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Resurrection! – John 20:1-9

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 16, 2017

We are at a spiritual crossroads in history. We live in a day and age whereby folks do not use critical thinking but rely on their instinct or passion. This is dangerous because we are then motivated to think that what we feel is more important than facts. Or worse, that we can distinguish what is right or wrong in life simply by how it feels to us. From personal relationships, what we believe in, or to whom we vote for is a matter of feelings and not what we truly know. We end up hurt and confused when our emotions have steered us in the wrong direction.

The resurrection is not a matter of emotion or personal feelings. It is a historical physical fact. This is why later when Mary is crying by the empty tomb and the angel rebukes her by reminding her of the facts, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” (Luke 24:5-7 NIV) And later here in John the angel bluntly reminds Mary to stop relying on her emotions by asking her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (v. 13) As believers or seekers we must come to the realization of the fact of the resurrection because if we do not we are still standing outside of an empty tomb that has no effect on our lives. Therefore this morning let’s look anew at the resurrection.

READ: John 20:1-9

When people die and you put them in their graves, contrary to any TV fiction, they do not get up and walk around! The dead stay dead! Except in the truth of the resurrection! In light of what occurred we must first ask…

I. Why is the tomb empty?! (Vv. 1-2)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

1. Now there are some pretty nifty sleight of hand arguments concerning which Mary was where at what time. However, I believe we have to take each one as they were written realizing that the authors were remembering the event as it was told to them or as they saw it for themselves. John relates what he remembers that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” It was early Sunday morning, probably right before the sun rose and the sky was still dark but the dawn of the new day could be seen. We discover that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb first. We know from other accounts that she was with other women who wanted to finish the burial preparation of Jesus’ body. Her gratitude and devotion to Jesus came from her deliverance from bondage to Satan. She had been an observer at the cross and now was one of the first folks at the empty tomb. She saw Jesus die and evidently knew where he was buried; now the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance! Mary does the first thing she could think of, “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'” Mary knew the tomb was empty but did not realize why and could only think of the logical answer, someone had taken Jesus’ body! Why is the tomb empty?

EXAMPLE: Go into any grocery store and Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or WinCo and you would find aisles of Easter eggs, cards, candy, baskets, bunnies, chicks, Peeps, and chocolate this or that. Yet you would not find the one thing that is most important part to all of Easter: the empty tomb! Easter is not found in bunnies, eggs, baskets, or Peeps. It is discovered in the fact that several thousand years ago folks found the tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid empty. It therefore begs the question for us every Easter, “Why is the tomb empty?” Paul knew full well that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead”! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 NIV) The tomb is empty!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but when you’re in the thick of it one’s vision can become very myopic indeed. As the facts of the empty tomb just keep coming and what is revealed makes one wonder…

II. Where is the body? (Vv. 3-7)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

1. Whether Peter is bewildered or he simply suspects what has happened is not at first clear, but he does the one thing most of us would do, “Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.” Peter and John “Both were running.” Both understood the importance of the news Mary had brought them and as they head to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest, the younger John, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Being younger perhaps John was fearful of defilement of entering a tomb or perhaps he was afraid of what he may or may not find inside. John therefore, “bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.” Whatever the reason, “Simon Peter, who was behind him,” and being older and more impulsive “arrived and went into the tomb” while the hesitant John waited outside in bewilderment. Peter also “saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.” In fact we know this is an eyewitness account because of the detail described by John. Peter saw exactly how the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was lain aside and how neatly “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” The burial cloths were there but the fact remained, where is the body?

EXAMPLE: Where is the body? It was a natural question to ask. The Radio Bible Class relates, “No element in the Easter story is more troubling to unbelievers than the report that the followers of Jesus found the tomb empty that Sunday morning. Some simply deny it, saying that the women and others went to the wrong tomb. Others think that Jesus was not quite dead when He was buried, and somehow He revived and got out of the tomb—even though the Roman soldiers had declared Him dead (John 19:33), an eyewitness saw blood and water flow from the pierced body (v.34), and His body had been wrapped tightly with strips of linen containing 100 pounds of spices (v.39). In the first century, even Christ’s enemies agreed that He had died and the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). Jesus rose from the grave in a real body, and that means everything to us. When a Christian friend or loved one dies, we can be confident that we will meet again. The body may turn to dust, but God will not forget it. It will be transformed into a body perfectly designed for heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). This is not wishful thinking. It is an expectation based on solid evidence.” Where is the body? Happily it was not there!

Courage is often found in the strangest of circumstances. Here we discover John found his and…

III. Believed! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1. John in succinct fashion relates how he had gotten to the tomb first but was either too fearful or awestruck to go inside. What he had seen from the outside of the tomb was curious and so he just had to go in as well. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside.” What he saw inside of that tomb changed his life forever. John had run to the tomb out of curiosity, concern, or fear that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. John had run to the tomb merely as a disciple of an itinerant rabbi, but came away a true follower of Jesus. Believing there was a Jesus and believing in Jesus are two different things. John had loved Jesus’ teaching, he had loved and followed Jesus the man, but now he had to believe in Jesus the Messiah. And not just in a Messianic-type person but in the actual resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! The Living God! The first born! The King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus was no longer just a good teacher; he was John’s Master and Savior. However, John’s personal notation tells us that both he and Peter “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” But now they did! They believed!

EXAMPLE: When the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion drew to a close, it seemed that the most wonderful of all lives had come to an end. For a few brief years, Christ had astounded the crowds and His followers with the wisdom of His teaching and the wonder of His miracles. But Jesus chose not to save Himself from the cross, and now His life was over. It seemed that nothing more could be expected of Him. Hope returned, however, on that first resurrection morning. A painting by Eugene Burnand portrays Peter and John running to the tomb. Shortly after dawn, Mary Magdalene had told them that she and her friends had found the tomb empty. In Burnand’s painting, the faces of Peter and John show contending emotions of anguish and relief, of sorrow and surprise, of despair and wonder as they race toward the tomb. Their gaze is eagerly fixed forward, turning the viewer’s attention to the sepulcher. What did they find? An empty tomb—the Savior was alive! Christ still lives. But many of us go from day to day as if He were still in the grave. How much better to look beyond the empty tomb to the One who can fill our lives with the power of His resurrection!  (RBC, Living With Expectation, March 27, 2004) They believed!

Conclusion:

Why is the tomb empty? Where is the body? They believed!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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 crucifixion foretold! — Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31

The crucifixion foretold! — Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 9, 2017

What was the most memorable event in your life? What historical event do you remember more than anything else in your life; the one moment in time that will always impact you that you will always remember? Several thousand years ago something occurred that so impacted the lives of those who witnessed it that they had to write down exactly what they had witnessed and how it impacted them. It was the crucifixion of an itinerant teacher known as Yeshua Ben Yoseph; Jesus son of Joseph.

Many churches around the world will celebrate Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by crowds of people proclaiming him the messiah. Jesus would die within a few short days on a cross, crucified by the Romans because of the lust for power by Jewish leadership. However did you know that this event was predicted nearly a thousand years earlier by King David? Jesus’ crucifixion was foretold, let’s discover what David wrote and how it impacts our lives today…

Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31

In his life David was not perfect and in fact had sinned against the Lord with Bathsheba. I believe that perhaps this Psalm reflects how God was dealing with his sin. In our deepest trials God can often speak his clearest and in this moment I believe…

I. God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah! (Vv. 1-3, 6-8)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

1. During King David’s time if one sinned they suffered the consequences of their sin and one of them was that God would remove his presence from them immediately. So we find David, a man after God’s heart, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” because this is the way he felt! When we sin as believers God’s grace is sufficient and we never lose his presence! Yet we discover David did and not only felt “forsaken” but realized just how far removed God was because of his sin. He therefore asks in dismay, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” He has been in distress evidently for days and nights but God had not answered. The salvation David desired was not eternal but rather from his present condition! Yet David understood that God was “enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” God was in control. Here in David’s words is eerily reflected what Jesus may have gone through as he was hanging on the cross. As David goes through his distress he begins to recognize, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” He understands just how far he has sunken in his sin. And in fact he sees that “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’” David, apparently feeling forsaken by God and ridiculed by his enemies, was confident that God would not fully abandon him. I believe that God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah!

EXAMPLE: David’s confidence came from his past experience and we learn that he knew God from his mother’s “womb”; that God had made him “trust in you even at my mother’s breast” (v. 9); and that “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Interestingly we know that Jesus was God before, during, and after his birth. And Mark’s Gospel reminds us that “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!’” (Mark 15:29-31 NIV) I believe God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah!

There is nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness when one is accused of something, you want to make it right, and yet those who falsely accuse you will not listen. David knew his sin was wrong and he desired to confess it and…

II. In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah! (Vv. 14-19)

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

1. David’s despair brought him to the point where he felt as if he were “poured out like water” and he cries that “all my bones are out of joint.” Perhaps in his anguish God allow this forefather of Jesus to see his descendant’s death. David had been promised by God that “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13, 16 NIV) But also within God’s promise to David there are words of punishment for mankind’s sins: “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Samuel 7:14-15 NIV) The Messiah, David’s descendant Jesus would suffer for mankind. And like David when he cries out “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me” so would Jesus’. In fact as David continues in his anguish his words are used by the Lord to show the kind of death Jesus would die: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” And just as the Pharisees, Romans, and the dregs of Jerusalem surrounded Jesus as he hung on the cross David remarkably prophesies, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” Just as the Gospels share that Jesus’ legs were not broken by his captors and how the Roman squad assigned to crucify him gambled over his clothes David whimpers, “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” And yet again in the poetic words of Jesus’ ancestor we hear the sweet melody of hope: “But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.” Luke reminds us that “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46 NIV) How amazing to know that the words of David are remarkably fulfilled in the death of Jesus. In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah longed for what David sang about; namely the Messiah who would come to rescue his people. Isaiah declared the Messiah would be “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” And that “He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death” and “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering”. However, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities… because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:5, 9-12 NIV) And like with Isaiah in David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah!

Could David have understood the entire impact that his words would have? I do not believe so and yet this makes it even more remarkable. Yes he knew God’s promise and he knew God always fulfilled his promises, but David could not have completely understood how God’s promise would be fulfilled and how his own words of despair would bring such hope. And so finally we discover that…

III. David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah! (Vv. 27-31)

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.

1. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by palm branch waving crowds two thousand years ago no one but him actually understood what would occur. Jesus’ birth, life, and death were foretold by God because it was about him and how he would redeem mankind. David’s poetic prophecy reinforces what God had planned all along. And now we hear David as he declares, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.” Some think that David was declaring that future generations would worship God because they remembered how David was rescued; I do not think so. I believe that when God’s people truly give themselves over to the Lord’s will and confess their sin as David did here and as God works in the lives of those he uses for his purposes as David was he gives them special insight into his predetermined will. God through his Holy Spirit is giving David these words and insight: “All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive.” Only the Messiah Jesus can do that! And now they will know it to be true because “Posterity will serve him (the future Messiah); future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.” I am reminded of the words God spoke to Moses concerning his promise, “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.” (Exodus 34:10 NIV) David began his poem with words of his own personal despair but now that has turned to worldwide rejoicing! As God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10 NIV) David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!

EXAMPLE: Again on that Palm Sunday so long ago the crowds had no full idea as to who Jesus was exactly, for if they did they would have done even more! The plan of God that began with the words of a messenger of God telling a young frightened virgin she would give birth to the Messiah was coming to fruition. Each plodding step that the donkey took brought the Messiah, the Lamb of God, God himself closer to his predetermined sacrifice. While the process would be horrifying, the outcome would be marvelous. David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!

Conclusion:

God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah! In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah! David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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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Slaves and masters! – Ephesians 6:5-9

Slaves and masters! – Ephesians 6:5-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 2, 2017

There are times when employees may feel they are slaves or just a cog in one big giant machine only good for what they can turn out for the “man” but to equate our boredom or nasty bosses to actual slavery is a bit much. Real slavery is no laughing matter and it still exists in many countries of the world today; most notably within those that are predominately Muslim or socialist. While slavery was the predominate thinking for much of the world’s history Christianity has played a huge role in ending this horrendous system of slaves and masters.

Jesus taught that God views all people equal and while Paul and others addressed slaves and masters they knew that God so loved the whole world and that Jesus came to save all mankind. Within those nations who were influenced by Christianity the ungodly system of slavery would eventually be done away with. We can find the seeds to its destruction in how Paul addresses the attitudes of slaves and masters here in Ephesians. Let’s take a look at what Paul wrote and how it should affect our lives today…

READ: Ephesians 6:5-9

So should people view Paul’s statements here in Ephesians as an endorsement of slavery? Absolutely not! Instead we can discover that what mattered most to Paul was how one conducted themselves as a believer. And here in this truth Christians can find that…

I. No matter their position in life believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ! (Vv. 5-6)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.

1. Slaves in Paul’s day had a harsh existence. They were property considered a thing that could be bought, sold, or destroyed at a whim. Yes, some slaves who served well could become part of a family and in fact receive the same rights and privileges as their masters if the master decided to give them their family’s name. In fact some slaves rose in rank and advantage even higher in society than their own masters! Yet we must look at the deeper truth Paul was trying to give his readers here. We must remember that both slave and master would hear his words. And so Paul began by telling them, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart”. He knew that slavery was harsh but he also knew that people could serve outwardly yet harbor hatred toward those who are over them. So again he mentions “respect” (literally trembling) and “fear” and “sincerity (single-mindedness) of heart”. We forget in our day and age because we put a deeper emphasis on personal fulfillment rather than being called by God. Paul wrote the Roman church that “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son… And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30 NIV) This is why Paul told slaves to obey their masters “just as you would obey Christ”. Paul was not endorsing slavery but rather teaching new believers how live their faith in difficult circumstances. They were to “Obey” their masters “not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” This is a good truth for all Christians because no matter what their position in life is believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ!

EXAMPLE: When my father had to leave for weeks and sometimes months in order to earn a living for our family he would remind us kids, “Mind your mother just as if I were here while I am gone.” We knew that no matter whether he was home or away we had to be obedient to our Mom just as if he were home. Slaves in Paul’s day could have seen their newfound faith and freedom in Christ as an excuse to be disobedient to either their believing or non-believing masters. But Paul reminds them that no matter their position in life believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ!

Some folks see their job as something they have to do in order to pay the bills but this attitude can make your work drudgery for you. The same is true when one is saved by faith and called to serve the Lord. We can begin to see our service as drudgery; however Paul reminds us that…

II. No matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically! (Vv. 7-8)

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

1. Enthusiastically is a word that comes from several Greek words that literally mean “in God’s essence” and was originally used by the Greeks to describe manifestations of divine possession but was later used to describe the believer’s life in Christ. Paul writes that new believers were to “serve wholeheartedly” literally from their very beings that now had been changed by their faith in Jesus! In his letter to the Colossian church Paul would remind them to put off any evil in their lives by remembering to put “off your old self with its practices” and instead “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:8-10) And remember he had just taught them that “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) The reason for Paul was obvious because when the believer served their masters, bosses, parents or others this way it was as “if you were serving the Lord”! It is easy to go through the motions of just doing your job or your chores but when one does this it is only because they do it as if they were serving “men” and not Jesus. For the believer serving Jesus should never be a chore. The Christian’s attitude should be changed because of their faith in Jesus. We are to live our lives by a different set of values and attitudes because “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) And we know “that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” Paul is not enforcing a “works” mentality but rather reminding them that our final reward is different than what the world gives. The world rewards us by our status but God sees us as his new creation. No matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically!

EXAMPLE: One of the best pieces of advice my father imparted to me in the last days of his life had to do with how I did my work whether it was at school, home, or a job earning money. He related that I would probably do a lot of different things in life just as he had but in all those jobs he learned that if one wants to be successful in life you have to have the right attitude. He related, “Go to work, do your best, do more than what is expected of you, be honest and trustworthy and don’t get involved in gossip.” A believer’s motivation in life is not to be money, prestige, power, or position. Paul would say that no matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically!

We see that Paul’s view on how Christian slaves were to conduct themselves was radical. It was radical because of the change that occurred in the life of a believer when God comes to reside in them through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore those in charge who were saved were to be radically different as well. We discover that…

III. Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way! (v. 9)

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

1. Equality between sexes, races, or ages is not found in baseless reparations, false apologies, or in making idiotic excuses. You cannot force someone to not be racist, xenophobic, or chauvinistic. Sure you can legislate, make laws, and try to teach social justice but that will never change the inner person who is evil in nature. Paul intrinsically understood this because he had experienced it himself. In fact he had been an evil “enforcer” for his mentors to try and stamp out the early Christian faith. In the Book of Acts we learn that while the followers of Jesus were preaching and teaching others about the love of God expressed in Jesus, Paul “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NIV) However Paul was changed “As he neared Damascus on his journey” when “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” (Acts 9:3) Paul would later say that Jesus “appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:8) and he would confess “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 NIV) Just as Paul had been changed he now says, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way” as they had been treated by God. They were placed in charge for a reason just as they had come to faith for a reason and so they were told “Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” Jesus saw both slave and master as the same. Paul would write, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV) Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way!

EXAMPLE: Atheism is the antithesis of faith. We see its outcome in socialism and communism where mankind is exemplified and faith in God is disdained. Hundreds of millions have been murdered by the atheistic movements found in the Nazism of Germany, the communism of the Soviet Union, China, North Korean, Cambodia, Vietnam, Venezuela, Cuba, and other nations. Atheists believe morality is derived from the social norm but if the social norm is already inwardly and utterly corrupt and evil then your morality will be corrupted as well. This is why many in our day think that society needs to change its moral core from one influenced by faith in God to one based on faith in mankind. We see its outcome. Morality is in a constant state of flux and depends upon how one feels about their self in the moment. Paul says believers are to be influenced by the change that God has done in their very beings; their souls. Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way!

Conclusion:

No matter their position in life believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ! No matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically! Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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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Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4

Parents and children! – Ephesians 6:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 26, 2017

A child rebelling is as old as well couples having children. Some think that it is worse today than years ago, but it probably isn’t it just may seem that way. However, there has become a shift in how children are disciplined. The issue is not in whether a parent spanks or not but rather in the teaching that there are consequences for one’s actions. Consistency in parenting has degraded in our society and it has infected the school system as well. There are actually folks who think it is harmful to tell a child “no” or to hold them accountable for their behavior. This is simply not true nor is it emotionally healthy for the child to not know their boundaries.

When we look into the pages of Scripture we can sometimes be hard pressed to find good examples of parenting yet we do discover some of the best advice for raising healthy, emotionally stable, and spiritually sound children. And here in Ephesians Paul gives great advice to both parents and children; let’s discover what he writes…

READ: Ephesians 6:1-4

No one likes to have to do what they are told all of the time. It is part of our sin nature to rebel when we are told what to do because we would rather do whatever we want when we want. However this simply isn’t possible nor is it mature. In his instructions to the family Paul writes that…

I. Children are to be obedient! (v. 1)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

1. You would think that this little bit of advice from Paul would be straight forward and easy to understand, but in our day and age people have earned doctorates from dissecting, ruminating, and discussing this ad nauseam to the point where may children are left confused, harmed, and unstructured in life. My dad would tell us that while we may not always like what he told us to do we had better always obey what he told us to do! Obedience is the foundation of any society; if you do not believe me then why do we have laws that people are supposed to obey? Paul succinctly states, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Now notice Paul is not speaking to the world in general but to believers. He writes that children are to obey their parents “in the Lord.” What does this mean? While obedience is kind of a foreign word in our nation today we would do well to remember just how important it is. Recently a young man, who was high on cocaine, was breaking into neighborhood homes, which was caught by police was shot and killed. He did not obey what the police told him to do because he was high, caught doing a criminal act, and was trying to get a very real looking toy gun from his waistband; the officers thought it was an actual pistol because it looked genuine and therefore shot him to death. Obedience would have saved this young man’s life. Paul writes that Christian children are to be obedient to their parents in the Lord. Paul meant in their spiritual instruction, in their personal following of God, and in how they respected him. Paul knew if children followed God they would be obedient to their parents. His reasoning was simple: “for this is right”. Paul would write the Colossian Christians, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20 NIV) Pleasing God is our first and foremost duty in life no matter how young or old we are and we learn that in order to do so children are to be obedient!

EXAMPLE: Often when people think of the word obedient they think it means mindless devotion and nothing is further from the truth. I find it interesting that there are those in our day and age who think children know how to respond sexually concerning their individual identity but they are too young to understand right from wrong when it involves religion, diet, smoking, or criminal activity. Children are to obey because children are immature physically, emotionally, and spiritually to understand all the consequences of their actions. Paul knew Children are to be obedient especially in the Lord!

My father would remind us as kids that respect is earned and not simply given. Few in our day understand this concept because many think that they should be respected simply because they breathe the same air as everyone else. This is simply a false notion and Paul teaches us that…

II. Children are to respect their parents! (Vv. 2-3)

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

1. Obedience some would say comes from respect however many have forgotten that respect is not simply given, it is earned. Paul writes that his readers were to “Honor your father and mother” a reality that is often misplaced in our day. A life that is not focused on the Lord and filled with the Spirit of God is one that can never understand what real reverence means. Honor in our day and age is hard for a lot of people to give others because we live in such a victim-oriented world. It seems as if there is special kind of sport or enjoyment in tearing down anything or anyone that might have earned our respect or be honored in our world. National heroes, historical figures, and others are torn and ripped apart with great glee. In fact in some arenas if you are not on the side of the worst degenerates, the most despicable of society, or the absolute immoral you are bigoted, racist, or a phobic of some sort and need to rethink your “preconceived colonial” notions. Proverbs teaches us that “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. The fear of the LORD teaches (people) wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:32-33 NIV) No matter how old we are we are to give honor, deference to our parents. Certainly there are those whose parents may not have been the best sort but Paul is speaking to Christian households here, those who have given themselves to the love and discipline of the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote that this honor is required because it comes from “the first commandment with a promise”. It isn’t the only commandment with a promise from God nor is it the first or primary commandment one is to learn, rather it is the commandment with the promise of God “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” It is understood that obedience fosters self-discipline, which in turn brings stability and longevity in one’s life. In order for our lives to go well and for us to have a life that is long in the Lord we must learn the lesson of Paul that children are to respect their parents!

EXAMPLE: If you have not been in a public school classroom lately I challenge you to go and volunteer for a couple of weeks. Not for just a day or two. Let the class get used to your presence; follow them out to recess, gym, music, and lunch. I think you would come away shocked at the lack of respect, discipline, and focus there is. The one complaint I hear from educators is the lack of support they receive to be able to consistently discipline their students. When there is no consistency kids know it and use it for their own personal gain. Don’t believe me, which parent does a child learn to go to first in order to get what they want? Remember Cain and Able? Respect teaches children to value themselves, others, and their community because they value and abide by specific standards. Children are to respect their parents!

No one likes to be teased to the point where it makes them sad or mad. Teasing someone until they are angry is just plain cruel and the same is true from demanding such high expectations from someone that they can never ever meet. Paul reminds us that…

III. Parents are not to frustrate their children! (v. 4)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

1. Paul wrote in Colossians, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 NIV) He addresses fathers because they were seen as the head of the household in which the consistency of parental discipline rests. How the peace and structure is often regulated by the mother in the home, fathers are to make sure there is consistency in discipline. People often forget that children first and foremost need structure in their lives. Boundaries give children security and therefore being too harsh or too lenient in rearing children can lead to frustration. So fathers were cautioned by Paul to “not embitter” their “children” with unreasonable demands, petty rules, or useless favoritism. Such actions cause children to become discouraged or angered because they are in constant emotional flux. Consistency in raising children is extremely important and I am reminded of when Paul wrote his friend Timothy “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”.  (2 Timothy 3:15 NIV) Timothy’s parents and grandparents were both instrumental in his spiritual maturation and Paul wrote, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV) Training our children in the beautiful things of God is extremely important. Far too many Christian parents live under the false notion that they should allow their children to “decide for themselves” when they get older as to what they believe about God. Where they get this completely ungodly idea is beyond me because by the time a child is an adult it is often too late. And it is a fact that most teens rebel when they go off to college! Paul relates that “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Paul had been trained from his youth that parents were to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) Consistency in discipline is the key and parents are not to frustrate their children!

EXAMPLE: We all laugh at the poor sap who tosses the instructions on how to put something together but anyone who has ever tried to put something together from IKEA knows the importance of following the instructions exactly. Clear and concise instructions are important and in fact this is one of the reasons IKEA has been so successful. They learned that if you had the buyer build their products using easily understood instructions they developed a personal sense of achievement at finishing the project and were very likely to come back and buy more products. The key was using those clear and concise instructions. Frustration occurs when a child does not know what to expect. Parents are not to frustrate their children!

Conclusion:

Children are to be obedient! Children are to respect their parents! Parents are not to frustrate their children!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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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New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32

New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 5, 2017

There are times in everyone’s life that they wish they had a do over. You know a new start in life. There are those who wait for others to make their life better and there are those who decide to make their lives better and they do. However, as much as one tries to make things better in reality you are the same person except with window dressing.

There is a way to make your life new both inside and out and it is guaranteed to do so. Twelve men were going about their daily lives when they were approached by a man who said he could change their lives forever if they were willing to follow him. While they all said they would only eleven were willing to completely give their lives to him and in doing so they found a new life. Paul now makes the same argument to the church at Ephesus; let’s discover what he teaches us about this new life.

READ: Ephesians 4:17-32

At one time Paul was one of the most up and coming young men in his nation’s ruling class both spiritually and intellectually known as the Sanhedrin. Paul would write his experience by writing the church at Galatia, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Galatians 1:14 NIV) But then God set him apart and called him by his grace. Paul writes the Ephesians that they were to…

I. Remember their new lives! (Vv. 17-20)

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.

1. This new life for Paul was not some esoteric concept. There are those today who think that by simply being good they are totally good inside and out. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is why Paul wrote, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” Paul was not being racist in his remarks rather he was referencing how all of us are “gentiles” or futile in our thinking until we come to Christ by faith! Paul understood that everyone is “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” We are all sinners by nature and by choice! Just as non-Jews, Gentiles, did not understand God and lived in spiritually sin-dark lives, all of us are until we also come to Christ! In fact we are separated from the life of God because of our spiritual ignorance and the ungodly world’s hardening of our hearts! We are to remember our new lives! Lest we forget good people do not know God and good people do not inherit all that God has for them; goodness does not get one into heaven! Even acts of “goodness” come from a sinful heart that exists in a sin-fallen world. We may think we are good enough for God to love us but in fact we have “lost all sensitivity” we might have toward God and have “given (ourselves) over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more!” When we fail to realize the ungodliness of even the “good” things of the world we fail to understand why God humbled himself and came as Jesus to die on a cross for us. We must truly understand what Paul teaches, namely that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV) He reminds his readers therefore “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” We are to remember our new lives!

EXAMPLE: Even though my father has been dead for almost 50 years, there are times I can still hear him and sometimes when I walk into a room if there are certain smells it is as if he was right there. Of course I know he isn’t but our minds help us to remember these kinds of things in this way. Today at the end of worship we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It does not impart any special dispensation, extra forgiveness, or grace. In it we discover anew the sacrifice of Jesus for us so that we might live for him. In observing the Lord’s Supper it helps us to remember our new lives!

Living a new life in Jesus begins with our trusting him by faith and then we are to daily decide to live for him. In doing so we are to…

II. Put off the old life and put on the new life! (Vv. 21-25)

Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

1. Paul continued by reminding his readers that “Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” Their hearts were no longer darkened, their lives were now made new in Jesus! They had heard, they had been taught, and now they fully realized the truth that is in Jesus! Only those who intimately know Christ can understand what Paul is writing here. We come to faith in Jesus and are spiritually changed. We were taught this and understand this but now “with regard to your former way of life” we are “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires”. Anything or anyone that keeps us from living the lives we are to in Jesus we are to get rid of in our lives! Paul was not being uncaring here; he knew that this could be awfully hard for new believers to do. But he was trying to encourage them in any way he could as individuals and as a church to live for Jesus! Jude would write, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23 NIV) Therefore we are “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It is a conscious decision on our part! To put it into terms we can understand: If we live for Jesus we become more like Jesus! If we try to stay comfortable in the ungodly world we will never attain to what God truly desires for our lives in Jesus so Paul writes, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Again Paul is speaking to the church, to believers. If we want a church, a life, a second chance that truly works we have to make the decision to put off the old life and put on the new life!

EXAMPLE: This past Wednesday is known as “Ash Wednesday” by millions of believers all over the world. However, many fail in their spiritual thinking concerning what this means and if it is worthwhile for them to do. Living for Jesus is more than doing an act of contrition one day a year. An ashen cross pasted on one’s forehead can remind us of Jesus’ humility and how we are to live, but it is meaningless unless one has given their life to Christ in the first place. Then we are to put off the old life and put on the new life!

Getting rid of old habits can be hard unless we propagate new ones that are beneficial to our new way of life. It is more than repeating the mantra of “Everyday in every way I am getting better and better.” It is a conscious decision on our part to live this new life. Paul related that…

III. We are not to sin in our new life! (Vv. 26-32)

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

1. Paul gets real here in his letter to the Ephesians in sharing with them exactly how they were to live for Jesus. He bluntly writes, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger is one of the most destructive forces in a person’s life. It is easy to respond in anger, just look at all the protests, riots, and anger being expressed by those who think they deserve something or are being deprived in some way. When we respond in anger we give ungodly thoughts and actions a foothold in our lives. We allow satanic influences to gain territory. We thwart such ungodliness when we respond in God’s love right away. Paul continued that “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” A crook, whether it is the government or the individual is one who steals from others what they did not earn with their own hands. Instead we are to share as believers with those within the church who are in need. We are to show that the love of God lives in us even to the things we participate including what we say; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In fact we are not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We can “grieve” God who dwells within each believer when we do not walk in Christ. We walk in Jesus when we “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” And when we are “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”, we are living as Jesus did. This is what we are called to and how we are to live; we are not to sin in our new life!

EXAMPLE: God knew we could never be perfect and never sin. This is why he gave us himself in Jesus and empowered us through his presence of the Holy Spirit. However, like a good parent that reminds their kids when they are leaving the house to be as good as they can be until they get home, God reminds us to live good lives in him until he returns again. We are not to sin in our new life!

Conclusion:

We are to remember our new lives! Put off the old life and put on the new life! We are not to sin in our new life!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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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Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16

Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 26, 2017

I have found it humorous that over the past few decades there has been a humanistic mantra repeated over and over that was expressed best by a felon and addict, “Can’t we all just get along?” There are those that honestly think that all we have to do is be agreeable and then everyone will be pleasant with one another. Of course if you disagree with them then you are a bigoted, hurtful, homophobe.

We have heard the mindless chant of the unruly crowd of “No justice no peace!” But the truth is the reality that without the Prince of Peace there is never any peace! Unity does not come from being more agreeable with one another nor by repeating that all we need is love. The sin-corrupted world does not care and the spiritually weak believer has forgotten that without the presence and power of God there can never be peace or love. Paul addresses this issue here in Ephesians by relating that it is only through the body of Christ, his church, where we find unity; let’s discover what he teaches us about unity in the body…

READ: Ephesians 4:1-16

Recently I received a phone call by a group that wanted to sell our church a “Netflix-style discipleship” program on how to reach millennials. I honestly believe that the reason the world has so much problem with the Christian church today is not because of Christ but because they see so much of the world in the church! Paul reminds the believer of their…

I. Conduct in the church! (Vv. 1-6)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1. Paul reminds his readers of his condition that “As a prisoner for the Lord” then they should “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” This was Paul’s urgent message to them that they would live (walk) in a sin-soaked world a “life worthy” of the gospel they were called to! This should not be a surprise to any believer but rather the goal of every Christian! Paul is not telling us how to earn part of our salvation because Jesus did it all, however, in a world that is completely fallen how in the world do we live a life that is worthy; especially in the body of Christ the church? Paul reminds us that since we have been redeemed by the grace of God we are to also take part in the life we now have in him! We are to be like Jesus! So Paul reminds us of how he lived in reminding us how we are to live as well! It begins with how one thinks about themselves, we are to “Be completely humble” in our thinking; not arrogant or prideful. And we are to be “gentle” which carries the notion of a sweet and kind attitude. He tells us to “be patient” with each other by “bearing with one another in love.” This is a message for believers in how to treat other believers! Today’s Christian has forgotten that we are part of the body of Christ; his church. So we are to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The church and its members are to reflect Jesus! Paul teaches us that “there is one body” the church and “one Spirit” in which all members, all Christians share because we were all “called to one hope when (we) were called”! In fact, least we should forget there is only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “Be careful how you live your life; there is not a lot of room on a tombstone”, meaning that there is not much room to write about one’s life on your tombstone. Usually you only see a small pity statement, the birth date and the date of the person’s death so you had better be careful how you live in between those dates! My Dad would remind us that “How one lives their life says a lot about who they are.” How do you live your life as a Christian? How do you treat your fellow believers? Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church!

Our personal conduct as believers as we display it to the world around us is extremely important. But in a world that does everything it possibly can to influence us how do we keep ourselves pure? How do we hold out the word of truth to this darkened world? This is why also Paul reminds us of our…

II. Preservation in the world! (Vv. 7-10)

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

1. As Paul reminded his readers of what their conduct should be in the church he continued by relating that we are able to do so because “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” There are those who think that they do not need the forgiveness of God and then there are others who think that God could never forgive them, but Paul reminds us that it is God who gives to each of us just the right amount of his grace. And part of that grace is the gifts he readily gives us. It is according to the measure we need: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:6 NIV) He would write the Corinthian church that God gives his gifts “just as he determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) Paul also explains that “This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” Paul uses Psalm 68:18 that he changed from the second to the third person, and changed the direction of the gifts from having received them from men to the giving of gifts to men. However the Hebrew can and has been translated just as Paul intended. “The essence of the psalm is that a military victor has the right to give gifts to those who are identified with him. Christ, having captivated sinful people by redeeming them, is the Victor and gives them as gifts to the church.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Paul then explains why he said what he did: “What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” Jesus did just that! Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world!

EXAMPLE: I grew up in a family that depended a lot on what we could grow, hunt or fish. My mother would spend weeks and months canning all kinds of food from berries, fruits, vegetables, pickles, cabbage to all kinds of meat. She would make jams, jellies, and preserves. Later, after I was married I tried my hand at smoking fish and jerking different meats. These things are not new and some of the means to preserve food have been around for centuries. This was true for Paul’s day as well and is why he understood the necessity of good preservation. He knew this was true for our spiritual lives in Jesus also and so Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world!

The wonderful truth of the gospel narrative is the fact that we are not alone. Every Christian has an advocate, defender, and guide in God through the Spirit and Jesus! However, Jesus also provided us his body the church to do his work and will in the world. And it is here where we can find encouragement, strength, and spiritual mentorship. In Ephesians Paul reminds us about God’s…

III. Contribution! (Vv. 11-16)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

1. Paul then goes into some of the gifts God has given us. God as Jesus, because he ascended and descended, showed and proved who he was and that he is more than able to give us his grace gifts. After all he fills the whole universe. So Paul tells us that “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers”. Far too many focus on the gifts of God rather than why they were given in the first place. His gifts were given “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”, literally, this purpose is “for the perfecting or equipping as in mending” or “preparing” fishing nets. There is a definite progression here. Paul begins with those who were called out — the apostles, then those who preach the gospel – the prophets and evangelists, and then finally those who were called to be pastors and teachers within the church itself. The gifts are not as important as to why they were given in the first place: “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” The early church needed these gifts to mature in their faith just as we do today. Today’s church is less prepared than perhaps Paul’s Ephesians simply because we have forgotten the importance of personal discipleship. These gifts are given so that “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” We have forgotten that the world is corrupted however if believers use the gifts God has given them then “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” The church today has become spiritually stunted and we have forgotten “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a dependent society that we have been duped into thinking that others should take care of us. Now I am not talking about those who need assistance because of personal handicaps or unforeseen hardships. Our society has become so dependent that it sees that government only exists to take care of them from the womb to the tomb. Businesses are seen only as a means to create work and churches have become handout stations. So much so that people no longer join to serve God’s kingdom but rather to see what the church can provide for them. How wonderful to learn that God has provided for his church! Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!

Conclusion:

Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church! Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world! Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 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 mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13

The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 5, 2017

The books and televisions programs of Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and others are fantastic mystery series. I love a good mystery. Trying to figure out who done it, how they did it, and why is great fun for me. I also like a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies and books as well because of the suspense. Yep, there is nothing like a good mystery; except where God is concerned.

There are many in our day and age and in the past who have tried to lie to mankind and declare only they know the secret or hidden mysteries of God. That all others except themselves need a special book, specific revelation, seer stones, a guide, or advanced teacher to tell us the hidden mysteries of God. Therefore isn’t great to know that the mystery of God has now been revealed through his Son, Jesus? There is nothing hidden, tucked away, or kept from those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus. And here in his letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us all about the mystery revealed!

READ: Ephesians 3:1-13

You can never truly know anyone; even one’s spouse can surprise you once in a while which can be a good thing. The great thing about the gospel message is that it reveals Jesus for who he truly is and Paul knew this to be true as well. He knew that…

I. The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! (Vv. 1-5)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.

1. Things can be confusing when you do not understand them whether it is some new fangled electronic gadget or something that is theological. In these situations it is often good to have someone who knows the ins and outs, kind of like a mentor, teacher, or guide. Paul understood this, not the electronic gadget part but the theological nuances that would have utterly confused both his Jewish converts but in particular the non-Hebrew gentiles. And so he begins to share with his readers from his own personal experience, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”. He considered himself a prisoner, which he probably was in Rome, of Jesus not just in a criminal sense but also as one called out as a volunteer to be willingly held captive by Jesus. He was held captive not for himself but for their sake! Paul saw his life’s calling as the “administration” as a personal stewardship or trust “of God’s grace”. God had given him this “household task” and “surely” they had “heard about” it! Paul had been made an apostle, messenger, to the Gentiles by Jesus. This grace was the “the mystery made known to (Paul) by revelation, as (he had) already written (them) briefly.” The mystery was that God would come in human form, be born of a virgin, grow to be a man and willingly give his life as a sacrifice for our sins! Also do not forget that Paul at one time did not understand this mystery and in fact had held the cloaks of those who willingly stoned to death one of Jesus’ followers. Only later when he was given instructions by the chief priests to go to Damascus to persecute more of Jesus’ followers did God intervene and call Paul to be his disciple to the Gentiles. And so Paul now tells the Ephesians that “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

EXAMPLE: The mystery of the ages is not difficult to understand; the problem is we as believers often make it harder than it is. It is kind of like the old joke about the Rabbi and the Priest who were by the side of a country road holding a sign that read: “The End is Near! Turn around before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that passed didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted, “Leave us alone you religious nuts!” All of a sudden they heard the screeching of brakes and a big splash. The Rabbi turned to the Priest and asked, “Do you think we should have written: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” I am so glad that the mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

The good news, the Gospel message is the mystery revealed. But what exactly does this mystery do and how does it do it? Oh that is a spectacular and most wonderful thing! Paul writes that…

II. He was entrusted to preach this mystery! (Vv. 6-9)

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 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.

1. Paul continued by getting right to the heart of the mystery. He relates that “This mystery is that through the gospel”. What is through the gospel? What is this good news? Namely that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel” of all the promises of God! All believers no matter where they come from or their background become the chosen people of God! In fact we are “members together of one body” which is the church, the called out ones by Jesus that form his “body” in the world! Therefore we are all “sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”! This promise is more than joint heirs of God’s promise to his people it also gives eternal life and the presence and power of God to all who believe! Part of Jesus’ final prayer was when he asked God the Father, “My prayer is not for them alone (meaning his disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21 NIV) Paul came to understand what this oneness meant as he explains that “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” God had imparted this mystery to him on the road to Damascus and thereby he became its servant! Now his readers could have wondered why in the world God would do such a thing to someone like Paul. Yet he knew his past and writes that “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”. Paul had been entrusted to preach this mystery! And like Paul we also are “to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things”. He had written his friend Timothy that he was to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV) From the Four Gospel narratives to the Book of Revelation we are entrusted to preach this mystery!

EXAMPLE: It is sad but there have always existed charlatans who would use the gospel for their own purposes; from Ananias and Sapphira to the likes of Peter Popoff there are those motivated to use the mystery of the gospel for their personal greed and power. Remember Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” He knew a “time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV) We are entrusted to preach this mystery!

Jesus had ascended back to his heavenly realm and left his body the church to fulfill the preaching of the gospel mystery. For Paul it was important that his readers understand that…

III. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery! (Vv. 10-13)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

1. Paul bluntly relates that Jesus’ “intent was that now, through the church (Jesus’ body made up of his called out members), the manifold wisdom of God should be made known”. It is our job to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Jesus had) commanded”! (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Paul writes that this was part and parcel of God’s plan all along, that this “wisdom… should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”. God made this mystery known to all of the heavenly realm when he came as Jesus and when he died on the cross for our sins “according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord”! If that isn’t a mystery I don’t know what is! The Greek adjective “manifold” (polypoikilos) referred to the beauty of an embroidered pattern or the variety of colors in flowers. God redeemed all the “colorful flowers” of the world; all the patterns of races, colors, and creeds to himself through faith in him! This mystery brought Hebrew and gentile together into one body the church! “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Through faith in Jesus we have the right of freedom, the “courage, boldness” to confidently approach God’s throne! Hebrews reminds us that “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV) This is why Paul writes the Ephesians, “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” He was asking the body of Christ to pray for him a fellow believer! He knew he could because Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

EXAMPLE: There are those in our day and age who think that the church is a show you come to once in a while in order to feel good about yourself and God. There are others who believe it is a repository where we are to dispense our good deeds to the unwashed world. Or there are those who think that the church is an organization one belongs to in order to gain entrance into certain segments of society or culture. None of these are correct. The church is the body of Christ in the world made up of many members where each does its part for God’s plan that he has for them in the world in order that his message, the gospel, is shared. In this process we come together for worship of him, encouragement of one another, and mentoring to be sent out into the world with his message. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

Conclusion:

The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! We are entrusted to preach this mystery! Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 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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