The Incarnation! – John 1:14-18

The Incarnation! – John 1:14-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 14, 2014

Joan Rivers made no apologies for all the plastic surgeries she had over the years. Sometimes we can look in the mirror and not like what we see. When you look in the mirror what do you see? What do you think it would feel like to be a different person? Vernon Grounds writes that “You will never know. You may modify your body by exercise and diet. You may change your mind and your behavior. You may even resort to surgery. But you and I will forever be the unique individuals God created us to be. Regardless of how much we may try, we can’t actually experience what it is to be another person.” He continues by relating, “What was it like, then, for God to take on our human nature and live as a man who was despised and misunderstood on this fallen planet? He already knew exactly what sinful people go through. After all, He is all-knowing. Yet He voluntarily came… That’s what the incarnation is all about.”

Yet, how does a holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God actively enter into his creation that is now tainted by sin to become one of his own? It is hard for our mind to wrap itself around and this is exactly why God knew he was going to enter into our world the way he did, through his son Jesus. We have a habit of using words that some call “churchy.” Incarnation is such a word, but it means exactly what I just said. A holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God entered actively into his creation to cleanse it from its sin condition. John writes to us about the incarnation; let’s discover what John writes about it and what it means for our lives…

READ: John 1:14-18

How can human beings become the children of God? LDS falsely teach there was a pre-existence, or a pre-mortal life, in which human spirits were literal children of heavenly parents. Earth was created as a testing ground. The doctrine of eternal progression was succinctly summarized by LDS Church leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” This totally against biblical teaching; Scripture teaches us that there is one God, he created all things, and sin entered the world through mankind’s disobedience. However, God had a plan and John gives us that plan through…

I. The summation of the incarnation! (Vv. 14-15)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”
1. God’s plan was truly simple, magnificently beautiful, and wonderfully wise. John writes, “The Word became flesh.” This should cause any rational person to pause and ponder at the magnitude of what God did. The Messiah, the eternal Word became one of us! Flesh in the physical sense not in the sinful weak worldly ungodliness of human existence. He did not simply appear, nor did he come floating down on the wings of his angels; rather, he entered into existence by making his “dwelling among us.” He literally pitched his tent within our camp! John could testify to this fact because he had seen it for himself, “We have seen his glory!” John was an eyewitness to the Word becoming flesh. He walked with Jesus, he ate with him, and he slept near the same campfire as the Messiah! The messenger of God told Joseph, Jesus’ adopted papa to “not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins… ‘and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:20-21, 23 NIV)” John was witness to “the glory of the One and Only” and would later write, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1 NIV)” Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace (mercy) and truth (the gospel).” John the Baptist also testified concerning who Jesus was by crying out in the wilderness, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John the Baptist knew his place in the plan of God. He would state, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. (Mark 1:7 NIV)” Jesus would ask the crowds, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind… I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he… For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (Matthew 11:7, 11, 13 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: I watched an old western the other day and in it they had to send out scouts to see where the enemy was. A scout was sent, at the risk of his own life, into enemy territory so he could get an idea of what the enemy was up to. John the Baptist’s entire life was one of being a scout in enemy territory. John was aware of not only who the enemy was but who he was scouting for. “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.”’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:7-8 NIV)” He told the questioning crowds, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!

No one knew God before Jesus because he was unknowable. Paul would say, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 NIV)” John teaches us about…

II. The revelation of the incarnation! (Vv. 16-18)
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
1. John knew from what Jesus has done for all mankind that “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” Jesus is the source of God’s mercy and love and we will learn that he loved the world so much that he willingly sent his son for our salvation! What many do not understand is that the entire creation has received the grace of God, “one blessing after another”, because of Jesus, but those who receive him as Savior and Lord receive the ultimate grace of God, Jesus and an abundant life in him! Literally “grace in place of grace.” The Christian life is one that is continually blessed with the grace of God because of Christ! Paul would write that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV)” In fact it was God’s plan that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)” God pours his grace on us because of Jesus! Like Paul, John knew that what the old law of Moses could never do, Jesus did! “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The Law of Moses could only continually condemn folks because once the sacrifice was made by the human priest for sin, sinful man turns around and sins! This is why Paul would write, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NIV)” Only God could do this because only God is holy and all powerful to do so! Jesus, being God did it! John reminds us, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: When a magician does a magic trick behind a curtain he often has someone throw back the curtain to reveal what has occurred. The curtain of God was torn away in the temple because of what Jesus did for all mankind. Because of Jesus we have free access behind the curtain! Viola, God has torn back the curtain through his Son Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins! We no longer live in the darkness because the light of God has revealed all the hidden spaces and shown us the way of salvation through the blood of Christ! John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!

Conclusion:

We have looked at the summation of the incarnation and the revelation of the incarnation, now what will you decide to do with this information?

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The witness! — John 1:6-13

The witness! — John 1:6-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 7, 2014

Testimony is built not only upon what people think they saw but also on the forensic, that is the physical tangible material evidence as well. Dennis Fisher writes in RBC about a young boy Yves Congar. He was just 10 years old when World War I began and the French town where he lived was invaded by the German army. His mother encouraged him to keep a diary, and what resulted was a clear description of a military occupation, complete with written narrative and colored sketches. His diary recorded a disaster from a child’s perspective. He was a personal witness to what occurred. His witness had such a deep effect on him that he felt called to share Christ with others.

The other day the news interviewed several people concerning a shooting and they soon discovered that while each one saw it occur, each person had a different perspective. In fact, each one brought into it their eyewitness testimony their own version of the events that took place! No wonder the police have such a difficult time trying to figure out what happened. The four gospels are such witnesses to an event that changed everyone’s life that were associated with what occurred; this why we get similar narratives, but each is from a different personal perspective of the person relating what they saw and heard. In these next few verses, John is trying to relate the witnesses involved and how each one bears testimony to what they saw concerning Jesus. Let’s see what John wrote…

READ: John 1:6-13

We find on the pages of history certain men who stand out simply because of what they did, their integrity, and the strength of their personal presence. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln or Jeremiah and Moses. Here we discover such a man from the pages of the gospel of John. We find…

I. The witness of John! (Vv. 6-8)
 

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
 

  1. The first witness John introduces to is John the Baptist. He writes that “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron who was barren, and Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. John, therefore was in line to be a priest of God himself. Luke tells us that both parents “were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. (Luke 1:6-7 NIV)” God sends an angel to tell Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would indeed give birth to a child and they were to name him John. In fact Zachariah was promised, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:14-17 NIV)” This is why John wrote, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” John the Baptist would have a specific task given him from birth! He would be the one written about by the prophet Isaiah “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’—a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:2-4 NIV)” John reminds us that “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” We find here the witness of John!
 

  EXAMPLE: John McCasland writes for the Radio Bible Class, “‘Movers and shakers’ are people climbing the ladder of influence and success. Luke 3 mentions seven prominent leaders who exercised control in the society of their time. Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar held the power of life and death over people in his far-flung empire. Pontius Pilate represented Rome as governor of Judea; while Herod, Philip, and Lysanias kept people in line at the regional level. Annas and Caiaphas served as high priests, taking their religious authority seriously. While these power brokers flexed their political muscles, ‘the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness’ (Luke 3:2 NIV). Who could seem less important than this obscure man living in the desert and listening for God’s voice? What could John the Baptist possibly accomplish by ‘preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’? (v.3). Yet multitudes came to John seeking truth, turning from their wrongs, and wondering if he could be the Messiah.” In fact, John would tell them, “one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16 NIV). “John’s life helps us understand what it means to be significant in God’s eyes.” We have the witness of John!

Sometimes when we come from a darkly lit place into a brightly lit one we can become blinded by the brightness of the light. Such was the case of the Light of God entering into the world. John next testifies concerning…

II. The witness of the Light! (Vv. 9-11)
 

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
 

  1. John the Baptist was not the Light; he was only a witness to the Light coming into the world. We find that when asked by others if he was the Messiah, he would answer “I am not.” (John 1:20) John was a witness sent ahead to tell us that the Light had come. This was “The true light that gives light to every man” who “was coming into the world.” Quakers misunderstand this text as do many heretical teachings, such as Theosophical Society, Unity, Unitarian, and Christian Science. They stress an inner light that they believe every human is supposed to have and discover. All you have to do is to let it shine through good things you do, this is totally wrong. The true light gives light to the truth of the gospel message. It does not mean universal salvation, general revelation, even or inner illumination. What John means is that Jesus, the Messiah, as the Light shines on everyone either in salvation or in enlightening him to his sin and coming judgment! God allows us to decide if we will follow Jesus or not. This is why John continued by relating, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” Those caught in sin’s dark sway often do not recognize the one who can save them. People’s love of themselves, their sinful condition, and the filth of their sin holds them in darkness. They can be blind to the light! Paul would say, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32 NIV)” Jesus would declare about himself, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:19-21 NIV)” Sadly, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” Even the Hebrew people did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. John teaches us about the witness of the Light!
 

  EXAMPLE: We all know that one little candle can light up the darkest room. Jesus was and is such a light in a sin-darkened world. While all other religions say we have to better ourselves, appease or do something in order for the god or gods to even give us a nod. No matter how hard we try to become one with the whole, we can never fill the gap of our sin nature that exists. Jesus did not just teach good pithy platitudes, he told us exactly who he was and then proved it by dying on a cross and coming back to life. Jesus bluntly stated, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the witness of the Light!

We discover that the testimony of John concerning Jesus brings us to the point of his testimony. Jesus came so that he could produce spiritual progeny. John introduces us to…

III. The Children of the Witness! (Vv.12-13)

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
 

  1. Here is a wonderful beautiful truth that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”! Paul would rejoice that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus… Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Galatians 3:26; 4:6 NIV)” John would later declare, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)” Praise God there are some who do believe and because of their willingness to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the light, they become God’s children! Paul relates why this is such a wonderful thing, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 NIV)” Now, I do not know about you but I am kind of glad I am an heir, and inheritor of God! When we come to Christ we become “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” People are not naturally born children of God, although there are those who would try to convince you otherwise. They think that we all have some kind of god-stamp on us and all we have to do is discover it; this is wrongheaded. We know the Bible teaches us that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. However, we can become a child of God by receiving the gift of the new birth. Since we have done so, we are witnesses of the light. John would later write, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:10-12 NIV)” We who are born of God need to testify, witness, concerning our inheritance! Christians are children of the Witness!  
 

  EXAMPLE: If you met him you think he was just an ordinary guy. He quietly served in a church I attended years ago. He helped prepare the Lord’s Supper, he swept the church sidewalks in the fall, and mowed the church lawn in the summer. He spent time with others sharing his faith. I often heard him telling people at church in his quiet way how good the Lord was to him. During prayer meeting he didn’t talk much about himself but would ask us to pray for those he was sharing Jesus with. Folks knew that John the Baptist “never performed a miraculous sign. (John 10:41 NIV)” And this is a wonderful thing: God takes ordinary folks like you and me to be his witnesses! This ordinary man came as a witness of the Light because he was a child of God. Like this man we who believe are now children of the witness! With our actions and personal testimony, let’s point others to the Light!

Conclusion:

We discovered the witness of John! Jesus is the witness of the Light! Christians are children of the Witness!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Light! — John 1:1-5

The Light! — John 1:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 31, 2014

In the strictest sense this Gospel has no author named like Paul’s letters do. It is anonymous. In fact, none of the four Gospel authors identify themselves by name. There is a good reason for this, they are not meant to be private letters to specific churches or individuals, except perhaps Luke’s Gospel. Yet we discover that often the writer reveals himself through his writing and we discover that church history can often reveal who the authors were. Putting all of these facts together makes a good case for the author of the Fourth Gospel having been John, one of the sons of a fisherman named Zebedee.

The date for the writing of the Gospel of John was probably between 85 and 95 AD, however, there is good evidence that it could have been written as early as 45 and 65 AD before the destruction of the Temple. And, John himself tells us why he wrote his gospel, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 NIV)” Matthew’s gospel begins with a genealogy, Luke is dedicated to his friend Theophilus, Mark begins with the preaching of John the Baptist, but John’s gospel begins with Jesus the Light! Let’s discover why…

READ: John 1:1-5

John Wayne in the movie The Cowboys asks Jebediah Nightlinger, Rosco Lee Brown, about his bona fides as a cook and Nightlinger then remarks how he can cook and cook well by reciting his cooking credentials. A person’s bona fides serves to guarantee a person’s good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials. John begins his gospel in reciting Jesus’ bona fides as the Light. John writes that first of all…

I. The Light is God! (Vv. 1-2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

  1. John immediately establishes Jesus’ credentials, his bona fides, as being God by giving him a new moniker. John addresses Jesus as the Word, logos. It was a common Greek philosophical term which had become the rage of the day for even the religious leaders of the Jews. Like the Greeks, they loved to debate. So it was a common term in Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy as well and it was familiar to his readers. John’s usage becomes quite clear when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” The “logos”, Jesus, was with God in full fellowship in the very beginning of all things. But more than that, “the Word was God.” John states, “logos en Theos”, and so his meaning is very clear. The Light, Jesus, is God! He existed from the very beginning, he was and is in complete total fellowship with God, and the Light is God himself! Not “a god” as the heresies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Latter Day Saints teaches. John is clearly setting up the doctrine of the Trinity, whereby the Father, Son, and the Spirit are one; coequal in power, authority, and nature. This is very important because we discover Jesus teaching later, “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” and “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father. (John 16:28 NIV)” He also affirmed, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am! (John 8:58 NIV)” and finally, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:15 NIV)” When we look at Jesus, we see God Himself! (John 12:45) John begins by teaching, “He was with God in the beginning.” It is the divine nature of who Jesus is; that namely the Light is God!

  EXAMPLE: There is a whole lot of confusion in our world today concerning what it means to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Many readily say “I believe in God.” But what they mean by that usually means they believe in some kind of higher power than themselves. Jesus is more than just a wise holy man, he is more than a nice guy who taught great things, he is the Logos, the Word; God himself! If Jesus is not God then what he was sent to teach us about God and what he eventually did, die on a cross and come back to life, means nothing! In J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf explains why he has selected a small hobbit to fight the enemy. He says, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” As nice as that sounds, it was the Light who did that greatest act of kindness ever in order to pierce the darkness of sin! The Light for John is God!

The Light for John is God; he is foundational to all things ever taught to the Hebrew people. He is the hoped for Messiah, but he was much more. For John…

II. The Light is the Creator! (v. 3)

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

  1. Like bullets in a PowerPoint presentation Johns immediately establishes for his readers exactly who Jesus is. However, for John it was important that we understand what he meant that Jesus is God and that he was in the beginning of all things. “Through him all things were made” is a statement for the power and authority of Jesus as well. While the Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father, we discover that Jesus did not at some point in time come into existence or begin a relationship with the Father. From eternity past the Father and the Son have always existed together; both are God, not two Gods. Jesus is Creator God. This is why Paul would affirm, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV)” And he would reiterate that in fact Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)” This is why John would teach us that “without him nothing was made that has been made.” Why is this so important? Simply because there are those who would have you believe that everything came into being, BANG, on its own or that some pantheistic god holds everything together and we just have to tune into the vibe of it. Nothing could be further from the truth! We are not part of the amoebic whole nor were we some blob that finally crawled up on a beach somewhere and evolved into the image of our creator! The mere existence of Jesus disproves all of these false teachings! The Light is the Creator!

  EXAMPLE: The Bible teaches us that God spoke and everything came into being, some call this ex nihilo, meaning out of nothing something. Why is this important for us to know? Paul wrote the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV)” Here is a beautiful truth that while we were once just as Paul describes us, the new reality is that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)” The Light, for John, created all things proving he is indeed God, but he also created us in him! The Light is the Creator!

The reason I say this is because of what John writes next about the Light. John knew that Jesus was more than some unreachable deity; he was just like us without sin. However his whole life reflected who he was. For John…

III. The Light is life! (Vv. 4-5)

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

  1. Life is sacred and it is the most important benefit of who we are as sinful humanity. God granted and gave us life. God gave us Jesus the life of all mankind. We all understand that to lose a loved one is a tragedy and to lose someone we love without them knowing the love of God is truly heartbreaking! Yet what John writes gives us hope. In Jesus “was life, and life was the light of all men”! Jesus is the Creator and he is the source of all life, especially eternal life! We know “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:15-16 NIV)” Jesus would affirm, “I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6 NIV)” And, he would teach, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the Light of the world! He is the one who gives us eternal life and a hope in the darkness of sin and death! This world is full of evil, violence, and death. None of us can say how long we will live or when we will die, however, if we know the Light of the world to live is Christ and to die is gain! Jesus would lovingly tell his disciples, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46 NIV)” In Jesus we have wonderful hope in a sin-darkened world! “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” That which is sinful and ungodly does not recognize the light of life! Jesus came to rescue us from the darkness of spiritual ignorance, death, and the sin condition of our lives. Paul would ask, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)” Matthew would write that “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16 NIV)” John knew that Jesus the Light is life!

  EXAMPLE: When comedian Robin Williams recently committed suicide people were shocked, dismayed, and hurt. Yet we soon discovered his life was full of personal demons of self-doubt, drugs, and alcohol. While much of Hollywood embraces all things weird, odd, or strange what a difference it could have made if even one of Williams’ friends would have shared Christ with him. I have known others who suffered some of the very same doubts, used drugs and alcohol to try to sooth their darkened souls, but found hope, personal peace, and light in darkness because of Jesus Christ. Life is sacred and we only have one to live on this earth. God granted and gave us life in Jesus. For John, Jesus the Light is life!

Conclusion:

Jesus the Light is God, Jesus the Light is the Creator, and Jesus the Light is life!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…

By Pastor Lee Hemen

August 24, 2014

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV)

I was just wondering, how holy is holy for you? Here’s what I mean by this: Suppose God just all of a sudden decided to go against the promise of his word and only give you partial cleansing for your halfhearted confession? Would you want that for the forgiveness of your sins? You know what I mean, God would say something like, “Okay, here’s just a little bit of cleansing since you weren’t really sincere.” Would we like that? Would we want that? We would not commit ourselves to him if he only partially cleansed us, why would we? Yet we expect and demand that God only accept our partial obedience. How much rebellion becomes total disobedience? Do you seriously think God just winks, nods, and then smiles at your little rebellion? Christians who think they can play games with God will discover they misread the rule book. A little rebellion is a whole lot of sin. So, how holy is holy for you? For God it means complete obedience. Makes one wonder…

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The Confessed Life! — James 5:12-20

The Confessed Life! — James 5:12-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 24, 2014

What would you like your last words to be to those you leave behind before you die? Perhaps you would want to leave behind some good advice for those you are leaving or maybe you would want to just say, “so long”?  The comedian Bob Hope, to his wife Delores after she asked him where he wanted to be buried, replied, “Surprise me.” W. C. Fields, when he was asked why he was reading the Bible on his death bed, responded, “I’m looking for loop holes!” King David related with his last words that “When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth. (2 Samuel 23:3-4 NIV)” How cool is that!

James tried to fit into his final words all that he could so his readers would gain as much wisdom from his teaching as possible. For James it all boiled down to a simple life lived in Christ. A believer should not become impatient with their words, prayers, faith or sins. For James a life in Jesus was a confessed life. If you have made your confession to follow the one who died for you, then you should act like it! The confessed life is one of following Jesus; let’s discover what James teaches us…

READ: James 5:12-20

The Psalmist prays, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 NIV)” James knew that…

I. The confessed life doesn’t need curse words! (Vv. 12-13)

Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (James 5:12-13 NIV)

1. I remember when my mother wanted to make sure I listened to her, she would say something like “Young man, you had better be listening to me!” James tells his readers, “Above all” in that he wanted them to pay particular attention to what he was about to tell them. He wanted to leave them with some good parting advice that they soon would not forget. Jesus would use the term, “I tell you the truth” or “Amen” when he wanted his listeners to pay attention to what he was about to say. James wanted to get his reader’s attention to the details of their life in Christ. Believers can be so lackadaisical in their attitude and or actions concerning their faith. Just as a believer’s impatience should not be seen or heard in their griping or grumbling, we should not hear swear words come from a mouth that has been cleansed by Christ. Jesus would teach, “Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:34-37 NIV)” Words often reflect the person’s true inner self. Jesus knew that it was not so much the words one used; it was the intent behind the words one used. We can use perfectly fine sounding words in very ungodly ways. James is just reinforcing Jesus’ teaching. James then reminds us that if we are “in trouble” we should instead use our voices for prayer. Speaking to God is far better than cursing the darkness. But more than that, if we are blessed, happy, we should “sing songs of praise”! The confessed life doesn’t need curse words!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget the first time I heard a grandparent, not mine, use foul language. I thought, “Grandparents shouldn’t use language like that! They’re grandparents!” It was shocking for me because you would think that folks who have lived long enough to see their grandchildren would have enough sense not to use ungodly language to express themselves, however, sin does not discriminate according to the age of the person. Praise and prayer, not cursing, should be what comes out of the mouths of believers. The confessed life doesn’t need curse words!
James continued in what he thought about prayer for the Christian. He understood that prayer is to be foundational for a dynamic life in Christ. In fact, we discover that for James…

II. The confessed life trusts in prayer! (Vv. 14-18)

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5:14-18 NIV)

1. James knew that prayer is the one great thing the church can do for each other. Talking to God is never a wasted effort, especially if it is for the benefit of a fellow believer! “Is anyone sick?” James asks and then answers his own inquiry by relating the following advice, “He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” The oil isn’t what is important here but rather the elders of the church praying over their fellow member “in the name of the Lord.” And notice, the one who is sick should be the one to ask for prayer! Actually, a great deal of confusion has been taught about these verses. Full physical health is not promised here, the practice of extreme unction (8th century) is not being taught here, and James is not teaching prayer plus a physician will do the trick either. The word for sick actually means to be weak. So, James is also referring to those who are not just physically weak but those who are spiritually weak in their faith! In fact, according to the literal translation, James affirms, “and the prayer of the faith shall save the distressed one, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if sins he may have committed, they shall be forgiven to him.” (Young’s Literal Translation) Prayer offered in faith is the key here. James is not teaching that hidden sin has caused a person to be sick, but rather his weak faith! “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (literally made whole).” The power of prayer was evident for James and he knew that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” His example is “Elijah” who “was a man just like us.” And remember that “He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.” Just as Elijah depended on prayer, James knew the confessed life trusts in prayer as well!

EXAMPLE: One of the first things Jesus’ disciples wanted him to do was to teach them how to pray. Up until this time, prayer had been by mechanical, uninspired, repetitious, and well boring! I was taught as a child to use beads and to murmur mindlessly over and over the same prayers hundreds if not thousands of times, and then, we were taught that God may or may not listen depending upon our attitude! How liberating it was for me when I learned that prayer was not something repeated ad nauseam. I learned that my prayer was actually talking to and having a conversation with the Living Lord and having him not only listen but respond! The prayer of a Christian is both powerful and effective and prayer is the best thing we can do for any situation! The confessed life trusts in prayer!

James was concerned for those believers who wandered away from the truth because of their spiritual weakness. He knew and understood that God is gracious and always forgives us when we confess our sins. James desired his readers realize that…

III. The confessed life turns wanderers back to the fold! (Vv. 19-20)

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20 NIV)

1. James, as he wraps his letter up, states, “My brothers.” He is tacitly reminding them who they are, fellow Christians, and that they are part of something far greater than themselves, Jesus’ body his church. More than anything James wanted the body of Christ to be strong in their faith. And here we discover that James was indeed writing about someone who was weak in their faith rather than someone who was ill when he states “if one of you should wander from the truth.” The weak in the Lord will wander. It is the duty of those who are strong and steadfast in faith to “bring him back.” In fact, they should do so! Some of Paul’s final words to his friend and fellow pastor Timothy sound like James’ words of encouragement when he writes, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20-21 NIV)” He wrote the church at Galatia, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NIV)” James’ last request to his readers has a touch of tenderness and a clear note of encouragement to those who have helped others who have grown weary and have wandered from their faith. He writes “remember this.” We are to remember that except by the grace of God we could be the one who has wandered. How beautiful is it then to bring back the one lost sheep to the warm fold of the Father’s arms. James shares that “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James did not mean the sins of the person turning the one back would be covered but rather that the sinner’s condition, his multitude of sins, would be covered by the grace of God when one turns back to him! Therefore he is saved from the wages of his sin, which is spiritual death! James knew that the confessed life turns wanderers back to the fold!

EXAMPLE: One of the most beautiful parables taught by Jesus is the one of the good shepherd who leaves the 99 safe sheep and goes out and looks for the one lost lamb. He finds the lamb, puts it on his shoulders, and carries it home where the whole town rejoices at its return and safety! Shouldn’t this be true for the body of Christ too? Recently a Camas family lost their daughter to unscrupulous people who had evil designs on their 19 year-old. She miraculously returned to them safe and unharmed and they wept openly at her return. Praise God that James taught that the confessed life turns wanderers back to the fold!

Conclusion:

The confessed life doesn’t need curse words! The confessed life trusts in prayer! And, James knew that the confessed life turns wanderers back to the fold!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Patient Life! — James 5:7-11

The Patient Life! — James 5:7-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 17, 2014

When things did not turn out the way the little five-year-old girl wanted, she sat down in a huff and cried. Her father, trying to be sympathetic, told her that she just needed to be patient and that good things come to those who wait. She lamented back, “I am patient I just want it now!” That kind of sums up a lot of us; we want to be patient, but being so is a lot harder than we often anticipate. Someone once said that “If patience is a virtue, many of us aren’t very virtuous!”

James realized that a lot of the struggles his readers were going through were of their own making simply because they wanted all of the blessings of God without any of the hardship involved. Now, doesn’t that sound familiar? While we can grin at the fact that folks haven’t changed a whole lot since James’ day, we should be ashamed and stunned that we haven’t changed. James’ answer for the fact that too many believers are indifferent to their ungodly behavior was not only to repent, weep and wail, but to practice a life of living for the Lord. With this comes the admonishment to be patient in the face of life’s difficulties. The hardship of life will happen but how we handle it says a lot about what we truly believe. Let’s discover what James teaches us concerning the patient life…

READ: James 5:7-11

Instead of plotting, planning, and scheming how you are going to get rich quick and stick it to the man, James writes that perhaps you need to focus your life on that which is more important. He reminds us that…

I. Patience is standing strong in the Savior (Vv. 7-8)!

1. James reiterates for his readers to “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” He is literally telling them to be long suffering, but we do not use that kind of terminology anymore. After all, who wants to suffer for a long time? Yet, that is exactly what James meant! Not that we should suffer for a long time but rather we should bear up and be strong until Jesus returns! Some think he was addressing the poor folks whom the rich had misused, while others think he is addressing the impatient get rich quick folks who wanted life’s richness now at the expense of others! I believe he is addressing all of us. Christians are to be patient until the Lord’s coming, then all of this scheming, plotting, and other ill-conceived living will come to fruition. James gives us an example of what he means by relating, “See” or consider “how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” The farms in his day and in that area were totally dependent upon the autumn and spring rains for growth. If they did not happen, there was no crop. All the famer could do is to wait patiently for the rain and then also wait patiently for the harvest afterwards. In our day we can hardly relate to the patience these folks had to have in order to survive. We get impatient waiting for a red light to change or if our hamburger isn’t made perfect in 60 seconds! James concludes by telling his Christian friends, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” We easily forget that every day brings us one day closer to Jesus’ return. Jesus knew that each day bought us nearer to his eventual return and the justice of God, this is why he related that when the Son of Man returns “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8 NIV)” Until he returns we are to patiently stand strong in the Savior!

EXAMPLE: We have become a generation of miscommunication. While we think we have created more convenience for ourselves, instead we have created more frustration and misunderstanding. Texting has taken the place of email which took the place of using the phone which took the place of writing a letter which took the place of actually speaking to another person! Misconception is at an all time high because of the reliance of texting. In fact, we have even shortened texting to using letters for phrases or tweeting, which uses 140 characters or less! It is humorous how now when someone is misunderstood because of a tweet they wrote, others tweet what they meant by their tweet! We spend a lot of time texting or tweeting what we really meant in the first place when we could have spoken to the person ourselves and gotten it right the first time! Is it any wonder then the church has become impatient with its own faith? Believers are no longer admonished to wait patiently for the Lord’s coming. We are to be spoon-fed ten easy ways to gain a strong faith by the end of a sermon series instead! James teaches us that until he returns we are to patiently stand strong in the Lord!

James knew that in life we often see injustices. He warned against them, especially from the hands of believers who abused one another! This can create bitterness in our lives. Standing strong in the Lord is important, but he reminds us that…

II. Patience is bearing another believer’s burden (v. 9)!

1. We can be unhappy because our latte didn’t have enough foam or our drive to work was longer than we like. James is not referring to life’s petty inconveniences when he related we are to stand strong in Christ, rather he was writing about how we respond in faith to our circumstances. Part of the problem in today’s church is that we have effectively created a standalone faith. We erroneously teach that church membership is not necessary, that we do not need to fellowship with fellow believers on a regular basis, or that we are only responsible for ourselves. Church has become our Sunday morning experience rather than the Body of Christ it is meant to be. Nothing could be further from the truth of Scripture! James writes therefore, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” Grumbling here is murmuring or to sigh and roll one’s eyes. James knew that when you are part of something bigger than yourself, it gets messy. You actually have to get involved with one another! And guess what? You soon realize that believers are not perfect people, including our pastors or church leaders! According to Paul as the Contemporary English Version translates it, “You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. If you think you are better than others, when you really aren’t, you are wrong. Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others. We each must carry our own load. (Galatians 6:2-5 CEV)” The burden we are to help one another with is the heavy load of life and the load is our faith walk in Jesus! When we grumble about a fellow believer we forget we will be judged for our griping, and in fact, “The Judge is standing at the door!” James reminds us. When we grumble about a pastor or fellow church member, we are grumbling about those Jesus died for. Instead of grumbling perhaps we should give a helping hand instead. Patience for James is bearing another believer’s burden.

EXAMPLE: I have been blessed over the decades on how other believers have come along side of one another to help, encourage, and strengthen one another. But I have also been shocked and saddened at the easy betrayal of those who profess Christ and their easy disloyalty of fellow believers. Often they have difficulty seeing their own delinquent behavior. James knew the Body of Christ is a sacred thing. It is Jesus’ body doing his work and will in the world until he returns. And when we grumble against a fellow member of that Body, we are grumbling against the Lord himself. We are saying through our actions that the Lord himself is burdensome! My mom would tell us, “Young man, don’t you roll your eyes at me and huff!” She knew what I was thinking by my actions and so does the Lord! Instead of being disgusted with another believer, we are to come along side of them until they grow strong in his Body! Patience for James is bearing another believer’s burden!

Christians are to be patient with one another. We cannot expect perfection from that which isn’t! In fact if we think we are so strong in the Lord that we can judge another person’s actions, we had better be careful. Remember Jesus’ teaching on the log removal from an accuser’s eye? Instead, James related that…

III. Patience is putting forth a pattern for other people (Vv. 10-11)!

1. James teaches, “Brothers,” fellow believers in Christ, “as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Instead of going for the jugular of the weak in faith, we should look to the strength of those who have gone on before us! I have discovered that those who have the fewest problems within a church are those who actually have the strongest walk with the Lord! Go figure! David in all of his weaknesses could remind others, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV)” Paul would encourage, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)” Jesus remarked to his disciples after he had washed their feet, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15 NIV)” In fact, we are to “take note of those who live according to the pattern” that they have given us in the Lord! (Philippians 3:17) None of us have suffered as the early believers did, but in this life of ours we are to respond no differently. In the face of our lives we are to set a pattern for others to follow. We can look to Job, Isaiah, Daniel, James, Peter, Paul, John and others who were not perfect but who set for us an example themselves. James encouraged by writing, “As you know, we consider blessed (happy) those who have persevered.” Are you happy in your faith? Perhaps you have misunderstood what perseverance means? It isn’t putting up with or making excuses for, it means standing with God in Christ! James reminds us, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” Interestingly, James did not say that Job had makrothymia, “patience,” but rather that he had hypomonēn, “steadfastness, endurance, and perseverance”! While he may have gotten impatient with God, he endured in his faith, and that is exactly what we are to do; never forgetting that “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” We are to remember that patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!

EXAMPLE: As a parent I knew that I no longer lived my life in a vacuum. Little eyes and ears were watching and listening to everything I did and everything I said. As a grandpa, this lesson has come rushing back into my life again. Whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not, and whether we feel like it or not, as parents and grandparents we are examples to our children and grandchildren. They are the legacy we leave behind. And believe me those irritating things they do come from somewhere and usually they come from what they have seen or heard us do! The same holds even truer for our faith walk in Christ. The world around us is looking for the pattern of Christ in our lives, what do you think they see and hear? If your fellow believers have a hard time seeing and hearing Jesus in you, what kind of pattern are you displaying for the rest of the world? We are to remember that patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!

Conclusion:

Patience is standing strong in the Savior, patience is bearing another believer’s burden, and patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Rich Life! – James 5:1-6

The Rich Life! – James 5:1-6
By pastor Lee Hemen
August 10, 2014

In the movie Little Orphan Annie the bad guys sing a song called “Easy Street.” They sing about a pie-in-the-sky place they think only rich folks enjoy. They blame all of their hard times on their not getting rich quick and how the wealthy keep them from doing so. Social Democrats have used class envy since the Great Depression. However, this is nothing new. There are several false theologies regarding distribution of wealth that are rampant in today’s world. One comes from the days of Jesus and James whereby folks incorrectly thought that if you were well off, then you were being blessed by God. This false doctrine still exists in the teachings on so-called Christian television. They teach that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to their ministries will always increase one’s material wealth and health. It has been called health and wealth, name-it-and-claim-it, blab it and grab it, or positive confession. Based on false interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, they teach that the Bible is both a spiritual and material contract between God and man. If we have enough of the right kind of faith in God, he will deliver on his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor. Robert Tilton, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Hagin, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyers and Paula White are just a few of the false heretics that promote this kind of ungodly theology.

Then there are those within some denominations, such as Unity, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, and Disciples of Christ that teach Liberation Theology. Most churches and denominations that belong to the National Council of Churches support Liberation Theology. It is also seen as a political movement that began in the Roman Catholic Church in South America in the 1950s. It is a theology which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ as liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. It has been described as, “an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor’s suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor”. It promotes open borders, illegal immigration, and redistribution of a nation’s wealth through political or forceful means. Detractors have called it Christianized Marxism, which it often is. It secularizes the teachings of Christ and deems him as a liberator for the poor and downtrodden. Liberation theologians specifically target the disparities between rich and poor in the existing social and economic, political and corporate structures. They believe that Jesus’ gospel taught the redistribution of property and wealth. Nothing could be further from the truth. On August 4th the Vatican announced it was lifting its 29 year old ban on several radical priests who promoted and taught Liberation Theology. Pope Francis himself is a Liberation theologian and proponent.

Then there is also Black Liberation Theology which seeks to liberate people of color from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation and views Christianity as a theology of liberation. It views people of color as an “oppressed community” and the Gospel as a means to social, economic and political liberation. According to James Hal Cone, one of its founders, if God is not just, if God does not desire justice, then God needs to be done away with. Liberation from a false god who privileges whites, and the realization of an alternative and true God who desires the empowerment of the oppressed through self-definition, self-affirmation, and self-determination is the core of Black Liberation Theology. Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago is the church most frequently cited by Cone and others as the best example of a church formally founded on the vision of Black Liberation Theology. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s pastor for decades, who married him and Michelle and baptized his daughters has preached racism and anti-Americanism in his sermons, articles, and statements, and finally under public scrutiny caused then-Senator Barack Obama to distance himself from his former pastor. Sadly, to the detriment of our Nation, and the alienation of diverse groups, much of its theological teachings have found their way into recent public policy.

Why do I bring these examples up for your consideration today? Simply because many over the centuries have misused the passage of Scripture from James we will consider today. James wanted his readers to live the rich life in Christ not as a means of material, political, or social liberation but of personal stewardship. Let’s discover what James wrote and why.

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. (James 5:1-6 NIV)”

If we just focus on these verses of James we will come away with a convoluted view of what he was trying to teach his readers. It is well known that Martin Luther had problems with this book. He called it a “right strawy epistle.” But it is only “strawy” to the degree it is tough in its teaching. Like Jesus’ teaching on the mount, there are enough needles in this haystack to prick the conscience of every dull, defeated, and decadent Christian in the world. Here is a “right stirring epistle” designed to exhort and encourage, to challenge and convict, to rebuke and revive, to describe practical holiness and drive believers toward the goal of a faith that works. James is severely ethical and refreshingly practical. Lest we forget, the purpose of James is to exhort the early believers to Christian maturity and holiness of life. This letter deals more with the practice of the Christian faith than with its precepts. James told his readers how to achieve spiritual maturity through a confident stand, compassionate service, careful speech, contrite submission, and concerned sharing. He dealt with every area of a Christian’s life: in what he is, in what he does, in what he says, in what he feels, and in what he has. This is the rich life for James.

Notice that the first three verses here describe what has occurred to all of their ill-conceived schemes and hording of their wealth: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. (James 5:1-3 NIV)”

James bluntly rebukes his readers by saying, “Now listen, you rich people!” Instead of rejoicing at how intelligent or practical they had been they should “weep and wail because of the misery” that was about to happen to them! They had spent their entire lives plotting how to get rich and stay rich but their “wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten” their fine clothes! James knew that no matter how hard one tries to take it with them, they cannot do so. And for the believer in Christ to not use what he has been blessed with in life for the glory of God, was a sin for James. James is not preaching some redistribution of a person’s possessions, but rather the good stewardship Christians are supposed to practice in life! A person’s wealth is not good to them after they are dead, only the pagans believed that! We are not only to reap what we have sown in life; we are to sow what we have reaped as well! We are to share the goodness of God that we enjoy with fellow believers around us. Christians are to take care of one another. A holy life is marked by a servant’s heart. There is a reason why Jesus taught, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)” True liberation in life does not come from the redistribution of another’s wealth but from our own liberation in Christ whereby our hearts are changed! When our wealth has rotted, our clothes have been eaten by insects, and our gold and silver wasted and corroded what good are they? James warns, “Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.” Like Paul, James knew we should be careful how we build our lives in Christ. Paul would warn, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV)” James would warn his readers, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” James is implicitly asking them, “What in the world are you doing with your wealth now to further the kingdom of God?” Jesus, in the Apostle John’s vision in Revelation, remarked to the church at Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:15-18 NIV)” Now, let me ask you, “Are you living the rich life God desires of you?”

James continued his warning by relating, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. (James 5:4-6 NIV)”

We forget that our sins will find us out. We will have to give an account of all that God has blessed us with in this life and how we used it to further for his kingdom or not. Proverbs reminds us, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’– when you now have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27-28 NIV)” the neighbor here was fellow Hebrews, for us it would be our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, lest we forget, Jesus reminded an expert in the law, after he correctly answered that we are to love God completely and our neighbor as ourselves that our neighbor is the one whom God lays in our daily path that could use our assistance. It is the parable of the Good Samaritan where a man is robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch. Both a priest and a Levite passed him by after seeing him. But the Samaritan, an outcast himself from Jewish society, saw him and took pity on him. Took him to an inn and paid for his recovery. Jesus asks the expert in the law, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Now, let me ask you “Have the cries of your neighbors reached the ears of the Lord Almighty?” Rich living, liberation in a believer’s life begins when we willingly use what God has given us to invest in the lives of others who do not know him!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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