Who’s Your Daddy? – John 8:37-47

Who’s Your Daddy? – John 8:37-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 24, 2015

One of the greatest detriments to our society’s stability is the dysfunctional makeup of families; namely the amount of absentee father’s in the home. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, “There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological dad in the home. Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today.” Children of absentee fathers are more likely to live in poverty, have emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to commit crime, use drugs, get pregnant, and more likely to face abuse and neglect. I see the affects of absent fathers daily where I work as a playground monitor.

While the absence of natural fathers in families is a terrible thing, the absence of having our Heavenly Father in a family can be far worse. Strong Christian fatherless homes fair far better than those without Christ. In fact, the effect is dramatic because there is a spiritual foundation that fosters respect, commitment, and personal integrity. Physically the Jews were the descendants of Abraham, yet they failed in their adoption as children of God. Here in John’s gospel Jesus bluntly confronts them about this by asking them, “Who’s your Daddy?” Let’s discover what occurred and what the result was…

READ: John 8:37-47

Most children are curious about where they come from, but sadly in our day and age it seems fewer folks are concerned about their spiritual roots. We discover here that…

I. Abraham was not their father! (Vv. 37-41)

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

1. While Jesus’ detractors wanted to discuss his heritage in order to detract from who Jesus said he was, he would have none of it and in fact tells them, “I know you are Abraham’s descendants.” Jesus knew because he was one as well! He could claim the same heritage they did and even more so because of whose son he was! He not only was God’s one and only son, born of a woman and the Holy Spirit, but he was also naturally born into the Hebrew nation! The Jews Jesus was speaking to may have been physically Abraham’s descendants, but they were not his spiritual children! Paul would write, “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NIV)” In reality they had nothing to be proud of in dismissing Jesus, God’s true son! Paul knew that God’s promise of our adoption as God’s heritage and children was fulfilled in Jesus, “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. (Romans 9:8 NIV)” Jesus absolutely knew what he spoke of was true because he had experienced the truth of it in the presence of God himself, “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They knew only their true father’s lies and he was not Abraham! Like many in our day, they listen to one who deceives them! Like petulant children they respond, “Abraham is our father!” However, if they were truly spiritual children of Abraham, they “would do the things Abraham did.” They should have responded to Jesus just as Abraham responded to the godly messengers sent to him! But they rejected Jesus and he bluntly tells them, “As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.” How could they claim Abraham as their spiritual father when they did not do as he had done? Jesus tells them, “You are doing the things your own father does.” Jesus knew Abraham was not their father!

EXAMPLE: The fight on the playground began with the age-old argument about one another’s parentage. I asked the two boys who were involved in the fisticuffs if their parents would be truly proud of them fighting over what they called one another’s parents. They both looked at their feet and mumbled, “Probably not.” The Jews wanted to involve Jesus in a playground argument concerning their parentage. Instead of asking their Heavenly Father about Jesus they instead engage him in a verbal battle they could not win. Like many today who think they know God, they did not have the spiritual parentage they needed. Jesus knew Abraham was not their father!

The Jews tried to claim a false spirituality they did not have, “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” However, we discover that…

II. God was not their father! (Vv. 42-47)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

1. You can tell a real family by how it acts and what the glue is that holds it together, it is filled with love and because God is love, his family would be filed with his love. Nothing could be further from this reality than this fact concerning the Jews; they were filled with bitterness and narrow-mindedness. Jesus tells them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.” If they had truly known God they would have known who Jesus was and that God had sent him! Jesus then asks them a rhetorical question, “Why is my language not clear to you?” Of course they would not like the answer he gives them, “Because you are unable to hear what I say.” Many in our world today have the same problem with their hearing as well, they are spiritually deaf! They cannot hear God because they are listening to the wrong spiritual father! Jesus gives them the reason for their deafness, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” All other spirituality that does not come from God comes from another father, Satan! Satan is the enemy of the truth and the father of lies! He has been since the very beginning of all things! It is his intrinsic nature to lie! Sadly, far too many swallow his lies as spiritual food. Jesus retorts, “Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” Since those who do not know God love to hide in the darkness of their sin and love deception rather than the truth, they do not believe it when they hear it! Jesus asks them, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?” Of course Jesus had never sinned and yet they would not believe him because they would rather listen to a liar than God! God was not their father! When we are willing by faith to listen to what God actually says, then we will hear what he is telling us. This is why Jesus says, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Do you hear God; do you belong to God’s family? The Jews could not hear Jesus because their ears were spiritually plugged. God was not their father!

EXAMPLE: When she was asked to stop, she refused to do so and suffered the consequences of her actions and attitude. She had to go to the Vice Principal and explain her defiance and disrespectful attitude. Of course at first she denied any culpability in her actions. There are those who will try to deny their ungodly refusal to trust Jesus. Jesus would teach that God would know his family by the spiritual fruit they produce and in fact he would relate that just saying you belong to Jesus will not cut it in his coming kingdom, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 NIV)” Sadly, like far too many in our day, we discover that God was not their father!

Conclusion:

Jesus knew Abraham was not their father and God was not their father either!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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 Truth Will Set You Free! – John 8:30-36

The Truth Will Set You Free! – John 8:30-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 17, 2015

Shel Silverstein once quipped, “Tell me I’m clever, Tell me I’m kind, Tell me I’m talented, Tell me I’m cute, Tell me I’m sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I’m perfect – But tell me the truth.” Contrary to what some would like you to believe, there can only be one truth. However, for some the truth is completely relative, meaning it is only relevant when it benefits them or agrees with their own preconceptions. In our day and age where many think that lying is just part of life, we would do well to remember what Mark Twain wrote, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Jesus was the embodiment of the truth. He never lied nor did anything for his own benefit; his life was one of complete honesty, humility, and sacrifice. God knew that if he was going to relate the gospel message of salvation by faith through Jesus, Jesus would have to be completely truthful in every area of his life. In fact, Christians are to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom! (James 2:12 NIV)” Jesus would later ask the Heavenly Father to “Sanctify” those who follow him “by the truth” because he knew that his “word is truth. (John 17:17 NIV)” This is why here in John’s gospel we learn that the truth will set you free, let’s discover what this means.

READ: John 8:30-36

My father used to tell us, “A man is only as good as his word.” What he meant was that if someone said they agreed to something, they would definitely follow through. A man’s word would be dependable. Not everyone in our world today agrees with this but everyone wants others to do so! Jesus was completely dependable and he knew…

I. Everyone needs to know the Truth! (Vv. 30-32)

Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

1. When we read that “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him,” doesn’t mean that the fickle crowd all of a sudden got religion or was saved; this is not what John means. More than likely he meant that some of the crowd began to realize that Jesus was indeed the Messiah he claimed to be. They began to possibly realize that Jesus was exactly what he claimed and nothing more or perhaps he was a great Prophet. They could see something different in his life, they heard it in his teaching, and saw it in the miracles he performed. They understood that Jesus did only do what pleased God and noting else. He did not seek glory for himself or for his followers. He only glorified God! Interestingly, we read that “To the Jews who had believed him” Jesus begins some heavy teaching. Perhaps Jesus knew some of them were ready to understand more fully what he was about or perhaps he knew that while many were willing to “believe” they were not willing to commit. There are those who say they believe in God or that they believe in Jesus, but what they believe and what they do with their lives says otherwise. I believe this is why Jesus immediately follows up with the concise comment, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” The term “hold” here meant to abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, or stay firm in Jesus’ teaching. Not simply feel the urge one moment and then the next moment live otherwise. Far too many have a heartburn faith. They will burn to be filled and then walk away sated only to feed from some other trough that makes them feel good. If one wants to be called a disciple of Christ, one must hold to his teaching moment by moment, “Then you will know the truth, and truth will set you free!” The freedom Jesus spoke about was the freedom gain from the sin condition that infects everyone and freedom from the bondage of trying to please God. The truth of the gospel is not a fleeting feeling, a principle to post on Facebook, or an urge to be filled; it is a way of life! The truth is Jesus Christ and everyone needs to know the truth!

EXAMPLE: Sadly, there are those who claim Jesus but who will pridefully tell you that they will allow their children to make their own decision concerning spiritual things. What? They would never dream of saying, “I eat healthy myself, but I am going to allow my children to decide for themselves what they eat.” Or, “I don’t play with poisonous snakes, but I am going to allow my children to decide for themselves if they want to or not.” There is a reason God told us “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)” The idea here in Scripture is that the parent takes the time to train their children in the Lord daily and they would then continue to walk in their faith. Too few Christian parents actually train their children in the truth of the gospel Jesus Christ. We discover here that ignorance is not bliss; everyone needs to know the truth!

When I had our dog put down someone later remarked, “Well now she is happy and running around in heaven” I just looked at them. They were shocked that I did not believe our dog went to heaven; after all I am a pastor! I blandly asked them, “What constitutes a ‘good’ animal over a ‘bad’ animal?” Did they think all the mosquitoes, flies, ants, slugs, triceratops, tyrannosaurus rexes, wooly mammoths, snakes, whales, dolphins, sharks, eagles and vultures made it as well, or just dogs and cats that we liked in life? Spiritual ignorance is nothing new and here we discover in John’s gospel that…

II. Not everyone knows the Truth! (Vv. 33-36)

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

1. Now remember that Jesus was speaking to those who had “put their faith in him.” And notice how they respond to his doctrine that they had to hold on to his teaching. Like folks who try to justify their shallow faith today they retort with a truly ignorant statement, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Of course they had been slaves to all most everyone! They were slaves to the Egyptians, slaves to the Babylonians, slaves to the Persians, Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Assyrians and they were now slaves to the Romans! And the great big elephant standing in the temple was that they were now slaves to their sin! This is why Jesus came, to set them free; to seek and save the lost! There are some who think that this response was from those who had not placed their faith in him, but John specifically and deliberately tells us that he was speaking to those who had “put their faith in him.” Jesus gives them the truth they needed to hear but probably would not listen to, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Everyone sins. Everyone is a slave to the sin condition of the world! Claiming their ancestral pedigree did not excuse their spiritual ignorance. This is why Jesus responds by telling them, “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” Jesus wants us to fully understand that only those who would choose the truth of the gospel message, that he is indeed the Savior Messiah, would be saved. Like many today, they had no sense of their bondage to sin! Some think that since they feel they are a good person they are spiritually okay, some think that if they walk into a church once in a while they are spiritually okay, and there are those who actually think because their spouse, their parents, or some relative is a pastor, deacon, or faithful then they are spiritually okay — nothing is further from the truth! One is only set free by the one who buys your bondage, Jesus. This is why Jesus tells them, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Sadly, not everyone knows the truth!

EXAMPLE: My Dad used to say, “A shade tree mechanic is only worth the free advice he gives — nothing.” The same is true for those who give spiritual advice but know nothing of what they are talking about. The problem the Jewish people had was that they had forgotten what God desired. They were depending upon spiritual leadership that knew nothing spiritually about God. They knew how to follow their man-made rules and keep themselves wealthy while the common folk suffered. Kind of like today’s politician. People are easily fooled by birds who sing loud but who only want to feather their own nest. Their spiritual blindness is seen here in John’s gospel. Sadly, not everyone knows the truth!

Conclusion:

Everyone needs to know the truth but not everyone knows the truth!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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Not of this World! – John 8:21-29

Not of this World! – John 8:21-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 10, 2015

Moms are not of this world. They must have some kind of internal sensor system that lets them know when their offspring have stopped hearing their genteel suggestions. I know this to be true because my Mom used to tell us, “You’re not listening to me!” as a child. I often wondered how in the world she could know that I wasn’t listening to her. Was it the glazed look in my eyes, the impatient wiggling, or the constant yawning? Whatever the clues, she knew I was spaced out and not listening.

Jesus had the same kind of problem with his detractors; they simply refused to hear what he was trying to teach them about himself. In this section of John’s gospel we find Jesus confronting the deaf ears of his enemies. They simply refused to understand that he was not of this world, let’s discover for ourselves what occurred and why it is important for us this morning.

READ: John 8:21-29

My mom often had words of wisdom she would impart to us. Things like, “If you don’t hear what I am telling you, young man, you will afterwards!” She knew we could either listen and do what she said or be disobedient and not listen and not do what she asked us to do in the first place. If we didn’t listen, we would suffer the consequences of our decision. Here in John’s gospel we discover that…

I. They refused to listen to the words of Jesus! (Vv. 21-24)

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, “Where I go, you cannot come’?” But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

1. Jesus is now trying to get his fellow Hebrew brothers to listen to him but they are having none of it. His words were falling on spiritually deaf ears. They had already decided that they would not listen to Jesus and they were determined not to do so. So, “Once more Jesus said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.'” He would go away, by dying on the cross even for those who were not listening! If they would only listen and believe, they would know the truth for themselves! Jesus’ is trying to relate to them that they might try to look for him again, but they would not find him. Perhaps it was a cryptic reference to the empty tomb and it would be too late after he was gone because they would “die in [their] sin” because of their unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah! How sad to know his own people would be so spiritually deaf they would refuse God’s ultimate gift! And how truly sad that even today there are those who think they know better than Jesus, they know what true spirituality is, they know Jesus died for their sin of unbelief and yet they refuse to listen! Notice Jesus’ comment makes them ask some truly ignorant questions, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” Jesus wasn’t going to commit suicide; instead he would willingly lay down his life for all mankind! Jesus continued by telling them exactly what the problem was, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” Those who love the things of the world more than they do the things of God have a hard time in listening to the truth of God’s word. They were more concerned for themselves than for the things of God! And the same is true this morning as well for anyone who refuses to listen to the words of Jesus!

EXAMPLE: “You’re not listening to me!” my mother would relate to my brother and me. Often it was after she had told us to stop fighting, clean up our room, go outside, come inside, or to stop doing what we were doing that was driving her nuts. Listening for my mother meant understanding the intent and content of what she was relating to us and then immediately acting on what she had just imparted to us! If we did not, we suffered the consequences of our refusal to listen and understand her words!  This would happen to the Israelites because of their attitude and actions as well! They refused to listen to the words of Jesus!

My Mom told us one time when we were being kind of disrespectful toward her by not listening, “You are walking on thin ice.” It was her way of warning us that she was about to crack and rain all over our parade. We were failing to understand our condition just like the Israelites were in John’s gospel…

II. They did not understand their spiritual condition! (Vv. 25-27)

“Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father.

1. Like a lot of us who get caught doing something we know we should not be doing, or in this case, not listening like we should, Jesus’ detractors use the age-old comeback, “Who are you?” Kind of like, “Who are you to try and tell us we will die in our sins!” It is the same kind of remark I often get from folks who get angry over their own spiritual deafness who all of sudden realize they are wrong about what they believe but refuse to admit it and retort, “Who are you to judge me!” Can you imagine the frustration Jesus had to have felt at this time? His own people, whom he loved, lived for, would die for, and to whom he desperately would try to win over and who he would sacrifice himself for are deliberately refusing to understand his words! Like rebellious children who refuse good advice because they know they are wrong, but refuse to admit it, they turn away from eternal salvation! When they self-righteously demand, “Who are you?” Jesus responds is, “Just what I have been claiming all along!” He had no hidden agenda, no secret mysteries, and nothing to hide from them! In fact, if they would only listen and understand, he had “much to say in judgment of” them! Not to condemn them, but to gain their salvation from their sin because he was trying to relate to them what he had “heard from him”, his Heavenly Father! They needed to understand that it would be their sin-condition that would condemn and judge them. God was indeed “reliable” to the Jews just as he had always been throughout their history and now he had sent them the Messiah that they needed at just the right time! And in fact, Jesus relates, “What I have heard from him I tell the world!” He was actively sharing his gospel to anyone who would listen to his words and understand them! How sad again to know that “They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father!” They did not understand their spiritual condition!

EXAMPLE: My Mom liked the line out of the movie Cool Hand Luke with Paul Newman where the prison warden calmly relates to the prisoners, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” She would use this line on us when she thought she was not getting through to her unruly brood of two boys. I had to laugh because I used the exact phrase the other day when dealing with a malcontent on the playground! He refused to listen to what I was trying to calmly tell him. There are those in our day, just as in Jesus’ day, who refuse to listen and understand their sin-condition! The Jewish leaders did not understand their spiritual condition!

My Mom used to tell us, “You think you are so smart, just wait until you are as old as I am.” Of course ti did not help the situation when I would quip, “No one is that old!” What she meant is what Jesus ws trying to impart to his listeners here in John’s gospel, namely that…

III. The proof is in the pudding! (Vv. 28-29)

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

1. The proof is in the pudding. Ever wonder where that saying came from? It is actually a mangled form of the original phrase, which was “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” A dish may have been made from a good recipe with fresh ingredients and look delicious, but you can really only judge it by putting it in your mouth. The actual taste is the only true criterion of success. It dates back to 1605 and the shortened version became popular in the 1950s here in the USA. Jesus was basically telling his detractors that “the proof was in the pudding” when he replies to their demand, ” When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” They would understand one day soon that what Jesus said was true. Jesus knew what he spoke to them was true because he only repeated what he heard his Farther say to him concerning their salvation! He only spoke what the Father taught him! He did not come up with something new on a whim or to try and fool them into thinking he was the Messiah. In fact he would tell them that he was absolutely sure of what he taught because, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Now we all can claim a lot of things about ourselves, we can make up stories to try and impress others, but Jesus would never have done so. His ultimate proof was his death, burial, and resurrection! Why would he make up some absurd tale to try and gain followers when he would die a horrible death! The recipe he was making came from the ingredients he was proclaiming and the instructions came directly from God the Father, now it was up to the Israelites to believe it or not. The same is true for all of us. The proof is in the pudding!

EXAMPLE: My mother had a recipe box full of her favorite recipes. In fact, Katie and Denise both have some of the favorite recipes of Thelma’s. In this giving and using of those recipes is a wonderful truth we also find here in John’s gospel. A good recipe is only as good as the one who follows the directions that were given by the one who gave it in the first place. Jesus followed the directions of his Father. In fact, you may not know if what you are making is as good as the original until you have tried it yourself. You know, taste tested it like your faith in Jesus. It is no good until you taste the Lord and see that he is good and what he says about himself is true or not. The proof is in the pudding!

Conclusion:

They refused to listen to the words of Jesus! They did not understand their spiritual condition! The proof is in the pudding!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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 of the World! – John 8:12-20

The Light of the World! – John 8:12-20
By Lee Hemen
May 3, 2015

People seem to be always searching for who they are; but what does that really mean? We can exercise to change our body shape. We can educate ourselves in order to change our intellectual state. And, we can meditate to try and change our spiritual state, but none of these truly change who we intrinsically are. Paul would write, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” and in fact he understood that “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 7:18; 8:5 NIV)” We are what we are, sinners by nature and by choice, and the only means by which we can change our innermost self is by coming by faith to the one who created us in the first place. Again, Paul wrote, “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:8 NIV)”

Thankfully, Jesus understood exactly who he was and what he was supposed to with his life. Here in John’s Gospel we find him beginning to expose to the folks exactly who is was and what that meant for the whole world. His depiction teaches us that he is the light of the world. Let’s discover for ourselves what that meant and what it means for us today.

READ: John 8:12-20

John began his writing by reminding us, “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. (John 1:4-5 NIV)” And here we find Jesus openly telling the crowds…

I. He is the Light of the World! (Vv. 12-14)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.

1. The Prophet Isaiah predicted the Messiah, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2 NIV)” That light is the light of the world. John related that after his actions in the temple courts, “Jesus spoke again to the people.” He was not finished with what he wanted to share and his pronouncement must have startled them. He boldly states, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” His tie into what Isaiah had predicted would not be lost on them. Jesus is declaring that he is not just someone imparting the truth of God’s word; he is “the light of the world.” He is the illumination a sinful world needs. And interestingly, the Feast of Tabernacles included the lighting of giant lamps in the Court of the Women in the temple area. Their light was to remind the Jewish people of how God was with them in their wanderings in the wilderness in a pillar fire at night (Numbers 9:15-23). Jesus’ light is different however because “whoever follows” Jesus would “never walk in darkness” again! The darkness Jesus is referring to is sin, and in fact they will “have the light of life”, meaning eternal life. “Light” in the Bible is a symbol or reference of God and His holiness. Jesus is “the Light,” the only light and not merely a glimmering or another bright spot among many lights. Of course, “The Pharisees challenged him, ‘Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.'” They knew Jesus was indeed testifying to the fact he was the Messiah! Self-confirmation would be considered pride in the extreme in this case; however Jesus also had the testimony of God the Father. This is why “Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going.'” His accusers had no clue that he was the Light of the world!

EXAMPLE: Many folks today have no idea what it means for Jesus to be the Light of the World. Because of his holiness, his presence, and his authority Jesus can change those who place their faith and trust in him. He changes them from the world of sin and darkness into the realm of God’s holiness and truth. This is why John wrote, “In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4 NIV)” Jesus would say that those who “walk in darkness do not know where they are going” and that “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:34, 46 NIV)” In our day of electricity we are shocked when the lights go out because we depend so much on it to see by. So we light candles, uses battery-powered lanterns, or huddle in the dark and go to bed. Yet far too many are not saddened by their own spiritual darkness and become satisfied making their own pathetic dwindling flame. Fake light cannot outshine the true light of God and Jesus is the Light of the World!

There is an old saying that “ignorance is bliss” and while this may be true for some things, where it concerns eternal things, it can be deadly. We discover here in John’s gospel that…

II. Some never see the Light! (Vv. 15-20)

You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.

1. The problem with Jesus’ detractors was that they were judging “by human standards.” They saw Jesus as a perhaps a good deluded person like so many others who had claimed to be the Messiah but had died. However, Jesus was not here to do so; he did not pass judgment on anyone! Jesus’ judgment concerned more of how God’s teachings were being perverted and how he needed to introduce them again to who God truly was personally. The Jews had a hard time understanding the personal nature of God because for them god was someone you tried to please by strictly following his rules. This simply was not true. So, Jesus addresses their argument concerning his testimony, “But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.” Literally he was telling them he and God stood side-by-side on the same level! And in fact he tells them, “In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid. I am one who testifies for myself, my other witness is the Father, who sent me!” While their judgment was humanly oriented, biased and limited by their sinfulness, his was not. He was with God! We see here how Jesus tells them of this other witnesses; he was not alone in his testimony. He stood right beside the Father. His testimony therefore was completely valid! Curiously they ask him, “Where is your father?” Were they puzzled about his personal teaching, were they being sarcastic and thought his earthly father was already dead, or perhaps they believed something else. Whatever their reasoning, they did not know Jesus nor his Father, because if they had known Jesus, they would have known his Father was God. I believe that perhaps they did indeed understand what Jesus was referring to and they did not like what they knew he was teaching about himself, so they sarcastically ask where his father is. Again, interestingly this was all mute in that while “He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.” Jesus was working on God’s timing and not his enemy’s. Some never see the Light!

EXAMPLE: I have one of those emergency radios with a light that you can wind up. I also have one that is just a flashlight from IKEA that you wind and use, but even though you pump or wind them like mad, they only last for a few minutes at best. Sadly, as I stated earlier, some never see the light of God. They try to illuminate their spirituality with artificial light. They try to live good lives, think good thoughts, or do good things and perhaps all three at the same time! Yet the sad truth is that if these things could bring us closer to God, make us intrinsically good people, or make the world a better place — Jesus did not have to come and die on a cross and rise from the dead! Instead of understanding the testimony, the witness of God himself in the form of Jesus, they rely on their own distorted ideas concerning eternal truth! Again, this is why John began his gospel, his testimony concerning Jesus with, “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. (John 1:4-5 NIV)” Sadly, some never see the Light!

Conclusion:

Jesus is the Light of the World! Some never see the Light!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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Who’s without sin? – John 8:1-11

Who’s without sin? – John 8:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 26, 2015

Self-righteousness can express itself in many different forms. We often think of it as the overtly bigoted religious persona depicted by the media, movies, or television. However it can take the form of someone who thinks they are spiritually okay when in fact they know next to nothing about God, his Son, or the Bible. They self-righteously equate their good intentions, actions, or attitudes as more that good enough for God. And in fact, their intent becomes God’s for them. They do not see themselves as a sinner in need of a Savior. This is the millennial mindset of much of America today. It is not new.

We discover that even the hyper-religious bureaucrats of Jesus’ day fell into this self-inflicted trap, thinking they were far better off spiritually than the common man or in this case woman. Here in John we find an interesting account of Jesus rescuing a sinful woman from her wrongful accusers. In doing so we discover some wonderful things concerning Jesus; let’s discover what they are…
READ: John 8:1-11

A self-righteous attitude does not think one needs to consider their own sin-condition; they are perfectly fine where they are. The Pharisees and the priests had dispersed and now another group decided to test Jesus’ sincerity. True spiritual humility always asks, “Am I walking with God or not?” Those who held a strict application of Mosaic Law to life brought a woman to Jesus and we find…

I. Jesus would not be caught in their sin! (Vv. 1-6)

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

1. We find that Jesus was doing what he often did while in Jerusalem, he camped on the Mount of Olives at night and went to the temple area to teach during the day. Luke relates, “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple. (Luke 21:37-38 NIV)” John relates, “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts; where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. (John 8:1-2 NIV)” Some suggest that Jesus did not care for crowds and loved fresh air but this reasoning does not fit the facts we know concerning Jesus. While I am sure he did not necessarily like the press of the crowds, he did not mind them and often his greatest teaching came when he was in the midst of or speaking directly to the crowds. Whatever the reason we discover that the Pharisees were about what they regularly were: trying to entrap Jesus in some way, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.” And, in an attempt to try and shame her, “They made her stand before the group.” Immediately they ask Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” It was an “I gotcha” moment. If Jesus did not condemn her, he would be disagreeing with the Law of Moses and if he did condemn her he would lose the respect of the crowd. John tells us that “They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.” I believe, Jesus already was well aware of their intent. Where was the man involved, according to the law he should have been tried as well. Instead of being sucked into their ungodly use of the law, “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” Jesus would not be caught in their sin!

EXAMPLE: Many over the centuries have tried to guess what Jesus wrote in the dirt that day. Like slivers from the cross or the myriad of nails and other supposed artifacts, I am surprised we don’t have some charlatans trying to sell plaster castings of his tracings! There are those who suggest Jesus wrote the sins of the woman’s accusers, while others think that perhaps he wrote the words “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. (Exodus 23:1 NIV)” Maybe Jesus simply traced his finger in the dust while preparing to respond. It is all a guess really, because what Jesus wrote is not as important as to how he responded. Jesus would not be caught in their sin!

Growing up in the faith practice I did, I was often reminded of just how pathetic I was and how I could never measure up to the high standards of Jesus. We find other religions saying they are the true worshippers of holy God by how they torture, murder, and slaughter the innocent. There are those who would rather rewrite the gospel narrative than discover its truth for their lives. This is why when I finally came to faith in Christ, I was ecstatic to learn the beautiful truth that…

II. Jesus never condemns us for our sin! (Vv. 7-11)

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

1. Notice that like children bullying their own, “they kept on questioning him.” Jesus responds both quietly and compassionately, “he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'” You would think these self-righteous snobs would have taken him up on his offer, but his demeanor and his response both surprised and shocked them. And then, “Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.” There is something kind of humorous in Jesus’ actions. Those who wanted to test him and to also condemn another to make them feel more important and noble were chaffing at the bit, while the one they want to entrap calmly draws in the dirt! Kind of makes one wonder what the woman was thinking at this moment. All the other men there were angry with her except Jesus. All the others were intent on getting their pound of flesh, except Jesus. They had dragged her through the streets in humiliation, while the one whose feet they finally toss her simply and quietly bent down and traced his finger in the dust of the road! This is the attitude of one who understands the love of God and the sin we so often find ourselves. At this simple act we find “those who heard began to go away one at a time, the old ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there!” Perhaps the older ones understood first the wisdom of Jesus’ words, while the anger of youth took a little more time, but whatever the reason, each man drops his stone and wanders quietly away — humbled. Here is where we have to smile, here is where the joy and love of God is displayed, “Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'” Surely you can see the twinkle in Jesus eyes as he speaks to her, certainly you can sense the compassion he expresses with each word. She is confused, as we are so often when God openly and lovingly forgives us. “No one, sir,” she replies. You see no one can condemn us for our sins, although we often do. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus responds. And lastly, he tells her what he always tells those he finds and forgives, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” How wonderful to know and discover that Jesus never condemns us for our sin!

EXAMPLE: Joe South, an old hard rocker from the sixties sang a song that went, “Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes. Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes!” Then he sings about karma and how our lives are not perfect. I always kind of hated that expression, “Walk a mile in my shoes.” The reason is because it is so often misused. Most think that unless you do what they do, you have no right to criticize their lives. This is not what Jesus was teaching as he wrote in the dust of the street and forgave the sins of the woman. Jesus always rebuked sin in the lives of people, but he never condemned the person. Jesus would ultimately die for the sins of those he never met. How could the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world condemn us when he willingly would die for us? We discover while Jesus does not condone our sin, Jesus never condemns us for our sin!

Conclusion:
Jesus would not be caught in their sin! Jesus never condemns us for our sin!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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 Living Water! – John 7:37-53

The Living Water! – John 7:37-53
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 19, 2015

I was reading an old western the other day by Louis L’Amour. In it the hero was trekking across the Southwestern desert without water when he comes to a small watering hole. He figures out that the water is no good; it is poisoned and would kill him if he drank it, and since there is no other water for miles he has to do something about it before he can drink it. This little piece of the short story I was reading made me begin to wonder how in the world do folks in our day and age know, when they are dying of thirst, if the water they are drinking is poisoned or not?

Folks can be poisoned by a lot of things: What they read, what they are taught, by the example given them from their peers or parents, or what they watch in movie or TV. Everything from our spirituality to our worldview can be slowly poisoned and we never realize it until we have to pay the ultimate price. The common folks of Jesus’ day were slowing being fed intellectual and spiritual poison, they needed clean, clear, and “living water” to drink from. Jesus offered them an undiluted view of God without any spiritual arsenic mixed in; he was the living water. Let’s discover what he teaches us about the living water…

READ: John 7:37-53

Political correctness has corrupted and poisoned how many think in our day and age. So much so that logical thinking is almost a lost art. And sadly there are those who are desperately looking for the truth but are slowly being poisoned. It was true in Jesus’ day as well. In fact we discover that…

I. The Living Water brings spiritual understanding! (Vv. 37-39)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

1. This section of John is interesting because the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated with certain festival rituals. One was a solemn procession each day from the temple to the Gijon Spring. A priest filled a gold pitcher with water while the choir would sing, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3 NIV)” They would then return to the altar and pour out the water. This ritual reminded them of the water from the rock during the wilderness wanderings. It also spoke prophetically of the coming days of Messiah, “On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. (Zechariah 14:8 NIV)” Here is the one who would bring about the Living Water of God for anyone who would place their faith and trust in him, standing in the temple courts crying out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” This was a wondrous and serious announcement. Jesus is telling them that the Living Water, the Spirit, would flow freely if anyone would come freely to him! The choice is ours just as it was theirs. They would receive the gift of God and he would freely flow from within the person! Because “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” It is hard for us to imagine because we live after the fact. We enjoy the gift of God readily when we trust Jesus with our lives. John explains why when he writes, “Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” Jesus has now been glorified and because of that we know that the Living Water brings spiritual understanding!

EXAMPLE: My brother Ed had read the Bible before and like many before him who have, but who do not know Jesus personally as Savior and Lord, he did not fully understand its truth. He came to Denise and me in utter humility after giving his life to Christ. He readily confessed that what he had thought he had once understood before was nothing like what he now knew to be true. What was the difference? The power and presence of the Holy Spirit in his life! In fact, the promise that Jesus made to his disciples is for all believers, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 NIV)” This is why Jesus told his followers, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63 NIV)” The Living Water brings spiritual understanding!

Dead water is that which is stagnant, murky, or full of unseen dangers. The Israelites understood the concept and distinction between living free flowing cool spring water and dead water that was stagnant, muddy, and foul. Their spirituality had become the latter, dead and stagnant. They needed to experience the living water of God brought about by the presence of the Holy Spirit. In their confusion they needed to learn that…

II. The Messiah brings the Living Water! (Vv. 40-44)

On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Christ.” Still others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

1. John shows us that some things never change and here we see that just as in our day and age where people argue as to whether Jesus is the Messiah or just a good man and wise teacher. Muslims believe he is a wise man and prophet, the world believes Jesus is a good man who taught good things, but the testimony of Scripture, of those who walked with him and lived with him and watched him die, and experienced the empty tomb (after he was glorified) and ate with him and spoke with him say otherwise. They testify to the truth that Jesus is the Messiah! So, we discover “On hearing his words, some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘He is the Christ (Messiah).’ Still others asked, ‘How can the Christ (Messiah) come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ (Messiah) will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?'” And in fact Jesus did because he was born in Bethlehem, the town where David’s family came from! The prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus! Jesus was and is the Prophet Moses spoke about, but more than that he is the Messiah from whom the Living Water of God flows. Afterwards, “the people were divided because of Jesus” and “some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him” because it was not yet his time to be ultimately rejected by them, falsely accused by their mouths, murdered by their schemes, handed over to others to murder and be crucified by their own enemies. It was not God’s timing. And no matter how much people try to intellectually dismiss Jesus, rewrite the history of Jesus, or pervert who he was we discover only the Messiah brings the Living Water!

EXAMPLE: What we fail to understand is the fact that we are all spiritually dead until we give our lives to Christ. We may think we understand deep spiritual truth, but what we think we understand is like the skim on top of a deep pool of water. All we see is the skim on top and not the deep pool below. It is unknowable to us. This why Paul would testify, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory! (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV)” And this is why Paul would rejoice, “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. (Ephesians 3:8-9 NIV)” Only the Messiah brings the Living Water!

Even today there is confusion concerning the Holy Spirit. Some falsely teach he is a power, like electricity, unknowable and impersonal. Others think of him as an “it’ without substance. None of this is true. The Holy Spirit is personal, a person, and part of the godhead — the Trinity. Father God, Jesus God, and Spirit God working in complete unity, function, and purpose. Each a personality and presence of God doing a specific intent and because of these we learn that…

III. The Living Water causes division! (Vv. 45-53)

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared. “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law — there is a curse on them.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” [Then each went to his own home.

1. It is kind of humorous but we find the befuddled “temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees.” They honestly do not know what to do with Jesus after trying to seize him and failing. Angered, by the temple guards returning without Jesus they ask, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” The guards could only offer, “No one ever spoke the way this man does!” Matthew relates that “When Jesus had finished saying these things; the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29 NIV)” They had heard the same tired old teachings of the temple priests and the Pharisees. Jesus taught with fresh new insights and with the power and authority of God! Incredulous the priests and Pharisees respond, “You mean he has deceived you also?” Meaning that Jesus must have bewitched them in some way, which was not true. Then they offer up a false caveat by retorting, “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob knows nothing of the law — there is a curse on them!” None of what they said was true, but this is often the case with those who cannot argue from facts or logic; they often resort to innuendos, lies, or distortion in order to gain an audience. Like the Christophobes of our day and age; they resort to name-calling, half-truths, and straw dog arguments. As if to counter their very words, John offers up proof that indeed some of the Pharisees and rulers did begin to believe Jesus was the Messiah because “Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, ‘Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?'” Nicodemus was both part of the ruling council and a Pharisee. In fact God had instructed the Israelites, “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it. (Deuteronomy 1:17 NIV)” Nicodemus offers up this very law in which they were to follow as an example, yet their ungodly reply is both bigoted and racist, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” Their prejudice and hatred against Jesus was already strong enough to overthrow reason. The now accused Nicodemus of being as ignorant as they thought Galileans, country hicks, were! The Living Water causes division!

EXAMPLE: What causes the division among folks concerning God is due to whether the concerned parties have the presence and power of God in their lives or not! There are those who try to manufacture spirituality through meditation, diet, or personal restriction or empowerment. These fail miserably because it is man trying desperately to obtain that which they never can — the mind of God. Paul would write, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:11-14 NIV)” This is why the Living Water causes division!

Conclusion:

The Living Water brings Spiritual understanding! The Messiah brings the Living Water! The Living Water causes division!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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Are you listening?

Are you listening?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 12, 2015

I like listening in on conversations. Yes, I suppose you could call me an eavesdropper, but really this carries with it so many nasty connotations. I prefer to be known as an observer of people and listening to them is part of the character of someone like me. Why just the other day I was listening to my grandson and wife talking together. He had climbed onto her lap and was enjoying a book with her. She exclaimed, “I like it when you climb into my lap and snuggle with me.” Then I heard him giggle in response and reply, “I like snuggling with you too grandma.” Now, how in the world could anyone not want to overhear that!

I am a fulltime pastor and a part time “recess teacher” during the week at a local elementary school. I have learned by listening in on conversations how many of the children there are neglected, loved, pampered, or encouraged. I have discovered that in fact many of these children who suffer the most in their home-lives do so because no one listens to their conversation; how utterly sad. I have now made it a duty when I am there interacting with them by listening. I have learned lots of important things from them as I do. I have learned of incarcerated parents, drug-addicted siblings, grandparents becoming parents again, childish wishes, inspiring dreams, the wonderful language of play, angry words, and loving acceptance. I have heard a lot while kneeling down to tie shoelaces, putting a Band-Aid on a scrape, or encouraging a newly found monkey-bar skill.

In a world where we text far more than we write letters and even where emails are now “old-fashioned” I have discovered listening again. There is something sweet and wonderful about doing so. While at a local grocery store I listened in as a young couple interacted over what they would buy for dinner that night. It was to be a celebration with her parents over her pregnancy. Heads together as they both pushed their shopping cart down the aisle their conversation was one of joy.

You know, our prayer is to be like that as well. I believe we are to listen far more than we are to talk with God. I think we have forgotten how and what that means. Prayer is not just speaking at God; it is actually pausing and listening to what he wants to say to us as well. Far too often we meander on and on about things we already know the answer to and just keep babbling because we cannot shut up and listen. Perhaps we are afraid of what God might tell us! Jesus told his disciples, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:6-7 NIV) The idea here is one of conversation and listening.

There is an art to listening. This is what my uncle used to tell me. Then he would pat my shoulder and remark, “It means Art should be quite and listen!” (Of course he meant me.) My mother used to ask us over and over, “Are you listening to me?” or “You haven’t heard a single word I’ve said!” She knew listening was important too. Not that everything everyone says is important because it surely is not, but I learned when my mother spoke, you listened.

Yes we should actively listen to others, but we should also listen to God more importantly. Psalm 81 is all about how we should listen to God more, which is kind of interesting because we read in many of the Psalms how the writer is often crying out for God to listen to him! Doesn’t God already hear us and know about our circumstance? I guess we are like children who want attention fast and we think we get it quickest by crying out as loud as we can! Jesus told his followers, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:17-18 NIV) In fact Jesus would later respond that “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:21 NIV) I guess listening to God is very important indeed. This is why he would teach, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) And like James, Jesus’ brother, I believe “everyone should be quick to listen” and “slow to speak”!

Now, did you hear what I just told you?

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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