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Follow me! — Matthew 8:18-22

Follow me! — Matthew 8:18-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 28, 2019

Who or what you follow says a lot about what you believe in life. I’ve always found it humorous when folks tell me that they go to a “nondenominational” church because there is no such thing. If you have a pastor who preaches and is your church’s leader you follow a specific “denomination” or theology whether you want to admit to it or not. Pastors are trained by someone and that someone was trained or trains in a particular denominational bent.

When Jesus called his disciples he did not give them any false pretenses and in fact often went out of the way to teach them exactly who they followed and why. While some of the gospel writers do not necessarily focus on those who were outside of the inner circle of disciples they do touch on the fact that there were many who did indeed follow Jesus even if they were not part of the core group he specifically chose. And it is here that Matthew focuses us this morning as we take a look at those who wanted to “follow” Jesus. Let’s take a look at what it meant when Jesus said, “Follow me!”

READ: Matthew 8:18-22

In this section Matthew gave a couple of illustrations to demonstrate the right Jesus had to ask who he desired to follow him and to deny requests from those who were motivated improperly. In this first example we discover…

I. Following Jesus requires hardship! (Vv. 18-20)

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

  1. We find Jesus’ compassion often displayed by what he does or how he responds to certain situations. Evidently the crowds were becoming increasingly large and therefore probably more aggressive and perhaps even inconsiderate of Jesus’ time. Matthew writes that “When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.” We had previously learned that “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.” (v. 8:1) and so it had become increasingly difficult to go from one place to the next so Jesus decides to cross the lake, the Sea of Galilee, and preach there. In one instance John relates that the people wanted to forcefully make Jesus their king, but he would have none of it and used the lake as a means to get away. However, as Jesus evidently lands on the far shore “a teacher of the law came to him” declaring “Teacher I will follow you wherever you go.” Instead of Jesus choosing him this man had decided for himself and we discover his impulsiveness isn’t what Jesus was looking for. Jesus replies, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” God has created a place for every living thing he has created but in his ministry and mission to the world he would not have a place of his own and this young man had to realize that the hardship he was asking for might be more then he could bear. Jesus had no permanent home. Perhaps Jesus saw that this young man desired more than just following him to be his disciple. Some think he wanted fame and fortune but Jesus desired neither and in fact had already flatly turned them down when Satan tried to tempt him in his humanity with such enticements. Creation is not Satan’s to give and God has no need of such things. In fact when “large crowds” were following Jesus, he turned to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-27 NIV)” The road of being a disciple of Jesus is not an easy well paved path like that broad way the world offers. Following Jesus requires hardship!

  EXAMPLE: Many families that started out on the Oregon Trail did not finish it intact; disease, accidents, starvation, wild animals, and attacks placed a huge hardship on early pioneers. We have no idea the dangers they faced and yet they did in order to find a new life in a new land. One of their favorite hymns they sang around campfires was On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand and yet nowadays many refuse to come to the land that is fairer than day and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hardship for us is misplacing our cell phone, not having free Wi-Fi or a fast food restaurant every 25 feet. Here in Matthew we discover that following Jesus requires hardship!

In our lives we can begin to place the improper focus on things that may not matter as far as eternity is concerned. Friends, jobs, school, finances, or even family can blur our vision as to what truly matters in life especially where it concerns following Jesus. In the second example we discover…

II. Following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life! (Vv. 21-22)

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

  1. At first glance we might think Jesus was uncaring in his next response to the second man but he was not. The wording in the original language teaches us what is happening here. We often get so caught up in this life we forget there is another one waiting for us. Our world has become so cynical that there are those who try to ignore life after death. Jesus made no illusions to the fact that once you pass from this existence you will either be in the presence of God or separated from him for eternity. Jesus absolutely knew what he was talking about because he is God! Matthew related that “Another disciple said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’” Luke tells us it was just “another man” and not one of the inner twelve so here disciple is used for a close follower. And like I said before we tend to forget that there is more to life than just this life! When Peter complained that he and his fellow disciples had “left everything” to follow Jesus, he told Peter, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” However this promise of a wonderful future was not just reserved for the inner twelve disciples! Jesus continued by relating, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Now Jesus is not teaching some name-it-and-claim-it heresy but rather that there is more to living for him than we know. If we follow him we will be wonderfully rewarded. In fact Paul would write, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him! (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)” Matthew related therefore, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Jesus wasn’t uncaring but the man wanted to go back home and wait until his father got older, he buried him, and then he would follow Jesus! Jesus desires you make the decision to follow him today, not later. Paul would state that “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV)” Make no mistake that following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life!

  EXAMPLE: What we consider vital in life is far different than what was considered essential when I was a child. Children can live without cell phones, video games, or the latest clothing fad. In Walt Disney’s classic The Jungle Book based on Kipling’s book of the same title the bear Baloo sings a song called The Bare Necessities in which he encourages his young protégée to go after the simple bare necessities of life. Baloo finds everything he needs from the forest around him. We live in a time when even the poorest among us has more than most of the rest of the world. Following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life!

Conclusion:

Following Jesus requires hardship! Following Jesus requires knowing what is vital in life!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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In the Wild! – John 20:30-31

In the Wild! – John 20:30-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 21, 2019

Life is filled with incredible encounters. As we go through childhood, we are constantly discovering everything about the world around us. When we make friends, discover the beauty of nature, and become more aware of everything around us, we begin to realize the world’s vastness. We also begin to grasp that an entire globe of opportunities awaits each of us!

God made us to encounter his love and to enjoy a personal relationship with him that lasts not just for a lifetime, but for eternity. All through his Word, God introduces himself in incredible ways, showing himself to be perfectly faithful, true, compassionate, and merciful. Even though people aren’t perfect, God has a plan to forgive us of our sin and bless us with a relationship with him. As Jesus’ earthly ministry began, he made it clear that his purpose was to make a way for every person to have an opportunity to receive his forgiveness and to enjoy eternal life with God. Jesus wants each of us to encounter his love and to be born again. When we truly meet him, we are never the same! Let’s discover what God has for us in the wild…

READ: John 20:30-31

The world is a wild and wonderful place that is filled both good and bad things. Our journey through life places us squarely within this wonderful but wild world. Wild animals are not the only thing the world is filled with but also with ungodliness as well. We discover that…

I. God came as Jesus into the wild to rescue us! (v. 30)

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

  1. The gospel writers wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit about some of the things Jesus did from healing lepers, the blind, the lame, and even bringing back the dead but the most important thing they shared was how “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)” Therefore, Jesus, God in human flesh, willingly entered into a world full of sin, violence, and hatred to bring and show us the love of God. In fact the wording here literally comes from the notion that God deliberately entered our realm and pitched his tent with us! I love to go camping in public campgrounds and sometimes my camp neighbors are fun to get to know, friendly, and enjoyable but there have been times when those next to me should have stayed home and I wished they had pitched their tent somewhere else! But I am so glad Jesus willingly came and pitched his tent with us! Paul expresses Jesus’ coming into the wild of the world to rescue us when he wrote that Jesus Christ “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV)” Jesus deliberately set aside his deity and came and pitched his tent among us because God’s desire was to change people forever! And he wanted people to experience this wonderful life change for their own selves. It is like when Jesus went to the Samaritans “And because of his words (and the testimony of a Samaritan woman) many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’ (John 4:41-42 NIV)” and as Jesus testified, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10 NIV)” This is what Vacation Bible School is all about; to share the love of God with children about the coming of Jesus into the wilderness of this world to rescue us from our sins! God came as Jesus into the wild to rescue us!

  EXAMPLE: Years ago when my brother-in-law and I were finishing a weekend camping and hiking trip when we encountered three younger teens who were not prepared for hiking in the wilderness. And sadly later on we met two of them who were out of breath because of trying to run for help for their friend who had fallen off a 30 foot water fall. They had been pushing logs over the edge and he had been caught in one and taken over the falls. I ran down the trail while Dale went back to meet the rescue team. I hiked with the team up the creek bed to try and rescue the young boy but it was too late. I am so glad that God came as Jesus at just the right time into the wild to rescue us!

As we journey through the wild here in this world we can chose to have an encounter with Jesus or not. Amazingly we discover that…

II. Jesus desires we have a wild encounter with him! (v. 31)

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

  1. John was so impacted and astonished at who Jesus was and what he did he never lost the utter amazement of what had occurred. In fact he would finish his gospel by writing: “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:24-25 NIV)” We must never forget that Jesus did not come so we could have a good worship experience on Sundays, an answer for all our emotional, personal, or physical problems; Jesus made it plain: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)” There are those who falsely think this fullness includes all of the things I listed before but in reality Jesus was not referring to this at all! He was teaching about that he came to give his listeners eternal life with God! Jesus’ detractors have always wanted to relegate him to something less than what he is or to rewrite why he came. But Jesus was never deterred. He would bluntly tell them, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30 NIV)” Jesus is God. And his entire purpose was that we would have a wild encounter with him! In a world that has become a wilderness full of those who would purposefully confuse who Jesus is and why he came we have the real truth! The wilderness of the world is full of confusion as to what constitutes sin, God, and has redefined morality. The ungodly world loves to hide in the wilderness and darkness of their sin. Isaiah the prophet declared thousands of years ago the truth that there would be those who would want to confuse you and that they would ultimately be condemned: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20 NIV)” However Jesus related, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus desires we have a wild encounter with him!

  EXAMPLE: This is why I love Vacation Bible School because it simply and plainly teaches the truth of Jesus and why he came into the wilderness of creation to rescue us. And children see the truth, they know the truth, and they are not confused by the truth. In the week to come children will learn about being in the wild and they will learn about the truth of Jesus! I am so glad that Jesus desires we have a wild encounter with him!

Conclusion:

God came as Jesus into the wild to rescue us! Jesus desires we have a wild encounter with him!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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A soldier’s faith! — Matthew 8:5-13

A soldier’s faith! — Matthew 8:5-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 7, 2019

What kind of discipline do you display in life? I have a sister who never saw a shoe store she couldn’t pass by or for that matter a jewelry display she would not stop for. For me it used to be bookstores. However self-discipline is a good thing and is why the military focuses on it so much. They want soldiers who will follow orders and are disciplined enough to be able to handle anything that is thrown their way during a conflict. In fact they are trained to act as a team and to depend on one another.

Jesus desired that his followers learn how to not only have faith in him but also to have faith in one another because he knew their future was going to be tough. And here in this depiction of an incident that Jesus has with a Roman centurion teaches about what it means to have faith in him and to have the willingness to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Let’s take a look at a soldier’s faith…

READ: Matthew 8:5-13

The way Jesus handles the Roman centurion’s faith teaches us that…

I. We have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior! (Vv. 5-7)

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

  1. It is interesting but first it is a leper who comes to Jesus for healing and now it is a Roman centurion! The Jewish people hated the Romans and there were constant uprisings against them and constant repercussions by the ruling Roman authority. And it occurred “When Jesus had entered Capernaum” a major Jewish town where Jesus lived and went out from to do his ministry that “a centurion came to him, asking for help.” We know that Pontius Pilate used extreme measures to quell any threat to Roman authority. In describing Pilate’s personality, Philo (a first century Greek historian) writes that Pilate had “vindictiveness and furious temper”, and was “naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness”. Referring to Pilate’s governance, Philo further describes “his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine (taking other’s property by force), and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity”. So we understand that the Hebrew people did not like the Romans who occupied their nation. And here this Roman commander comes to Jesus! “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Now wait a minute, you mean to tell me that a Roman soldier who is in command of 100 men is coming to an itinerant Jewish rabbi for help? And we learn it is for a servant no less? In his actions and words we learn a few things about this Roman: 1) He was compassionate (his servant was in “terrible suffering”), 2) He fully understood who he needed to go to for help (Jesus), and 3) he was humble enough that went himself into a major Jewish town and did not send an underling! I believe Jesus saw all of this in this man as well and responds to him by immediately telling him, “I will go and heal him.” Like Jesus, we have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior!

  EXAMPLE: The tough question here is: Can I see beyond the outward appearance of the person? George Washington seems cold and aloof. Yet he served without pay as General of a ragtag Army against the might of the British military. Fiery in temper, he rarely displayed it; he held everyone in high regard with honor and wept over his soldiers. Kids today are likely to spend school time listing “10 things I like about myself” while young Washington, in contrast, diligently copied 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior” into his lesson book! Washington was known to pray often. Here Jesus teaches us that we have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior!
What we may see on the outside is not the actual person inside and here Jesus teaches us that…

II. We have to be willing to understand a person’s interior! (Vv. 8-9)

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

  1. Gauging what’s in a person’s heart is often hard to do but God never asks us to do that. Rather, we can listen and be attentive and deduce by why a person does what they do or says what they say and come to a pretty good conclusion. And further we can ask the Holy Spirit for guidance! Jesus promised “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13 NIV)” Far too often we rely on our “intuition” when we need to learn from God’s interaction! And in his humanity Jesus does just that! Jesus listens to the Centurion’s words and looks closely at his actions. Notice what Jesus hears: “The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’” This army commander calls Jesus “Lord” meaning here “master”. He recognizes what some people never do: That Jesus is in complete control and in perfect power to do what he desires! Jesus is either the master of our lives or he is not. If he isn’t then he cannot and will not work in our lives until we are willing to become his servant. The Centurion understood all Jesus had to do was “say the word” and his “servant” would “be healed”! A Roman army officer was willing to become a servant in order for his slave to be healed! And notice he tells Jesus exactly why he believes this to be true: “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” You see, there it is, Jesus sees that this man understood the command structure and because he does he understood how God works in the lives of those who willingly place themselves under his command! This rugged Roman Centurion was fully exposed to Jesus from his inside out! Jesus understood what made him tick because he listened and was attentive to the Centurion’s need. Like Jesus, we have to be willing to understand a person’s interior!

  EXAMPLE: The tough question here is: Who controls my life? We all have comfort zones we do not like to leave. Benjamin Franklin drew up a list of 13 virtues he wished to acquire, and a program for practicing them. “I was surprised,” Franklin wrote later, “to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.” It is safe to stay inside our self-built walls. Yet if we are going to reach this generation with the good news of Jesus we must be willing to take a hard look at ourselves. Like Jesus, we have to be willing to understand a person’s interior!

Who controls our lives says a lot about who we follow and taking a hard look at one’s self can be tough. But here we learn from Jesus that…

III. We may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior! (Vv. 10-13)

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

  1. Can you imagine what Jesus’ disciple thought? What about the crowd who now followed his every move, I wonder how they responded to Jesus’ willingness to hear and act on the behalf of a Roman? Yet we also discover that Jesus in his humanity could be surprised and “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’” Say what? Jesus is delightfully surprised by the man’s explanation. How cool is that! So much so he admits he had not seen the same kind of faith out of his own people! And Jesus bluntly tells the crowd and his followers, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” The promised feast that all Jews longed for and looked forward to! “But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Say it isn’t so! Basically Jesus is kicking them in the pants with is words! He is telling them that this hated Roman Soldier has more faith than any of them and that “many” of them “will come from the east and the west” to take their “places at the [future] feast with [their Father] Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” [Patriarchs all] but they the “subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside”! They will be punished for their unbelief! For their unwillingness to become Jesus’ servants! Remember Jesus had just gotten through telling the crowd “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)” In fact he would never know them but he would know this Roman centurion! Jesus teaches us that we may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior!

  EXAMPLE: The tough question here is: Do I need a swift kick in my bottom to get me to do what I know I need to do? Habeas corpus is recourse in law whereby a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment before a court. President Lincoln suspended it during the Civil War. John Merryman, a state legislator from Maryland, incurred Lincoln’s wrath and was arrested for attempting to hinder Union troops from moving from Baltimore to Washington during the Civil War and was held by Union troops. He immediately sought a writ of habeas corpus. However, President Lincoln decided not allow it because he felt state legislators were trying to hinder his ability to effectively fight the war. Lincoln decided to give them a “swift kick” to gain their attention. It worked even though five years later the Supreme Court ruled that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus. Here in Matthew’s account we learn that we may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior!

Conclusion:

We have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior! We have to be willing to understand a person’s interior! We may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Lepers gotta love ‘em! – Matthew 8:1-4

Lepers gotta love ‘em! – Matthew 8:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 30, 2019

There are folks in our lives that are just tough to love. You know what I mean; those who have nothing good to say about anyone else, those who are constantly jealous over others and what they have or do, or those folks who constantly gripe about almost everyone and anything. Then there are those folks who just have to gain attention by constantly gripping over their latest ailment, sickness, or hypochondria. It can be difficult to be around such folks in life and they can become or be seen as the “lepers” of our day and age.

In Jesus’ day there were skin ailments that were often seen as leprosy but actually were not, however, I believe that Jesus and his followers knew the difference between minor skin diseases and actual leprosy. After Jesus was finished speaking to the crowds he heads back down the hillside and meets up with a man who is a leper. How Jesus interacts with and has compassion on him displays for us just how even in our day and age, lepers gotta love them! Let’s see what Jesus teaches us…

READ: Matthew 8:1-4

How we handle those folks who rub us the wrong way says a lot about our compassion. I readily admit I have to work on this constantly in my life; I’m not as compassionate as I should be. However there is hope for a person like me and Jesus teaches us that in dealing with the lepers of life…

I. Our attitude needs to be willing! (Vv.1-2)

When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

  1. We notice that Jesus’ teaching that day must have had a huge impact because not only are his words recorded here, Luke makes mention of them, and we see that “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.” In fact this would be the case pretty much from now on in Jesus’ ministry. Wherever he went from then on large crowds would follow him to the point he has a tough time finding any solitude: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ (Mark 6:31 NIV)” but “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34 NIV)” We do not know for sure however perhaps the leprous man had heard the words of Jesus far off from the sidelines and waited patiently for Jesus to finish because as a leper he would not have been welcome in the crowd. But now we find that he “came and knelt before” Jesus. His humility was evident and he certainly had nothing to lose as an outcast – the lowest in the social order and commanded to stay away from anyone else under penalty of death! Maybe he got there late, we simply do not know but whatever occurred we find him with the courage to come to Jesus with a request: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Now isn’t this interesting. Evidently the man had heard enough to know that Jesus had cured others or he was affected by the Master’s words to the crowd and he was given the courage to confront the only one who had the power to cure his disease. When the lepers of our lives come to us no matter why, how is our attitude? When they enter our lives aren’t they in effecting asking us “if you are willing”. The man recognizes Jesus’ lordship, his mastery over disease, pain, and suffering but more than that he evidently saw that Jesus would stop, listen to his request, and respond. Who else could a leper come to be made clean? When life gives us lepers we need to be ready to respond. Jesus teaches us that in dealing with the lepers of life our attitude needs to be willing!

  EXAMPLE: Willingness does not mean we have to like the person nor do we have to like having to respond but we have to be willing. The disciples would have an ingrown revulsion to anyone who had leprosy. It was a horrible disease that would not have a cure until recent times. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a bacterial disease that can cause skin lesions, disfiguration, damage to the nerves and eyes, and other problems. Fortunately, the disease is treatable with medication and those with leprosy can live normal lives and be cured! Jesus’ disciples did not know that this would happen they only knew what they experienced and what they were told. Yet like us they needed an attitude change and here Jesus teaches us that our attitude needs to be willing!

Like little disobedient children who do not want to do something we can drag our feet, take our time to respond, and grip about how we don’t have the time, can’t do it, or simply we don’t want to do it! However, here in Matthew Jesus teaches us that in dealing with the lepers of life…

II. We need to act immediately! (v. 3)

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.

  1. We see the compassionate nature of Jesus in the gospel narratives that describe his life for us. We discover it when he heals Peter’s mother-in-law, the resurrection of synagogue ruler Jairus’ daughter, the son who was demon possessed who threw himself into campfires, the woman who reaches out and touches him as he walks through the crowd; each of these instances and more display for us Jesus’ compassionate nature. Yet what strikes me the most is not Jesus’ response, because you would expect that, but that he responds without hesitation. Even when a hated Canaanite woman comes to him and cries out from the crowd, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus responds in a way whereby his disciples and the woman both are taught the truth that God is a compassionate God and he responds right away. (Matthew 15:22-28) In fact the only time Jesus takes his time in responding was with a close friend who had to die in order for others to be taught a lesson on compassion and the power of God! And now a leper stands before Jesus and his disciples asking that if Jesus is willing he could make him clean and it is here in this moment the extent of the compassion of Jesus is graphically displayed for us because “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.” No Pharisee, no Sadducee, and certainly none of the teachers of the law would ever in their wildest dreams willingly reach out and touch a leper, but Jesus does immediately without hesitation! This makes me weak in the knees knowing my own aversions and sensing my own prejudices to see Jesus willingly and lovingly reach out to this man who had no hope. And low and behold in this moment of time all of creation pauses and waits to hear the precious words of Jesus when he quietly and confidently says, “I am willing”. The leper’s heart leaps as the Jesus commands, “Be clean!” and “Immediately he is cured of his leprosy.” In this Jesus teaches us that we need to act immediately!

  EXAMPLE: I have learned in life that not every problem needs me to try and “fix” it. In fact often what folks need is a compassionate ear of one who will simply listen. Often even a sincere hug relays to the one hurting that while you may not have the answer, you are available to share their hurt and walk beside them. This is why when folks ask me that they need prayer for someone or something I often respond right away. I try to stop what I am doing and pray with them right then and there. I have learned that as a believer I am a purveyor of Jesus’ compassion and conduct to a hurting world. And in this Jesus teaches that with the lepers of life we need to act immediately!

When dealing with the difficult people of life we often want them to respond in the way we want them to rather than in the way they often do. What we see from Jesus is the focus of his ministry was to give God the glory and it is here that Jesus teaches us that in dealing with the lepers of life…

III. We need to give Jesus the glory! (v. 4)

Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

  1. In our day and age not many people carry business cards anymore. Instead they rely on exchanging phone numbers and addresses by simply touching one phone to the other. For Jesus his calling card, so-to-speak, was found in the actions he did and here we discover Jesus giving his calling card not only to the leper he heals but to those the leper was legally required to go to first. Jesus tells him, “See that you don’t tell anyone.” Jesus wasn’t fearful of others discovering who he was because the crowds already knew. And he was more than likely known by the powers that be, the Pharisees and the Scribes. Jesus tells him, “But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” And there it is. We discover that Jesus wanted his calling card given to the authorities so that not only would the leper not get into trouble, but that the Law of Moses was followed and the required thanksgiving gift to God was given. It would show the leper’s willingness to honor God, for his personal protection, and it would be a testimony to the powers that be that Jesus was indeed the Messiah! I just told you about Jesus’ friend that he delayed going to in order to heal him. Lazarus died and his sisters and the onlookers needed to understand who Jesus truly was however when Lazarus’ sisters send for him he tells his disciples, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. (John 11:4 NIV)” Perhaps you did not know it but not since Miriam in the Book of Numbers do we find any Israelite being cured of leprosy and in her case she had to wait outside of the camp for seven days to be cured and to be brought back into the Israelite fold! But here this leper is cured instantly and can be welcomed back into society immediately! It’s Jesus showing the Priests of the Temple that the Messiah had indeed come and to give God the glory he deserved! In this Jesus teaches us that in dealing with the lepers of life we need to give Jesus the glory!

  EXAMPLE: Far too often we want the credit for doing something when in fact we should not seek to be recognized for the ministries God gives us in life. This is one of the many reasons I like baseball because it is a team sport where each individual contributes to the overall success of the team. Sure you will have all stars but more often than not if you interview them they will not take the credit but humbly give fellow players their due because they realize they are one part of a team. We can forget that we are also part of a team: God with us. As his disciples we are to always give him the credit and glory for what he does through us. In this Jesus teaches us that in dealing with the lepers of life we need to give Jesus the glory!

Conclusion:

Our attitude needs to be willing! We need to act immediately! We need to give Jesus the glory!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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It’s all about foundations! – Matthew 7:24-29

It’s all about foundations! – Matthew 7:24-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 23, 2019

Sometimes you can listen to what is being spoken to you but not understand a single word, not because of the language barrier but because you do not understand what the speaker is talking about. I had a seminary professor that was that way. You could sit there and hear every word he spoke but not understand a single word he said. It was literally Greek to me! Kind of like the adults in those Charlie Brown cartoons on TV: “Wah! Wah! Wah! Wah…”

Jesus however spoke plainly and often used terms and words his listeners would immediately understand. Jesus’ words are more than pity sayings to put on a refrigerator door or memes on a Facebook post, they are words of life if you hear them and follow them. Hearing what Jesus said was more than just listening to his words, you had to live by them and for him it was how his followers built a basis for their lives. Let’s discover what Jesus meant when he taught it’s all about foundations…

READ: Matthew 7:24-29

There’s an old saying that “Practice makes perfect” and in the spiritual realm is does as well. I’m not talking about using the perfect prayer to reach Nirvana, doing the most righteous thing over and over to be holy, or discovering your spirit guide. Putting the life of Jesus into practice takes time, effort, and will power. For Jesus a good foundation meant…

I. Consistently applying God’s word! (Vv. 24-25)

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

  1. We have a tendency to muck things up and make them more confusing and complicated than they were meant to be. My case in point is exactly what Jesus was teaching here to those who sat on a hillside and were listening to him that day. No New Testament books had been written and most Hebrews discussed what they knew of God’s word from what they had to learn, which usually was what we know as the first five books: Genesis – Deuteronomy, the Torah. Yes they sang the Psalms and knew other things like Proverbs and such but when Jesus said “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice”, he did not mean from Genesis to Revelation as some may think. Certainly there is wisdom in learning and knowing what we now call the entire Word of God, the Bible, but Jesus actually meant the words he had just spoken to the crowd! If they understood who he was, the promised Messiah – God in human flesh, and put into lifelong practice what he had just taught them then they were “like a wise man who built his house on the rock”! Meaning they had a strong foundation for life! This is why Jesus continued by giving them the example: “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” When one consistently applies the words Jesus had just given them, they will have a strong spiritual foundation. Loving God completely and others as themselves, prayer, judging others, giving, knowing where one’s heart resides, not worrying about every little thing in life, knowing the blessings of God, being the salt and light in a sin-darkened world, handling their anger, lust, relationships, marriage, retribution, and how to treat your enemies were all covered quite well! And the only means to be able to do all of these the way one should was to know Jesus as one’s Savior and Lord! This is the foundational truth the crowd needed to know and understand that day just as it is today right now for our world as well! For Jesus a good foundation began with consistently applying God’s word that they had just heard! It began with knowing him!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus was the “word” they needed to apply! He was after all “the word become flesh that dwelt among us”! Few folks realize that following Jesus is not about checking off a list of rules, following a bulleted list posted on one’s bathroom mirror. Jesus isn’t a popular meme; he is the way the truth, and the life! Just as a good mixture of concrete, sand, and gravel can make a good foundation so does a life that is filled with the teachings of Jesus and it all begins with the cornerstone: Jesus! You cannot put into practice the word of Christ without knowing the Word of God Jesus! For Jesus a good foundation began with consistently applying God’s word – it began with knowing him!

For Jesus foolishness followed faithlessness. Someone who depended upon their feelings, their past good deeds, or who did not truly listen to his words were doomed to be swept away. For Jesus a good foundation meant…

II. Not being stupid with what you base your life on! (Vv. 26-27)

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

  1. In the movie Forest Gump there is a classic line that a lot of folks like but many misunderstand: “Stupid is as stupid does!” Some think he means that to err is human or that stupid people continue to do stupid things but that is not what the quote means nor does it follow the storyline. What Forrest is actually stating is the truth that stupidity is stupid if you continue to do stupid things and they will still turn out stupid! It is more in line with the notion of “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result” being the “definition of insanity”, which is attributed to Einstein but actually he never said it. Jesus knew that expecting people who consistently act in one manner to change that behavior was naïve to say the least. This is why Jesus continued by stating: “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Building one’s life on a foolish foundation will end up disastrous! In fact Jesus goes on to tell his listeners that “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Jesus spoke a lot about a person’s life and what it meant. Life is more than earthly things it is something to give away to God in order to really find life. There are those who think that really living is being able to do whatever you want whenever you want however you want with whoever you want. While it promises personal freedom it is in reality sinful enslavement. We just talked about Jesus being the Word that people needed to apply and in doing so they find real life: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NIV)” Paul understood what Jesus meant when he told the crowd that day to not be foolish with their lives and would later write that he had “been crucified with Christ and [he] no longer [lived], but Christ [lived] in [him].” In fact he would state that “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)” This is why Jesus would emphatically tell his followers, “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. (Luke 12:23 NIV)” If you say you love Jesus then you will not be stupid with what you base your life on!

  EXAMPLE: Bill Cosby used to tell the story about his son who gave himself a reverse Mohawk haircut whereby he had cut a divot from his forehead to the back of his head. After being sent up to his son’s room by his angry wife, Cosby finds him sitting on his bed sad and forlorn and when he asked him why he did it his son’s answer is classic: “I dunno!” It’s funny because most parents have heard this sorrowful excuse uttered by their children at sometime in their lives as in “Why did you hit your brother?” “I dunno!” Sadly this is the same kind of lame excuse many use for their spiritual walk with Jesus as well. It is built on a foundation of sand and ultimately it will lead to destruction. For Jesus a good foundation meant not being stupid with what you based your life on!

After sitting and listening to a local politician pontificate about his past achievements and his promises for the future one man got up in disgust and remarked, “I’ve heard it all before and it sounds like the same old pack of lies and promises.” No one was surprised. Yet here in Matthew’s gospel we discover that a good foundation for Jesus meant…

III. Speaking the words of God with authority! (Vv. 28-29)

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.

  1. What people may think they know about Jesus is quite different from who Jesus really is. I’ve heard some truly convoluted views concerning not just the life of Jesus, but his actual words, and what he taught and believed. What is frightening is there is a push in America today that wants to silence the words of Jesus and what he taught. There are those who want to edit the parts they disagree with and are desperately trying to silence churches and pastors from teaching them; what Jesus taught about ungodly lifestyles, perversion, sin, marriage and divorce and also what he taught about his deity. Sadly, some churches and pastors have backed away fearing reprisals, death threats, and the angry mob mentality. Yet now is the time to speak loudly in love about Jesus and his gospel message. In fact, it was Jesus’ preaching and teaching that eventually got him into trouble with the authorities and why he was illegally judged and crucified. And here we discover 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.” What was different about how Jesus taught? There was no legalism, no outward piety, and no self-promotion. Jesus did not add to his listener’s daily burden but instead sought to lift the load so-to-speak. Jesus would declare, “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me. (John 13:20 NIV) Jesus would teach: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)” The crowds were amazed because Jesus taught as one with authority while their spiritual leaders taught by route, through fear, intimidation, and false piety. Paul would write to the early church, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20 NIV)” A good foundation for Jesus meant speaking the words of God with authority!

  EXAMPLE: Joel Gregory was one of the mightiest voices to preach the gospel with a powerful James Earl Jones voice that he had impeccably coached and dynamically used to reach folks in Texas in the 80s and 90s. He followed renowned pastor Dr. Criswell at First Baptist, Dallas, Texas but suffered personal defeat due to infidelity and divorce and ended up selling “pre-need funeral plans”. He was called an “inimitably grand oratorical presence” he has since redeemed himself by speaking in African American churches. He became the “most popular white preacher in African-American congregations nationwide” and now “holds the George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism and serves as the Director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University.” He speaks the word of God boldly and dynamically. A good foundation for Jesus meant speaking the words of God with authority!

Conclusion:

Consistently applying God’s word! Not being stupid with what you base your life on! Speaking the words of God with authority!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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 rule to end all rules! – Matthew 7:12-14

The rule to end all rules! – Matthew 7:12-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 2, 2019

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy they try to take back a special ring called the One Ring. It contained an inscription that read: “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them!” There are times when we all wish that life was simpler and long for one simple rule to guide us. The Hebrews had enslaved their people by interpreting over 600 volumes expanding on the Ten Commandments of God! President Obama on his last day in office signed into law over 30,000 pages of new laws! Is it any wonder we long for one rule to end all rules!

Jesus understood that his people and all people had been subjected to self-imposed rules that were heavy burdens for them to bear. He desired to simplify their lives. In this he gave all of us the rule to end all rules. Let’s discover what it means for us today…

READ: Matthew 7:12-14

In continuing on in his teaching concerning God giving good things to those he loves and how we should do the same Jesus teaches his disciples exactly why it is so important for them to get this one thing right in life. Jesus teaches us that the rule to end all rules is…

I. The sum total of everything we are to do with our lives! (v. 12)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

  1. An expert in the Jewish law asks Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV) And here Jesus tells his Jewish listeners “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”! Herein is the foundational truth they were to live their lives by. However, the only way this could be achieved is through the love of God as expressed in Jesus! The world utterly fails when it tries on its own to do good things for others thinking that by doing so they are fulfilling what Jesus taught. Now how in the world could I say this, because of what Jesus goes on to teach them that namely “this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” The Hebrews found it difficult if not downright impossible for them to express love or compassion for anyone other than their fellow Jews. They had been the bane of and the doormat for the rest of the world for centuries; how could they do to others what they would have them do to them? Impossible! Yet it isn’t if one knows God first in the love and compassion of Jesus. The love of God had continually been expressed to the Israelites but they had not always remained true to him who loved them! His love and devotion, his love and sacrifice, and who they were to worship was summed up in the Law and the Prophets! The term “Law and the Prophets” meant the entire Word of God, what had been written, what had been revealed, and what now was being revealed to them through Jesus God’s only Son! Believe me no Israelite would have sacrificed his life for the life of a nonbeliever; that would’ve been like asking them to die for a Roman soldier! So we discover Jesus sharing with his listeners a new way to live: Jesus’ way. And it is here we discover the rule to end all rules in the sum total of everything we are to do with our lives!

  EXAMPLE: While we are young we think we have all kinds of time to do whatever we decide to do but then we grow older and realize that time goes by quicker than we first thought. I remember asking an older adult how they felt turning 70 and they responded, “I feel the same as when I was 20 but I can’t do the same things I could do when I was 20.” As we grow older we begin to understand that what we do with our lives even when we were younger has an impact on our lives as we grow older. The same is true for our spiritual existence as well. What we do not do or what we do has a huge impact on our lives for eternity. In describing the rule to end all rules Jesus shared that how we treat others is the sum total of everything we are to do with our lives!

There is a heresy that has gained a foothold within the Christian church that tacitly teaches that our worship experience is all that matters. Rather than a means to encourage the saved to go out and win the lost it’s more about how to discover happiness in one simple sermon. This goes against the very nature of the gospel message and Jesus’ rule to end all rules teaches us that…

II. We do not live as the world does! (Vv. 13-14)

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

  1. Jesus continued on with his new teaching of how they were to live and I am sure that many of his listeners that day were already thinking to themselves, “What you are teaching is impossible!” And it was if they were trying to live that way on their own. But Jesus begins to clarify what he meant by telling them that they had to enter into this new way of living differently than they had before. It was not the way the world took. In fact they had to “Enter through the narrow gate.” It was the idea of entering one at a time. No one could go with them and no one could do it for them, they had to walk through the gate all by themselves! Gates were often made narrow so that enemies who tried to force their way in could be easily stopped from doing so. However the world, the marketplace desires a wide way in; a broad way so-to-speak! It looks easy and it is easy to navigate however the outcome may not be what you expect: “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” While the world espouses an outwardly friendly “y’all come attitude”, such an attitude leads to total devastation! There are those who want Christians to “soften” their “harsh” attitude in thinking that there is only one way to God or that there is only one means of salvation, but if we do so we are leading people down the broad path of death! Jesus bluntly taught: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” Peter would declare, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV)” Paul would write to those who would have you believe that what we place our faith in is simply made up or fairytales and nothing could be further from the truth! Paul wrote, “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, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV)” The way of the world is broad and easy but the way we live for Jesus is narrower, not narrow-minded, but a whole lot harder than the easy do whatever you want whenever you want ungodly lifestyle of the world we live in! Jesus teaches us in the rule to end all rules that we do not live as the world does!

  EXAMPLE: A few years ago there was a term teens used when someone pretended to be a member of a group that they are not actually a member of. Poser. They were also called a “wannabe”. For example, by adopting the mode of dress, mannerisms, speech patterns, etc. of a specific group we are posers. There are a lot of Christian posers within the church and outside of the church; those who want to be seen as “Christian” because of their feelings or actions rather than their actual faith. People who pose as believers is nothing new and Jesus warned here that we do not live as the world does!


Conclusion:


The sum total of everything we are to do with our lives! We do not live as the world does!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Judging others! – Matthew 7:1-6

Judging others! – Matthew 7:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 12, 2019

One of the first justifications people will use to excuse or defend their poor choices in life or ungodly lifestyles are the verses we will look at this morning. I have found it interesting that while they never read the Bible, often neglect church, and have no clue who God truly is they can quote this passage almost verbatim. What they fail to realize is that it doesn’t expose Christians for “judging” them incorrectly but rather the hypocrisy of their choices and ignorance of Scripture.

The Pharisees were some of the most judgmental people in history. They were quick to judge the actions, spiritual behavior, and the cultures of others around them while neglecting their own spiritual ineptitude. They were the Muslims and Mormons of their day. While some believers can be seen as having the same judgmental attitude we need to fully understand what Jesus was teaching and why. Let’s take a fresh look at what Jesus taught about judging others…

READ: Matthew 7:1-6

My mother used to remind us that we may not fully understand why people do some of the things they do and that we needed to “walk a mile in their shoes” before we could. She meant that you should see what that person is going through to fully understand something about them. Basically you don’t know what I’m going through until you are me. This is patently false. Let’s see what Jesus taught…

I. We need to use a proper scale! (Vv. 1-2)

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

  1. There is in reality no such thing as blind justice. Juries and judges are influenced by evidence, arguments, examination of evidence, not to mention their own past histories and experiences. We do not live in a vacuum. Jesus fully understood this and he also understood how peopled lived, judged one another, and were judged. They lived under constant judgment by their rabbis, the temple priests, the Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin. Not to mention one another because one of the favorite local pastimes of the day was to talk about every little thing people did. It was these Pharisees who were now judging Jesus. He did not teach the same way they did and they resented it. Jesus taught that one’s righteousness, standing with God, was not dependent upon their acts but rather on how they loved God and one another. He was not teaching the kind of kingdom they anticipated or asking for the kind of uprightness they were exhibiting. So they rejected him. They had elevated themselves above the common crowd while Jesus easily mingled and fellowshipped with them. Jesus therefore warned them and the crowd against hypocritical judging: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Jesus meant the hypocritical judgmental attitude of the Pharisees and not the judgment of a person’s sinfulness. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If you judge someone hypocritically you will be judged by the same harsh nearsightedness you judged another with! Jesus was teaching we need to use a proper scale!

  EXAMPLE: Being able to have the correct weight or measurement when one went to the market was extremely important in Jesus’ day. There were no set standards of weights or measures during that time and people were often cheated. The Romans tried to set standards but even they were guilty of tilting the scales in order to gain an advantage and more money in their coffers. Jesus deliberately used terms his listeners could readily understand and being measured by an unfair advantage they understood. The same is just as true of our lives today and we need to use a proper scale as well when we judge someone else!

My Mom could slice and dice another person’s faults faster than a Veg-O-Matic. While she hated it if others looked at her life too closely she was often more than willing to inspect the lives of others and render her verdict. While we cannot judge someone’s eternal destiny we can look at someone’s lifestyle and deduce if they are saved or not, or if they are living in sin or not. However, before we do Jesus taught that…

II. We had better have 20/20 vision! (Vv. 3-4)

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

  1. Here we discover that indeed we can judge someone else’s life but we had better make sure ours was in focus first. Jesus was raised by a carpenter, which meant he knew how to use brick, mortar, wood, stone, and how to repair, build, or replace furniture or buildings. One of the worst things that can happen when you are working with wood is to get a piece of sawdust in your eye. Anyone who has ever experienced this understands immediately what Jesus was teaching here. You never rub your eye when you get dirt or sawdust in it because that can make it far worse and you could lose your eyesight! One of the first things to do is rinse it with clean water and to have someone else look into your eye to see if they can see the speck of sawdust. It is amazing how one miniscule piece of sawdust can create such irritation. This is why on the idea of judgment Jesus related, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Someone else’s small sin may be just a speck compared to the sinful prideful plank protruding from our eyeball! And this is exactly where the Pharisees were coming from! They could easily pick at the small slivers of sin they saw in other people but had a prodigious problem with the plank in their eye! Jesus therefore asks them, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” This certainly can be true for us as well. We dare not try to judge someone else’s sinful condition if we ourselves are walking in the same sin! However just as we want someone to immediately help us to remove the speck of sawdust irritating our eye we would do well in listening to someone who comes to us to help us see our own sin that is blinding us. Jesus is teaching us that when we judge someone else, we had better have 20/20 vision!

  EXAMPLE: “I can’t see a thing without my glasses!” my mother would often lament. And we would laugh at her because more often than not they were perched on top of her head hidden in her high red hair! She loved to read and I learned to read at an early age because of her. She was an avid reader but she did not always read things that were accurate. Like folks who think everything they read on the Internet is true, my Mom would read things like Fate Magazine, the National Enquirer, or Star Magazine and think that what they wrote was real. I remember her cautioning me one time when I showed her just how false one of their stories on the Bible was: “Don’t look for the speck in someone else’s eye without removing your own!” I reminded her that I had in fact not only read the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek but had to study its history, archeology, and context all the time. She was undeterred. Jesus taught that in judging someone else’s sin we had better have 20/20 vision!

My mother grew up extremely poor and never got over the fact. She never went past 7th grade in her education and often thought she knew more than others. While she was extremely well read, she never got over her past. She was however a very hard worker but often saw other people’s work ethic as slovenly or useless so consequently if it wasn’t done her way it was incorrect. Her advice wasn’t always asked for but she was more than willing to give it! Jesus teaches his listeners here that…

III. We should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth! (Vv. 5-6)

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

  1. Jesus immediately places the problem of spiritual nearsightedness where it belongs and he is also quick to label it for what it was: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus knew that it is easy to stand back and judge someone before one judged themselves. We all do it. Sadly my mother was often quick to place labels on others but hers were not insightful like Jesus’ were. They came from her childhood background and prejudice, which by the way is a word that comes from prejudging someone before knowing all the facts. Interestingly Jesus does in fact support the notion we can indeed judge some for their actions if they say they follow God, however, we must first do surgery on our own eyesight. We must be willing to examine our lives in the issue involved. Notice he did not say you had to be without sin or that any sin would disqualify you but rather the idea here is that you had better make sure you do not suffer from the very sin you are judging in someone else’s life! First remove your sin and then you can help your brother see clearer his own sin. And notice he uses the term “brother” meaning a fellow believer and not someone who does not know God. Yet Jesus continued by also giving his disciples a warning: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Jesus did not mean we were never to go and witness to the lost but rather we were not to give to those we know who disdain God the sacred truth so that they can further pervert it. The reason was obvious: “If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” We often forget that we have a sacred calling to share a sacred truth. The good news, the gospel message of mankind’s redemption! The wonderful truth is he has also given us the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) to help us know when, where, and to whom we are to share our faith! Jesus is teaching us that we should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

  EXAMPLE: My mother used to buy Lottery tickets all the time and she used to enter every sweepstakes and crackpot game she could. She was always “on the verge” of winning and of course she never did. Now she did not spend a ton of money on these schemes, only a few dollars once in a while. Yet she did it with regularity. Recently I heard a radio host ask a financial advisor what someone should do if they won the bazillion dollar jackpot. His first advice was, “Do not tell anyone.” He reasoned that you’d have every crackpot, scammer, and unknown relative show up with their hand out. Jesus understood that the gospel is the same because it is more valuable than any treasure. Therefore, he taught that we should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

Conclusion:

We need to use a proper scale! We had better have 20/20 vision! We should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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