is not his own message; it is God’s word, a word that causes new birth, that is able to save your souls, a word that is bearing fruit and increasing. As he commends the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

This word is at work. It is a powerful word.

In Power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ]

In the power of God. Paul opens the letter to the Romans by saying

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

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. He says in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of truth, the word of the cross, the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts God’s power with human weakness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant,

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.

2 Corinthians 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.

His competency for ministry, even his character is not from himself. It is from God. It is God’s Spirit at work in him and through him. His endurance of hardships, his purity, his knowledge, his slowness to anger, his kindness, is all of God worked in him by the Spirit.

May we too reflect the character of God in our conduct by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, through the transforming word of truth, the gospel.

***

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

March 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry

08/19_2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180819_2cor4_6.mp3

Paul is describing authentic Christian ministry; giving reason why he does not lose heart, get discouraged, give up, burn out. Ministry, the ability and opportunity to serve others, is a gift. It is God’s mercy to sinners.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

He describes his methods; he does not use shameful hidden methods; he refuses to water down, add to, or distort God’s word. He speaks plainly, openly, with integrity.

He recognizes there is an adversary to the truth, a powerful enemy who seeks our eternal destruction, who would cast a veil over the hearts and minds of people to keep them from seeing the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He lays out the simple message he does proclaim; the person of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, and he explains his role as a minister of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Verse 6, our subject today, he gives us the creative power of authentic ministry, the ultimate ground of his confidence in gospel ministry, why he is content to openly proclaim the truth, to not adjust the message to suit his audience, and why he does not lose heart even in the face of seeming ministry failure. We proclaim Jesus, and God speaks and shines light in hearts that are veiled and blinded. God is powerful to overcome the darkness. Authentic ministry is ministry God speaks through to accomplish his purposes.

God Said

The ministry Paul is talking about is primarily a speaking ministry; he simply and plainly heralds the Lord Jesus Christ. He proclaims. He uses words to communicate truth. He communicates simply, openly, plainly. His ministry is ministry of the word; he administers God’s word to people. He communicates God’s truth. He communicates the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ as Lord. Ministry is speaking, proclaiming, communicating truth, to reflect our God who is a communicating, speaking God. Verse 6 begins ‘because God said.’

Don’t ever let this cease to amaze you. Our God is a speaking God, a communicating God. He could have left us wondering, guessing, groping in the dark. But he spoke. He communicates who he is, what he is like, what he requires, how we can have a relationship with him. Our God is a speaking God. We speak because he has spoken.

The Power of The Word

And his speech has power. When God speaks, things leap into being. That which did not exist comes into existence. Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. …9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

By his word, by the breath of his mouth, by his speaking, at his command, everything came into being. The heavens and all their starry hosts, universes, galaxies, all breathed out by him. Hebrews 11 says:

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The universe created by the word of God. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible, the spoken word. God’s word is creative! God’s word has power! Romans 4 talks about

Romans 4:17…the God …who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls, God speaks, and things that do not exist come into existence! This is absolute power! Everything God says happens.

This is what we are asking when in the Lord’s prayer we ask that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we respond to your word with unhesitating and absolute obedience, the way your word causes even things that do not exist to be for your pleasure.

Out of Darkness, Light Shine

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”

God commanded ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ Any idea what passage Paul is referring to here?

The first thing that comes to mind is creation, where ‘God said Let light be, and light came into existence’ (Gen.1:3). Darkness was over the face of the deep, and God said “Let there be light.” and there was light. Genesis 1 is clearly in mind here, because God is creating light out of darkness. And he does it with his word. He speaks, and it comes into being. 2 Corinthians 4:6 starts out ‘the God who said’ and Genesis 1:3 starts out ‘and God said’. But in Genesis 1, God says ‘let light be or exist; in 2 Corinthians he says ‘let light shine’ – a different verb. And Genesis 1 takes place at the beginning of creation, before humankind exists; where 2 Corinthians is talking about God shining light into human hearts made flesh. So while Genesis 1 is definitely in mind, there may be other passages in mind as well.

There is another passage that includes darkness, light, and the same verb ‘to shine’ that we find in 2 Corinthians 4. It is Isaiah 9. You are probably familiar with the well-known Christmas passage Isaiah 9:6:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9 begins by pointing us to ‘Galilee of the nations,’ and verse 2 says:

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Here the subject is people, people walking in darkness, upon whom the light shines. And in the context of Isaiah 9, the light shining is the child born, the son given, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Matthew 4:13-16 quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and says that it is fulfilled in Jesus. The light shining in the darkness of human hearts is Jesus!

In Isaiah 60 we see this same theme again of light coming into darkness, and it is the glory of the Lord on people.

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The light that overcomes the thick darkness is the glory of YHWH rising. What we proclaim is Jesus Christ as Lord; YWHW.

John’s gospel begins 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. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus is the true light that shines in the darkness, that gives light, that was coming into the world. Notice in John’s gospel that he names this one ‘the Word.’ The Word gives life and light. It is the speaking one, the communicating one, the one we proclaim; Jesus Christ the Lord.

Paul takes a thread from Genesis 1 where God brings light into existence that did not exist by his powerful word, and ties it together with Isaiah 9, where the promised Son of God shines light into the deep darkness of humankind, and Isaiah 60 where the light is the glory of YHWH.

The Means of Conversion

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

Paul is talking about confidence in gospel ministry, and he points to his own conversion, and he invites us to think of our own conversion. The God who said ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ has shone in our hearts.

Do you remember? Do you remember when the lights came on for you? I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian church, attending camp and Sunday School. I knew all about Jesus, and Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath and Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Paul and Timothy. I knew all about creation and Babel and the ark and the tabernacle and the disciples and the miracles and the cross and the resurrection. I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I knew it. I saw it all in living color on Mrs. Dean’s flannel graph. I even believed it. But I remember when I got it. When it came home to me. When the lights turned on. When God shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of Jesus. I felt the weight of my sin, and I was a grievous sinner at the ripe age of seven. I had been feeling the weight of my sin, but now I saw that Jesus took that sin – my sin. He died in my place. For me! He loved me and gave himself up for me. He was pursuing me. He wanted a relationship with me! I finally got it, and I wanted it. I wanted him! I embraced his forgiveness. I embraced him. How did it happen for you? When did the lights come on?

Paul invites us to look at our own conversion, our own transformation, our own new birth, as something God did. God the Creator spoke light into existence in our hearts and our blind eyes began to see! People talked ’till they were blue in the face, explained, clarified, answered questions… nothing. But when God said ‘let light be,’ then the lights came on.

The Creator God has shone in our hearts and we saw. We can take confidence in gospel ministry because we experienced God’s illuminating power. And we know he can turn the lights on for anyone!

Paul is confident in proclaiming plainly the simple message of Jesus Christ as Lord; he does not lose heart, because he is confident that God is at work shining in dark and veiled hearts to illuminate Jesus to them.

Romans 10 is helpful here. Romans 10:13 says:

Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And then he goes on to explain:

Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Salvation comes through calling on Jesus in faith. Faith comes through hearing the word proclaimed. But not all who hear believe. God must turn the lights on. Proclamation is necessary, but it is not the decisive thing. God must be speaking in our speaking to create light in the hearts of those who are blind. Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:21 … it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. …23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

How is it that the folly of what we preach becomes the saving power of God and the wisdom of God? Through the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ shining in our hearts to give light. We can confidently proclaim the simple message of Christ crucified, Jesus Christ as Lord, confident that God will open blind eyes and conquer hard hearts. We cannot ‘claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God’ (2Cor.3:5)

The Glory of God is the Glory of Christ

Let’s look again at what we see when God shines in our hearts.

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

What is it that we see? It is the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Let’s pair this with what our enemy wants to keep us from seeing in verse 4. What the enemy wants to blind us to is what God overcomes by his creative word to give us the light of knowledge. Paul states the same thing in different words, and the pairing of these two verses sheds even more light on Jesus.

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

What our adversary wants to keep us from seeing is ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’

2 Corinthians 4:4——————————–2 Corinthians 4:6

In their case the god of this world————-For God, who said,

——————————————————- “Let light shine out of darkness,”

has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,—-has shone in our hearts

to keep them from seeing———————–to give

the light of the gospel—————————the light of the knowledge

of the glory of Christ,—————————of the glory of God

who is the image of God.———————–in the face of Jesus Christ.

‘The light of the gospel’ is ‘the light of the knowledge.’ what is the content of this knowledge, this good news? ‘The glory of Christ’ is ‘the glory of God’. Paul as plainly as ever identifies Christ with God. The knowledge of the glory of God is the good news of the glory of Christ. The glory of Christ is that he is very image of God. The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Christ.

O Lord, open our eyes to behold the good news of the glory of Christ the image of God; let us see the glory of God in the face of our Lord

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

August 19, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:3-4; When Authentic Ministry Seems to Fail

08/05_2 Corinthians 4:3-4; When Authentic Ministry Seems to Fail; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180805_2cor4_3-4.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul is describing authentic Christian ministry. We have been entrusted with ministry by God’s mercy, God’s pity and compassion that moves him to action to help the desperate. We have this ministry by his mercy, so we do not lose heart. We renounce hidden things of shame. We refuse to use every means possible; we refuse to adulterate God’s word (if we adulterate the one thing that has the power to transform, then what hope is there?) Instead, we plainly proclaim the truth. It is by the open declaration of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience. All this happens under the watchful eye of God.

So we do not lose heart, grow faint, get discouraged, burn out, give up, quit. We do not lose heart in the face of opposition. We do not lose heart in the face of criticism. We do not lose heart in the face of discouraging circumstances. We do not lose heart in the face of ministry failures.

How can this be? How can we not lose heart, how can we not give up persevering in ministry when we fail in that very ministry? When that ministry fails to produce the intended results? How do we explain ineffective ministry?

Spiritual Blindness

I’ve seen a lot of different types of ministry, and I have seen some very different responses to gospel ministry. In our very active student ministry in high school, we did everything from stranger evangelism on the streets to concert events where we invited people and the gospel was presented. I remember many fumbling conversations where I just couldn’t seem to find the right words or know how to respond to questions, and the frustration of feeling like a failure. I remember one particular event where we had invited friends, and the speaker gave a captivating presentation, and explained the gospel more plainly and clearly than I had ever heard before. It was so clear, so compelling, you just had to trust Jesus! I couldn’t imagine an unbeliever hearing that, who wouldn’t be eager to respond with faith in Jesus. I looked over at the friend I had brought. Nothing. I was looking forward to the conversation on the way home. Nothing. So I asked, ‘what’d you think?’ ‘It was ok.’ ‘What did you think of the speaker, what he said?’ ‘It was all right I guess. I’m not really that in to all that religious stuff.’ I sat there in stunned disbelief. How could you possibly sit there and hear what we just heard and be totally unaffected? It was like we must have heard different speakers. What room were you in? Were you even listening? It was all right?! He told you you have sinned, and sin separates you from a holy God who made you and loves you. But Jesus came to pay the debt you owe so you could have a relationship with him. Religion? He didn’t say anything about religion!

This was an eye-opener for me. How could you listen to that clear a proclamation of the gospel and not get it; totally miss it? It was like my friend was blind to what was said.

Listen to what our passage says:

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Spiritual Warfare

The fault is not always in the messenger or the presentation. Sometimes it is. We can work to improve our communication skills. We can always grow in our ability to lay out the gospel plainly. But the fault is not always in the messenger. There is a supernatural battle going on. There is a spiritual dimension to evangelism.

We are not talking about math; two plus two is four – do you believe that? We are proclaiming that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the grave alive – do you believe? ‘Wait, are you telling me that I am a sinner? I don’t think it’s right that God would kill somebody over some minor offense. Jesus, yeah, I believe he existed and was a great moral teacher. It’s really unfortunate what they did to him. But this nonsense about rising from the dead – I’m not so sure.’ When we say ‘do you believe?’ we are not asking if you agree that it is true or that it really happened; that is only a part of it. We are asking ‘do you trust him? Are you relying on Jesus, depending on him completely?’

There is a spiritual battle going on in the minds of unbelievers. The god of this world; when we chose to listen to, to obey the word of the serpent over the word of God; we gave our allegiance to the devil; we made him our god. Jesus calls him ‘the ruler of this world’ in John 12:31. 1 John 5:19 says that:

1 John 5:19 … the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the whole armor of God that we might be able to stand against the schemes of the devil; against the rulers and authorities; the cosmic powers; this present darkness; the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Put on truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, with all-prayer. Paul ends this description of our spiritual battle with a very specific request:

Ephesians 6:19 …that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 … that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Stand equipped in gospel truth, gospel righteousness, the readiness of the gospel of peace, gospel dependence, gospel defense; speak the word of God with all prayer and petition at all times in the Spirit with all perseverance.

Confidence Even In Ministry Failure; God’s Word Never Fails

Paul has been talking about veils that obstruct the real purpose from view, minds that were hardened, veils that lie over their hearts when God’s word is read. He said ‘only through Christ is it taken away’ (3:14); ‘if one turns to the Lord the veil is removed’ (3:16). ‘This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit’ (3:18).

Paul is defending his ministry; he doesn’t adulterate the word; he doesn’t use tricks to manipulate or deceive. He plainly and simply proclaims the truth of the gospel. And even with the right message and the right methods, that open statement of the truth sometimes seems to fail.

I say ‘seems to fail’ because it never really fails. God’s word always accomplishes its purpose, always.

Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God’s word always accomplishes the purpose for which he sent it. But we tend to think that the only goal of ministry is conversion. When God sent Isaiah back in chapter 6,

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

God told Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 7:27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

This is not the kind of promise we are looking for in ministry. We would love it if everyone responded positively to the gospel. But Paul recognized two categories of people, two responses to the gospel.

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Back in 1 Corinthians he said

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul divided humanity into two categories; those who are perishing and those who are being saved. The gospel, and the messenger of the gospel comes as a fragrance to both. It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). And the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men …so they are without excuse (Rom.1:18-20).

God always accomplishes his purposes. He sends us to warn some in their rebellion, to heighten their accountability; to others he uses us as his instrument to give life and set them free. To one a fragrance of death into death; to the other a fragrance of life into life. Although our desire, as God’s is that none should perish and all should come to repentance, we should not gauge success in ministry by the number of professions of faith. We talk about successful ministry; instead we should pursue faithful ministry. We would not consider Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel successful ministries; but we would call them faithful ministers.

2 Timothy 2 puts it this way:

2 Timothy 2:24 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. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Sowing Seed

Jesus compared it to a sower sowing seed. He scattered his seed all over.

Luke 8:5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.

Jesus explains:

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Notice who takes away the word from their hearts; who blinds the minds of unbelievers? The devil, the evil one immediately snatches away what has been sown in his heart (Mt.13:19; Mk.4:15). Faithful sowing gets the seed out to everyone. Sometimes the word does not even have a chance to germinate in the mind before even the thought is snatched away. The fault is not in the seed. Neither is the fault in the sower. The fault is in the differing soils.

We have been looking at authentic gospel ministry. Faithful ministry can be defined as scattering seed. The open statement of the truth. Don’t tamper with, don’t adulterate the seed. Don’t attempt to genetically modify the seed, thinking you will get enhanced results. The pure word, the simple gospel, is what God uses to produce life.

Don’t get overly critical of methods of scattering seed. Everyone is different, uniquely designed by our amazingly creative God. I have found that if you scatter the seed this way, it works best. Are you an overhand seed scatterer or an underhand seed scatterer. Just don’t be underhanded in your seed scattering. Do you use one of those things with the crank that scatters the seed, or do you push one of those two wheeled seed scatterers? People write books on how to scatter seed. Don’t waste a lot of time evaluating techniques. It doesn’t really matter. Just get it out there!

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

Do you hear that? God gave the growth. Only God gives the growth. Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything. Anything!

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant…

We are not sufficient to claim anything, anything as coming from ourselves. God has made us competent. Take great courage in the fact that your competency does not come from your technique or even your success rate. Our sufficiency for gospel ministry is from God.

The Glory of the Gospel

Before we leave this passage today, we’ve got to get to the good stuff! Even in the negative, it’s beautiful. In chapter 3, Paul has been talking about glory, the glory of Moses’ ministry, and the surpassingly greater glory of the New Covenant ministry. He’s been talking about glory that is veiled, glory that is concealed. And he’s talked about beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord. What is it that the god of this world wants to keep us from seeing? What is the glory of the gospel?

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

O do not be blind to this today! Do not let Satan blind you to the glory of the good news! He wants to harden your mind and veil your heart and keep you from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ! Jesus said:

John 8:12 … “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The light of the gospel is a person. It is only the blind who cannot see the light. The light of the gospel is the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Jesus Christ is the image and glory of God. Satan would blind you to the truth of who Jesus is. Jesus is ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb.1:3). Jesus is the word made flesh; God with us.

O ask for eyes to see more of the glory of Christ! Do not be choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things (Mk.4:19), and miss the glory of Christ! O press in to see more of Jesus. Turn to the Lord.

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

Turn to the Lord with unveiled face. Gaze on the beauty of the Lord. Look to Jesus! See the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God!

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

August 8, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:2; Characteristics of Authentic Ministry

07/29_2 Corinthians 4:2; Characteristics of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180729_2cor4_2.mp3

The Roots of Authentic Ministry

Therefore, on account of this; because we have this kind of ministry, a new covenant ministry, Holy Spirit ministry, ministry driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit, ministry that gives life, ministry that brings righteousness, ministry that creates lasting transformation, ministry that removes the veils that obstruct the glory of God; because we have this kind of ministry, we do not faint, fail, lose heart, get discouraged, give up.

We do not lose heart because we have this ministry by God’s mercy. Not because we deserve it, not because of our performance, not because of our strategies or techniques, not because of our skill or expertise, or our tenacity, not because of our methods or our success rate. We have been entrusted with this transformational ministry by God’s mercy.

Last time we defined mercy as divine pity or compassion resulting in action to help one who is powerless to remedy his own situation. It is God’s rescue in response to our need. Each part of this definition is important; it is rooted in God’s emotional response to our need – he feels pity or compassion. This emotion of pity results in action to rescue – God does something to help. And it is God’s action toward those helpless to do anything – we are powerless to do ministry apart from him.

We do not give up even in the face of discouraging circumstances and failure because of God’s mercy. God’ feels divine compassion toward us. He feels compassion or pity because we are really and truly helpless, powerless to effect any change in anyone on our own. And his divine pity moves him to action; to show up with supernatural power to do what is beyond our reach.

We have experienced God’s mercy in salvation. We must also experience God’s mercy in ministry; in our service to others. Just as we are helpless to save ourselves from our sins, so we are helpless in ourselves to truly serve others. We must depend completely on the mercy of God to empower our service, our ministry to others. It is only in this way we can love and serve others and persevere in ministry.

Authentic Christian Ministry; What it is Not

In verse 2, Paul lays out what authentic Christian ministry looks like. He begins by renouncing the things Christian ministry must avoid, and then he gives us what authentic ministry consists of. Paul is defending the integrity of his apostolic ministry, but remember, we are all called to ministry, to love and serve others.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, …

Paul renounces the hidden shameful things. This word ‘renounce’ is a strong word, meaning to disown. This is the only place it occurs in the entire New Testament. He utterly rejects secret or hidden methods in ministry; he divorces himself from tactics that are shameful or would bring disgrace.

What kinds of things come to mind? Scandal, immorality, pornography, greed and financial corruption, manipulation, abuse of authority all come to mind. Anything that would bring shame on the name of Christ. Anything secretive, hidden, underhanded. What does Paul specifically have in mind when he says ‘we have renounced the hidden things of shame?’

Not Crafty or Cunning

He lists two things. First, not walking in craftiness or cunning. This word literally means the ability to do anything and everything, and it is always used in a negative sense. This is the willingness to do anything necessary to accomplish the desired ends. The scribes and chief priests sent out spies to catch Jesus in his words in Luke 20. They used flattery and asked him if it is lawful to pay the tribute tax to Caesar. We are told that Jesus ‘perceived their craftiness’. They were willing to use any means possible to bring an accusation against Jesus to get rid of him.

This word shows up later in 2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

There it speaks of the temptation of Eve to disobey and rebel against God in the garden. Satan employed every means possible; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life to deceive and lead her astray. He worked all the angles. He came at her from every side.

We’ve had our share of door to door sales people come to sell us stuff we didn’t need. They are masters at working all the angles. We were newly married and had a vacuum salesman show up at our door. He demonstrated how amazing his vacuum was, and we were impressed, but when he told us the price tag we both laughed. That’s more than I paid for my car! Can I drive it to work? But he worked all the angles. He had won a new vacuum that he didn’t need and he was willing to give it to us for a fraction of the sticker price. I’m a sucker for a deal, so he had us. Another time, we were listening to a sales pitch for a time share resort we couldn’t afford. The salesman made the mistake of looking at my wife and asking me ‘but isn’t she worth it to you?’ That was low and dirty. Yes, she is worth it. She is worth protecting from financial ruin by not spending more than we can afford for something we don’t really need. We walked. Sales people learn how to work all the angles, manipulate emotions and personalities and they will do anything to close the deal.

Ephesians 4:14 is another place this word shows up. We are to equip the saints toward unity and maturity and Christ-likeness,

Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

There are a lot of winds of teaching blowing around. There is a lot of human cunning and deceitful schemes sold to Christians today. We all need to be plugged in to a solid Christian church, and be rooted in the truth of God’s word so that we aren’t tossed around and blown away by the latest thing that seems impressive.

I once attended some training on evangelism that sounded too much like door to door training for some multi-level marketing scam. Try to get a feel for where the person you are talking to is at, what they are struggling with, and adapt your presentation to target those felt needs, work to move the conversation toward a decision point, and don’t forget to close the deal. Now there is wisdom in listening well to where a person is at and skillfully applying the gospel personally to that individual, but we must be very careful not to be so eager to see a profession of faith in Jesus that we compromise the message, withhold vital information, or deceive in any way. We have renounced disgraceful underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning.

Not Adulterating God’s Word

Or tamper with God’s word. The word ‘tamper’ is a word that means to adulterate, falsify, to make false through deception or distortion. Peter, in 1 Peter is talking about our new birth brought about by the word of God

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

…25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

And then he says:

1 Peter 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 into salvation—

He uses the root of this word twice in these verses. ‘Deceit’ is the noun form, and ‘pure’ is also the noun form with a negative prefix. We are to desire unadulterated milk, untampered with milk. We are to put away tampering or adulterating. Who would think of messing with a baby’s bottle? ‘It’s mostly milk; I’ve only added the tiniest amount of poison. I’m sure it’s not enough to do any harm.’ We have renounced disgraceful underhanded ways. We refuse to tamper with God’s word.

Turn over to 1 Thessalonians 2. Verse 3 contains this word; there it is translated ‘attempt to deceive.’ It is worth reading that passage because in it Paul is also defending the integrity of his ministry.

1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

Paul spoke of his boldness or openness of speaking in 2 Corinthians 3:12. He goes on to refute false motives:

1 Thessalonians 2:3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

It was not out of error or impurity or deceit; there was no flattery, no greed, no glory seeking. He was entrusted with the gospel, and his only aim was to please God. In 2 Corinthians 2:17 he said:

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

He goes on in 1 Thessalonians to lay out his heart and motives:

1 Thessalonians 2:7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really [truly] is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Here he equates the gospel he preached, the gospel of God with the word of God. In 2 Corinthians 4 he refuses to deceive or tamper with or adulterate God’s word. That is the negative.

The Open Statement of the Truth

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Now he gives the positive, what authentic ministry consists of – the open statement of the truth. He puts the truth out on open display. Nothing hidden, nothing secret, no sales pitch, nothing tampered with. Plain, up front, transparent, honest integrity.

What is the truth of God’s word? We saw in 1 Thessalonians that he equates the word of God with the gospel of God, the gospel he preached (2:4, 8-9, 13). In 1 Corinthians he equates the gospel with the word of the cross (1:17-18); he preached Christ crucified (1:23); he decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified (2:2). Here in 2 Corinthians he says that God is through us spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere, an aroma that brings death or brings life, to those perishing or to those being saved (2:14-16). In 1 Corinthians 15 he summarized the gospel he preached by which you are being saved this way: ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…’ He points to Christ, the long awaited promised King. But he gets right to the point; he died. He doesn’t waste any time with ‘Jesus was a great prophet, a great moral teacher.’ He came to die. And what is really offensive is why. He died for our sins. He doesn’t leave out the fact that I am a sinner. That I have a need. That I deserve death. ‘Don’t you think if you left out all that morbid death stuff and telling people they are sinners that less people would be offended and more people would want to listen?’ Maybe, but that wouldn’t be the gospel, and that wouldn’t save anyone. The gospel is Jesus Christ crucified in my place, now having conquered my guilt he rose victorious and he is alive. Today we can know him, have a relationship with him.

Ministry in the Presence of God

Paul commends himself to everyone’s conscience; even those who are perishing must admit he tells it like it is, he is up front, he shoots straight, he holds nothing back.

But the ultimate judge of his ministry is no man. As he said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

In 2 Corinthians 1:12 he said:

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

He speaks and lives in the presence of God. As he said in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ‘so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.’ He plays to an audience of one. He aims to please only one. He lives and ministers, he serves not to win the approval or the applause of those he serves, but in everything only to please the Lord God.

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

August 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent; Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet

12/03 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171203_advent-greater-prophet.mp3

I’ve been meditating on this passage in 2 Corinthians that we have been studying,

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

But God is faithful, that the word [Logos] of us to you is not yes and no for the of God Son Jesus Christ who in you through us was proclaimed …has not come to be Yes and No, but Yes in him has come to be, for as many as God’s promises, in him is the Yes; now therefore through him the Amen to God for glory through us

The YES to all the promises of God is Jesus! The YES in him has come to be! God’s YES has come into existence in Jesus, and as we see and experience God’s yes, we are invited to speak the Amen with one voice to the glory of God.

For this Advent season, I want to look at some of the promises of God that have their substance or being in Jesus. I want to take a step back and look at some of the sweeping themes of the Old Testament that point us to the coming of Jesus, and how Jesus is the end and goal of all these promises. Jesus is the greater Prophet; Jesus is the greater Priest and the greater Tabernacle and the greater Sacrifice; Jesus is the greater King; Jesus is the greater Man; Jesus is the greater Israel who mediates a greater covenant. Jesus is greater! The YES in him has come to be! As many as are the promises of God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the YES! And as we fix our eyes on Jesus, may we respond with the AMEN of worship to our great God to his glory!

What is a Prophet?

Jesus is the greater Prophet. What is a prophet? A prophet is one who faithfully brings God’s word to his people. In Exodus 7 we get a picture of what a prophet is. This is after Moses complains to God that he is not a very good speaker, and God allows his brother Aaron to speak for him.

Exodus 7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.

A prophet is the mouthpiece of God, the voice of God, one who speaks to people on behalf of God.

Anybody can claim to be speaking for God. Many people have. There are many places in God’s word where God’s people are warned to guard against false prophets. Deuteronomy 13 warns of prophets who perform supernatural signs or wonders that seem to authenticate their words, but they teach people to follow other gods, we are not to listen. God is testing us to see if we truly love God with all our heart and all our soul.

Deuteronomy 18 encourages the people to test the truthfulness of a prophet by checking to see if what he says comes to pass, because God’s word always happens.

Jesus Greater than Moses

This test of the truthfulness of a prophet comes at the end of a section where Moses is pointing the people to a coming greater prophet.

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

He is referring back to Mount Sinai in Exodus 20;

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (cf. Deuteronomy 5)

The people said:

Deuteronomy 5:25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’

God affirms;

Deuteronomy 18:17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

The people were right. To enter the presence of a holy God is to die. They needed a mediator, someone who would intercede, who could keep them safe, someone who could bring them safely in. Because of this prophecy, the people were expecting a greater prophet to arise like Moses. When John arrived on the scene calling the nation to repent and baptizing, the religious leaders asked ‘Are you The Prophet?’ (Jn.1:21, 25). They wanted to know if John was this greater than Moses prophet promised by God.

John 1:15 John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”

John pointed away from himself to Jesus. Peter in Acts 3 and Stephen in Acts 7 both connect this prophecy to Jesus.

Even greater than the testimony of John and the Apostles, is the testimony of the Father himself. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain, and was transfigured before them, and Moses and Elijah, greatest of the Old Testament prophets appeared talking with him, Peter wanted to honor these three by making them booths to stay in; but while he was speaking the Father himself interrupted and said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt.17:5; cf. Mk.9:7; Lk.9:35).

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—

‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’ When the disciples lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. According to the Father, Jesus supersedes Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the prophet we are to listen to.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was glowing because he had met with God, but that glory faded. When Jesus was on the mountain, a slight glimmer of who he really is shone through, a glimpse of the glory that Moses met with when he was on the mountain.

Jesus says in John 5:

John 5:45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

Jesus Authoritatively Declares God’s Word

Jesus is the promised greater prophet who speaks authoritatively on behalf of God. We see this throughout Jesus’ ministry.

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

John 15:15 …but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus spoke the very words his Father gave him to speak. He spoke with his Father’s authority.

Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Jesus spoke with authority, and he did many signs and wonders to authenticate his words. But remember from Deuteronomy, signs and wonders alone are not enough to validate a ministry.

Jesus passes both tests of a prophet from Deuteronomy. Both in his life and in his teaching, he affirms the great commandment, that

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

And everything Jesus said came to pass.

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

But Jesus’ predictions were not the fortune cookie generalities; ‘there’s something big just over the horizon.’ Jesus,

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

What an astounding thing to say! What specific detail! Jesus saw clearly and proclaimed exactly what would happen. And it happened exactly as he said. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (cf. Mk.13:31; Lk.21:33)

Jesus is the greater Prophet who faithfully brings God’s word to his people.

Jesus Is God’s Word

Jesus came to be the greater Prophet. We see this not only in what Jesus spoke, but in who he is. Jesus not only spoke God’s word, but he is the Word. John’s gospel begins with a very different kind of genealogy than the other gospels.

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. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

…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.

Jesus claims to be the pre-existent Word, who was with God and who is in his very essence God. He is the creative Word that spoke everything into existence in Genesis 1. He is the Word that said ‘let light be!’ He is the one who breathed into man the breath of life. He is life. He is light. He is God. He shares the glory of his Father. And he came. He became flesh. He became human. The Creator became part of his creation! Oh the wonder of Christmas!

Our family likes to watch some of the holiday classics about flying sleighs and magic trains and why we shouldn’t be a Grinch or a Scrooge and the power of generosity and believing. Friends, truth is stranger than fiction! This is so much more wondrous, so much more awe inspiring; that God himself, the eternal Word became flesh, and was born! Born to set his people free. Born to die that we might live. Jesus, the prophetic Word become flesh to dwell among us.

Jesus is the Fulfillment of all the Prophets

Jesus is that Prophet, greater than Moses. The book of Hebrews begins this way:

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

God spoke through the Prophets. But now he has spoken once for all in his Son, the Creator, the radiance of his glory. God’s prophetic communication all culminates in Jesus. Later in Hebrews 3, Jesus is contrasted as greater than Moses, as the builder of a house is greater than the house; as a son in the house is greater than a servant. Jesus is the final Word of God, the Prophet greater than Moses.

Jesus faithfully brings God’s word to his people. Jesus is the divine Word made flesh, come to be God’s Word to us. And as we look back over all the Scriptures, they become God’s ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus.

Peter writes of the value of the believer’s faith in Jesus that brings glory to God.

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

He goes on to connect this salvation through faith in Jesus to all the Scriptures.

1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Notice the word of the prophets was initiated by the Spirit of Christ in them, and the content of their word was ‘the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.’ It’s all about Jesus! The prophets wrote by the Spirit, beyond their own understanding, and searched and inquired carefully into their own writings. They had an idea that their writings would find fulfillment in a single person or time. They were pointing to Jesus; God come in the flesh to suffer and be crucified for us, to be buried and to rise from the dead for us. They were pointing to the grace that is ours in the gospel that has been proclaimed to us! The promised one, the Christ, God come in the flesh, came to suffer. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and he appeared to many. All the Scriptures point together to this message of good news that eternal life in relationship with God is a free gift of God’s grace, purchased for us by the sufferings of the Messiah.

Yes and Amen!

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

Do you have this inexpressible joy in Jesus today? Does the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ stir your heart to worship, to bow, to adore? Are you experiencing the gospel today? Are you enjoying the gospel today? Are you enjoying Jesus?

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Savor the treasure you have in Jesus. May God’s Yes to all his promises to us in Jesus overflow in a hearty Amen to God for his glory through us! enjoy his promises and respond together with the Amen in worship. God’s promises are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. The goal of the promises is to resound to the glory of God. As we enjoy together in Jesus the yes to all God’s promises, we respond back to God with the Amen of worship that brings glory to him. This is astounding! That because we are in Christ, because in Christ we enjoy God’s promises, we now have the capacity to glorify God together!

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

December 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Leviticus 24:1-9; Light and Bread in His Presence

03/12 Leviticus 24:1-9; Light and Bread in His Presence Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170312_leviticus-24_1-9.mp3

We are in Leviticus 24. Leviticus 23 reminded us of holy time, time set apart to rest, to reflect and remember all that God has done, to celebrate, and to look forward in anticipation to all that God has promised to us. Our ultimate longing is to one day be in the presence of God, to no longer see through a glass dimly, but then face to face (1Cor13:12). Chapter 23 deals with the annual feasts of Israel. Chapter 24 reminds us that the priests are to enter daily into God’s presence. Worship is not reserved only for special occasions, but God is to be enjoyed day in and day out, all day every day. The focus of the first 9 verses of chapter 24 are light and bread.

Leviticus 24:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly. 3 Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 4 He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly.

5 “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. 6 And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. 8 Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD’s food offerings, a perpetual due.”

An Offering of the People

Notice this section begins and ends with the offering of the people. In verse 2 God instructs Moses ‘Command he people of Israel to bring you pure oil.’ Verse 8 concludes ‘it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever’. This is to be a contribution from the people. The pure oil from beaten olives and the fine flour and the frankincense for the bread of the presence is to be faithfully provided to the tabernacle by the people of Israel. The light is to be fueled by pure oil from beaten olives. This is the highest quality, produced with the greatest care. The loaves are to be baked with fine flour, most carefully prepared. The portions are generous. Each loaf was to be made with two tenths of an ephah. That is almost four and a half liters of flour for each of the twelve loaves. All Israel was to gather on specific feast days at the tabernacle three times annually. But daily, their best oil fueled the lamps in the tabernacle, and their finest bread was continually in the presence of God. The people had a continual connection with the holy presence of God.

Continual Light Before the LORD

The lights must be kept burning regularly. The priest is to trim the lights from evening until morning before the LORD regularly, forever, throughout your generations. The lamps were to be arranged on the lampstand before the LORD regularly. There was to be continual light in the presence of God. Morning and evening the lights were to be carefully maintained. Oil was to be continually supplied to the lamps to keep them burning.

What is the significance of light? All the way back at the beginning,

Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

Light is God’s good creation. God spoke light into being. Light is separated from darkness.

1 John 1:5 …God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Light is necessary for life.

Psalm 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Psalm 56:13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Light is connected with life. The proverbs warn

Proverbs 13:9 The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

Proverbs 20:20 If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.

Proverbs 24:20 for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

The lamp is a symbol for life and a future. When David was weary in battle and narrowly escaped death at the hand of a Philistine giant,

2 Samuel 21:17 …Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”

David’s men feared that if David was killed, it would extinguish the hope and future of Israel. In 2 Chronicles 21 we read of king Jehoram, who ‘did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.’

2 Chronicles 21:7 Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

The lamp carries the idea of life and continuance and a future hope.

Light also carries the idea of truth and clarity and guidance.

Psalm 43:3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

Light speaks of life and hope an a future, of truth and clarity and guidance in the right path.

These seven lamps were to be kept burning ‘before the LORD continually’. In God’s presence there is truth and vision and clear guidance, there is life and hope and a permanent future.

Continual Bread Before the LORD

The light of the lamps were positioned in the holy place to illumine the table for bread. Bread was to be piled up before the LORD each week. Twelve loaves, representing the twelve tribes, bread in abundance. Likely large round flat unleavened loaves of bread. Each loaf was made with about 18.5 cups of flour or a full five pound bag of flour. These were huge loaves of bread. Something like 60 pounds of bread piled up on the small gold table before the LORD. Pure frankincense was to be put with each pile of bread. This was likely burned as a memorial before the LORD.

Bread was the basic necessity of life, and the common denominator of every meal. Jesus taught his disciples to pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ (Mat.6:11). During his temptation in Matthew 4, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3

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

Bread is equated with God’s words. We see this also in Amos 8:11

Amos 8:11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.

The most basic necessity to sustain life, God’s word, on which we are utterly dependent.

Pure frankincense is to be put on each pile. We see clearly in Revelation 5 that

Revelation 5:8 …and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (cf. Rev.8:3-4; Luke 1:10)

The incense, the prayers of the saints, ascends to God as a sweet fragrance. The Word of God and prayer before God.

Jesus The Light

We see this all come together in Jesus.

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. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus is the Word, in the presence of God. Jesus is the light shining in the darkness.

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (cf. Mt.4:16)

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus brings life and hope and a future. Jesus illumines our path, bringing truth and clear direction.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is our only access into the presence of a holy God.

Jesus is the Bread

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Jesus is the bread of life. He is the Word made flesh. He is the only place our souls can find nourishment and satisfaction.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus is the Pure Incense

If the bowls of incense in Revelation are the prayers of the saints, then how much more pure are the prayers of Jesus. The pure incense is the intercession of Jesus for us

Hebrews 7:25 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 tells us

Romans 8:34 …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.

The Missing Wine

To complete this picture, we need to look back on the construction of the table for bread in the tabernacle. We are told in Exodus 25:

Exodus 25:29 And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.

Along with this table for bread, there are plates and dishes for incense. We see the incense in this passage. But also associated with this table are its flagons and bowls for drink offerings. What are the drink offerings? Where are these poured out? Drink offerings are only mentioned a few times in Leviticus 23 in association with some of the feasts. They are mentioned much more frequently in the book of Numbers, especially chapter 28. It seems these drink offerings are associated with the sacrifices to be burnt on the altar, but it is not clear exactly what is done with these drink offerings. Numbers 28:7 says:

Numbers 28:7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD.

This verse indicates that the wine or strong drink is poured out in the Holy Place. Somehow the drink offerings of wine are closely connected to this table of the bread of the presence.

We see Jesus bringing these two symbols together when he gave his followers bread, “saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk.22:19-20)

Light of the World

When we look back on the lampstand, it gave light to the holy place. It illuminated the bread on the table. Only the priests were allowed to enter there. Only the priests were allowed to eat of that bread. But when Jesus came, he said that he came down from heaven to give his flesh for the life of the world. He claimed to be the light of the world, even specifically a light to the Gentiles (Lk.2:32; Is.42;6; 49:6). He went so far as to say to his followers

Matthew 5:14 “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.

In the vision of Revelation we are told:

Revelation 1:20 … the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

In Acts 26, God sent Paul to the Gentiles,

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

We, broken vessels, clay pots, proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord;

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

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

March 14, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus Introduction

04/10 Leviticus Intro Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160410_leviticus-intro.mp3

All Scripture is Profitable

Romans 15:4 tells us

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The Scriptures give us encouragement and hope to endure. All Scripture is for our instruction. Amen? Do you believe this?

2 Timothy 3 points us to the sacred writings

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

The sacred writings are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Do you believe this?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. Do you believe this?

What Is Leviticus?

Then turn with me to the book of Leviticus. It’s the third book in the Bible, the middle of the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, 27 chapters between Exodus and Numbers. Leviticus gets its English title from the Latin Vulgate translation, which comes from the Greek Septuagint, and it means ‘that which concerns the Levite’, even though the Levites are seldom mentioned in Leviticus. The tribe of Levi was the tribe responsible to set up, to take down, to carry, to care for and to guard the tabernacle in the wilderness (Num.1:47-54). A subset of Levites, those descended from Aaron and his sons, served as priests in the tabernacle.

The book of Leviticus begins with 7 chapters of instructions on the different kinds of sacrifices to be offered in the Tabernacle, then chapters 8-10 give instructions for the consecration of the priests who would carry out those sacrifices, chapters 11-15 give laws on cleanliness for the people, including dietary laws, purification after childbirth, how to handle skin diseases, mold in a house, and bodily discharges. These are all issues of uncleanness that need to be addressed by the appropriate sacrifice. Chapter 16 gives instructions on the great day of atonement and the cleansing of the Tabernacle. Chapters 17-25 give laws for holy living, chapter 26 gives blessings and punishments for obedience or disobedience, and rewards for repentance, and chapter 27 deals with vows.

Remember, all Scripture is God breathed and profitable.

Why Study Leviticus?

Why should we study Leviticus as a Christian? When we finished Exodus a few years ago, I was asked what we were going to study next, so I suggested Leviticus. People threatened to leave the church, or at least find another church for a year or so. Leviticus seems so… irrelevant. We don’t have a tabernacle, we don’t need a temple, we don’t have priests wearing funny clothes and we don’t offer animal sacrifices. Most of us don’t eat Kosher. The stuff about skin diseases and mold and bodily emissions seem a bit gross. So what’s the point? Why take time to study this ancient book?

There is an element of disciplined obedience. If we truly believe that all Scripture is profitable to make us wise for salvation and equipped for every good work, then it is arrogant and unwise for us to stand over Scripture and select the bits that we feel are more relevant or interesting and skip over the rest. A common metaphor used in the Bible for Christian growth and maturity is edification. Build one another up in the faith. This is a construction metaphor, and in building an edifice, the foundation is critical and every stone is important. Imagine if you were having a house built. You come to inspect the progress after the building starts to rise, and you notice a gaping hole in the foundation. When you find the guy who was doing the work, he says ‘well that particular stone just didn’t capture my attention. It wasn’t very interesting or exciting, so I left it out’. It may not be exciting – its a stone! But it’s necessary. It helps to hold the building up. We have been given 66 God breathed books that make up the collection we call the Bible, and they are all important. If we believe God spoke and communicated his truth to his people, if he saw to it that it was recorded in written form, if he ensured that it was passed down to us intact and unaltered, do you think it would be wise to disregard any of it?

Jesus in Leviticus

Now that is true of every book in the collection we call the Bible. But why Leviticus in particular? Why would a Christian want to study Leviticus? Christianity is all about following Christ. I believe we don’t understand Jesus if we don’t understand Leviticus. We are Christians because we follow Jesus, and Jesus said in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law. The Law was pointing to Jesus. We don’t fully understand Jesus if we don’t understand how he fulfilled the Law. When Jesus met his disciples on the Emmaus road, we are told:

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus after his resurrection opened the Torah, the five books of Moses and interpreted in them the things concerning himself. Leviticus is the centerpiece of the five books of Moses. Leviticus is about Jesus! Leviticus is all about Jesus. Jesus came to die – to die on a cross. He came to die as a perfect substitute for our sins. The cross is central to Christianity. We fail to understand the cross if we fail to understand the sacrificial system. The crucifixion of Jesus was a Levitical sacrifice.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Jesus is the one who mediates between us and the Father. Hebrews repeatedly (2:17, 3:1; 4:14-15, 5:5; 6:20; 7:26-28; 8:1; 9:11) calls Jesus our great High Priest. We fail to appreciate Jesus as our great High Priest if we don’t understand the role of a priest in the Old Testament. We don’t appreciate the sweetness of the New Covenant if we aren’t familiar with the Old Covenant that it supersedes. The New Testament book of Hebrews is a rich commentary on Leviticus that points us to Jesus, the better Priest who offers a better Sacrifice in the better Tabernacle.

My prayer as we study Leviticus together is that we will fall more deeply in love with Jesus, because Leviticus is all about Jesus.

Holiness

Not only will we grow to appreciate Jesus, Leviticus will teach us some practical things about how to approach God. God is holy. The main theme of Leviticus is holiness. God is holy, we are sinful, and that makes him dangerous. But true joy is found in relationship with him. Leviticus gives instructions on how a sinful people can approach a holy God and experience the joy of his presence safely.

A dangerous tendency among many Christians is to treat God casually. We are saved by grace, and we begin to take grace for granted, we get careless, we presume on grace, thinking it is no big deal. It’s okay to sin; God will forgive me. Leviticus communicates to us the seriousness of sin. God hates sin. All sin. Every sin is serious. And all of life matters. We cannot compartmentalize and think that when we are with church people we live to a different standard than when we are with our family or our friends or our co-workers. God is present in all of life, and all of life matters. A holy God must punish sin. Jesus calls us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48). Lest we think this is limited to the Old Testament, Ephesians tells believers that we were chosen in him “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (1:4). Peter cites Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2, 20:7, 26 and applies it to believers.

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

The goal for believers in Jesus is to become holy. Leviticus helps us to see what that even means, and it helps us understand how that happens.

Imperative Follows Indicative

Our holiness is always only a response that flows out of our sins being covered by sacrifice. We don’t strive to be holy in hopes that God will recognize our effort and accept us. We approach God through sacrifice that covers sin, because we aren’t neutral, we start out sinful. Then, because our sins have been covered, this creates in us a desire to please him in all things. It is fascinating to note that the outline of Leviticus looks a lot like the outline of many of the New Testament letters. They begin by proclaiming the good news of Christ, who met our need, washed us clean, set us free, made us whole, and then as a result of the gospel transformation that God works in us, this births an outflow of practical holiness that permeates all of life. The imperatives, the commands to live a certain way always follow and flow out of the indicatives, the statements of what God has done for us. Romans begins with 11 chapters of the good news of what God has done for us, and then concludes with 5 chapters that give us instruction on how to live in response to the truth of the gospel. Ephesians chapters 1-3 give us a rich overflow gospel indicatives, proclaiming what God has done, and then concludes with 3 chapters of practical instruction, imperatives that naturally flow as fruit out of the deep root of gospel transformation. If we look back at the broad outline of Leviticus, we see it begins with sacrifices that allow us to approach God, with who is qualified to offer those sacrifices, with what sacrifices address which specific issue of sin or uncleanness, and then the book concludes with practical instructions on how to live holy lives as those who have been forgiven by a gracious God.

It is my prayer that as we study Leviticus, we would deepen in our appreciation for the gospel, that we would increase in our hatred of sin, and it would birth in us a desire to please and glorify God in all of life.

Exodus Review

Let’s look at the first verses of Leviticus.

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

The title in of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible comes from the first word of the Hebrew text: ‘wayyiqra‘; it means ‘and he called’. Leviticus begins with waw-consecutive; which means that the first syllable of the first word is a conjunction. How often have you picked up a book to read, and the first word on the first page is ‘And’? What would you do? I would turn back a few pages to see if I missed something, turn the book over to see if this is the second book in a series, because a conjunction like ‘and’ usually connects with something that went before. This is true of Leviticus. The ‘and’ is an indicator that Leviticus continues the story from the last paragraph of Exodus. So it will serve us well, as it has been several years since we studied Exodus, to use our remaining time to review Exodus to locate ourselves in the story. Exodus, of course, follows Genesis, so maybe we should begin at the beginning.

Genesis begins with God, who has always been there, creating everything that is. Everything he creates is good. He creates man to reflect his character to all creation, to rule under him, to be in relationship with him, but man rebels. Man brings sin and its ugly consequences into God’s perfect creation. But rather than immediately destroy rebellious mankind, God promises a rescue. Mankind gets worse and worse, to the point where God washes the earth clean with a flood, but shows grace to Noah and his family, and preserves them through the global catastrophe. Again mankind gets worse, but God extends grace to Abram, makes outrageous promises of land and descendants to this childless migrant, and promises to make him a blessing to all the nations of the earth. God gives him a son in his old age, his son Isaac has a son Jacob, and Jacob has 12 boys who become the 12 tribes of Israel. This family is a mess, with rival wives and favoritism to the point where the brothers gang up on the youngest and plot to kill him but instead sell him as a slave and lie about it. Famine strikes the land, so they move to Egypt, where God has providentially placed their younger brother to provide for them.

Fast forward 400 years, and we get to Exodus. They are now slaves in Egypt, cruelly oppressed by a tyrant king, and God hears their groaning and comes to their rescue.

Chapters 1-14 explain God’s redemption of his people, setting them free from slavery and destroying their enemies. Chapters 15-18 show God’s care for his people, providing for their every need in the wilderness, in spite of their constant grumbling. Chapters 19-24 outline God’s covenant with his people, explaining what it means for him to be their God and for them to be his people. Chapters 25-40 show God’s presence with his people, how he comes to live among them.

The focus of the entire book of Exodus is God’s presence with his people. God saved his people from slavery, cared for his people in the wilderness, entered into covenant relationship with his people, so that he could dwell in the midst of his people. The last section, chapters 25-40, culminating with God’s presence with his people, is broken in half with chapters 32-34, which recount the covenant treason of the people who worship a golden bull idol and break all of God’s laws, and Moses’ prayer of intercession for the people. God with mercy upon mercy renews his covenant with his people. The first half, chapters 25-31, detail God’s instructions for the construction of his tent in the midst of the camp, the tabernacle. The last half, chapters 35-39, recount the faithful, precise obedience of the people following the commands of the Lord down to every detail. This demonstrates the total, complete forgiveness and restoration that God graciously extended to his undeserving but broken and repentant people. Chapters 35-39 read as if nothing had ever happened. The book of Exodus ends with the tabernacle set up according to God’s instruction at the foot of Mount Sinai, and the glory cloud of God’s presence filling the tabernacle in the middle of his people.

This is where Leviticus begins. A stiff necked disobedient, complaining people, prone to wander, and God’s holy presence in the middle of their camp. God’s presence with his people is dangerous. And

Leviticus 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, …

Leviticus is the account of God speaking to Moses from the Tabernacle, giving him specific instructions on how he is to be approached by his people. This phrase ‘The LORD spoke to Moses’ permeates the book, occurring some 37 times. Leviticus, in the most literal sense of the term, is God’s word to his people.

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

It is my prayer that this increases your affections for Jesus, the one who loves sinners so much that he goes to the cross as a sacrifice for us, the one who forgives even the worst offenses. I pray that if you see yourself today as a sinner, you would approach God through the once for all sacrifice of Jesus and find forgiveness and acceptance and freedom.

I pray that this would empower you to loathe sin, to recognize your relationship with God as a weighty matter, to rightly value your relationship with him and as an overflow of his transforming grace in your life, to pursue holiness.

I pray that this would whet your appetite and made you hungry – hungry for more of God’s word.

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

April 10, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Names of Jesus

03/27 Names of Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160327_names-of-jesus.mp3

This is Resurrection Sunday. It is a day to celebrate Jesus, the victory Jesus accomplished on the cross, the triumph of the empty tomb. As we have been studying who God is, and last week we looked at some of the names of God, I thought it would be fitting this week to look at some of the names of Jesus. Who is Jesus? This is such an important question. This is an eternity altering question. Who is Jesus? Paul warned in 2 Corinthians 11:4 of those who preach another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel. Jesus himself warned of false christs who would lead others astray (Mt.24:24; Mk.13:22). We want to know Jesus, Jesus as he really is, as he reveals himself to be. One way to learn about Jesus is to look at the names he is given. There are something like 200 names and titles given to Jesus in the Scriptures. We will only scratch the surface of who Jesus is today, but it is my prayer that by looking at Jesus, we will deepen in our affection and appreciation and worship of him.

The Word, The Only Son, Immanuel

At the beginning of John’s gospel, Jesus is introduced to us by a different name.

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. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jesus is the Word. The Word, The Logos, the Divine expression, divine reason. Before anything was made, Jesus the Word was in the beginning with God. He was distinct from God, in relationship with God the Father; ‘the Word was with God.’ And Jesus is of the same Divine nature as his Father; ‘the Word was God.’ Jesus, the Word, is the Creator of all that is. Jesus the Word has life in himself; he is the living one.

John continues in verse 14:

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. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus the Word was not flesh. He was invisible Spirit from all eternity with his Father. He became flesh at a moment in history and dwelt among us. He became human. He is the only God who is at his Father’s side. He is the Word, the self-expression of God. Jesus is the one who makes God known.

The Only Son [μονογενής]

Jesus is the only Son from the Father. Jesus has an exclusive unique relationship with his Father. The word in John 1:14 and 18, and John 3:16 and 18, as well as 1 John 4:9 is μονογενής the only Son, or only begotten, the one and only, the unique Son. John 3:16 says:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

1 John 4:9 says

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

Jesus is the μονογενής, the one and only. He is the Son, in unique, eternal, and unparalleled relationship with his Father.

Immanuel – God With Us

In Matthew 1 we find another name, this one drawn from the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel(which means, God with us).

Jesus is the virgin born Son, and his name is Immanuel, God with us.

Alpha and Omega

In Revelation 22, when Jesus says he is coming soon, he claims:

Revelation 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, or the A to Z, in the words of Isaiah 43:10 “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” and 44:6 “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”

These names speak of who Jesus is, his nature, his essence. He is the Word who was with God and was God, the Creator, the Eternal One, the Alpha and Omega, the One and Only Unique Son of the Father, Immanuel, God with us.

Anointed, Messiah, Christ

Psalm 2 tells us of YHWH, the Lord, and his Anointed.

Psalm 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, … (cf. Acts 4:26)

In Acts 4 the disciples apply this title, the Anointed, to Jesus. In Hebrew this is Meshiak, or Messiah. In Isaiah 61, we see the verbal form of this word:

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; (cf. Luke 4:18)

Jesus applies this Scripture to himself in Luke 4. In John 1, when Andrew persuades his brother Simon to follow Jesus, he says “We have found the Messiah (which means Christ)” (Jn.1:41). When Jesus is speaking to the woman in Samaria,

John 4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

In Matthew 16, Peter responds to Jesus’ question ‘who do you say that I am?’ with the confession “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt.16:16). In Acts, the disciples ‘did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.’ (Acts 5:42). Jesus is God’s Anointed one, the Messiah in Hebrew, the Christ in Greek.

Son of David

God made a promise to David in 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 7:11 …the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

This sounds a lot like Solomon, David’s son, who built the temple in Jerusalem, but if you read this carefully, this is much bigger than Solomon. Solomon’s kingdom was not established forever. In fact, as a consequence of Solomon’s idolatry the kingdom was torn from him and divided under his son Rehoboam, (1Ki.11-12).

In Isaiah 9, we find the promise of a child to be born, a son to be given who will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The government will be on his shoulder, and we are told:

Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

And when the angel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary he used the language of this promise to point to Jesus.

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

When the people saw the miraculous signs done by Jesus, they asked “Can this be the Son of David?” (Mt.12:23). When Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds were shouting ““Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mt.21:9). Jesus affirmed their ascription of this title to himself, but it is worth noting that he pushed on their expectation and understanding of this title. In Matthew 22, Jesus challenged their thinking,

Matthew 22:42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (cf. Psalm 110:1)

Jesus is not denying that the Christ is the physical descendant of David. But he is challenging their thinking that the Christ is merely another human king in the lineage of David. If this were the case, why would David refer to him in Psalm 110 as ‘my Lord’? It would be awkward for David to refer to Solomon or Rehoboam as ‘my Lord’. Jesus is physically descended from the blood line of David, but the Scriptures indicate that he is greater than David; he is David’s Lord.

The Lord

Mark begins his gospel introducing

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” (cf. Isaiah 40:3)

John is the fulfillment of Isaiah 40, preparing the way of the Lord. What is interesting about this name “Lord” is that when we look back at Isaiah, we read “prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Is.40:3). Prepare the way of YHWH; make straight a highway for our Elohim. This title ‘Lord’ is connecting the Old Testament terms YHWH and Elohim to Jesus.

When Saul is blinded and knocked down and hears a voice from heaven, he said:

Acts 26:15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

The Lord from heaven is Jesus. In Acts 2, Peter declares:

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ …36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Peter is quoting Joel 2:32, ‘everyone who calls on the name of YHWH’. This is the basis for Paul’s statement in Romans 10

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Jesus is YHWH, the Lord, the Son of David, the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. He is the prophet who is to come, who will speak the words of the Lord (Acts 3:22-23; Deut 18:15-19; Jn.6:14; 7:40). He is our Great High Priest, our one Mediator between God and man (Heb.4:14; 1Tim.2:5). He is our King, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tim.6:15; Rev.19:11-16).

Son of Man

Out of all the names of Jesus, the way Jesus most often referred to himself is ‘the Son of Man’. This title is found 81 times in the gospels, always on the lips of Jesus. In comparison, the title ‘Son of God’ is used 26 times, and all but 4 of those are someone else referring to Jesus; Satan, demons, the Pharisees, the centurion, an angel, or his disciples.

In response to the interrogation of the high priest asking if he was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed, the Son of God, Jesus responded:

Matthew 26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

This name is taken from Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days seated on his throne of judgment at the end of time in Daniel 7

Daniel 7:9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 ​A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.

Then in verse 13,

Daniel 7:13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 ​And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

This one like the Son of Man was given everlasting dominion by the Ancient of Days to rule over all the peoples of the earth. He came with the clouds of heaven. This is how Jesus describes himself under oath to the high priest; “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” This one like a Son of Man speaks of his kingdom authority seated at the right hand of his Father on high, ruling all the kingdoms of the earth, but it also speaks of his humanity, his humility, his identity with mankind. Jesus is God from all eternity, but he became a man. He became one of us. He stooped down to identify with us. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not; being very God, he took on flesh and became a man.

Jesus of Nazareth; Nazarene

In Matthew 2, we are told:

Matthew 2:23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

In the ancient world, people were often distinguished from other people of the same name by their hometown. Although born in Bethlehem, Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth in Galilee.

John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Nazareth apparently had a reputation. Nothing good comes out of Nazareth. No prophet arises from Galilee (Jn.7:41, 52). Jesus was despised and rejected. Jesus came to the outcasts. Jesus identified with the nobodies.

Cornerstone, Stone of Stumbling, Rock of Offense

Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22 to the chief priests and Pharisees.

Luke 20:17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Jesus is the cornerstone, but he is also a rejected stone. Peter connects this imagery with Isaiah 8 and 28.

1 Peter 2:6 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.” (cf. Is.28:16) 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.” (cf. Is.8:14)…

Paul writes to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

Peter declares before the Jewish leaders:

Acts 4:10 …by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—… 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

There is no other name but the name of Jesus by which we must be saved.

Savior / Jesus

The angel announced to the outcast shepherds in the hills outside of Bethlehem:

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Jesus is a savior to outcasts. In Matthew 1, the angel connects this role with his name Jesus.

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus means YHWH Saves. He came to rescue sinners. Broken. Needy. To those who think they are fine on their own, they find him to be a Stone of Stumbling, a Rock of Offense, nothing good, despised and rejected. But to those who know they need him he is a Rock, a Sure Foundation, the Cornerstone, Salvation.

The Resurrection / Firstborn from the Dead

Jesus tells a dear friend grieving the loss of her brother:

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

Jesus claims to be the resurrection. He told his disciples on multiple occasions that he would be betrayed, suffer, be crucified, and that he would rise again. Colossians 1 and Revelation 1 calls Jesus the Firstborn from the Dead. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul ties the resurrection of Christ the Firstfruits to our hope of resurrection

The Name Above All Names

Jesus humbled himself even to the humiliation of death on a cross.

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is the name above every name. Every knee will bow one day to Jesus.

Do You Know Him?

I want to close today with a story from the book of Acts. In Acts 19, extraordinary things were being done in the name of Jesus.

Acts 19:13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?

We have looked at a few of the many names of Jesus today. We have seen something of who he is. But it is very dangerous to know something about Jesus, and not know Jesus. These Jewish exorcists knew of Jesus, and attempted to use his name. But they didn’t know Jesus, and it didn’t end well for them. There is power in the name of Jesus, but you must know Jesus, you must be known by him, you must be in relationship with him. Do you know him? You must know him as Lord and God, as the Only Son of the Father, as King of kings, as your Anointed Prophet, Priest and King. You must experience him as Rock and Redeemer, as your Savior, as your Resurrection and your Life. To know of Jesus and not to know him is probably the most tragic place to be. I pray that none of us will ever hear those terrible words from the mouth of our Lord: ‘I never knew you’.

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

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Be Happy (Psalm 1)

01/03 How to Be Happy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160103_be-happy.mp3

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

The Pursuit of Happiness

It is not just an American thing to pursue happiness. We all want to be happy. We all endeavor to pursue our own happiness. That is part of what it is to be human. We bought Satan’s lie and bit the fruit in the first place because we saw that it ‘was good for food, …a delight to the eyes, , and …to be desired to make one wise’ (Gen.3:6). We want to be happy. We eat lots of sweets because we want to be happy. We try to eat healthier because we want to be happy. We lounge around and watch TV because we are seeking happiness. We decide to exercise more because we want to be happy. We indulge in great pleasures, we make great sacrifices, all in pursuit of our own happiness.

I thought it would be fitting, at the beginning of this new year, to preach on how to be happy. It is not wrong for us to desire happiness. We are wired for pleasure. God designed eyes with the ability to perceive color and texture and depth and beauty. God created taste buds capable of savoring all varieties and complexities of flavors from salt to sweet to bitter to sour. He created ears that could delight in beautiful melodies. He gave us a nose that can appreciate savory aromas. God saturated our skin with nerve endings that respond to touch and warmth and sensation. God made us with the capacity to experience a rich complexity of emotions. God placed mankind in a garden of delights and he blessed them and said be fruitful, multiply, fill, subdue, exercise good authority, enjoy. God holds out to us the prospect of happiness. He invites us to pursue happiness. The book of Psalms begin with the word ‘happy’, and the word ‘happy’ occurs 25 more times throughout the Psalms. Most English translations render it ‘blessed’, although there is another Hebrew word that more properly means ‘blessed’.

What we are talking about is a happiness that is substantial. This is not empty frivolity, but settled joy; happy in the richest, deepest, most lasting sense. Happiness that satisfies the longings of our soul at the deepest level.

So what does the Bible say about how to be happy? How should we pursue our happiness in such a way that we taste it and enjoy it and it lasts? How do we pursue happiness in a way that it is not continually just out of reach, that it does not, as so often happens, slip through our fingers?

Look with me at Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Three Paths to Death

This Psalm starts in the negative; telling us three things that do not bring happiness. That which is morally wrong does not bring happiness. That which is offensive to God does not bring happiness. Happiness is not found in pride, scorning, mocking, or looking down at others. Getting advice from those who are morally bankrupt will never bring the happiness we desire. Fixing yourself in the path of resistance to God will never satisfy. Proud looking down at others will never bring true joy.

We say, ‘of course, who would embrace a wicked, sinful, prideful lifestyle as a means to happiness?’ The reason this Psalm lays out these three things as paths that do not lead to genuine happiness is because these are three places we naturally seek happiness in. Is there not something within us, when we see the ‘no admittance, danger keep out, do not touch’ sign, that thinks that pleasure is found in that which is forbidden? This was the first seed of doubt planted by the snake in the garden; ‘Did God really withhold a pleasure from you?’ Or do we not look around and ask ourselves ‘why do the wicked prosper’ (Ps.73:3)? You can’t really make it in the world without bending the rules, stretching the truth, cutting some corners. Do we not, in our minds, or among our friends, criticize others, point out their flaws, their shortcomings, and think that we are just a bit better than they? The Psalm warns us because these are paths we often take. That which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which inflates self, these are not paths to the joy we seek.

The Path to Life

The Psalm warns against three paths that do not lead to happiness, but only one that brings true joy. That is the law of the Lord; the Torah, the instruction, the direction of the Lord. This is inclusive of all God has said to us, all God’s instruction, all his Word. What we know as the Bible is the collection of all God’s instruction to us. The counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, the seat of scoffers all lead to ruin, but the instruction of the Lord leads to lasting happiness.

Notice our response to God’s word determines our eternal happiness. The one who is happy delights in God’s instruction. John Calvin wrote “that forced or servile obedience is not at all acceptable to God, and that those only are worthy students of the law who come to it with a cheerful mind, and are so delighted with its instructions, as to account nothing more desirable or delicious than to make progress therein …all who are truly actuated by love to the law must feel pleasure in the diligent study of it.” Grudging or obligatory attention to God’s word is empty. We may take medicine because we are supposed to, and we hope that it will be good for us, but it tastes terrible. We plug our nose and swallow the pill. It is distasteful, but good for us. God’s truth is not like that.

Psalm 19 describes God’s word as “pure, reviving the soul; …sure, making wise the simple; …right, rejoicing the heart; …pure, enlightening the eyes; …clean, enduring forever; …true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. … in keeping them there is great reward.” (v.7-11)

Psalm 119 says:

Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 34 says:

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 139 says:

Psalm 139:17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

God’s word is precious, good, sweet, rewarding, valuable, more to be desired, reviving, rejoicing, enlightening. The one who finds true happiness finds God’s word as a treasure, as a pleasure, as delicious, as a delight. The one who is happy views God’s instruction with delight.

Notice also, the one who would be truly happy meditates on the words of God. Taste, take time to enjoy, savor, pay attention to, focus on, study, speak it, mutter it, muse on it, memorize it, turn it over and over and over.

My kids eat candy as if it were a race. Like a pack of insatiable piranhas they are attracted by the scent of sweets. They descend ravenously on the bag of M&M’s that was just opened, and sometimes when its over, I wonder if some of the wrapper got consumed in the frenzy. I don’t think they taste it at all. It seems the goal is to ingest as much sugar as possible in the shortest amount of time possible. I wish they attacked their chores like that! Don’t read God’s word like that. I want to warn you, that is a danger with Bible reading plans. Reading plans are good, they are helpful, and I would encourage you to read intentionally, with a plan. But the danger lies in it becoming a chore, a box to check off, a task to accomplish, something to get through and finish, something you feel bad about if you get behind, or you feel good about yourself if you keep up, a conquest. Don’t read God’s word merely to get through it. Slow down. Savor. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Enjoy him!

Spurgeon said “The inward meditation is the thing that makes the soul rich towards God. This is the godly man’s occupation. Put the spice into the mortar by reading, beat it with the pestle of meditation—so shall the sweet perfume be exhaled.” [Spurgeon, Ps1:1-3, # 3270]

Meditation is a process that cannot be hurried or rushed through. Eliminate distractions. Focus your attention. Think. Ponder. Muse. Prayerfully consider. Savor. Take time to enjoy. Delight yourself in the instruction of the Lord. Meditate on it day and night.

A Tree Planted

The Psalm compares the person who delights in and meditates on God’s word with a tree planted.

Psalm 1

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

He is compared to a tree, not a vegetable or a grain or a shrub. This is one who stands the test of time, one who has staying power, one who lasts. This is a tree planted. It is not a wild tree, an unplanned tree, a volunteer. This is a cultivated tree, carefully selected, intentionally placed by a wise gardener. Jesus said:

Matthew 15:13 …“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.

This is a tree planted by streams of water. Not in a desert. Not by a stagnant pool, not by a wadi or wash that fills with water during a rain and is dry the rest of the time. This speaks of intentional consistent irrigation. This is a tree that yields its fruit in season. This is not a decorative tree, or a shade tree. This is a fruit bearing tree. It is a cultivated tree, intended to be productive. Fruit trees are beautiful and good for shade, but their main purpose is to bear fruit. Jesus said:

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. …8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Fruit bearing is directly proportional to abiding, delighting, meditating. The fruitful tree is nourished by the word. A tree without adequate water supply will wither. The one who day and night drinks in the word will not wither.

This is the happiness that comes from a purpose realized. In all that he does he prospers. He advances, makes progress, is profitable. This is not the empty happiness of fleeting pleasures. This is the enduring happiness of a purpose fulfilled, the enjoyment that comes from knowing what you were made for, being who you were created to be, doing what you were meant to do. This is the substantial satisfaction of being fruitful.

The Wicked are Not So

The contrast is drawn between the happy one who delights in and meditates on the truth of God’s word and the wicked. Notice, by the way, there is no third category. There is no category for nominal, complacent, comfortable, non-abiding, non-fruitful trees. There are those who treasure God’s word, and the wicked.

Psalm 1

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

After grain is harvested, it is beaten and winnowed out to separate the kernel of grain from the chaff. Chaff is the useless husk that surrounds the grain. The contrast could not be more stark. On the one hand, a firmly planted well nourished fruitful tree, and on the other hand, the empty husk of grain blown by the wind. There is the one with purpose, rooted, alive, thriving, growing, productive, and there is the lifeless empty shell. What a description of a life with no purpose, with no joy. A mere empty husk blown away by the wind.

The Way of the Righteous

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The one who is rooted in God’s word, nourished and satisfied, the one who delights in the Lord, knows that there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:10, 23). But the righteousness of God has been manifested, not a righteousness that comes from keeping the commandments, but a righteousness the entire scriptures point to, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom.3:21-22), the righteousness of Christ that is counted to us, credited to us as a gift (Rom.4). By the obedience of Christ we are made righteous (Rom.5:18-19). The Lord knows the way of the righteous. The only path to a righteousness that pleases God is the sinner humbly trusting God to credit us with a righteousness not our own, the righteousness of Christ.

There are 25 other places in the Psalms where we are declared to be happy. Those who are truly happy are:

those who delight in the instruction of the Lord (1:1 cf. Prov.3:13; 8:32, 34; 29:18)

those who trust in the Lord (2:12; 34:8; 40:4; 84:12; cf. Prov.16:20)

those whose God is the Lord (33:12; 144:15 (x2); 146:5)

those who enjoy the presence of the Lord (65:4; 89:15)

those whose strength is the Lord (84:5)

those who fear the Lord (112:1; 128:1-2; cf. Prov.28:14)

those who are forgiven (32:1-2)

those who are disciplined by the Lord (94:12)

those who do righteousness (106:3; 119:1-2; cf. Prov.20:7)

those who consider the poor (41:1; cf. Prov.14:21)

those who enjoy their children (127:5)

those who execute God’s judgment (137:8-9)

Known By the Lord

The Lord knows the way of the righteous. Those who are justified, declared righteous, credited with the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus, are known by the Lord. The Lord know those who are his (2Tim.2:19). Those whose delight is in the word of God, who meditate on it day and night, are characterized by an intimacy with God. They are known by God.

Would you find real happiness? Do not seek it in that which is morally wrong, that which is offensive to God, that which looks down at others in pride. Do not listen to the counsel of unbelievers or follow their ways. Seek the righteousness that comes by faith in the finished work of Christ. Delight yourself in the Lord, in his word, treasure it, savor it, meditate on it, draw from it your nourishment day and night.

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

January 3, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment