Tag Archives: christian

Where is your heart? – Matthew 6:19-24

Where is your heart? – Matthew 6:19-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 28, 2019

When I was going to seminary one of things we were told to look at very closely was the reason why we wanted to be a pastor in the first place. And one of my instructors bluntly told us that if we could not confidently say we were called of God we should go do something else. He continued by relating that our calling was what would keep us grounded during tough or good times because it came from the Lord. Ministering was not a “job” but when it became one, and it would sometimes, we could rely on our calling from God to strengthen us. It would show us where our heart truly was.

Jesus wanted his listeners to understand that following God was more than following a set of rules. After Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead everything would change concerning an individual’s relationship with God. What became important was not past history or one’s heritage but rather if you could confidently say you trusted the Messiah with your life. It would be a matter of one’s heart, what made one truly a follower of Jesus would be their faith. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about one’s heart…

READ: Matthew 6:19-24

So many things that we think are important in life are not as vital as we think. In fact we could get along without a lot of things we have. Jesus taught that…

I. We need to be sure of where our heart resides! (Vv. 19-21)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  1. We use all kinds of equipment to measure the weather: Rain gauges, thermometers, wind gauges, and barometers to measure the barometric pressure. A multitude of computer models make predictions as to what might occur in the future concerning the weather. We are given spiritual equipment as well that measures our commitment to the Lord; he’s called the Holy Spirit. One such measurement the Spirit uses is how much importance we place on things in our life and if these “things” are more important than people or God. Jesus bluntly tells his audience, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Jesus knew that the Pharisees put a huge stock in personal wealth and prestige. Mankind had forgotten that this world is not all there is to life. Life is eternal and we will either spend it with God in his presence or separated from him forever. Storing up things that are here today and worthless tomorrow makes no sense in a life led by the Spirit. Now Jesus is not telling his disciples to not prepare for the future or that savings are bad. What Jesus is sharing is the fact of what is important for the disciple of Christ. Instead you should “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Jesus also is not referring to having more good deeds as compared to bad actions. Our lives are not weighed between the good and bad we do. It is a matter of the heart, of who you are as a believer. What is your focus in life? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Far too many are focused on their job, their income, their family, or having fun, fun, fun! If this is your focus in life that is where your heart will be and one has to remember that age will take away your good looks and your health; politicians will rob you of your hard earned money; and your education is only good for the time when you can use it. Your life is eternal and how you store things up that matter there now shows God where your heart is for eternity. Jesus taught that we need to be sure of where our heart resides!

  EXAMPLE: “Do you know where your children are?” was a question used as a public service announcement for parents on American television especially from the late 1960s through the late 1980s. One of the first adopters of the phrase was Mel Epstein, the Director of On-Air Promotions at New York’s WNEW-TV, who began using the phrase in 1967 in response to rising crime in the city. With how believers are not held accountable for their actions or attitudes and have begun to have the heretical notion that it doesn’t matter how they act or what they do outside of church perhaps we need to ask the question: “Do you know where your heart is?” Jesus taught his listeners that we need to be sure of where our heart resides!

What we focus on in life shows what we care about most. Jesus did not say we could never have fun, watch our health, or save for the future but rather if we do anything to the exclusion of living for God we are failing for eternity. It is a matter of who we trust and have faith in. Jesus taught that…

II. We need to be aware if our heart sees the light! (Vv. 22-23)

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

  1. There is a term that I find kind of irritating that a lot of the world uses when it is mystified by someone’s, especially a child’s, faith, kindness, compassion, wisdom or spirituality they often say that they are “an old soul”. What in the world does that even mean? That they are a piece of wore out old shoe leather with a hole in the bottom? Actually, the term comes from the feeling that someone is spiritually wiser than their actual age. It is tied up in Buddhist and Hindu idea of reincarnation or metempsychosis. Metempsychosis is a philosophical term referring to the transmigration of the soul after death into a human or animal. It does not occur and is a complete misunderstanding of the concept of the human soul. All of this to say that there are those who misconstrue what Jesus taught about being the light of the world. Jesus was not and is not the reincarnation of anyone. He is God. And being God he is totally holy without any sin. Light represented the holiness and purity of God for the Jew. If we place our faith and trust in the Messiah Jesus we will have the light of God in our lives! John reminds us that “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12 NIV), meaning the holiness of God! Jesus had just gotten through telling his followers that they were “the light of the world”, having the gospel message, and that they were to “let their light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14,16 NIV)” Our relationship with Jesus makes us the light of the world and when we allow the shadows and darkness of the world to rob us of his light we dim the light of him in our lives. Therefore what we focus on in life matters. Jesus reminds us that “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” When we place our faith and trust in Jesus we are given everything we need to live for him but we still make life choices on how we will live our lives. Believers cannot keep one foot in the world and then go to church on Sundays thinking that this is good enough. Jesus bluntly related that “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” We need to be aware if our heart sees the light!

  EXAMPLE: What we watch on TV, what we read in books or view on the Internet, and what movies we go to all influence how we relate to our world. This is why pornography has such an impact on people and men especially. Men are hands on and sight oriented. Jesus was teaching his listeners that what they fill their eyes with will influence their lives for God. There is an old children’s song that goes: “O be careful little eyes what you see. O be careful little eyes what you see. There’s a Father up above. And He’s looking down in love. So, be careful little eyes what you see.” We need to be aware if our heart sees the light!

The folk singer Bob Dylan wrote a song where he related that no matter who you are in life or where you live “you’re gonna have to serve somebody… it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”! He was reiterating what Jesus spoke about here in Matthew’s gospel. It all boils down to who you give your life’s allegiance to. Jesus taught that…

III. We need to know who our heart serves! (v. 24)

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

  1. The Old Testament prophets Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, and Ezekiel all warned the Israelites over and over that they would need to choose who they were going to serve. The words of Joshua to the Israelites still stand as a challenge for all generations when he admonished them: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)” While his challenge was to the Hebrews to throw away their false worship of manmade idols his warning is a reminder for believers today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. And after teaching about what their life focus should be Jesus admonishes his listeners by reminding them, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Actually Jesus uses the term “mammon” which comes from a Greek word. Similar root words exist in Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Chaldean and Syrian. All are translated “money, wealth, and material possessions.” Some think that it comes from the name of a Chaldean or Syrian God. Paul wrote that “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” And that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NIV)” Luke related that when Jesus taught what he did “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’ (Luke 16:14-15 NIV)” Jesus knew we need to know who our heart serves!

  EXAMPLE: Duke University there is a story about a fraternity hazing prank. A pledge was kidnapped from his dorm, took 30 miles out into the North Carolina woods wearing nothing but the Duke Blue Devil mascot outfit. He trudged through the night, calculating how long it would take him to walk back to campus. After an hour or so, he saw the lights and heard music and singing coming from an old country church in the midst of a revival meeting. He thought to himself, “Church people are good people. Surely someone will give me a ride back to Duke.” So he walked across the parking lot and in the front door wearing his Blue Devil costume. The preacher stopped his preaching and stared. Everyone else turned to look at what the preacher was looking at. Suddenly, the preacher dove out the window. The other folk began diving out windows too, until there was only one person left. She was too old and too frail to dive out the window, and the devil was standing between her and the church’s only door. She began to plead in a soft voice, “Mr. Devil, my husband, bless his heart, was a deacon in this church for almost 40 years, one of my sons is a missionary, and my daughter is married to a pastor, and I was president of the Women’s Missionary Society for 20 years, but I just want you to know—I’ve been on your side all along!” We need to know who our heart serves!

Conclusion:

We need to be sure of where our heart resides! We need to be aware if our heart sees the light! We need to know who our heart serves!

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.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Religion, Sermon Notes

Giving! – Matthew 6:1-4

Giving! – Matthew 6:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 31, 2019

We are not a giving society. Yes we give a lot to charity but the real reason we give may not be as altruistic as we want others to believe. God is not fooled. Giving comes from what is inside a person and can never be done out of guilt, coercion, or tax evasion! We often forget that if do not give for the right reasons we will suffer the consequences of our giving and is why Paul would write that we would do well to “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV)”

Giving like a lot of things in Jewish life had become a matter of course or regularity. Kind of a ho-hum thing that a person did because they wanted God to like them and the neighbors to think they hadn’t become pagans. Today folks wrestle with this as much as they do with the concepts of sin, judgment, and church attendance. Giving has become almost a dirty word within the local church that everyone knows they should do it let alone actually talk about it. It’s kind of like the crazy aunt. Let’s see what Jesus taught about giving and why…

READ: Matthew 6:1-4

“To give or not to give” is not a line out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet but rather an unconscious argument that goes on each week within the minds of many. Many are willing to give something but not actually tithe. The first thing we learn is that…

I. Giving flows from the heart of God! (Vv. 1-2)

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

  1. Jesus taught that what mattered most was what was inside of a person because it affected their outward attitude and actions. He now goes from instruction about the Pharisees’ teaching to their hypocritical deeds. Living a right life that was holy is totally different than just saying you do or by simply doing certain good deeds in order to be seen by others as a “good” person. This is why Jesus tells his audience, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.” This was totally different than what the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law did in Jesus’ day. In fact it is not so different than what a lot of folks do every Sunday morning by showing up for worship on Easter or Christmas, going on a mission vacation, or feeding the homeless at Christmas! Why is this so important for Jesus? Jesus knew that it is easy to say you care or even to have short term acts of compassion but to live a life worthy of the Lord was a completely different matter. He knew that if we do our acts of kindness so that they can be seen and acknowledged by others they are worthless because “If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Wow, what a completely different emphasis! We are to live according to the Father’s character of grace to commend ourselves to God the Father who saw in secret, where the eye of man could not see! Jesus continued that “when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.” Our giving should come from the overflow of our heart that has found mercy and love in him who died for us. Paul would write that when we give out of that compassion that we “will be made rich in every way so that (we) can be generous on every occasion” and our “generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV)!” Giving flows from the heart of God!


  EXAMPLE: Brother MacMillan was one of the kindest and compassionate people I knew. He was not only a giving person he did it with grace and joy. I asked him why he had such a good attitude about giving and he responded by telling me, “I give the same way Jesus gave to us. To do otherwise would not give him the honor he deserves.” Brother “Mac”, as we all knew him, was correct and this is exactly what Jesus was trying to teach his followers with his sermon. It’s matter of attitude and what is truly inside of a person that shows what they really believe about God because it come out in their actions and attitudes. Giving flows from the heart of God!

Erroneously there are those who actually believe that church and worship is all about them. For these narrow-minded Sunday morning saints church is like a business. If it doesn’t give them more “bang” for their buck they are gone. The only problem is these are the very folks who do give the way they are supposed to because just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day they have forgotten that…

II. Giving is what believers are to be about! (Vv. 3-4)

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

  1. Giving is supposed to be from the overflow of grace we have received from the Lord. It is not to be forced or compelled. This is why giving is listed as one of the Spiritual gifts and the writer of Proverbs remarked that “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. (Proverbs 19:17 NIV)” So Jesus tells his listeners, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” Jesus is not teaching that you should give ignorantly or without some kind of discernment. Far too many give out of guilt like to those who beg for handouts with cardboard signs. Their gift is not really helping the person who is begging but usually supporting their addiction. Rather Jesus again is emphasizing a believer’s true intent when they give. Moses in Leviticus reminds us that “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Leviticus 27:30 NIV)” God asked that his people give a tenth of all they had to him. It was a sign that his people trusted him with their livelihood and their lives as well. Certainly we are not under Levitical law anymore but we are to love God completely and trust him with all we have. In fact we learn as believers all we have is God’s and we should honor him by freely giving back to his work what he has blessed us with! This is why we are to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in (God’s) house.” We are to “Test (God) in this” to see if he “will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10 NIV)” It is one of the fundamental truths of the universe that “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38 NIV)” The truth is we should not be “deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)” If believers follow Jesus they will act like Jesus and give willingly and “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Giving is what believers are to be about!

  EXAMPLE: I am one that thinks the idea of “random acts of kindness” is kind of self-centered. It focuses on the individual and when they feel like doing something kind or not rather than truly being a lifestyle. Whether it is giving one’s time, talent, or treasure giving should be a way of life for the believer because Jesus gave himself for us! And if we are changed by his presence and empowered by his Spirit shouldn’t we therefore give like he did? Giving is what believers are to be about!

Conclusion:
Giving flows from the heart of God! Giving is what believers are to be about!

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25

The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 30, 2018

Matthew is the first of what is commonly called the “Synoptic Gospels”. “Synoptic” comes from the Greek adjective synoptikos, which is from two words syn and opsesthai, “to see with or together.” While Matthew, Mark, and Luke have distinctive purposes, they nevertheless view the life of Jesus Christ in a common way. There have been multiple arguments concerning why they are similar and yet also different. Everything from there supposedly being some mysterious other source document known as “Q” no one has ever found a single scrap of to the notion that it was all made up. None of these are correct. The Gospels are similar and yet different simply because they were written by different individuals who either used firsthand accounts they remembered or the testimony of others.

When my brother, my sister and I get together we often share common stories of our youth. While we may share the same events we experienced each one differently and therefore remember them differently from one another. What seemed important to me was not so much so with my other siblings, and vice versa. This is why we have slightly differing accounts of the birth of Jesus and in some instances which are not even mentioned by the authors. However the birth of Jesus is important, so let’s see what Matthew recorded and why he did so…


READ: Matthew 1:18-25

Matthew is one of the earliest narratives written concerning Jesus. In fact there exists a portion of Matthew’s gospel in a small university library in England which strong evidence suggests that it may either be a part of the original gospel or one that was a first copy. Here we discover that…

I. Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! (Vv. 18-20)

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

  1. Never has there been a birth that has been written about, commented on, and philosophized on more than the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. We must never forget the significance of this birth because it is the birth of the “Christ” the Messiah of the entire world. Now whether one believes in him or not does not change the fact that he is the Messiah; and so we are first introduced to his linage and then to the fact that “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about”. We discover that “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” The virgin birth is central to the nature of who the Messiah truly is; he is God in human flesh. Contrary to political correctness or socialistic nonsense God did not rape Mary. She was a willing vessel for the God she worshipped, honored and loved. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. Most men upon hearing their future spouse was pregnant and not by them would have immediately divorced them. Not Joseph “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” He chose not to create a public scandal by exposing her condition to the judges at the city gate. Such an act could have resulted in Mary’s death by stoning. “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.’” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

  EXAMPLE: These words from the messenger of God must have brought to Joseph’s mind the promises of God through Jeremiah to provide salvation through the New Covenant: “The time is coming… when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV).” Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh!

Names have meaning for the child who receives them and for the future of their lives. Sadly, many have forgotten this fact in our day and age and often name their children without any thought for the child or their future. We learn that…

II. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! (Vv. 21-23)

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”

  1. The angel of God tells Joseph about the importance of Mary’s pregnancy in both matter of fact terms and in the terms of prophecy fulfilled: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” The baby in Mary’s womb would be unique and special. He would be a child of God born through the presence and power of God. His name would be literally Yeshua or Jesus in the Greek meaning “God saves” and in this case the salvation he would bring would be salvation from our sins. The unnamed angel also told Joseph that this was in keeping with God’s eternal plan, for the Prophet Isaiah had declared 700 years before that “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” No greater truth or greater prophecy was ever told and fulfilled. This baby inside of his mother would become a man who would die on a cross and rise from the dead to show the world that he was indeed the salvation of all mankind. Mary’s miraculous conception fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, and her Son would truly be God with us. In light of this declaration Joseph was not to be afraid to take Mary into his home. Jesus would later teach his followers, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV)” and that “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” The very notion that God would do such a thing is contrary to all that people think about gods. There are those who desperately try to suggest that this is nothing new by relating the fables and myths of false deities but they read like science fiction or fantasy. Only here within the gospel of Matthew do we find the Creator becoming man and the narrative rings true because of who Jesus is and what he would finally accomplish. Any other story is but myth and fable. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

  EXAMPLE: I was watching a movie the other day and I can’t remember the name of it but the characters were trying to escape the bad guys and one of them fell off a ledge but was able to grab on by one hand. His rescuer reached down to pull him up and yelled, “Just take a hold of my hand!” I was reminded of a big old rock my brother and I used to play on near our house in Leavenworth, WA. We’d climb on top of it and play like we were going to fall off while the other one would hold out their hand to “rescue” the other from certain death. For that one moment we became to hero who saved someone. While our rescue was make-believe Jesus’ was not. His was physical, spiritual, and eternal. Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind!

III. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her! (Vv. 24-25)

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

  1. First time fathers always have tough decisions to make. It is all new for them from the birth of their first child to the daily care and fostering of them fatherhood is both new and challenging. For Joseph it became even more so. Not only was he newly engaged he discovers that his young bride to be is pregnant. He was probably incredulous, hurt, and then perhaps even angered; but Joseph was also a godly and kind man. We know this because of his actions and that God had chosen him to be the adopted father of the Messiah. Joseph had gone to sleep troubled but being a righteous man and did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly. However as God usually does he sends a loving message to those who are willing to do his will. As Joseph sleeps he is told the child Mary carries is conceived by him for his purposes. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Faith is often found in obedience even when one does not understand why at the time. Joseph had a decision to make and he makes the right one. Joseph follows through on what God desires of him but he goes a step further to make sure that no one would question his devotion and Mary’s condition; “he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” Joseph violated all custom by immediately taking Mary into his home rather than waiting till the one-year time period of betrothal had passed. Joseph was probably thinking of what would be best for Mary in her condition. He brought her home and began to care and provide for her. But there was no sexual relationship between them until after the birth of Jesus and “he gave him the name Jesus.” Here in Matthew’s gospel we find no manger, no shepherds, no Wisemen but only a righteous man who follows through on his faith. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

  EXAMPLE: “Here I come to save the day!” was part of an old time cartoon called Mighty Mouse. It was during a time when Superman was a big time hero. My brother loved the TV show and used to run around the house with a bath towel tied around his neck like a cape singing the song at the top of his lungs. Of course I was the victim of his physical prowess since I was skinny enough and light enough to throw around like a pillow. Unlike these super heroes Jesus isn’t made up or fictional as some would like you to believe. Joseph may not have has super powers but he was a righteous man who followed God and loved his wife to be. In his selfless act he saved both Mary and the future Messiah. That’s what real sure heroes do. Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!

Conclusion:

Mary’s child would be the promised Messiah, God in human flesh! Mary’s baby Jesus would save all mankind! Mary’s husband was faithful to God and her!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 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.

Comments Off on The birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

Trusting in God! — 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19

Trusting in God! — 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2018

Cancer has claimed the lives of many. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and even siblings have been struck with this disease. When diagnosed there is fear, frustration, and wondering why. Often family and friends are called, church family and fellow Christians are asked to pray. For those who know the Lord there is comfort in friends and fellow believers praying for you. One such person I knew who was told she had cancer told me later that she found comfort in the Psalm, “I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:1-2 NIV)” In times like these trusting in God gives us comfort and strength.

The Assyrian King sent his supreme commander to the gates of Jerusalem. There he delivered a message to Jerusalem and her king. His words were designed to undermine their confidence and to encourage them to oppose Hezekiah’s decision to resist. He claimed Hezekiah and their God did not have the power or ability to deliver the city! Soon they would be besieged and the defenders would “eat their own filth and drink their own urine”! (v. 27) In the midst of a dire situation Hezekiah asked his people to trust God. Could they place themselves in God’s hands and trust him? Let’s find out…

READ: 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19

At Sennacherib’s threat, Hezekiah sent word to the prophet Isaiah to pray for those in Judah who had not been conquered. Isaiah told the king to trust in the Lord and not to be afraid because God would protect Jerusalem. No matter the circumstances we are asked to…

I. Trust in the Lord! (2 Kings 18:30)

Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

1. Hezekiah was one of the best kings Judah ever had. He destroyed pagan worship and defeated the pesky Philistines and unified the people to worship the Lord and him only. Assyria marched down from the north and utterly defeated Israel to the north and took captives back to Assyria. Soon, they turned their eyes toward Judah and King Hezekiah. Hezekiah had tried to unite the surrounding nations to stand up against Assyria but it did not work. They destroyed every city and army sent against them. In order to save his nation and his people he decided to pay tribute to Assyria. He stripped the gold and silver from the Temple and his own palace to appease the Assyrians. It did not work. Bullies always want more. So “The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.” The field commander mocks Hezekiah and the Lord God. He derisively tells them “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the LORD? The LORD himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.” (v. 25) He meant that his king was his god and his god told him to attack them and he would succeed. So this supreme commander mocks the people behind Jerusalem’s walls by telling them, “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the LORD when he says, ‘The LORD will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’” This commander’s threats were very real. The army he commands could utterly destroy Jerusalem and take all of its population as prisoners back to Assyria. What were they to do? This commander did not know Hezekiah or the Israelite people nor did he know God. Because their king was such a godly man and because he asked them to, they were willing to put their lives in the hands of God. They were willing to trust in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: We were on vacation and took a rail tram up a steep mountain grade to reach some caverns, my mother immediately wanted off. The park ranger noting her discomfort remarked, “Don’t worry Red (she had red hair) it’s only one scream to the bottom!” She began to chuckle and not be as afraid. When unexpected difficulties occur, the Bible reminds us that our best recourse is to place our trust in God. It was in a tumultuous time when invasion threatened his country that the prophet Isaiah, inspired by the Spirit, discerned this powerful promise from the Lord: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isa. 26:3). It was during this same time that Hezekiah learned to be willing to trust in the Lord!

One way to show we trust God in dangerously threatening times is to publicly announce our trust. Sennacherib’s field commander warned Hezekiah’s officials they had no chance. But Hezekiah believed in the Lord and declared his confidence that God would help them. A sincere public testimony of faith in the Lord and his power can encourage others and it often begins with…

II. Admitting our weakness! (2 Kings 19:1-3)

When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. They told him, ‘This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.’”

1. Hezekiah might have been a king but he was also just a man. He loved his nation and he wanted to honor God but what could he do? The largest and most aggressive army known to man was at the gates of his capital city! They had marched across the landscape like locusts devouring every city and army they faced! Hezekiah does the one thing he should do, he turned to the Lord! Often when we have nowhere else to go we will go to the Lord. Why is that? Shouldn’t we always seek the Lord and speak to him daily? Yet far too many of us wait until things get really bad before we meet with God in prayer or seek his face. Hezekiah did try to honor God but now his nation was in the midst of horrible circumstances. So, “When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD.” Sackcloth was a garment of coarse material often made from goat or camel hair and worn as a sign of mourning or anguish. Hezekiah was showing God his mourning for his nation! Though the king was strong in faith, he also was aware of his weaknesses and the weaknesses of his nation. Therefore he dropped all he was doing, prepared himself to fast and to seek the Lord, and went to the temple to pray. Hezekiah also sought the Lord’s help by going to the Lord’s prophet for prayer support. At the king’s command, Eliakim, Shebna, and the elders of the priests all put on sackcloth and went to Isaiah the prophet. Have you ever had an overwhelming experience where you keenly felt your weakness? Did you admit your weakness or did you try to cover it up? Hezekiah immediately uses three words to describe his weakness: “This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them.” He was like a weakened mother giving birth to a baby and had absolutely no power to deliver it; he was unable to save his people only God could! In admitting his inability to save his nation or himself Hezekiah shows us what needs to take place in our lives when we desire God to act in our lives. It begins in admitting our weakness!

EXAMPLE: A few years ago our Men’s Group undertook a rigorous hike. It was tough, beautiful, and long but each of us had brought enough water to refresh ourselves and stay hydrated. There is a good reason the Bible refers to God as the spring of living water and refreshing restoring the soul. In John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian arrives at the foot of a steep ascent called the Hill Difficulty, “at the bottom of which was a spring… Christian now went to the spring and drank to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill.” Perhaps the difficult hike you face is a rebellious child or a serious medical diagnosis. The challenge seems more than you can endure. Before you face your difficulty, come to God with all your weakness, weariness, helplessness, fear, and doubt. Then drink deeply of his power and strength. God knows your circumstances and will supply strength, comfort, and relief. He will give you strength to go on but it begins in admitting our weakness!

The Assyrians had Judah between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” Sennacherib’s commander had presented a convincing argument based on the facts and background that he knew. His error was underestimating God’s power. He did not know God and could not understand his power. However Hezekiah did and therefore in trusting God he…

III. Willingly asks for God’s help! (2 Kings 19: 19:5-7, 14-16, 19)

When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”… Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God…. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

1. Hezekiah immediately sends his officials Eliakim, Shebna, and leading priests from the temple (v. 2) to Isaiah the prophet to ask him to pray for Judah in the face of Sennacherib’s threat. When they get to Isaiah we learn that God is already in control of the situation. And this is just as true today. “When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, ‘Tell your master, “This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.”’” God encouraged the king not to fear the blasphemous words of Sennacherib’s “underlings.” He may have been a supreme commander in Assyria but he was nothing to the Lord. God had a personal message to the king of Assyria, “Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.” God would send a thought into Sennacherib’s mind that would cause him to call off his threat against Hezekiah. That thought was a rumor that the king of Ethiopia, was marching out to fight him. When Sennacherib heard that report, he decided not to invade Jerusalem. When “Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD.” Hezekiah could not believe it! God was not only God over Judah but also Assyria! As Creator and Sovereign God, he had the authority and power to deal with Assyria. Hezekiah asked for the Lord’s help, asserting he knew God had the power to deliver Jerusalem. Hezekiah cries out to God “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God…. Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” Hezekiah made the petition for himself – he wanted the whole world would know the living God because of his answer! At the beginning of his prayer, the king referred to the Lord as the answer to his need. Hezekiah willingly asks for God’s help!

EXAMPLE: God does not answer all prayers of faith in the manner that he answered Hezekiah’s. But he does hear every prayer and respond according to his will. That night, the angel of the Lord went among the troops in the Assyrian camp and put to death 185,000 men. When Sennacherib saw all the dead bodies the next morning, he broke camp and went home to Nineveh and stayed there (vv. 35-36). God delivered Hezekiah in that threatening situation because he put his trust in the Lord and willingly asked for God’s help!

Conclusion:

Trust in the Lord! Admitting our weakness! Willingly asks for God’s help!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 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.

Comments Off on Trusting in God! — 2 Kings 18:30; 19:1-3, 5-7, 14-16, 19

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

Trapped by sin! — 2 Kings 17:5-12, 16-20

Trapped by sin! — 2 Kings 17:5-12, 16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 4, 2018

Two men were members of the same church. Both were active and were positive witnesses to the presence of God. One grew as a Christian vividly. God gave him victory over various sins committed before becoming a Christian. He became a strong, positive Christian influence in his workplace and community. The other man did not make worshiping and serving God his highest priority. Instead, he began giving into temptations seeking pleasure and possessions instead of a relationship with the Lord. Eventually, he gave up any visible identification with believers and the Lord.

All 20 kings who ruled northern Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. None of them worshiped God only. None were descendants of David to whom God promised his family would always rule over God’s people. Ahab and Jezebel made Baal worship legal. God disciplined his people, but nothing turned them to the Lord. God sent prophets Elisha, Amos, and Hosea to warn Israel of its sin and call the nation back to him. Israel continued to sin and fall deeper into bondage. Finally, God sent Assyria to destroy Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell. Israel was trapped by sin, let’s see how…

READ: 2 Kings 17:5-12, 16-20

When Shalmaneser succeeded Tiglath-pileser as king of Assyria, he attacked Hoshea the king of Israel and made him pay tribute. When Hoshea turned to the king of Egypt for help, Shalmaneser invaded Israel, and captured Samaria. Samaria fell because of the people’s sin against the Lord.

I. The downfall of sin is bondage! (2 Kings 17:5-6)

The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.

1. During the time Ahaz was king of Judah and Hoshea king of Israel, Shalmaneser was king of Assyria. Shalmaneser invaded Israel, which eventually fell into Assyrian bondage. Before this time, Israel had been progressively losing its freedom. Israel’s government was highly unstable. After Jeroboam II’s reign of approximately 40 years, five kings followed him in rapid succession. When Hoshea became king at first he paid Assyria tribute (bribe) money. Then he rebelled, quit paying what amounted to “protection money” to Assyria, and turned to Egypt for help — big mistake! Considering Hoshea to be a traitor, Shalmaneser (who succeeded Tiglath-pileser as king of Assyria) invaded the whole land of Israel. Israel’s fall had been slow but sure in coming. “The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria (Northern Israel’s capital) and laid siege to it for three years.” The downfall of personal or national sin is bondage; bondage to one’s sin, bondage to others who begin to control you because of your sin. Jesus related the same thing when he taught about how a rich man’s money keeps them in bondage just like sin in that “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (your sin). (Matthew 6:24 NIV)” There is always consequences for one’s sin. When we try to say we honor God but keep part of our lives in sin we suffer. Sadly, when nations or leaders of nations do this it can affect a lot of folks! “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.” The Northern Kingdom became captive slaves because of their leaders past sins! The downfall of sin is bondage!

EXAMPLE: This past week we have seen how sin can enslave people and be used as an excuse to do horrendous acts. Murdering people because of who they are, firebombing buildings because of politics, or trying to blame others for people’s actions are feeble attempts to excuse sin. Like chains that enslave us, sin is just as binding. Peter wrote that “by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” He goes on to write that if one has escaped the corruption of the world by faith in Jesus but then returns to it they are like a dog returning to its vomit or a sow that is washed and goes back to her wallowing in the mud. (2 Peter 2:18-22 NIV) The downfall of sin is bondage!

Israel’s downward slide to bondage moved from being made a vassal nation that paid tribute (bribe) money to Assyria to its people’s being exiled. The slaves who were once set free from Pharaoh are enslaved again! People who fail to obey God will experience spiritual bondage. We discover that…

II. Believers can suffer because of their disobedience! (2 Kings 17:7-12)

All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that provoked the LORD to anger. They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, “You shall not do this.”

1. We discover that “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.” Some of those “practices” included sacrificing their children by burning them alive in fire; practicing divination, witchcraft, and sorcery; interpreting omens; casting spells; and going to mediums or spiritists to try to contact the dead. Do any of these practices ring a bell when you observe the practices of people today, even some who are professing Christians? Walking spiritual mazes, speaking in tongues, chanting certain phrases over and over, being superstitious, worshipping nature or the environment are just some ways folks have diluted their faith. Believers can suffer because their disobedience! Not all of Israel’s sins were public sins. “The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done.” Families had begun to make their own backyard altars to any deity or dead relative! They had sexual relations with cultic prostitutes to honor fertility gods and goddesses! These horrible practices, done in the name of worship and in the name of God, “provoked the LORD to anger”! Like many Christians today “They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, ‘You shall not do this.’” We often think we have the right to do whatever we want whenever we want as long as it makes us feel good about ourselves, and nothing could be further from the truth! Believers can suffer because of their disobedience!

EXAMPLE: “The data suggests this is the fastest growing religious group in America, are people who don’t hold any firm religious beliefs,” Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Teixeira was discussing a recent Pew Research Center poll that found 62 percent of Americans hold New Age beliefs, such as astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in trees or mountains. The survey also found that those who identify as Christian were more likely than atheists and agnostics to hold at least one New Age belief. Sixty-one percent of respondents who identified as Christian said they held at least one New Age belief, compared with 22 percent of atheists and 56 percent of agnostics who said the same. Sixty-seven percent of mainline Protestants, 47 percent of evangelicals and 70 percent of Catholics said they believed in a New Age belief. And we wonder why churches are not growing. We learn here that believers can suffer because of their disobedience!

God has commanded his people to worship only him. Not trees,, mountains, or images we have made. These commandments are stressed repeatedly throughout Scripture. But people refuse to listen or obey. Disobedience was the reason God brought judgment on the Israelites and allowed Assyria to conquer their nation; therefore we should learn…

III. The lesson is to worship God only! (2 Kings 17:16-20)

They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.

1. Again we discover that the Israelites “forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire.” God has terms about how we are to worship him. It is to be centered on him and not ourselves! When we make it about ourselves then worship begins to be about how we feel. Our worship becomes syncretism: the combination of different systems of philosophical or religious belief or practices! We see this with roadside altars to those who were killed or the belief in ghosts. Other pagan practices were widespread throughout Israel. Some parents sacrificed their sons and daughters by fire! They practiced divination and interpreted omens. The practice of divination and omens involved efforts to know and thus manipulate the future by human means instead of trusting the God of history. The practice astrology by bowing down to the “starry hosts” and it included such pagan activities as seeking omens or signs, telling fortunes, forecasting the future by examining animal organs, and trying to communicate with the dead. Does any of this sound familiar? People without God can only use human means to try to understand what’s going on in the world and in their lives. The people of Israel had God, but they ignored him and turned from him to the futile means that pagans used. In doing so they “sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger”! Even though the people did not care, God did! “So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence.” The only group that was left was Judah to the south “and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.” Wow! The lesson is to worship God only!

EXAMPLE: God’s evaluation of Israel was that they sold themselves to do what was evil, thus provoking the Lord to anger. Instead of dedicating themselves wholly to the Lord, they gave themselves to practices that were characteristic of the people around them but were evil in God’s sight. God did not ignore his people’s pagan worship or practices. God’s anger is not a selfish anger. His discipline operates in our best interests. It is designed to bring us back to him because he desperately loves us. Remember, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)” God would provide a way back to him and he still does! The lesson is to worship God only!

Conclusion:
The downfall of sin is bondage! Believers can suffer because of their disobedience! The lesson is to worship God only!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 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.

Comments Off on Trapped by sin! — 2 Kings 17:5-12, 16-20

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21

Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 5, 2018

I find it kind of interesting that we start life learning to crawl, jog or run through our younger years, and then end up walking or shuffling to the finish line. The Christian life is not to be this way at all. We are to begin by walking hand-in-hand with the Lord and then run the rest of life’s race to the finish line.

Paul understood what running life’s race was all about because he was doing it himself. His desire was that his brothers and sisters in Jesus would finish the same race well. In life we cannot help it if we become handicapped in some way as we age. Nor can we help how we entered into the world. Bad things happen to good people because sin exists. However how we live for the Lord is determined by us and how we run life’s race for him. Let’s discover what Paul wrote the Philippians concerning running life’s race…
READ: Philippians 3:12-21

There are some folks who have a Mary Poppin’s attitude,, they think they are “practically perfect in every way”. Others around them would disagree. Christians should never have this kind of an attitude. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

I. We are to focus on the goal! (Vv. 12-14)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1. Paul not only knew who he followed and why but Paul was also a realist. He understood the world around him and why people often did what they did in life. But far more importantly Paul understood himself. Even though he knew he had been made holy in the sight of God by his faith in Jesus he understood he was not perfect. He still blew it from time to time and so he writes, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul knew there was more to life than ourselves. He now lived his life for the Lord Jesus Christ! His goal was not to try to reach perfection; his goal was to live for Jesus! It was like a race for Paul. You do not complete the race until you cross the finish line and Paul realized he had not yet crossed that line in life! So he reminds his readers, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.” Paul was still in the race! Far too many believers think that their age, their sickness, or their emotional or physical state somehow disqualifies them from continuing to run the race God has laid out for each believer. This simply is not true. In the face of life’s obstacles we still are in the race but we are in the race with Jesus and we are never alone. However, like Paul we need to remember, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” We cannot get caught up in life’s past sin or anything life throws our way because if we do, we stay at the beginning of the race we have entered! We must strain for the prize we have been promised! In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

EXAMPLE: I liked the Disney Pixar movie “Up”. It is about Carl a crotchety old man who promised his late wife a trip to Paradise Falls; a place where a famous explorer found the giant skeleton of an exotic bird. Carl is found to be incapable of keeping his home and so he attaches thousands of helium filled balloons to it planning to float it to Paradise Falls as he promised his late wife. Russell, a young “Wilderness Explorer” who visited Carl in his effort to earn his final merit badge, for assisting the elderly, becomes an accidental stowaway. In their journey they both meet up with a dog named “Dug”. He can’t seem to focus on anything and yet becomes a hero. All the characters, even the eventual villain, are focused on the wrong things in life. Friendship is more important than merit badges, life is not lived in the past, and squirrels should not keep you from focusing on what is important. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we are to focus on the goal!

I remember when I discovered that maturity does not come with age. Maturity comes when one uses their life’s experiences to become the person God desires them to be. The same is true for wisdom. Age doesn’t make someone wise. Wisdom comes from how one uses the knowledge they have obtained to glorify the Lord. Paul reminds us that in running life’s race…

II. We mature as we follow Jesus’ example! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

1. Paul knew that people can get sidetracked in running the race God has set out for each of us. Things tend to get in the way; family, friends, jobs, and personal interests just to name a few. In our day and age there are far too many distractions. This is why Paul writes the Philippians that he knows they can be distracted, however, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” In other words you may disagree about your goal in life but if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus your life is to be lived differently than the rest of the world. Our view of things should be filtered through our lives lived for the Lord! How are we running the race today? Yet Paul understood that there would be those who would disagree just as there are today and so he told them that “if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” We cannot force the world to believe as we believe; nor can we force fellow Christians to do so either, however, we can give them over to the Lord to deal with. We can trust Jesus with people’s lives we cannot seem to get through to. Does this mean we simply give up? NO! But we pray, talk to the Lord, and trust the Lord to handle the situation and to enlighten us on how we should proceed. Far too many believers don’t talk with God they instead talk at God. Paul tells us what our goal should be in this situation: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” If we have trusted Jesus then we have all we need to proceed in life. We not only have Jesus walking with us but we have fellow Christians as well. We are not to isolate ourselves. Instead we are to “Join with others in following [Paul’s] example”. We are to remember we are “brothers” in Christ “and take note of those who live according to the pattern [Paul] gave you.” In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

EXAMPLE: I had to smile the other day as I was bagging groceries at WinCo. Another elderly couple was there in the next line and he was bagging groceries as well. Evidently he and his wife had been having a discussion that overflowed to the bagging area. Her remark made me laugh because she sounded like a preadolescent teen when she said, “Oh you think you’re so mature!” He muttered back, “More than you.” Some folks seem to never grow up I guess. Paul teaches us that in running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example!

Far too many Christians have forgotten that eternity exists. They become so caught up in the things of today they forget whom they are to follow. They can begin to live for the moment thinking that this is all there is in life forgetting the fact that this world is not our home. Paul reminds us that in running the race…

III. We are to remember who we are! (Vv. 18-21)

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1. Paul knew that in running life’s race there are those who would love to distract us in doing so. Misery loves company. Ever wonder why some folks are so bent on destroying your life in the Lord? Paul understood that there were rivals for Jesus’ affection. He writes the Philippians, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Sadly this has not changed because there are still those who desire believers fail in their faith. Yet take hope because Paul pegged them for what they truly are “enemies of the cross”! And he understood their outcome in life’s race: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.” They are headed for an eternity separated from God because they focus on the here and now and what they get out of life. They cannot help themselves because “Their mind is on earthly things.” Do not get enamored with the things of the world because they are passing away, “our citizenship is in heaven”! That is where every believer in Christ is headed! “And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Jesus will either return or we will head home. Our job is to continue in the race God has laid out for each of us! This world is not our home and we are citizens of heaven! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

EXAMPLE: I hate it when I go to a seminar or meeting and they hand out name tags to slap on your shirt or coat. I know they do it so the speaker or fellow guests can know your name but whatever happened to introducing yourself to another person or the speaker before you ask a question? I always think it is because they think I can’t remember who I am. In fact, being the tease I am I stood up one time during one session and deliberately looked confused until I looked at my name tag before I addressed the speaker. I exclaimed, “Whew! I almost forgot who I was until I remembered my name tag!” It got a chuckle from the crowd, which of course is what I was hoping for. I am so glad that Paul reminds us that in running life’s race we are to remember who we are!

Conclusion:

In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal! In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 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.

Comments Off on Running life’s race! – Philippians 3:12-21

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

What’s important? – Philippians 3:1-11

What’s important? – Philippians 3:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 29, 2018

When you’re single what is important changes dramatically after you get married and have kids. And it should. Sadly there are a few men and women who seem not to mature into the role of spouse and parent. They seem to think that life still should revolve around their needs, desires, and wants. This simply is not true. One who lives selfishly this way never seems to ask “What’s important?”

A faithful follower of Jesus has to constantly ask themselves what is important in order to maintain spiritual focus for their lives. Christianity is not a momentary thing. It does not just happen once a week on Sundays. If we do not take seriously our walk with the Lord we will fall prey to the whims of the ungodly world around us. Paul knew this to be true and teaches the Philippians what’s important. Let’s find out what he writes…

READ: Philippians 3:1-11

There were those who were called “Judaizers” Judaizers is a term for Christians who insisted that their fellow Christians should follow the Old Covenant laws. This term is most widely known from its single use in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 2:14) where Paul publicly challenges Peter for compelling gentile converts to early Christianity to “judaize” their faith instead of relying on faith alone in Christ alone. We discover that what is important for Paul is that…

I. Christians should never live a life of works! (Vv. 1-4)

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

1. Some call it “sacraments” as if there is something sacred in making people earn their salvation by doing certain manmade requirements instead of placing their faith and trust in Jesus. Evangelicals can be guilty of the same thing when we begin to swallow the lie of the world that if we are good enough, nice enough, or do simple acts of kindness then God will wink at our putrid sin and let us into heaven. Paul feared that the Philippians were allowing themselves to swallow the same lie and so begins this section by telling them “my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” That was to be their focus, not rituals. If Paul had to repeat himself he would because he cared about their faith, so he writes, “It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” He bluntly tells them to “Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.” There were those who were whispering in the unsuspecting ears of the Philippians that they needed to go back to following Old Testament rules of circumcision. Jesus totally did away with such a view. Paul knew what he was speaking about here and tells them, “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” He had been one! A “mutilator of the flesh”! But now Paul had trust Jesus and “put no confidence in the flesh”. In fact “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, [Paul had] more”! Christians should never live a life of works!

EXAMPLE: Trail Life for boys is a group that was founded upon certain principles and one of them is that it isn’t awards focused. Some boys’ programs are very focused on helping a boy achieve as many awards as he can in the shortest period of time. In contrast, Trail Life is more concerned with building character than with earning badges and ranks. Trail Life has a robust and prominent ranking and awards structure; however, this is not the focus of the program. The focus is on building character over merely earning awards. I like this because it supports that our lives in Jesus should never be focused on doing things in order to be saved. Paul teaches us what is important in that Christians should never live a life of works!

Far too many people try to placate God instead of living their lives for him. We tend to forget that if God did not love us he would not have come to die for us! In fact this notion was a completely new concept during Paul’s day that a deity would not require pacification in some way. Paul reminds us here in these verses what’s important in that…

II. Christians should never try to appease God! (Vv. 5-7)

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

1. Paul absolutely understood what he was talking about because his whole life up until he laid aside his pride and came to Christ had also been “circumcised on the eighth day”. He had been changed by his faith in Jesus and because of that change Paul realized that coming to God no longer took a plethora of requirements and crossing off the deeds you did. Paul was “of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin” and quite literally “a Hebrew of Hebrews”. No one could outdo Paul in his strict adherence to following a set of commands, regulations, and manmade requirements. By Paul’s day there were over 600 volumes written by the Jews in order to try as hard as they might to follow the legalistic manmade requirements they self-imposed on one another. Paul would call them “fools” because these people were foolish for spiritually enslaving people. To the church at Corinth he wrote, “You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. (2 Corinthians 11:19-22 NIV)” Paul understood and was angered this kind of enslavement because he had followed it himself and “in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Paul had blindly believed the fallacy of trying to do one more “good thing” in order to be loved by God and he knew it was ungodly thinking! Paul’s way of thinking changed because he had changed and so he writes, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss (literally damaged goods or a detriment) for the sake of Christ.” Paul knew what’s important for faith and the fact was that Christians should never try to appease God!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget going to the bedside of a beautiful Christian woman who was dying of cancer and her only thought was: “Have I done enough good things for God to love me?” She was part of a Christian denomination that places part of the burden of grace on the believer. So those who belong to it think they have to do a certain amount of good works in their livers in order to offset any unpaid for sin. This is faulty theology. Jesus paid it all on the cross. Paul teaches us what is important in that Christians should never try to appease God!

If something or someone is important in your life you do not treat them as second class, you do not take them for granted, and you never place yourself first. Your relationship would end quickly if you did! In fact, Jesus taught that if you wanted to be great in his kingdom we had to learn to be servants. We discover what’s important when Paul teaches us that…

III. Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first! (Vv. 8-11)

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

1. Paul had come to the right attitude that every believer should. He tells the Philippians, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” I firmly believe that if even just 10% of believers truly believed and practiced Paul’s attitude here in these verses the world would be changed! Paul in fact “consider(ed) them rubbish (quite literally human waste), that [he might] gain Christ and be found in him”. But notice Paul never wanted the focus on himself. Paul truly wanted to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from following” dead laws that did not matter anymore “but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Why was this so important to Paul and why should it be important for us as Christians in our day and age? Faith is the most important thing for the believer. Paul would tell the Romans “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ (Romans 1:17 NIV)” For Paul Jesus was everything and he writes, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” In every phrase of this we discover what Paul thought it was important, namely that Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!

EXAMPLE: The other night on America’s Got Talent a “man” came out and sang and danced and was a complete freak show. The only reason the audience liked him was because he was sadly so outlandish and perverted. It is evident he has given himself to the lowest form of hedonism. Much of the world is like this. It demands that it be allowed to do anything or live anyway it wants to without any repercussion. It has perverted such organizations as the Boy Scouts and even some churches. I believe the world needs to see Christians living like Christ in order to turn the spiritual tide. What’s important? I believe that Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!

Conclusion:

Christians should never live a life of works! Christians should never try to appease God! Christians should sacrifice themselves to the Lord first!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 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.

Comments Off on What’s important? – Philippians 3:1-11

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized