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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 3:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves

07/18_Daniel 03:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210718_dan03_1-12.mp3

Daniel 2 showed us the bankruptcy of human wisdom and even the dark arts. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon, and they were powerless to unravel the king’s mystery. They are more inclined to tell him what is expedient, to use flattery, to preserve their positions, than to tell him the truth.

Now we see in chapter 3 the bankruptcy of human government. Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold. God has given him authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all’ (2:38). The head of gold gathers all those he has set up to rule under him; “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces”; this list becomes comical in its sheer length and its repetition. These are representatives from all “peoples, nations, and languages” and they all buckle under the great pressure and threat of consequences; they all compromise to preserve their own skin. They act out of jealousy and self-interest; not the good of the people they are responsible to serve. They all, including Nebuchadnezzar, allow pride and preservation of position to eclipse simply doing what is right.

The Image of Gold; Opposition to God’s Revelation

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 2, God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the future of Gentile dominion, and what would happen after these things with ‘a great image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, frightening’ (2:31). After the head of gold would come three other empires represented by metals of descending value but increasing strength, followed by a divided kingdom. A divine stone would impact and obliterate all human kingdoms, crushing them to powder that the wind blew away, and God will establish his kingdom that will have no end.

In response to this, maybe even in proud opposition to this vision from God, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a massive image 9 feet wide and 90 feet tall that is gold from head to foot. He is saying as it were, my kingdom will last forever. My dominion will not decline or be given to another. My kingdom will never be crushed, never fall. He calls for allegiance to this statue as a symbolic act to unify his empire and rally all his people around an experience of worship.

Daniel had acknowledged God as the one who ‘removes kings and sets up kings’ (2:21), and he made it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that ‘the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory’ into his hand (2:37). Here Nebuchadnezzar is saying that he is the one who sets up gods for his people to worship, and that he can give life or take life away from those who refuse to bow.

The Plain in Shinar; Place of Opposition to God

The location of this statue is telling. It is on the plain, in the province of Babylon. In chapter 1, the author calls Babylon ‘the land of Shinar’ (1:2). This links all the way back to Genesis 11.

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

We were created in the image of the invisible God, to enjoy relationship with him and bring glory to his name. Instead we desire to make a name for ourselves, to get glory for ourselves, to establish a monument and create a legacy that will last forever.

On the plain in the land of Shinar, the people united in rebellion against God and his glory, God and his word. God had commanded man to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen.1:26-28). Instead they came together so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the whole earth as God intended.

Genesis 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The tower of Babel was intended to bring together all mankind united in rebellion against God. In that unity, nothing they proposed to do would be impossible for them, but it would not be for the glory of God and the good of others; they do it all to get glory for themselves, to make a name for themselves in opposition to God and his word.

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the same geographic location had the same purpose. In fact, he intended to reverse the confusion of Babel by bringing back together ‘people, nations and languages’ that the Lord had dispersed, to unite them all in worship before his image of gold.

Inclusive Worship of the Image

Daniel 3:2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Note what Nebuchadnezzar is not asking. He is not demanding that all peoples, nations and languages renounce their own gods and exclusively worship his. But he is requiring that they acknowledge his god alongside theirs. In chapter 2, he was willing to acknowledge Daniel’s God as God of gods and Lord of kings without renouncing his own gods. He is requiring the same of all his subjects. It is fine if you worship your own gods, as long as you will also acknowledge mine. Nebuchadnezzar commands under penalty of death that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship the golden image that he has set up.

The Manipulative Power of Music

Notice what he utilizes to initiate the worship of this image? ‘When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music.’ Some have commented that this bizarre combination of instruments would produce a cacophony of sound, but I don’t think so. Nebuchadnezzar understood the emotive and persuasive power of music skillfully played to manipulate a response from an audience. The image he had made was visually awe inspiring and impressive, and the strategically diverse ensemble was meant to elicit an emotional response from the people. The combination of sight and sound, of threat and hope, of uniting with such an unbelievably great and diverse crowd around something great would be almost irresistible.

And it worked!

Daniel 3:7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

We need to be careful with this. Music is a gift of God. Music is powerful. But music skillfully played at just the right time and in just the right way can manipulate the emotions of people. It persuaded a multitude from diverse backgrounds to fall down and worship an image. Music combined with fog machines and colored lights can create an atmosphere of sight and sound that is powerful and persuasive, and draw people in, whether they believe in Jesus or not.

Paul said, not in the context of music, but in the context of human oratory and eloquence that could please the ear in a similar way;

2 Corinthians 4:2 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.

I think it is right and biblical to use instruments in worship of God (Ps.150:3-6). Even loud music and clashing cymbals can be appropriate in worship to God. But we need to be careful that we are not coming to be entertained, to be moved, to be awed by the band and the special effects. We must be careful that we are not using music and visual stimulation to manipulate an emotional response. We ought to be singing because God has genuinely changed our hearts, and we ought to be standing and singing in awe of him, who he is, and his grace, what he has done.

Music is powerful, and it can be used to move ‘all the peoples, nations, and languages’ to fall down and worship ‘the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.’ All but three young men that is.

Jealousy of Position

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

At the end of chapter 2 we saw that because Daniel upstaged all the ‘wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers’ of Babylon, he was appointed ‘ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (2:48-49).

Now the hearts of the Chaldeans are exposed. They ‘maliciously accused the Jews’. They were full of resentment and jealousy toward these foreigners who had been appointed to positions of authority over them. They were watching, looking for opportunity to accuse the Jews. They were even bold enough to be critical of the king’s decisions; ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon…’

If we look ahead to chapter 6, where Daniel is thrown to the lions, we are told that the jealous leaders conspired to arrange circumstances to entrap Daniel and have him removed. Although we are not told, we could imagine that a similar thing could have happened here; the king’s counselors inflating his ego, encouraging the king to make the image and to institute the death penalty for conscientious objectors, knowing that the Jews were expressly forbidden to bow to any image.

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,…

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew God’s commands. They feared God more even than the threats of the king.

Deuteronomy 6:13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Made to Worship

Although we were made to worship, made to supremely enjoy the one true God, our hearts are sinfully inclined to worship lesser things. We tend to suppress the truth. We exchange the glory of the immortal and invisible God for images resembling visible mortal man. We fail to honor him as God or give him thanks.

Like the Chaldeans, we value our own position, our own promotion, our own exaltation more than God. And we are willing to push others down if that will give us opportunity to advance. We want to be in places of power, we want to be honored. Like the people on the plain of Shinar, we want to make a name for ourselves.

But at the cross, the power of sin was broken. We can be free from our selfish desires. We are set free to look up, not to aspire but to adore. When we see God for who he is, we are set free from the pursuit of self-promotion, from seeking the approval of others. We can be free to forget ourselves and humbly worship the only one who is worthy. We were made to worship, and we find our greatest fulfillment when we pursue the glory of God in all we do.

***

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

July 23, 2021 Posted by | podcast, Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:46-49; The Marks of True Conversion

07/11_Daniel 02:46-49; The Marks of True Conversion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210711_dan02_46-49.mp3

Daniel 2 shows the bankruptcy of the wise men of Babylon. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans and demanded they not only give him the interpretation to his dream, but also tell him the dream that he dreamed. They responded…

Daniel 2:10 …“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

But when the executioner came to inform Daniel of his impending doom, Daniel approached the king requesting time to seek an interpretation, and he called on his three friends “to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” (2:18).

God answered their prayers and revealed the mystery to Daniel, who responded with worship, a song of praise to the God who “changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (2:21). So Daniel was brought before the king.

Daniel 2:26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

Daniel was careful to deflect attention from himself to God. The king asked ‘are you able?’ and Daniel responded ‘no, nobody can; there is nothing in me, but there is a God in heaven.’ He stood in humility before the king and gave all glory to God.

He told the king that God had made known to the king what will be in the latter days. Starting with king Nebuchadnezzar, there would be four kingdoms of Gentile dominion, kingdoms descending in value, but increasing in strength, but the final form of the final kingdom would be a divided kingdom, a marriage of the strength of iron with the fragility of potter’s clay. And a stone of supernatural origin would impact the kingdoms of this world and obliterate them so no trace is left.

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

Nebuchadnezzar was thinking of what would be after this, how long his kingdom would last, what would come next, and God gave him a comprehensive vision extending to the end of all human kingdoms and the establishment of the messianic kingdom that will endure forever.

Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years, and after he died, the Babylonian empire declined, changing hands through assassinations, only lasting another 23 years, when it fell to the Medo-Persians. The Medo-Persian empire fell to the Greeks in 331 BC, and the Greeks were conquered by the Romans in 146 BC.

It almost seems that Nebuchadnezzar stopped listening after Daniel said ‘you are the head of gold’. ‘Oh yes I am! The head, the top, the pinnacle, the greatest of all. Gold, most precious, most valuable, most glorious. I’m really pretty great, aren’t I? Wait, is Daniel still talking? Blah blah blah…’

Today we are going to look at king Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the obviously supernatural revelation of his dream and the interpretation, both given to Daniel and his three friends who prayed.

Response; Worship?

Daniel 2:46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him.

This is immediately troubling. We could think of Peter at the Gentile Cornelius’ house,

Acts 10:25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.”

Or we could think of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14, when the people of Lystra thought they were Zeus and Hermes and tried to make sacrifices to them,

Acts 14:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

We are quick to ask the question ‘why did Daniel not object to these acts of worship by Nebuchadnezzar?’

But we are not told how Daniel responded. The silence of the narrative could be interpreted to mean that Daniel did not raise any objection, or it could be that Daniel did object, but this was left out because it didn’t contribute to the main point of the narrative. If Daniel did not object, it could have been because he understood that what Nebuchadnezzar was doing was intended to honor the God that Daniel represented. What is already abundantly clear from the passage is that Daniel was humble and eager to deflect any glory from himself to God.

Acknowledging God

And if we read on, we see that Nebuchadnezzar is acknowledging Daniel’s God, not worshiping Daniel.

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

Through the buildup of the utter failure of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon; through their declaration that ‘There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand’ and that ‘no one can show it to the king except the gods’; through Daniel’s own admission that ‘No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked’, Nebuchadnezzar becomes aware that ‘there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.’ And the head of gold falls prostrate, on his face before the kingdom crushing stone.

Your God is God of gods

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Daniel’s God. He has witnessed the evidence, the failure of his own gods, and the faithfulness of Daniel’s God. He acknowledges ‘Truly your God is God of gods.’ My gods Bel, Nebo, Aku have failed to do anything. Daniel, your God is supreme over my gods. Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t yet own Daniel’s God as his own God, but he has been confronted with the evidence, and is forced to bow his knees to a God who is supreme over any other god that he has known.

This is an important step. To realize that there is a God in heaven, a God above and outside of the gods that he had known, that he was brought up to honor. To acknowledge that there is a difference, a distinction. Daniel’s God is not merely the same god under a different name. No, Daniel’s God is above and superior to and sovereign over the gods of Babylon. Daniel’s God is powerful.

We said earlier that this exile, this captivity was no accident, no tragedy out of the control of the all sovereign God. Daniel and his three friends were sent by God on mission to the nations, to infiltrate the highest offices of the most powerful nation, to be a blessing, to seek the good of the nations, to point them to the one true God. And here we see this happening. The head of gold on his face before the Rock of Ages!

Lord of Kings

Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges Daniel’s God as God of gods, and also as Lord of kings. Back in verse 37-38, Daniel addressed the king as:

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Assyria, Egypt, Israel. The kings of other kingdoms had become subject to him. He exercised authority as king over the kings of other nations. But Daniel plainly confronted him with the fact that this was a given authority. God had entrusted this authority to him. And here the king of kings bows to the Lord of kings. Even the highest of human authorities, even the king of kings is subject to the Lord of kings. There is a God in heaven who is sovereign over all who hold any authority on this earth. And the kings of the nations would do well to bow to the Lord of kings.

Revealer of Mysteries

Daniel’s God is sovereign over every other so-called god, he is Master over every other position of authority, and he is a revealer of secrets.

This is what got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention. God gave supernatural evidence of his reality. God revealed a secret that no man could know, that not even the false gods could see into and reveal to their followers. Supernatural evidence of God’s reality got Nebuchadnezzar’s attention, and he responded in a dramatic display of worship, falling on his face, offering incense, and as we see in the next verses, giving financially, promoting Daniel and his friends to positions of high honor.

Marks of True Conversion?

But here’s the question; is this true conversion? Is worship of the one true God evidence of genuine conversion? Is acknowledging the fact that God is sovereign over other gods and over every authority the mark of a transformed heart? Is giving generously and honoring believers evidence of true faith? Is responding to supernatural signs in outwardly dramatic ways a sure sign of a believing heart?

I would argue no. In the next chapter, Nebuchadnezzar erects an image and demands that all his officials of every nationality fall down and worship this image. No true believer in the one true God would demand worship of any image. We know that chapter 3 follows chapter 2 chronologically, not only by its placement in the book, but by the fact that in chapter 3, the king had previously appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ‘over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (3:12; cf 2:49).

We must exercise caution in drawing conclusions about someone’s heart. Just because we see someone listen to the word of God, confess belief in the existence of God, perceive the supernatural presence of God, sing praises, even raise hands in worship to the one true God and give generously to God, we must not jump to the conclusion that they have become genuine followers of God. Many people go to church, sing songs of worship, experience genuine emotions of awe and worship, and are unconverted. Many people are impressed by God’s works, by the miraculous and the supernatural, and respond in some way with an expression of worship, but it falls short of true conversion.

Nebuchadnezzar responded in some of these ways, but his heart wasn’t changed. In a rage he throws genuine believers into a furnace of fire because they refused to bow down to his image or serve his gods. He may have bowed his knees to the one true God in response to supernatural evidence, but he had not yet turned away from serving his own gods. He was willing to add another Deity to his pantheon of gods, but he was not yet willing to repent, to turn from his gods, to renounce them as false and turn exclusively to the one true God.

He was willing to be inclusive, to include and even participate in worship of the God of Daniel, he even acknowledged that this God was superior to his gods, but he did not turn from his gods to serve the true God alone. He was willing to embrace everything without discrimination, and that is not a good thing.

Exclusivity of Jesus

Jesus made exclusive claims. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn.14:6).

Acts 4:12 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.”

Jesus is not one piece to the puzzle, making a necessary contribution to our salvation but requiring other pieces, other contributions; he is all-sufficient. Jesus is not one path among many that lead to God; he grants exclusive access to those who turn from all other hopes and trust him alone.

Repent and Believe

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

To repent is to turn, to have a change of mind; to turn from what you were trusting in, whether it be other gods or your own good works, righteous deeds; filthy rags. Let go of every other hope, turn and cling alone to Christ.

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

Repent. Turn from what you had trusted in. Recognize by your wandering heart you have sinned against God and need to be forgiven. Jesus suffered and died to pay your price. Will you turn to him?

Paul taught:

Acts 17:29 …we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

Do you want to be truly changed, truly converted? Acknowledge you are a rebel against a good God, that your good deeds are an offense to him; that there is nothing, nothing you can do, nothing outside of Jesus that can change you. Turn to him, cry out to him for mercy, ask him to give you a new heart.

***

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

July 17, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 2:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise

06/06_Daniel 02:17-23 The Power of Prayer and the Necessity of Praise; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210606_dan02_17-23.mp3

King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him. So he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans to tell him his dreams. They confidently assured the king that he could tell them the dream they would give the interpretation. Archaeology has unearthed extensive dream manuals that offer explanations of different dream symbolism based on centuries of case histories.

But the king was apparently skeptical of the ability and authenticity of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans. He insisted they tell him not only the interpretation, but also the dream that he had dreamed to demonstrate that they indeed had access to the supernatural, and that he could trust their interpretation. They argued, ‘that’s not how this works; you tell us the dream, and we will show its interpretation’. They even appeal to his pride ‘No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean; surely you want to fall in line with all the other great and powerful kings, don’t you?’ But he had made up his mind. He offered gifts and rewards and great honor to the one who made known the dream and its interpretation, but if they failed to tell him the dream and its interpretation, they would be torn limb from limb and their houses buried under a pile of human excrement.

Because his wise men proved incompetent to provide the validation of their legitimacy that the king required, because he suspected them of trying to buy time, of conspiring to speak lying and corrupt words to him until the times change, he became angry and very furious, and ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. If the teachers were corrupt, their students would also be suspect, so this extended even to Daniel and his friends, who recently completed their training in the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

We see the utter bankruptcy of magicians, enchanters, diviners, sorcerers. Even this pagan king was able to see through their treachery and deceit. They confidently claim and make a living selling their secret and hidden wisdom, but they are incompetent and speechless when it comes to true wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The wise men of Babylon argued that only the gods could fulfill the demand of the king, and they do not dwell with flesh. But Israel’s God is Immanuel, God with us, a God who is near to all who call on him, who desires to dwell in the midst of his people, a God who we now know ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

When Arioch the captain of the king’s guard came to arrest Daniel and his friends to put them to death, Daniel, who knew the one who is the source of all wisdom, answered with prudence and discretion.

Daniel 2:15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.

Daniel showed boldness and humble confidence both with Arioch and with king Nebuchadnezzar. By God’s grace, Daniel gained audience with the king and received time from the king, the very thing the king denied to his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans.

Daniels Gift of Understanding Visions and Dreams

Here we begin to see where Daniel’s humble boldness came from. Before we move forward, let’s back up and look at something we were told in chapter 1 that is important background for this part of the story.

In verse 2, we were told it was God who gave the king of Judah and the vessels of his holy temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 9 we learned that God gave Daniel favor and compassion; grace and mercy in the sight of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. Then in 17,

Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

We are told that God blessed all four with learning and skill, but Daniel specifically was given understanding in all visions and dreams. This is much more than a proficiency with the dream manuals of the Chaldeans. This is God’s gift to one of his children, a God given ability to understand dreams and visions. We are not told if Daniel even knew about this gift before this chapter. But if he was aware of his specific gifting from God, this would be a source of great confidence in approaching both the captain of the king’s guard and the king himself.

The Reminder of God’s Character

Daniel requested and was granted a time to show the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Wait, I thought back in chapter 1 they were re-named with Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Why revert to their Hebrew names here in chapter 2?

Let’s read it again. Remember, names have meanings. ‘God is My Judge’ went to his house and made the matter known to ‘YHWH is Gracious’, ‘Who is What God Is’ and YHWH Will Help’. Their lives were literally on the line. They were on death row. They needed to remember that God is my judge, not Arioch, not even Nebuchadnezzar. They needed to be reminded that YHWH is gracious. They needed to be reminded that there is no other God like the Lord our God, that he is above and sovereign over all the false gods of Babylon. They needed to be reminded from where their help comes; ‘My help comes from YHWH, who made heaven and earth’ (Ps.121:2).

God’s Gifts and Dependence on God in Prayer

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Wait, I thought we just read in chapter 1 that Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams, and here in chapter 2 that he confidently went to the king and offered to interpret his dream. Why pray? Why call a prayer meeting and ask your friends to pray? Why not just use your gift and interpret the dream?

We don’t know at this point how much Daniel knew about his gifting from God. But Daniel did know that gift or no gift, he and his friends were utterly and completely dependent on God.

Daniel didn’t presume on his gift; that because God gave him understanding in all visions and dreams, he didn’t need to pray. Exactly the opposite; we see Daniel’s gift operating through prayer. Expressing dependence on God in prayer was the means through which his gift became operational.

God’s Gifts and the Necessity of Community

And Daniel didn’t go it alone. Daniel’s gift didn’t puff him up. He didn’t think of himself more highly than his three friends because he had this gift and they didn’t. He demonstrates humility and the need for unity with his brothers, that together they need to seek God’s mercy. God’s gifts are given for building up the body, for through love serving one another (1Cor.12:7; Eph.4:8-12; Gal.5:17).

We need to remember that we are completely dependent on God. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Abide in me and you will bear much fruit. But apart from me you can do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Nothing. We must acknowledge our dependence on God in prayer.

And we need to remember that we need each other. We need to remind one another that the Lord is gracious, that there is no one like our God, that the Lord will be our help, that we are accountable ultimately only to him. We are meant to function as a body, to complement one another. We are incomplete on our own.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Seeking Mercy from the God of Heaven

These four knew the character of God, that he ‘a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). They knew that God is abundantly merciful, but they didn’t presume on his mercy. They knew that God is also just, and they understood what they deserved. Remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve. Daniel and his friends understood that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23); they were all sinners, so sooner or later, they deserved death. Life is a gift, grace from God, something we don’t deserve. They knew their lives were on the line, so they sought mercy from the God of heaven. They asked. They prayed.

We know the character of God. We know the grace of God. But we need to remember to ask. God loves to give good gifts to his children in response to our prayers (Mt.7:11). Sometimes ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (Jas.4:2). If you are in need of help, if you are in need of mercy, if you are in need of grace, ask! God is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4); it is not in short supply. And he loves us with a great love. We need only ask. ‘Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full’ (Jn.16:24).

Specificity in Prayer

Notice also the specificity of their prayer.

Daniel 2:18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

They don’t just ask God for general mercy. General prayers get general answers. They have a specific need, they are in a specific crisis. And so they ask for very specific help. Seek mercy concerning this mystery, we need to know the king’s dream, so that we will not be executed along with the rest of the satanic practitioners of Babylon.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for specific help in time of need.

God Answers Prayer

Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.

God answers prayer when we ask! God may not give us what we ask for, but he will always give us what is best. God loves to bless his children. God promises to answer our prayers. And he loves to give specific answers to specific prayers.

The Necessity of Praise

In Luke 17, there were ten lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy. He told them to go show themselves to the priests (the priests were responsible for declaring people clean or unclean). In going, they were cleansed, but only one turned back ‘praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks’ (Lk.17:15-16). Jesus asked ‘where are the other nine?’ Why did only one return to give praise to God?

Daniel and his friends recognized their dependence on God, they asked God for mercy, and they did not fail to thank God when that mercy was extended. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation (remember, the ‘king was angry and very furious’, the decree of the king was urgent, and they ‘were about to be killed’) it would have been natural to rush with the answer in hand to Arioch to tell him the good news. After all, that would be giving glory to God, right?

First, Daniel worships.

Daniel 2:19 …Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

20 Daniel answered and said:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,

to whom belong wisdom and might.

21 He changes times and seasons;

he removes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding;

22 he reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and the light dwells with him.

23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

God’s name is to be praised forever and ever. He is eternal. God owns wisdom. God owns strength. God is worthy of worship, omniscient, omnipotent.

God is the author of time, of history. It is truly His story. He changes seasons. He can turn a season of grief, of mourning, of terror, into a season of joy and dancing. God is sovereign over empires, over nations, over politicians and kings. He is absolutely sovereign over history. He removes from power whoever he will, and he puts into power whoever he will.

God owns all wisdom, and he gives it to whom he will. The wise are wise because it is given to them by God. Those who have understanding have it because knowledge is a gift from God. God is the source of all true wisdom and knowledge (not the dark powers sought out by magicians, enchanters and sorcerers).

God is the revealer of deep and hidden things. No secret is hid from his sight, and he can reveal it to whomever he wills. Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? (1Cor.2:11). God knows what we dream in the dark. God is ‘the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas.1:17). ‘God is light, and in him is no darkness at all’ (1Jn.1:5). Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (Jn.8:12).

Second Person Worship

Notice, verses 20-22 are about God, in the third person; God is referred to as ‘he’. Daniel is declaring God’s greatness, he is talking about God to others. Many of our worship songs are in the third person, declaring God’s greatness and worth to each other. That is an appropriate form of worship, and Daniel uses it here.

But notice, in verse 23, Daniel switches from the third to the second person, from talking about God to talking to God. He addresses God directly in worship. This too is an appropriate form of worship.

Daniel 2:23 To you, O God of my fathers,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and might,

and have now made known to me what we asked of you,

for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”

Daniel and his friends know the character of God and worship him for his eternity, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his sovereignty, his grace and mercy. But they have also experienced first hand a specific answer to their specific request, and so they address him personally.

Have you experienced God personally? Have you prayed to him, and has he answered your prayer? Our God is a personal God, he answers personally. We can experience him, experience intimacy with him, speak to him and know that he hears, that he cares, that he knows you fully and answers you personally. The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Ps.34:18; 145:18).

***

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

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Remember Me

08/30 Remember Me (Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200830_remember.mp3

Last time we talked about worship, the importance of who we worship and how we worship. We are to worship the one true God who reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And because God is spirit, Jesus says, we are to worship in spirit and truth. We must be born again of the Spirit of God, empowered by his Spirit, and we must worship in line with the revealed truth of God’s word. We are to ascribe worth to God who alone is worthy of our attention, our affection, our devotion. We are to declare him worthy not only with our words and in our songs, but also with our actions and lives, with our time and attention. We looked at Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teaching. Jesus said this is the good portion, the one thing that is necessary (Lk.10:38-42). There is no substitute for time spent at the feet of the Master. The disciples were shaped above all by this; ‘that they had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). Is it evident that you sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teaching? Do you give him your undivided attention? Are you known by the fact that you have spent time with Jesus?

We are looking at what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, what it looks like to obey everything he commanded us. We must sit at his feet and listen, and we must fall on our face before him and worship.

One of the most significant things, one of the most important things Jesus commanded happened over his final meal with his disciples before he went to the cross.

Luke 22:13 …they prepared the Passover. 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Two Ordinances

Jesus commanded his followers “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is one of only two ordinances that the protestant church recognizes; baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An ordinance is a prescribed practice, something we do, something that Christ commanded, the apostles perpetuated, and the early church practiced. Baptism is a one-time event, where a new follower of Jesus publicly proclaims his allegiance to Jesus, and it pictures the new birth. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, the Breaking of Bread is our subject today.

Passover

Notice in our text that this was a Passover meal. It was the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus told his disciples to “Go and prepare the Passover for us.” Jesus said “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover come from the Exodus. To understand what Jesus is commanding, we need to understand some of the background of what Passover is.

God chose Abraham and promised to bless his family and through them to bless the nations. Abraham, had Isaac, who had Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, whose 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. God had sent him ahead to preserve life. The family moved to Egypt to find provision during the famine, and 400 years later, the children of Israel were enduring bitter slavery and cried out to God for deliverance. He heard their cries for rescue and remembered his promises to Abraham and raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt.

Exodus 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

To Pharaoh God said:

Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (cf. Rom.9:17)

The final plague that forced the release of Israel from Egypt was the death of the firstborn son in every household. But God gave them the provision that a lamb could be sacrificed and the blood applied to the door so that “when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex.12:13).

God said:

Exodus 12:14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

The Israelites were to remember forever how God delivered them from Egypt. They were to observe the Passover as a perpetual reminder of what great things the Lord did for them.

It’s All About Me

Jesus and his disciples were remembering God’s deliverance of his people from bondage, and how he made provision for his people to be spared from his judgment through sacrifice and the blood applied. Jesus takes two of the things at the meal, unleavened bread (leaven is a symbol for sin), and wine (a picture both of the wrath of God and of joy and celebration) and re-directs their focus to himself. This is revolutionary; this is monumental! Jesus, celebrating the historic deliverance of the people of God from Egypt, turns it around and says it is now about me!

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Jesus turns the historic Passover celebration commemorating the exodus from Egypt and says they are now to remember him, his body broken and his blood that brings about the New Covenant.

His Exodus

Back in Luke 9, when Jesus was transfigured, it says

Luke 9:30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [ἔξοδος], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

They spoke of his ‘departure;’ literally his exodus which he was about to accomplish or fulfill. Jesus is the greater Moses who brings us out of our slavery to sin and into a reconciled relationship with God. Jesus is the greater deliverer who crushes a greater enemy and brings about a greater rescue. Jesus is the greater Passover sacrifice, the spotless Lamb who took our place and died to give us life (1Cor.5:7). Jesus accomplished a greater exodus.

1 Corinthians 11:23 …the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus takes the bread and wine of the Passover meal and re-orients us to remember him, his exodus, his sacrifice, his deliverance. He commands his followers to ‘Do this in remembrance of me… Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’

Breaking Bread Together

When Peter preached at Pentecost,

Acts 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread. This phrase can simply mean to have a meal together, as breaking bread was a common part of every meal. But this phrase seems to take on a special meaning when it is one of the four things that the church devoted themselves to. Then, in Acts 20, when Paul visited Troas, we are told

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,

The believers were gathering together on Sunday to break bread together and to listen to Paul preach.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul says

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Notice this is something we do together. We as one body, the body of Christ together bless the cup and break the bread. It is a participation in the blood of Christ and the body of Christ. This is something the gathered church does.

Discerning the Body

In 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul rehearses Jesus’ command to ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ he is correcting selfish abuses of what he calls Lord’s supper when the church came together to eat the bread and drink the cup. By the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians (around AD 53) not only did the church have an established practice of meeting on the first day of the week (1Cor.16:2) to break bread together, but they had already begun to lose sight of remembering Jesus and they were selfishly abusing this most sacred practice. Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Their selfishness destroys the point of the Lord’s supper. He reminds them of the words of our Lord, that this is to be done as a way to remember Jesus together. This is a way to proclaim the good news of the crucifixion and resurrection. And it anticipates Jesus’ coming again.

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

And it is not to be taken lightly.

1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

This is a gathered church thing, and we are to discern the body, the body of Christ, that we are members of one another, that we are one body. There are to be no divisions among us, because we ‘have been brought near by the blood of Christ.’ Jesus ‘himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.’ We have been ‘reconciled …to God in one body through the cross’ (Eph.2:13-16). We are not to despise the church of God and put ourselves above others. We are to discern that because of the cross, we are one body. This is serious thing we do.

1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

When you come together as the body of Christ, recognize the body; be considerate of one another.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Remember. We need to be reminded. Remember Jesus. Remember his body broken, his blood poured out, the once-for-all Lamb who paid our price in full. Remember the exodus he accomplished, how he set you free from bondage to worship the living God. Enjoy the benefits of the new covenant that he purchased with his blood. Recognize that you are now part of a body. You belong. To something bigger than you.

***

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

September 1, 2020 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Worship in Spirit and Truth

08/23 Worship (John 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200823_worship.mp3

Wrath Revealed Against Worshipers

Worship is a big deal. It has been said ‘we become like what we worship’. It matters what we worship. God takes worship seriously.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 23 …exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…

25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

God’s wrath is revealed against those who worship the wrong thing. Worship is a serious issue.

Our English word ‘worship’ comes from the Old English ‘weorthscipe’ from worth or worthy. In worship we are ascribing value or worth to the person or thing we worship. We acknowledge what is worthy of our devotion, our affection, our attention. And our attention is a precious commodity. We have exactly 1,440 minutes in each day, and if sleeping accounts for 480 of those, and assuming you work or go to school another 480 each weekday, that leaves the other 480 waking minutes for you spend as you choose. And everything in this world is competing for those precious minutes. To what do you give your attention? What do you look at? What do you enjoy? What captivates you? What do you worship?

As followers of Jesus, we want to listen carefully to what he tells us about our worship.

Worship Different From Service

During the temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4,

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Satan is competing for our worship. I will give you everything if you will worship me. It is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your god and him only shall you serve.’ God alone is to be worshiped. The Lord alone is worthy of worship. We must value him above all else, and give him the attention he is due.

Notice that Jesus pairs worship with service. The one you worship, you also serve. You live for the thing you value most. Service is an evidence of what we worship. There is some overlap. But service is not the same as worship. We can keep very busy doing things for God, in service to God, and we think we are worshiping God. But notice what Satan requests of Jesus. He doesn’t ask that he do something in service to him, to prove his devotion to him. He asks him to fall down and worship him. The Greek word for worship [προσκυνέω] means to fall face down in adoration, to lower oneself in humble submission, it pictures a dog licking the hand of its master. Several times in the gospels, this word for worship is translated ‘knelt before him’ or ‘fell down before him’. Worship is direct, in the presence of, on your face before, giving full attention to.

Worship Wars

Jesus met a broken and bitter person at a well. When he asked her for a drink, it opened up a conversation where he offered living water, and where he put his finger on some of the brokenness in her life.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Probably in an effort to deflect the conversation in a less personal direction, she asks about a controversial question, a point of dispute between Jews and Samaritans. Where is the proper place for worship? They are at Jacob’s well, near the place where Abraham made an altar to the Lord (Gen.12:6-7), where Jacob made an altar and worshiped (Gen.33:19-20), where the bones of Joseph were buried, where the people under Joshua made an altar and renewed the covenant with the Lord (Joshua 8, 24). ‘Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.’ But you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship. Solomon built and dedicated the temple to the Lord in Jerusalem, and God chose to put his name in that place (Deut.12:5, 11; 1Ki.9:3; 2Chr.7:12). But after Solomon, the kingdom was divided, and Israel established other places of worship (1Ki.12). Her question is a question of place. Where is the appropriate place of worship? There is rich history of worship in many places, not only Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is the one place God authorized a temple to be built to his name. What is the right place for worship?

Place To Worship

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Jesus’ answer is startling. No. Not here, and not in Jerusalem. The temple towered over Jerusalem, and when his disciples were admiring the architecture and the magnificent buildings, Jesus said ‘There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’ (Mk.13:2). A day is coming that the place of worship will not be here, in Samaria, and it will not be there, in Jerusalem.

Who To Worship

Notice something else. Jesus is not afraid to tell her she’s wrong. The Samaritans were wrong about worship. He doesn’t question that she is worshiping, but who she is worshiping. We are all worshipers. We are made to worship. But it matters who you worship, and the Jews were seeking to honor the one true God in the way that he instructed his people to worship him. You worship what you do not know. Salvation is of the Jews. It will not stay with the Jews, and it will not only be Jews who are saved, but the Savior comes from the Jewish nation. God’s salvation comes through a Jewish Messiah and flows out as living water to all the nations.

Jesus says it is not about place. It is about a person. It is about who you worship.

Spirit and Truth

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus says something very simple but very profound about worship, and about God. God is spirit. His essence is spirit, not physical, not material. God is spirit. In Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple, he said:

1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

“Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD” (Jer.23:24). Acts 17 says:

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

God doesn’t have needs. He doesn’t need food, drink, shelter, clothing. He is spirit. He is bigger than place. He cannot be confined, he cannot be contained, he cannot be limited. God is the uncaused cause of all that exists. He alone is the self-existent one.

‘The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’ True worshipers must worship in truth, in line with God’s word, and the time is now here, because as John 1 tells us, the Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:14). True worshipers must worship in spirit, because as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, ‘You must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (Jn.3:5-7). Philippians 3:3 draws a contrast between ‘worship by the Spirit of God’ and putting confidence in the flesh. Those who worship by the Spirit of God ‘glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.’

True worshipers must have both. We can’t choose one or the other. Individuals and churches often pick. We’re all about the Spirit, or we’re all about the truth. We aren’t true worshipers of the true God if we claim to worship in the Spirit, unhitched from Biblical truth. Equally so, we aren’t true worshipers if we claim to worship in truth but are devoid of God’s Spirit. We must be born of the Spirit and we must be bound by God’s word.

The I AM is Here

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.”

This woman is in over her head. Jesus has told her some revolutionary things. She can’t wrap her head around what he is saying let alone attempt to argue her case with him. She defers to the coming Messiah who will make it all clear.

John 4:26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

This is one of the I AM statements of Jesus. He claims directly to be the Christ, the coming Messiah. Beyond that, he claims to be the self-existent one himself, the I AM. ‘The hour is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, because I AM.’ The I AM has come, God with us. The Father will receive true Spirit empowered worship as a result of the work of the Son who will give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus the Temple

Back in John 2, Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers and those that sold sheep and oxen and pigeons out of the temple courtyard. When he was challenged by the religious leaders as to where he got his authority to do this, he answered:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Samaritan woman is asking about the right place for worship. Jesus says ‘Something greater than the temple is here’ (Mt.12:6). ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6). My body crucified and risen is the only place to meet with God.

Worship Jesus

When tempted by Satan, Jesus answered “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Mt.4:10). Whenever an angel or a man is offered worship, they urgently decline and demand worship be given to God alone. And yet Jesus receives worship. In Matthew 2, the Magi fall down and worship the child Jesus. In Matthew 8, 9 and 15 those in need come and kneel before Jesus in worship. In Matthew 14, after they saw Jesus walking on the water,

Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In Matthew 28 and Luke 24, the risen Jesus is worshiped by his followers. In John 20:28, Thomas responds “My Lord and my God!” Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus receiving worship.

In John 5, Jesus declares that the Father has given all judgment to the Son,

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus receives the worship due only to God, and he demands that we honor him just as we honor the Father.

In John 17 Jesus prays that as he has glorified the Father here on earth, his Father would now glorify him ‘in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’ (Jn.17:4-5).

In Revelation, around the throne of God in heaven, the living creatures and elders fall down before the Lamb and pour out the prayers of the saints and sing ‘Worthy are you …for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Rev.5:9).

There are people who will come to your door and try to convince you that Jesus is not equal to his Father, and not worthy of your worship. Test what they say against the truth of God’s word.

Sit At Jesus’ Feet

Our worship matters. It matters what we value, what we treasure, what we consider worthy of our affection, our devotion, our attention. It matters what captivates us. The Father, Son and Spirit alone are worthy of our worship.

Are you serving or worshiping? Martha welcomed Jesus into her house, but ‘Martha was distracted with much serving’ (Lk.10:40). Her sister Mary ‘sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching’ (Lk.10:39). When Martha complained,

Luke 10:40 …“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Serving is good and right and necessary. If you’re not serving, you need to be using your gifts through love to serve one another. But if you are so distracted with much serving that you don’t sit at Jesus’ feet, that you don’t just get down on your face in his presence and enjoy him, you are missing the one thing that is necessary.

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

August 29, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3)

03/29 Kept in Perfect Peace (Isaiah 26:3); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200329_kept-in-peace.mp3

As I was contemplating God’s peace in the middle of uncertain times, a familiar verse came to mind. It goes like this:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3)

This is a great verse of encouragement and hope to cling to. Just last week, someone gave me a little laminated scrap of paper with this verse written on it.
Kept in Peace

You keep him in ‘peace peace’, perfect peace. Last week we looked at the peace of Christ; Jesus said ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (Jn,14:27). This is ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding;’ peace that ‘will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.4:7). This is the peace that you are to have ‘rule in your hearts …and be thankful’ (Col.3:15). God is our keeper; the keeper of peace; you will keep him in perfect peace.

Whose Mind is Stayed on You

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.’ In Colossians 3, we saw that this peace is for those who have believed in Jesus, who have been completely forgiven, who have been raised with Christ, who are experiencing new life in Jesus. And we believers are commanded to ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is’ (Col.3:1); we are to. ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Col.3:2). We are to steady the attention of our minds on Jesus, to set our affections on him; our hearts and thoughts are to be captured by him. So many things compete for our affections and our attention, but we are to fix our attention on him.

When we set mind and heart on Jesus, our minds are steadied,stayed on you’. This is passive; God’s word and God’s character have a steadying effect on our minds. God himself maintains and steadies us.

Because He Trusts in You

Because he trusts in you. Here is the means of being kept, being steadied. We are to trust, trust in God alone. Not trust in him and… But trust in him. Period. We are kept in peace because we trust in God. Not because of our act of trust, but because of the object in which our trust is placed. Because God is dependable. Because God is unchanging. Because God is our rock, because God is our security.

Not our health; that may fail. Not our savings; that may evaporate. Not our families; that can be stripped away. Not our jobs; there is no lasting security there. If our hope is in those things, if we are counting on, depending on, trusting in those things, they will fail us. They can all be gone in a moment.

This is what Jesus taught us;

Matthew 19:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What are you treasuring? Where is your hope? Where is your heart? What are you holding on to? Where is your security?

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

The Lord God is the only absolute in an uncertain and shifting world. The LordGod; in the Hebrew ‘Yah YHWH’ is an everlasting rock. The Rock of Ages. YHWH, the one who is, the self existent, the absolute, the independent I AM.

Context of Global Judgment

This is a powerful pointer to where we get real peace. This was a verse I was familiar with, and I wanted to chew on this verse and see it in its context, so I looked it up. The verse is in Isaiah 26, tucked away in chapters 24-27, which are sometimes referred to as Isaiah’s little apocalypse.

Isaiah 26:1 …“We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. 2 Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. 3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORDGOD is an everlasting rock.

This song is sung by God’s people, because, verse 5 says;

Isaiah 26:5 For he has humbled the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. 6 The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”

I was a bit surprised by the context. God’s people sing their confidence in God’s salvation as a result of God’s humbling the proud and lifted up of the world.

Isaiah warns of the downfall of Jerusalem because of their disobedience, pride and idolatry. God raised up the enemies of Israel to punish his people. But even in the midst of his discipline, there is hope. God disciplines his people for their good, and will ultimately crush their enemies.

Isaiah 24-27 put this in an end-times global perspective. These chapters give us a climactic vision of God ruling the nations in judgment and salvation. God will lay low everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of him. The lofty city is a picture of self-confidence, independence, and pride.

Look back at chapter 24.

Isaiah 24:1 Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. …3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the LORD has spoken this word. 4 The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish.

Notice it is the Lord himself who does this. Why?

Isaiah 24:5 The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left. …10 The wasted city is broken down; every house is shut up so that none can enter.

Why does the Lord execute judgment on the whole earth? Because of sin. Because of our rejection of God’s commands. Because we refuse to listen to him, to follow his ways. Because of our guilt. The wages of our sin is death.

Isaiah 24:19 The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. 20 The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again.

Isaiah 24 ends with the Lord punishing both angels and human rulers because of their guilt and, ‘the LORD of hosts reigns on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and his glory will be before his elders’ (Is.24:23).

Response of Worship

Listen to the response of God’s people to his just and terrible punishment of the wicked”

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 2 For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

God’s people respond to his justice with worship. They sing his praise because God’s judgment on those who persist in evil and pride and refuse to turn to him is right and good. God is patient, slow to anger, ‘not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2Pet.3:9). But God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Num.14:18). God’s justice is wonderful, worthy of praise. God’s people praise him for his justice, but it doesn’t stop there.

Isaiah 25:3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat…

Even God’s enemies will give him glory because of his absolute justice.

Philippians 2:10 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.

Every knee will bow and give glory to God. Some knees will never bow, except under the mighty hand of God’s justice.

Isaiah 26:9 …For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. 10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD. 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

God’s people recognize the sanctifying effect of God’s wrath, and even pray for it. There is a good end to God’s justice. Some may repent and turn to the Lord before it is too late.

God our Greatest Desire

Listen to verses 8 and 9

Isaiah 26:8 In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

Are you willing to wait in the path of God’s judgments? If that is where God will meet you, is he of more value to you than your own comfort and convenience? This is the true heart of a follower of Jesus. You, Lord are the desire of our soul. My soul years for you. My spirit earnestly seeks you. I want above all for your name to be honored, your will to be done. Above my need for daily bread and personal safety is my desire for you Lord to get the honor and worship that is your due. Does your heart resonate with this yearning? O Lord, make it so!

Resurrection Confidence

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

Peace, Jesus’ own peace, perfect peace to the one who is stabilized by the immovable anchor of the unchanging character of God. Trust. Trust in the Lord forever. He is worthy of your trust. He will never leave you; he will not fail you. No matter what happens, you are safe.

Does this imply that nothing bad will ever happen to you, and that if bad things do happen, it is an indication of your lack of faith? No, no no! God’s perfect peace is not exemption from the storms, but peace in the middle of the storms. God’s peace is not seen in circumstances. God’s peace is deeper than that. Times of trial wean us away from temporary pleasures to that which is lasting and true.

Jesus says something that at first sounds contradictory in John 11.

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?”

In one breath he says that believers will die and live again, and in the next breath he says that believers will never die. Are we exempt from death, or aren’t we? It is clear from history that believers in Jesus still experience death, many in unthinkable ways. But does this contradict what Jesus says in the very next breath that believers will never die? Clearly he is talking about death and life in different ways. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he will experience death physically, yet his body will physically be raised again. And everyone who experiences inward life (or new birth) and believes in Jesus will never experience spiritual death or separation from God. For the believer, to be ‘away from the body’ is to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2Cor.5:8). Eternal life, Jesus taught, is knowing God and Jesus Christ (Jn.17:3). He taught a similar thing in Mark 8.

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

He clarifies that he is talking about two different kinds of life when he says something similar in John 12.

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Seeking to preserve physical life in this world at the cost of a relationship with God is folly; but risking this physical life for the hope of eternal life with God is true wisdom.

The peace of Jesus is not exemption from trials or suffering (Jesus actually promised we would experience those); rather the peace of Jesus preserves us through the trials. We will experience physical death, and yet we shall truly live. We see that our ultimate hope is rooted in the resurrection right in the context of this verse in Isaiah 26.

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.

For the one who trusts in the Lord, we have a sure and steadfast hope beyond the grave. Death is not the end. Christians believe in the resurrection. This life is not all there is, to be held on to at all costs. No, if our hope is in Jesus even death can’t interrupt that! ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’ (Job13:15)

Listen to our hope in the imagery painted in Isaiah 25:

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

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him. The God who swallows up death forever, who will wipe away our every tear. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation! Trust in the YHWH forever, for Yah YHWH is an everlasting rock! Trust him for he is trustworthy. Let your mind be stayed on him. Let him keep you.

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

April 4, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Body – Romans 12

01/19 Vision – individuals experiencing the gospel together in community (Romans 12); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200119_church-body.mp3

We’ve been looking at vision, God’s vision for the church, what it means to be a healthy church, and how we can grow more and more into what we were meant to be.

So far, we’ve seen from Matthew 16 that the church is Jesus’ church, a gathering of Jesus followers built on the identity of Jesus and the offense of the cross, united into one body by the Holy Spirit through the new birth. If each local church is composed of individual believers, then a healthy local church is made up of healthy believers. We’ve seen from Colossians 3 that followers of Jesus live by faith, we are to keep our thoughts fixed on God and his glory, we are to live in love and forgive as we have been forgiven; we are to be those whose lives are saturated with the word of God and with prayer.

We are going to spend our time today primarily in Romans 12. Our focus will be the church as the body of Christ. The church is made up of individual believers, and as individuals, we each bring something to the table, something to the body. We are individuals transformed by the good news, but we are meant to experience the gospel in community.

Established on a Gospel Foundation

Let’s just dive right in and look together at Romans 12.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,

It is essential to stop right here and pay attention to the ‘therefore’. That’s a connecting word, and it reminds us that we are jumping in at the end of a letter. ‘Therefore’ tells us that everything that is said here in chapter 12 is built on the foundation of what was said in the first 11 chapters. God is righteous. We are all sinners, and being unrighteous, we all deserve the just wrath of a holy God. But that same God of holiness and justice is also a God of compassion and love, and he sent his only Son to be the propitiation, the wrath-absorbing sin-bearing substitute for us. In this way God can uphold his own righteous integrity and fully punish sin, while at the same time declaring guilty sinners righteous, justified, as if they had never sinned, credited with Jesus’ own perfect righteousness.

This gift of God’s own righteousness comes to all who believe, who simply take him at his word, trust him implicitly, cast themselves completely on his mercy, entrust themselves to his care. (Rom.3:23-25

Service is Worship

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Our response to God’s astounding mercy ought to be worship. Remember, Christians sing! Singing is one of many forms of worship.

This verse points us to another act of worship. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice. A sacrificial animal was an animal that belonged to the worshiper, a flawless animal, a valuable animal, one of his best, and he would give it to God. Ownership was transferred to God. The animal was no longer his own to do with as he willed; it belonged to God. Some sacrifices went entirely up in smoke, as a fragrant aroma pleasing to the Lord. Some sacrifices were eaten, both by the priests and the worshipers, a feast enjoyed in God’s presence. You no longer belong to yourself. You were bought with a price (1Cor.6:19-20; 7:23).

Notice, the ‘you’ is plural; you all. ‘Bodies’ is plural. Each of you individually are to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. In joyful response to God’s stunning mercy and grace, I gladly surrender rights over my body to the Lord. This is worship. And although the ‘you’ is plural and ‘bodies’ is plural, the ‘sacrifice’ is singular and the ‘worship’ is singular. As one body we each offer our bodies as a singular act of worship to the Lord.

Service is worship. What we do with our bodies on Sunday is worship. The teachers who teach our children’s church and serve in the nursery are worshiping. Those who volunteered to come yesterday to clean the church, that was an act of worship. What we do Monday through Saturday is meant to be an act of worship. Going to work and earning an honest living so that you can provide for your needs and the needs of those who depend on you, so that you can give generously to God, that is worship. Raising your children to love and fear and follow Jesus, that is worship. Preparing a meal for your own family, or for someone in need, that is worship. Calling someone or getting together to encourage or to pray or to simply spend time with, that is worship.

Mental Metamorphosis

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Colossians 3 told us to ‘seek the things that are above’ (v.1); to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (v.2). To ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (v.16). We need a complete metamorphosis in our thinking. We need to be entirely renewed in how we evaluate and process and plan. It feels natural to follow the world’s patterns, to define success by the world’s standards, but our aim is no longer to please people. We are to seek to do the will of God, to do what is good in his estimation, to be acceptable to him, to please him in all things. As followers of Jesus we think in new categories, we set our minds on things above.

Humility

Here’s a monumental metamorphosis in our thinking.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

From the playground at recess to the job market, we are taught to make much of ourselves, to inflate our abilities, to show ourselves bigger than we are. We make ourselves out to be larger than life, and then we have trouble sleeping because we are concerned someone might find us out.

But this is deeper. This verse is saying that we are inclined to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We actually believe that we are better than we are. We think that we are OK. We think that we are better than others, that we don’t sin as much as others, that in some way by our own efforts we can please God. We don’t like to think, and it is contrary to how the world teaches us to think, that we are not enough. That we are fundamentally flawed, in desperate need of help, in desperate need of the gospel. I am a sinner, I deserve death, and my only hope is in the rescue that only comes through Jesus. We are to think about ourselves with sober judgment. This requires grace, supernatural grace, God’s grace.

The Body

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

I am not enough. I am part of something bigger than myself. As a follower of Jesus, I am a part of a body of believers. We are inextricably connected to one another in Jesus, and we need each other. Paul uses the human body as an illustration. If you understand anything about how the body works, you know the respiratory system is inextricably linked to the circulatory system. The lungs bring in a fresh supply of oxygen to the blood stream. The heart pumps the oxygenated blood around to the various parts of the body to keep the organs and tissues healthy. By the way, the heart is a muscle that needs oxygen that the lungs supply, and the lungs only work when the chest muscles are supplied with blood from the heart so they can expand to take a breath. They are inextricably interdependent. Neither works without the other.

We tend to downplay our own importance to the body. I’m not really that important. If I don’t show up, nobody will even miss me. Paul wrote earlier to the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

Eyes and hands are essential. But feet and ears, well they look kind of funny and often stink. We can probably get by without them. Or can we? I sometimes hear people say ‘Well, I don’t really fit in, I’m different, I don’t feel like I belong.’ It’s precisely because you are different that we need you. No one else does what you do. You bring something unique to the table.

There can also be a frustration on the other side, where a person is gifted and passionate about something, and is frustrated that everyone else doesn’t share that same passion.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

You have probably been wondering why we are sitting in a circle today. That was not my idea; it was suggested to me by one of you as a visual illustration of the body. Jesus is at the center, he is the head. He brings us together. We gather around him. And we are all sinners, hurting, broken, daily in need of the gospel, of God’s amazing grace. Daily we need forgiveness, and we need to forgive one another. There is not those who serve and those who come to be served. There are not some who are essential and some who are expendable. Every body part is unique, perfectly designed for its own distinct role, and no other part can take its place. None of us on our own is enough. We are meant to function together, to complement one another. We are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

Gifts That Differ

Romans 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Every believer in Jesus has experienced God’s grace. We each have been given a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. We have been uniquely equipped to serve others. As an act of worship, we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, to use as he sees fit. We have each been given gifts, and we are to use them through love to serve one another.

Notice all the attitude words? Zeal, cheerfulness, genuine love, abhorring evil, brotherly affection, not slothful but fervent. Our attitudes matter. Grudging half-hearted ‘I guess I’ll do it because no one else will’ service is not pleasing to the Lord. You see, when you discover who God made you to be, there is passion and joy in being who you were created to be and doing what you were designed for. There is satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment. And we need each other to help each other discover those unique gifts and passions.

…But Not Yet

I find it interesting where he goes next.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

He talks here about tribulation, difficult circumstances; and about persecution, opposition from people. And I asked, is he switching subjects here, moving from life within the body out to life in the world? As followers of Jesus we expect persecution from the world. He definitely moves out to talk about that in chapter 13. And that is at least included in what he says here. But these instructions come in the context of body life and all mixed in with ‘one another’ language. We find joy now in service, but we rejoice in hope. Hope is something that is anticipated but hasn’t been fully realized yet. There is joy in service in the body now, but it is not yet as it is meant to be. There is also tribulation, and even persecution. We live in a community of redeemed sinners undergoing sanctification. And even redeemed sinners sin against one another. That is why we are commanded to forgive one another. Don’t be surprised by opposition, even when it comes from within the body, even when it comes against you using your God given gifts. Live in harmony with one another. That means you don’t all have to sing the same note, but that you do work together and complement one another. There will be times when well meaning fellow believers will seem to be working against you, criticizing your best efforts, frustrating your gifts. Be patient in tribulation. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Live in harmony with one another. If possible, live peaceably with all.

In chapter 15 he has more to say about body life and bearing with one another in love, and so today we will close with his prayer from 15:5-7.

Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Lord, make it so, here, in this body, your church, today!

***

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

January 20, 2020 Posted by | church, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luke 2:14; Glory to God in the Highest

12/08 Glory to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191208_glory-to-god.mp3

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

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! His great and gracious gift is beyond fully telling, so we must tell of it over and over at different times and in different ways. We owe him our thanks and worship and praise, because he is the giver of every good gift. We must look at different aspects of his most glorious gift, and encourage each other to treasure and cherish and savor his good gift, and continually come to him with thanks.

The Christmas story is a familiar story to most of us, so we need to guard ourselves from becoming numb to its glory and taking it for granted. It’s easy to yawn and say ‘yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that before.’ The gift we received that very first Christmas is glorious beyond expression, so we must continually seek to give fresh expression to its glories and encourage one another to taste and enjoy and worship.

Today and next week, I want to take the very first Christmas carol sung by the angelic choir announcing the birth of our Lord and listen carefully to what it declares. Songs mean things, and it is good to stop and listen to what we are saying in our singing.

Listen to the familiar story once again from Luke 2:

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Announcement

This story is full of wonder. There is so much here. We can’t take it all in. First, listen to the angel’s announcement:

Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

The angel brought good news. News of great joy. And not just for the shepherds. Not even just for the Jewish nation. This good news of great joy is for all the people. For the world! For you and me, today! What was that good news?

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

Born in Bethlehem, today, is a Savior. A rescuer. A deliverer. One who will rescue you from the greatest threat to your peace and happiness.

The identity of this rescuer is the Christ, the promised one, the long awaited anointed Son of David.

And the identity of this one is staggering. Christ, the Lord. No mere human king, not only a physical descendant of David the king. He is that, but he is more. Christ the Lord. King of kings and Lord of lords, YHWH God of the Old Testament, himself come down. God with us. Immanuel. The Rescuer born is God himself.

This one is born to you, for you, for your benefit. Good news of great joy. For you, personally, and for all the people.

This next line is almost as startling. God himself born to rescue you, what will that look like?

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

A baby? God with us as a helpless newborn? God swaddled? Omnipotent God wrapped up tightly in strips of cloth so he feels secure and can’t roll around and wiggle too much?

The long anticipated King of the line of David, God with us, placed in a cold and slobbery stone trough that farm animals eat from?

The Angel’s Priority

As if this announcement is not stunning enough, suddenly the sky is ripped open to reveal the vast multitude of angel armies worshiping.

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Pay attention to what the angels said. They gave praise to God, because that is what angels are created to do. Notice where they start. They don’t start with a message of peace among men. That is an important message, and they will get to that. But that is second. It is not first. The salvation of humankind takes second place to the glory of God. Humans, like angels and all the rest of creation, were created to bring glory to God. That is the primary purpose of everything. That is why we exist. We were created to glorify God.

Our Failure to Glorify

We have failed miserably. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23) That was the sin of Satan. He was not content to give glory to God; he wanted to be like God and get glory for himself. That was the lie of Satan to our first parents in the garden, that rather than be content to give glory to God, you can be like God, and get glory for yourself. We failed to give God the glory he deserves (Rom.1:21-23). We fail to honor God as God, we rob him of worship, and treat him with ingratitude, we ignore him, act as if he doesn’t even exist.

That is what Jesus came to restore. Jesus came to elevate the glory of God back to its rightful place. Jesus said in John 7:18 that he ‘seeks the glory of him who sent him’.

The Story of the Glory of the LORD

Look back at verse 9.

Luke 2:9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

The angels sing glory to God in the highest. When the angel appeared, the glory of the Lord shone around them. This is a magnificent event.

Tracing this theme of God’s glory back to the Exodus, God said that he would get glory over Pharaoh and his hosts. (Ex.14:4, 17-18). After the people were safely outside of Egypt,

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature. Our God is a consuming fire! (Deut.4:24; 9:3; Is.33:14; Lam.2:3; Heb.12:29)

God gave his people instructions to construct a special tent where he would dwell in the middle of his people and a weighty process by which he could be approached by sinful people. After the tabernacle was constructed,

Exodus 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

Once Israel was finally in the promised land, when Solomon finished building a permanent place for God’s presence to dwell,

2 Chronicles 7:1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house.

But the people did not remain faithful to the Lord. Their hearts went after other gods and committed spiritual adultery. As God warned, he sent them into captivity and the prophet Ezekiel (10:4, 18; 11:23) records his glory departing from his temple. Israel was sent into captivity. 70 years later, some of the exiles returned, and rebuilt the temple, but we are never told that God’s glory returned. For about 600 years of Jewish history, God’s glory was absent. God’s glory had departed.

And then, on one dark night in the Judean countryside, among a group of unsuspecting shepherds, the glory of the Lord blazed out in radiant splendor! Something awesome is happening! The glory of the Lord had returned to Israel! Glory to God!

Glory to God in the Highest

If the glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of his character and nature, then God gets glory when his nature is acknowledged and worshiped. God is glorified when he is seen for who he is, when we tremble at him and treasure him.

God is constantly glorified among angel hosts. In Isaiah 6, we get a glimpse of worship around God’s throne where the six winged beings continually cry out:

Isaiah 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (cf. Revelation 4:8)

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s name would be revered, glorified on earth as it is in heaven (Mt.6:9-10). Jesus taught us to live in the world in such a way that we bring glory to God.

Matthew 5:16 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.

The Chief End of Jesus

The angels announcing the birth of God the Son cried out ‘Glory to God in the highest. That takes priority. God’s glory comes first. The primary purpose of Jesus’ coming was to bring glory to his Father. Let me say that another way; the chief end of Jesus is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Jesus displayed the glory of God.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …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 explained, displayed, exegeted the Father’s glory. He said “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). He put the glory of God on display.

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

It was at the cross that Jesus most fully displayed the glory of God.

John 12:23 …“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. … 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

It was on the cross that Jesus displayed both the absolute justice and the unstoppable love of God. He put on display both the terrible wrath and the free and undeserved grace of God. He taught us to tremble and to treasure. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18), and it fell on Jesus on the cross.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Purpose Restored

Jesus gave us an amazing gift. He restored to us that for which we were created.

Luke 2:10 …good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…

Jesus rescued us from our own futility. From the futility of worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator. He restored to us the great joy that comes only in right relation, in worshipful relation to our glorious God.

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

Thank God for the gift of bringing glory to God as we were created to do. We have been restored to our primary purpose. We were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Jesus lived and died for the glory of his Father, and he gave us back the ability to live to the glory of God. He gave us the ability to live for something bigger than ourselves. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! Glory to God in the highest!

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

December 9, 2019 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving

11/17_2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191117_2cor9_11-12.mp3

What are you thankful for? What should we be thankful for that we may not be? Is your heart characterized by gratitude? How is thankfulness developed? What can we do to grow our gratitude? Here’s another question: Is there anything that we can do to affect the thankfulness of someone else?

In Paul’s instructions on generosity and cheerful giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9 he gives some important insight into thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Paul says that there is a way to produce thanksgiving to God. He says that what we do can overflow in many thanksgivings to God. If we want God to be glorified through our lives, then we should be very interested in what he has to say here.

Paul is talking about giving. He builds everything he says on God’s grace, God’s undeserved gift to us in Jesus. He looks to God as the ultimate giver, the source of every good thing. Anything we give to others is actually a re-gifting of what God has first given to us, and that is what he intends for us to do.

Simpleness or Generosity

He says in 2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” This word translated ‘generous’ is a word we saw before in 8:2. Some interpretation has to happen in translation, and most English translations use the word ‘generosity’ because the context is clearly one of financial giving. But the word itself means simplicity, singleness or sincerity; free from pretense or hypocrisy; not self-seeking; an openness of heart. In Ephesians 6 and in Colossians 3 it is used in the context of a servant’s obedience to his master.

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

It is with an undivided heart, as to the Lord, not only while they are watching, but at all times eager to please the Lord. There is to be openness, integrity. Paul used this word to point to his own integrity in 2 Corinthians 1:12

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…

Simplicity, transparent openness and integrity.

The first translation of the Bible into English, the Wycliffe Bible in 1382 translates like this: “that in all things ye made rich wax plenteous into all simpleness”

A more modern literal translation might read something like this: ‘in all enriched to all simplicity, which works through us thanksgiving to God.’ That doesn’t make great sense in English, so a good translation will put the words in an order that makes sense in the target language, and will pick up clues from the context as to how a word is being used. Paul is talking about an undivided heart, single or simple, seeking in all things to please the Lord, loving the Lord with a whole heart, and your neighbor as yourself. This includes generosity, but it is bigger than generosity.

Enriched to Simplicity

‘In all things enriched to all simplicity.’ You will be enriched in every way to be single-hearted in every way. What does it mean that we will be enriched in everything or in every way? This is defined by the context.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

God will supply everything needed so that we can abound in every good work. He will give us what we need to live a righteously, to distribute freely and give to the poor; he will supply and multiply our seed for sowing and increase our harvest of righteousness. We will be enriched in every way for a simple whole-hearted love for God and neighbor.

What About Poor Christians?

Do you believe this? Do you believe that God will supply all your needs? Does this mean that no Christian will ever be poor? Paul himself said he knew how to be content in plenty and in want. At times he went hungry. The Macedonian believers were in the depths of poverty. The collection was for the poor saints in Jerusalem, because they were poor. Our brothers and sisters are beaten and imprisoned and even killed because of their love for God. How do we account for this?

God doesn’t here promise exemption from poverty. He doesn’t say that as long as you’re following him, you will have enough money for your own needs and extra to give away. Apparently the Macedonians didn’t have enough for their own needs, but they gave anyway. If we view this as a financial formula, we will have to turn a blind eye to all of church history right up through our present day, or we will have to write them all off as not having enough faith.

But if we understand that God will give you all his grace so that you can stand firm in your faith and continue to love God and neighbor even in the worst of circumstances, then this is realistic and reliable encouragement for us.

Bigger Than Humanitarian

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God gives us everything we need so that in every circumstance we can love God and neighbor which will produce thanksgiving to God. Do you believe this? Do you believe that you can live to the glory of God regardless of your circumstances? Do you believe that you can stay faithful to God and serve others even if you have nothing? This is the word of God! This is the promise of God to us. Do we live this way? Do we step out in love and serve, trusting that God will be enough?

Paul says that through us this will produce thanksgiving to God. Paul was involved in the transaction. He was orchestrating the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. He understood that God would use him and his companions to deliver this gift, to be the connecting link between Jew and Gentile churches. He believed that this would produce thanksgiving to God. Paul’s goal was bigger than a humanitarian mission. He was all for alleviating suffering where possible, but his purpose was bigger than that. Paul’s ultimate goal in everything was to bring glory to God. And he shows us how this humanitarian collection will produce thanksgiving to God in verse 12.

2 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ministry of this service not only does this, but also does that. Not only does it supply what is lacking in the saints; it does that, as he said back in 8:14 that your abundance will supply their need. It does meet a real need, but it is bigger than that. It is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Service and Worship

How does it do this? Paul uses an interesting word to describe this ministry. He uses two different words that have a large area of overlap to describe the collection. Both words could be translated ‘ministry’ or ‘service’. It is ‘the ministry of this ministry’ or ‘the service of this service’. The first word has a more a sense of administration or stewardship. It is where we get the word ‘deacon’. It is ministering or administering practical service or help.

The second word is less common, and it comes from the context of the Old Testament priest. John the Baptist’s father Zechariah was a priest, and we are told in Luke 1

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And then it says:

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

That’s our word; his time of priestly service. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word shows up often in connection with the tabernacle and then the temple. It has to do with approaching God in worship. It is where we get our English word liturgy.

Paul describes giving to the poor out of a single heart a service or ministry of priestly worship. Paul refers to this collection as a priestly service in Romans 15.

Romans 15:25 …I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

Giving is an act of worship. Paul describes his own ministry in these terms.

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

His language pictures himself in terms of a priest at the altar, presenting a holy sacrifice pleasing to God, only his service is not at the temple, but in the gospel; and his offering is not an animal sacrifice or a grain offering, but people, Gentile people made holy by the Spirit of God.

He uses similar priestly imagery in Philippians 2

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Here he describes his own life as the offering being poured out on the sacrifice and priestly service of their faith.

Paul has told the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 …that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? …

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are the temple. We are the place of meeting with God. Peter fleshes out this imagery when he says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

You are the temple. You are a holy priesthood. You are to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You get to proclaim the excellencies of him! This is worship. To proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Paul tells the Romans

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Our bodies are the sacrifice, made holy by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for us. He goes on to tell us more specifically how:

Romans 12:5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity (or simplicity); the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Use your gifts to the glory of God. Through love serve one another.

The book of Hebrews, which focuses on Jesus as our greater High Priest, also exhorts us:

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

A sacrifice of praise; lips that acknowledge his name. Do good and share what you have. In single simplicity love God with all your heart and love and serve your neighbor as yourself.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ultimate motive is always God centered. We are always to pursue the glory of God in all things. God the giver deserves to receive the overflow of gratitude for the gifts he has given. When we love and serve others in the strength that he supplies, he gets the glory; we produce thanksgiving; many will overflow in thanksgiving to God.

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

November 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:10-12; The Benefit of Doing What You Want to Do

09/08_2 Corinthians 8:10-12; The Benefit of Doing What You Want to Do; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190908_2cor8_10-12.mp3

Grace-Giving and Jesus

2 Corinthians 8 is about grace. God’s grace was given to the Macedonian believers and it overflowed in joyful single-hearted simplicity of devotion toward Jesus, which found expression in an earnest eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

All service must be rooted in God’s grace received and experienced.

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

This is grace, that on our account Christ, the eternal Son of God, entered in to our poverty, took to himself out human nature, humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, so that we might enjoy the riches of his glory forever. This is grace, and an experience of this grace changes us. An experience of God’s grace toward us in Christ overflows in simplicity of joy in Jesus and expresses itself in earnest eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

Paul exhorts – he does not command, but invites and encourages – the Corinthians to demonstrate the genuineness of their love.

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

This Benefits You

Paul gives his judgment or counsel to them; his advice, his mind. He says ‘this benefits you. This is to your advantage.’

Every good salesman knows how to sell his product by showing you why you need it, what it will benefit you, how it would be to your advantage to have it, and why it will be worth more than its cost to you. Paul is no salesman; he is a herald; a proclaimer of the good news of the King. He has been given a message, gospel, good news. Paul, as apostle of the good news of Jesus Christ, knows what is good for you.

Paul says ‘I give my counsel.’ In this chapter on giving, we see the grace of God given in verse 1, and the Macedonians who gave themselves first to the Lord in verse 5, and now Paul giving his judgment, his counsel. This is important, and we ought to receive what is given.

Bring it to Completion

What is it that would benefit them? What is it that would be to their own advantage? Paul gives the only imperative verb, the only command in all of chapters 8 and 9, right here in verse 11. he says ‘finish,’ complete, perfect, bring it to its desired end.

In verse 6 Paul encouraged Titus to bring to completion this act of grace; here the Corinthians are told to bring to completion what they had purposed to do. They set out to do it, now it is to their advantage to bring it to completion. He says:

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

His language is roundabout, but his point is clear. They began not only the doing but also the willing from last year. But now also bring to completion the doing, so that just as the advance desire of the willing, thus also the bringing to completion out of the having.

In 1 Corinthians 16 he said:

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Do What You Want

A year ago you started doing this; more than that you wanted to do it. The desire was there. You had the will to do it; you purposed to make this collection. Paul is now saying ‘it is to your advantage to do what you wanted to do.’ You willed it, it is what you wanted to do. Now do it!’

Notice – and I think it is essential to notice – Paul’s focus on desire and willing. He uses the language of desire, of want. You had the desire to do it. You didn’t just start to do it, you desired to do it. It wasn’t arm twisting. It wasn’t compulsion or pressure. It was what you chose. It was what you wanted. Paul affirms their desire; that it was good. Desire has to be awakened.

It’s no good to do good grudgingly, half-heartedly, out of obligation. Paul wants more than that. That might benefit others to some extent, the ones you are serving. But that doesn’t benefit you. That is not to your advantage. He’s going to say in the next chapter ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (9:7). God cares about your heart, your attitude, your desires. He cares not only about the action, but also about the motive behind the action. Why are you doing what you are doing? What do you want to do? It matters.

Think of it this way. There’s sin. There’s temptation. You know it’s wrong. But it’s tempting. You want to give in. You want it because you believe it will give you fulfillment or satisfy some need you have. You want to but you are afraid of the consequences or getting caught or what people will think, so you don’t. But you still have the desire. You see what’s going on here? O you of little faith! You lack faith. You are believing the wrong things. You believe that sin will satisfy, will bring fulfillment. That’s a lie. And it’s a lie that dishonors God. God is the all-satisfying source of every good, and in your desire you are saying that God is not good enough. I need something more, something different. You are saying there is good out there apart from God; in fact God is withholding good from you. That’s how Satan deceived Eve in the garden. There is something good that God is withholding from you.

But Psalm 34:9-10 says:

Psalm 34:9 …those who fear him have no lack! 10 …those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

And Psalm 84:11 assures us:

Psalm 84:11 …the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

No good thing does he withhold. Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. God is not looking merely for outward conformity to his standard. He is not looking for half-hearted grudging obedience, as if he were some bitter pill that we know is good for us, but we throw a fit and pinch our nose and gag as we choke him down.

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

Taste! Take pleasure. Enjoy him. Happy are you if you take refuge in him.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

In his presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore because he is infinitely pleasing and ultimately fulfilling. Do you believe that? Taste and see. Desire him. Long for him. Our desires matter.

Psalm 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

To Will and To Work

It’s no good to do good grudgingly, as if God weren’t your greatest treasure. It’s also no good to have the right desires and do nothing about them. This is where the Corinthians were. Paul affirms their desires.

2 Corinthians 8:10 …this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

You want the right thing, now do what you want. This will benefit you. Jesus said:

John 13:17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples. He is inviting them to love and serve others as he served them. And he went on to tell them that one of them would betray him. Knowing is not enough. You will be happy, you will find joy, if you love others as I have loved you. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus said in Luke 6:

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

It is inconsistent to say one thing and do another. It is inconsistent to call Jesus ‘Master’ and not do what he says. It matters where your heart is, because where your affections truly are will eventually become manifest. What is in your heart will come out in your actions.

Luke 6:47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

A bad foundation is hearing and not doing. A good foundation that will weather the storm is hearing and responding. Listen and then do. And a lot of what Jesus said addressed issues of what we love.

Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to follow through and do what they desired to do.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Excuses Eliminated

Paul motivates them to follow through with their desire, and he eliminates some excuses we so naturally come up with.

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

One excuse we use is delay. We want to help, but it’s just bad timing. It’s not convenient. Maybe another time, but not now. It seems the Corinthians had been delaying, putting it off. They wanted to do it, but they were waiting for a more opportune time.

Another excuse (and it is related to the first) is lack. I really want to help out, but I am just not in a position to do much right now. I might be able to do more later, but right now things are tight. I have other obligations and just can’t spare much. Because I can’t do much, I don’t do anything. This is really pride at its root. If I give, I want it to be impressive. I don’t want to be embarrassed by how little I can give, so I won’t give anything. I am waiting until a time when I can really do it right.

Paul tells them to complete their desire ‘out of what you have.’ He tells them ‘For if the desire is present, it is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you do not have.’ This is simple. God doesn’t fault you for not giving what you don’t have. Give out of what you do have. There are some great practical principles here. If God is telling us that we ought to give within our means, that would imply that we also ought to live within our means. You are not faulted for not giving what you don’t have. You probably should not take what you don’t have and spend it on your pleasures. This is practical.

Acceptable Priestly Offerings

Use what you do have to love and serve others. Don’t delay, and don’t think its not enough. Remember, what you do is ultimately not judged by other people, and it is not meant to impress other people (otherwise, you already have your reward in full). If you have the simplicity of devotion to Jesus because of the grace you have received from him, and you are joyfully eager for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints, then complete that desire out of what you have, not out of what you don’t have.

That is acceptable. Acceptable to who? This is the language of sacrifice and temple. If an offering was acceptable, it was received by the Lord. Paul uses this language in Romans 15

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

He pictures himself a priest presenting an offering, and his desire is that it be received. Peter uses the same imagery

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We all are priests, offering spiritual sacrifices, and our sacrifices are made acceptable only through Jesus Christ. If we love and serve others out of what we have, out of the grace we have been given, that is acceptable; it is well received by God. Remember, it is God and God alone we seek to please. What others think matters not if we are accepted by him.

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ …40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

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

September 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment