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Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15

Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 4, 2017
I have learned a lot by being a people watcher and listener. When I was younger it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut; I know it seems hard to believe but it is true! So, over the years I have made it a goal to really focus on how people pray and what they pray and in doing so I have noticed several things. First, a lot of folks misunderstand what prayer is and secondly, interestingly, they copy others in how they pray. Now that I have made you conscious and uncomfortable of how you should pray in front of me, I believe we need to learn what prayer is all about.
Prayer for the Hebrew during Jesus’ day was much by rote. They were kind of “Catholic” in a sense in that they all got together and recited similar prayers all together at the same time. They were not as dreadful as some religions and their overly mind-numbing chanted prayers that begin to sound like so much background white noise than actual prayer. Jesus’ disciples noticed how Jesus intimately prayed and they wanted to learn more. In the midst of Jesus’ landmark sermon on the mount he introduces a lesson in how to pray; let’s discover what he has to say about prayer…
READ: Matthew 6:5-15
Luke tells us that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1 NIV) Here in Matthew is the fuller rendition of what Jesus taught them. We learn that…
I. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! (Vv. 5-8)
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
  1. For Jesus there was never any doubt that his followers would not pray regularly and so he tells them, “And when you pray”. Prayer should be just like our taking a breath, something we do not even thinking about it but we do it anyway. Not like some robot reciting the same catch phrases, wording, or mantra but rather it should be something we naturally do! Notice he warned that when we pray we are not to “be like the hypocrites” who loved fine sounding words. Jesus said that “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” They loved the sound of their own voices but more than that they loved the attention they got from others! Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of his or her own voice? Jesus bluntly told them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” However, when the believer speaks to God it is to be one-on-one and personal. It is your conversation with the Creator of the universe and so Jesus quietly tells them, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Now did he mean we should never pray publically? Nope. What Jesus is telling us is that our prayer is not for the ears of others but a conversation between two individuals: us and God! We are not to think about what others think; we are to focus on the one to whom we are conversing. The Pharisees had turned prayer into an act to be seen by men to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive monologues. Jesus taught, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Like the wind rattling through the trees or the sound of rushing water their prayers were meaningless. So Jesus warns us, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
  EXAMPLE: In the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast there is a crude, rude bully named Gaston. He likes himself and the sound of his own voice. Can you imagine telling the person you love just how much you love them in meaningless phrases at the top of your lungs in a crowded public place? While we may think it kind of romantic the first time it would soon get old, embarrassing, and meaningless if you did it all the time. Prayer is not all about you; it is your conversation with the Lord. It is individual and to be special. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
As Baptists we often forget to whom we are praying and while it is a conversation with God we must never forget to whom we are speaking to. We learn that…
II. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! (Vv. 9-11)
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”
  1. Notice how Jesus taught that our prayer should focus on the one we are praying to. He begins by teaching, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven”. He understood that prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven” and not to some manmade idol, statue, or effigy. God is our father not in that we are biologically related as some heresies teach but rather he is the one who made us, loves us, and sent himself to save us! Like children with loving parents, we depend on him for everything in life! Jesus continued by teaching our conversation with our Father in heaven should also remember his distinctiveness: “hallowed be your name”. God is to be revered and honored because he is God! He is holy, just, loving, all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. God should be honored in our prayer to remind us to whom we are praying. Our prayer is not to be all about us and in fact we are to pray that God’s purpose and plan for creation should be fulfilled: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom will be established whether we think it will or not. Jesus fulfilled the coming of God’s purpose and no matter what the rest of the world believes, God’s purpose and plan “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our prayers should fit within the framework, purpose and plan of God which is to “seek and save what was lost”! (Luke 19:10 NIV) Far too often we think our purpose and plans are more important than God’s and that the only reason Jesus came was to give us a better life. I hate to burst your bubble but he did not. He came to give us life in him! We are to be dependent on God alone therefore we are to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Food was a daily focus for folks of Jesus’ day; not like today where we have refrigeration, grocery stores every four blocks, and availability to all kinds of food within hands reach. We can even get it pre prepared and sent to our homes over our cell phones! Earning enough money and being able to go to the market or being able to grow your own food for the day was a concern. Jesus was teaching that we are to be more dependent on God than we realize. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
  EXAMPLE: Don’t you just hate it when you have to go to some business or family function and you are greeted by folks who have a pasted on smile, nod and mouth they are glad to see you but are really looking for someone more important to greet than you? You know what I mean; before they are done with you they have already dismissed you and moved along. Now suppose you treated your significant other, your spouse, or the person you were dating this way? How long would your relationship last? And yet this is how we often pray. We go through the motions wanting to get through it in order to do the next chore we have to do. Prayer is not to be a check off list of regurgitated phrases. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
Our conversation with God is to be more than about ourselves; it is a reflection of our attitude and our relationship with the Lord. We learn that…
III. Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition! (Vv. 12-15)
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  1. To truly have a conversation with someone there has to be give and take with both of you listening and sharing. And in this sharing you must be sincere and focused just like when you pray. Our prayer is a reflection of who we are. If we cannot honestly converse with our Creator, Savior, and friend how do we expect our prayers to be answered? Prayer, our conversation with our Father God, should be open and honest. It should begin with us reflecting on our relationship with others and with him! Jesus taught we are to ask him to “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” These are not debts we can repay or owe to God but rather are so called, because on account of them we owe satisfaction to the justice of God. Jesus paid our debt of sin fully, but we must acknowledge the payment daily for the sins we commit. If we cannot forgive others their sin against us how in the world can we expect God to forgive us? Our prayer should acknowledge our inability to make satisfaction for the debt we owe due to our sin and that only God can forgive and fully pay the debt! We are to humbly ask for forgiveness as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. If we are willing and wanting that the Creator should forgive us we should be as mere humans more than able and ready to forgive fellow sinners. God is to be our guide in life. He is the one we are to follow and so it is quite correct to ask him to “lead us not into temptation”. The idea is not that God would deliberately tempt us or take us where we might be tempted but rather it is asking him to always clearly show us the right path to follow and “deliver us from the evil one”. The idea is we are to ask that we not be led astray by the world or Satan but that we instead would be drawn to God’s wonderful presence! Jesus explains that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus knew the Jews were a people very subject to revenge; an eye for an eye. Believers are not to be this way. Jesus is teaching about personal fellowship. One cannot walk with God and be unwilling to forgive others. Paul said it best, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
  EXAMPLE: Jesus knew he was about to do something so marvelous that it would boggle the minds of those around him. Because of what he would do their relationship with God would change forever. He would pay the price for their sins and the sins of the entire human race past, present, and future! When Jesus did this prayer no longer was a means by which one would come begging before God but it would reflect the relationship the believer now enjoys with his Father in heaven. Paul wrote that we have “received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” And that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16 NIV)  Again Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
Conclusion:
Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Remember – Psalm 27

Remember – Psalm 27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 28, 2017
A lot of folks misunderstand the differences between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Veteran’s Day is when we honor all those who have served in the Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marines; while Memorial Day is the day to remember those who died in the service of their country. It is good to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives so we could enjoy the freedoms we do.
David was willing to sing about how he remembered how God had protected him and kept him. David first expresses confidence in the Lord in spite of his enemies who threatened him. Yet, in the midst of remembering suddenly David’s mood changes and he anxiously prays that God would not forsake him. Because the Lord was his basis of comfort and hope, he remembered to wait for the Lord. The psalm is one of remembering whom we can trust to rescue us. Let’s discover what David wrote…
Over and over military men and women who faced imminent death during a battle have shared that their thoughts often go to their families and their faith. David shares with us that…
I. We need to remember who saves us! (Vv. 1-4)
Of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
  1. This is a Psalm “of David” and he begins by sharing that “The LORD is my light and my salvation”. He continues by stating that because the Lord is his light and salvation “whom should I fear?” When God has your back David knew no one has anything to fear. In fact he could sing that “The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” David knew he had nothing to fear even “When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.” God was his stronghold in life. David realized what few do in our day that he could completely trust and have confidence in God alone. Any fear he had was worthless because of his relationship with God his enemies would stumble and fall. In fact he continued by writing, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” God was his fortress and David understood the security during times of war were extremely important, especially to one who was on the run from a stronger foe as David was with king Saul. What joy to have David’s confidence! Yet even in times of war, battle, and in the midst of his own fear David longed for something more. “One thing I ask of the LORD,” David continues, “this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” David knew what was important in life as many a soldier has discovered. We need to remember who saves us!
  EXAMPLE: Aragorn, the leader of men in the movie “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”, encourages his troop with these words: “I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!” He was trying to instill courage in them in the face of a great enemy. David sang the same kind of words to himself as he remembered the Lord. Like David we need to remember who saves us!
Nowadays the military goes to great lengths to keeps its soldiers safe with bullet-proof vests, armored vehicles, and unmanned drone aircraft. David reminds us that…
II. We should remember who protects us! (Vv. 5-10)
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
  1. David knew exactly who kept him safe and describes that protection in three ways: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” God kept him in his “dwelling”, hid him in the “shelter of his tabernacle”, and set him “high upon a rock”! When God keeps one safe David knew that only “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me” and while safe in God’s “tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.” The tabernacle of God was a safe haven where one on the run could go and be protected. David certainly knew the true Source of his security and the power of prayer, he cries out “Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.” As a soldier he knew deception would not work with a God who sees, hears, and knows everything. Yet if he sinned, God would not answer and David again confesses, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek.” Perhaps he needed God’s assistance quickly and felt that God wasn’t listening and so he confesses, “Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.” David understood the honesty of prayer, of conversing with God under no false pretenses. David knew that God’s protection only came when he honestly and openly was truthful with the Lord. And he understood it was in God alone he could trust and find refuge in times of trouble. Therefore he laments, “Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” How wonderful to know we live under grace whereby our prayers are always heard and we always have God’s protection! We should remember who protects us!
  EXAMPLE: On Memorial Day it is good to remember those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. While many of us did not go to war, they did and gave their all for us. Do you know of someone who gave everything as a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine? We should never forget their sacrifice for us. While David was a shepherd who became a great military leader and king, he never forgot where his protection came from. We should remember who protects us!
Training is an important part of becoming a good sailor, soldier, crewman, or aviator. Just as being able to do one’s job in the midst of a physical battle is important, David reminds us that…
III. We should remember it is God who teaches us! (Vv. 11-14)
Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
  1. While David remembered who saved and protected him, he also understood that God was the one who taught him how to be the man of God he became. In this song of remembrance David sang, “Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.” As a shepherd he often went after lost and wandering sheep among the rocky crags and trails. He understood the necessity of being sure footed. And he also knew that if he allowed himself to forget who he needed to follow, he would be lost. His enemies would triumph over him and sin would have its way. Again he asks God, “Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.” These words sound similar to what Jesus may have prayed when faced with his enemy’s false accusations during his illegal trial at the hands of the Jewish leadership. There were those who falsely accused David of wanting to murder King Saul and take his throne by force, and nothing could have been further from the truth. David tried his best to honor God in a difficult situation and therefore sings, “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” He had faith that if he remained true to God, God would see him through his difficulties. And so he ends his Psalm with his own encouragement to “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Far too often when life gets difficult we want to run ahead of God make our own way or decide for ourselves what we think is best without ever asking God! Shame on us! This would be a great verse for some of us to memorize; to wait for the Lord’s guidance, to be strong in him, and take heart that God is with us! Like David we should remember it is God who leads us!
  EXAMPLE: Those who went off to war for us came from various backgrounds; farmers, high school graduates, students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, postal workers, fathers, husbands, wives, mothers, and friends. All went through training in order that they would or could survive the battles they would face. In their training they learned to follow orders, work as a group, and face insurmountable odds. They learned to follow their leaders while facing death. David’s life was in jeopardy everyday and he feared for his life and the lives of those who followed him. David learned that God was the one to follow and he never forgot this. We should remember it is God who leads us!
Conclusion:
We need to remember who saves us! We should remember who protects us! We should remember it is God who leads us!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Goodbye! – Ephesians 6:21-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 7, 2017

There was a very schmaltzy song from the 1980s called “Friends” sung by Michael W. Smith that everyone and their monkey were singing. The chorus went: “And friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never ‘cause the welcome will not end. Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” I got sick and tired of hearing this over and over at every youth camp I did but it does express some spiritual truths concerning Christian friends and goodbyes.

Paul became close to the people in the churches he established. He knew that because of their small size and how few and far between these congregations were Paul feared for them as friends. And when he had to leave them for whatever reason it was tough for him to say “goodbye”. Let’s discover what Paul wrote about this…

READ: Ephesians 6:21-24

How would you say goodbye to someone you loved if you thought you may never see them again in this life? We discover in his closing words that…

I. Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”! (Vv. 21-22)

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

1. How would you describe your closest friend? What makes them close? The apostle Paul describes for us in this personal letter his friend Tychicus as a “dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord”. In Colossians he wrote that Tychicus was “a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:7 NIV) So this man was beloved by Paul, faithful to him and the gospel message, and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ! Interestingly in this writing we discover that Paul set an example for mature personal spiritual relationships. Besides remembering his friends and companions, he expressed genuine concern for them. Paul knew that the early church in its infancy would need extra care and compassion. His friend Tychicus would fit the bill, so-to-speak for Paul. Tychicus, which means fortunate, was an Asiatic Christian who, with Trophimus almost caused a riot in Jerusalem, accompanied the Apostle Paul on a part of his journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem. He is also thought to have been with Paul in Rome when he was imprisoned where the apostle sent him to Ephesus probably for the purpose of building up and encouraging the church there. This is why he had become so dear and faithful to Paul. Paul absolutely trusted Tychicus and knew if he sent him to do something he would do it. How many friends do we have that we know would do the same? Paul writes that this faithful servant in the Lord would be trusted to “tell you everything” and in doing so he would share exactly how Paul was and what was going on in the ministry. This was more important than you realize because there were those who sought to spread lies and distortion about Paul and the early church so Paul was sending him “for this very purpose” that these new believers would really “know how” Paul was doing and that he personally would “encourage” them by doing so. Paul knew that his faithful friend would be his voice to others he sent him to and that he would encourage them during perhaps difficult times. Paul was not someone who signed his letters with “Love ya!” or TTFN. His concern was real, deeply felt, and he wanted them to know it personally so Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”!

EXAMPLE: When I had to say goodbye to my best friend as we moved from my hometown to go live with my sister it was tough. My friend Greg and I had done everything together. We had built go carts, wind-powered cardboard wagons for our stuffed animals, humongous stilts that we could get on and off of by stepping onto our roof, and of course the hikes, Boy Scouts, adventures, bikes, slingshots, marbles, cars and trucks, swimming, and other things of childhood. How wonderful to discover later that my best friend now an adult was a believer as well! For us “goodbye” became a thing of the past. Here we discover that Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”!

I learned I guess that “friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them” and here in this final passage in Paul’s letter we discover that…

II. Goodbye is not forever for the believer! (Vv. 23-24)

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

1. Goodbye can be hard to say and it becomes even worse when you may not have a chance to say a proper goodbye. However if one knows that they will be reunited with the person they are saying goodbye to it isn’t as harsh as it could be. Paul wanted his readers to know that his letter was not all they would have form him and in fact we know just how much Paul cared about the Ephesian church. We know from Scripture that “Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.” (Acts 20:16-17 NIV) He then spoke to them, encouraging them, and Luke writes, “When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38 NIV) To say Paul had a special relationship with the Ephesian church is putting it mildly. Paul deeply cared for these new believers and desired that they grow in their relationship with Jesus and is why we find him ending his letter with several concerns for them: “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul desired they as fellow “brothers” in Jesus would know intimately God the Father’s and thereby Jesus’ “peace” (prosperity), his “love” (sacrificial love) “with faith” (deep conviction)! I believe Paul could not leave his emotions for them just there though and he continues to share with them in his closing just how much he did care for them by telling them “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love.” Paul knew he would see them all again whether it was later in life or in the future in heaven with Jesus. God’s unmerited mercy is always extended to those who truly “love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love”! Paul knew that goodbye is not forever for the believer!

EXAMPLE: When the young couple knew their first child was on its way they began to pray he would be a missionary to China. Later when that young man gave his life to Christ he knew he would go to China. Hudson Taylor’s mother and one or two friends boarded the sailing ship that would carry him far away and in his cabin they prayed and sang and read a Psalm. “Dear Mother,” he said, “do not weep. It is but for a little while and we shall meet again.” When his mother had gone ashore, he wrote on a piece of paper, “The love of God which passeth knowledge. J.H.T.” This note was tossed across to his mother as she stood on the pier weeping. As the ship sailed away, he climbed a mast that he might have a longer view of the friends on the shore. There he waved his hat, while they waved their handkerchiefs until the boat was out of sight. Hudson Taylor did not see his mother again in this life. Goodbye is not forever for the believer!

Conclusion:

Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”! Goodbye is not forever for the believer!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Slaves and masters! – Ephesians 6:5-9

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 6:5-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

No matter their position in life believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ! No matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically! Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21

Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 12, 2017

In 1993 there was a movie based on the life of the singer Tina Turner that used the title of her hit song “What’s Love Got to do With It”. The song deals with the confusion a person has between physical and emotional love. For her it is only a “second hand emotion” that is “a sweet old fashioned notion”. People have confused emotional love and sexual lust for centuries.

Biblical love has been misinterpreted for generations as well. In fact there are those in our day and age who think that while God is love and that he so loved the world then he loves everyone equally the same. I hate to burst your politically correct bubbles but this is simply not true. When John taught that since God loved us then we should live in his love he did not mean some emotional state or an acceptance of ungodly sin. God’s love is sacrificial and we are to walk in that kind of love.

READ: Ephesians 5:1-21

God sacrificially loved us so much that he came as Jesus to die for our sinful condition. Because of our willingness to accept his sacrificial love we must be willing to live in the same kind of sacrificial love ourselves.

I. We must emulate God’s love! (Vv. 1-7)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

1. We live in a world where there is a complete misconception concerning what the love of God is all about. If you have believed in Christ you will be changed by his sacrificial love for you, period. If that change is not displayed in your life, then there is something drastically wrong. Paul bluntly writes, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love”. Sacrifice is to be part and parcel of the believer’s life as God’s children. In fact Christians are to live such sacrificially focused lives “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”! We are to set aside the ungodly sinful desires we had before because “among” God’s children “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” In a society where every song, every movie, TV show, commercial, and way of life is saturated with an ungodly and unhealthy view of what real love is this can seem impossible! But a child of God is spiritually changed and that change should affect every aspect of their life. And as God’s holy people there should not be any “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”! Paul understood that there should be a change; he had experienced it for himself! This is why he continues that “of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” When someone tries to fool you into thinking he or she is saved when in fact they are not they are dishonest, dirty, and or grasping self-indulgent narcissists and they have no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”!  When one claims the sacrifice of Jesus they are being deceptive and their words mean nothing and God’s wrath remains on them because of their disobedience. Paul says, “Therefore, do not be partners with them.” We must emulate God’s love!

EXAMPLE: I can tell when my granddaughter needs her diaper changed. She can smile, giggle, and make like there is no need but just one whiff and you know she needs to be changed. And like a dirty diaper on a baby you can tell by the smell if a person is truly saved or not by the way they live their lives for the Lord. When we allow the ungodly world to dictate to us what the love of God is we become partners with the world, instead we are to be “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” just like Jesus. We must emulate God’s love!

When we live in God’s love we are changed from our sinful condition and brought into a new life. Therefore Paul writes that…

II. We are to live in the light of God’s love! (Vv. 8-14)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

1. Just because we come to faith in Christ does not mean we are instantly changed in our attitudes or actions. Old habits die hard but die they must. We may ask, “Why?” Paul explains that it is simply because “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Light has always been seen as a means to disclose what lurks in the dark corners; including in a person’s life! When the light of the Holy Spirit shines in the sin-darkened life of the individual all of our ungodliness is exposed. God’s children are to “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)”! But more than that we are to “find out what pleases the Lord”! Paul would ask the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV) Christians are to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather (as God’s children we are to) expose them” for what they truly are. We have forgotten that “it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Yet we watch it, read about it, talk about it, and sing about it all the time! Rather than being disgusted with people’s ungodly behavior we make their filthy lives into mainstream media hits! Is it any wonder that while the world has accepted wholeheartedly ungodly lifestyles and behavior that they hate anyone who lives for God? Paul explains it is because “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.” The Christian church has become dazed and mesmerized by the perversion of the world. Paul writes, “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” We are to live in the light of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: My mother could not believe what we had been up to, however, she could smell it and see for herself. She demanded, “You tell me right now what you were doing today!” We had been having cow chip fights. Cow chips are cow manure that has been hardened by the heat of the sun and you can throw them like Frisbees. Some were still kind of soft in the center, thus the smell and such. She vehemently told us, “That is disgusting! Why would you do such a thing? You boys are to never ever do that again, do you hear me?” I wonder how God views people who claim Christ but are willing to accept the ungodliness of the world. While believers are called not to participate in the filthy sin of a degenerate world, we are not to judge it; that duty is reserved for God alone. However, we are not to encourage or participate in the filth either! We are to live in the light of God’s love!

We have discovered that the love of God is more than an emotional state of being. His love is active and sacrificial. Paul continued to teach then that…

III. We are to make the most of God’s love! (Vv. 15-21)

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

1. The world is no longer wise in what it accepts and does. Wisdom does not come from accepting anyone or anything that feels good or looks good. Wisdom weighs the final result and works toward the best possible outcome. This is why Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We have forgotten that we live in “evil” days. Paul was not fooled by the things of the world, he knew that every day is evil until the Lord returns, so he continued by writing “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Sadly it seems as if fewer Christians try to understand what the Lord’s will is. He desires that we be his body in the world sharing the good news of Jesus! Instead we focus on what makes us happy for the moment. Paul knew this would happen when we forget about how we are to live in love! He tells them, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” “Debauchery” is an old fashioned word that means utter depravity and the corruption of personal norms of decency and morality. Our world sees booze and drugs as a means to get high in order to have a moment of happiness. However, “Instead, (we are to) be filled with the Spirit.” When we are filled with the Spirit it will be evident in our lives and we will “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” The idea is where the focus of our life is to be; either on the ungodly world or the holy things of God. Spirit-filled folks will “Sing and make music in (their) heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In fact our lives will be lived in how we “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We are to make the most of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: The complete acceptance of getting drunk or using pot has now infested the Christian church to its utter shame and disgrace. We make excuses in how we should be just like the world in our drunkenness or our pot usage. The shear immature impudence expressed is not just disheartening it is mindboggling in its audacity. Just because everyone is doing it, it makes us feel better for a time, or that we all did it at one time is no excuse. We all have sinned so does that mean we should continue to do so? God forbid! Believers are to try to mature in their faith. We are called to be holy; Christians are to be like Christ! We are to make the most of God’s love!

Conclusion:

We must emulate God’s love! We are to live in the light of God’s love! We are to make the most of God’s love!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 4:1-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. Contribution! (Vv. 11-16)

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

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

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

Conclusion:

Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church! Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world! Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 3:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! We are entrusted to preach this mystery! Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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