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Slaves and masters! – Ephesians 6:5-9

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 6:5-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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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!
—-
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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The Answer for Your Nation’s Future

The Answer for Your Nation’s Future
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2016

I know that some of you have encouraged caution and understanding toward those who are mentally unraveled because of Trump’s win, but to be honest it is getting harder and harder to do as each day pass and when another liberal screed is shoved at us from the liberal elites.

I was reminded by a very thoughtful personal friend that the rioting of the Vietnam era actually solidified moderates, independents, and conservatives to vote for Nixon and later Reagan. The riots today are actually doing the very same thing. Already several folk I know who voted for Sanders or Hillary are now completely dismayed at what they are hearing and seeing. One commented that she was now glad Trump won and hoped only the best for him and the Nation. When I asked her why the change she remarked “Look at those who are now rioting or sending hateful messages; that’s not me nor does it represent who I am. I am appalled.”

While I understand someone’s depression when their candidate lost, I do not understand their vitriol, contempt, or hatred. You would not have seen the same actions from those of us who voted for Trump if he lost. You did not see it from us when Obama won twice. Yes we wrote about his inability to lead, but we never encouraged violence, hatred, or murdering him. Now I am not talking about the ultra-conservative lunatic fringe. And what we are seeing now from the left is too often tacitly condoned by the media and others.

Actress Lea DeLaria found herself in hot water after she wrote on Instagram that she wanted to “take out” Republicans and Independents with a baseball bat. Only she used vulgarities that I will not include in this post. Others have done the same thing and many going so far as to ask that someone shoot Trump with a sniper rifle.

Fashion designer Andrew Warren has had to come to the defense of his longtime friend Tiffany Trump following a barrage of hateful posts and death threats against her and her family. And he has had to suffer vulgar hate-filled messages from his friendship with her.

The CEO of Grubhub, an online food delivery service, sent a company-wide email strongly suggesting employees who agree with President-elect Donald Trump’s behaviors and his campaign rhetoric should resign. It was a worded threat to those who voted for Trump.

Perhaps one of the best responses was by Jennifer Lawrence and while I totally disagree with her political views I believe what she wrote should be embraced by those who are struggling. The actress responded to President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, in an essay posted Thursday morning that she wrote for Broadly, Vice’s women’s interest channel. She wrote that “I want to be positive; I want to support our democracy, but what can we take away from this? It’s a genuine question that we all need to ask ourselves,” writes the Oscar-winning actress. “We shouldn’t blame anyone, we shouldn’t riot in the streets. We should think strongly and clearly about what to do next because we cannot change the past.” And concluded her remarks by writing “Do not let this defeat you — let this enrage you! Let it motivate you!” Lawrence added. “Let this be the fire you didn’t have before. If you are an immigrant, if you are a person of color, if you are LGBTQ+, if you are a woman — don’t be afraid, be loud!”

What Ms Lawrence is encouraging is exactly what those who voted for Trump went door-to-door for him and what they did to get him elected. Many Americans, me included, are not totally overjoyed at Trump being President but we could not stand by and let the same old thing happen again and have a completely corrupt individual who disdains her own Nation’s security be President.

Just remember as there is zany and unrealistic rhetoric to succeed from the Union, violent riots, and vulgar Facebook posts and Tweets you can throw the bum out in four years! Do what you encouraged us in middle class America to do the past eight long and frustrating years: Pray for your Nation, your leaders, and yes the President, because whether you want to believe it or not we did.

As believers we are to show compassion and encouragement to those around us, and we are to pray for the lost and our Nation.
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This article is copyrighted © 2016 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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Hatred and Servanthood! – John 15:18-27

Hatred and Servanthood! – John 15:18-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 1, 2015

No one likes to be disliked, unless they have some severe mental problems or are into self-abasement. But what if everyone around you did not like you because of your belief in God? We are seeing a noticeable uptick in the amount of aggression directed towards Christians. From public school teachers in classrooms failing those who confess a belief in God to assistant coaches who pray and military chaplains who do not agree with the politically correct and ungodly version of what marriage is. Christians are disliked because of their way of life and in whom they believe, but it is the duty of the believer to serve their Lord.

Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus getting into heavier theological subjects in order to prepare his disciples for the future without his physical presence. He knew that not only would they need to understand the consequences of their discipleship, but why there would be so much fallout from the world around them. Let’s discover what Jesus taught and why concerning the world’s hatred and our servanthood…
READ: John 15:18-27

How would you feel if you moved to a new town and everyone there disliked you simply because of whom you were? Certainly those who have faced racism or bigotry can relate, however, what if all the folks were just like you but still they simply did not like you at all? Jesus related that…

I. The world hates Christians because it hates God! (Vv. 15:18-23)

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well.

1. Friendship with God results in incurring the world’s hatred. Consequently, being friends with the world is to be God’s enemy. James, Jesus’ brother, would later warn weak believers, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 NIV) Jesus tells them, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.” However, from now on things would be drastically different. “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Jesus had chosen them just as he does us and now the world would hate them and us because of this. The world loves the false face appearance of being good but hates the hard hitting truth of holiness. It hates it because it can never measure up to God’s standard. As Jesus’ disciples we all have to remember that “No servant is greater than his master.” As our master Jesus was persecuted so we shall be as well. Jesus tells them the tough truth that “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” The world does not know, understand, follow, love, and live for God. Instead the world lives in constant guilty fear its phoniness will be revealed for what it truly is and it was laid bare through Jesus! “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin.” This is the core of the problem, sin. The world likes to call it making a mistake, a minor slip, error, personal gaffe, misstep, or lapse of judgment; but what it truly is, is sin! Jesus bluntly relates, “Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well.” The world hates Christians because it hates God!

EXAMPLE: She was crying uncontrollably at recess and when I finally got her to tell me what was wrong she lamented, “They won’t let me play with them!” She was emotionally crushed. The offenders had decided to limit their game to a certain amount of people and that was it and she could not understand why they would exclude her. She was hurt and left feeling unwanted and violated. Some Christians go through the same kind of emotional upset when faced with rejection of their faith bt family, friends, or others. Yet Jesus plainly teaches us that the world hates Christians because it hates God!

Now what if you were told to go out into the town where you moved and where everyone disliked you to try to share with them a medication that could cure them of their undeserved hatred and of everything that harmed them forever? Jesus now tells his disciples that…

II. The servant of God will testify concerning Jesus! (Vv. 15:24-27)

If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

1. Jesus walked this earth teaching only great things concerning God and the world. He focused on why so many folks were headed in the wrong direction with their lives. Everything Jesus did while he was here physically was to glorify God. He had said that “no servant is greater than his master.” We are to glorify God in everything we do and when we do, we are immediately at odds with the rest of the world! The truth Jesus speaks is never understood by the world because it is spiritually discerned. They are “unable to hear” what Jesus teaches (John 8:43) because they “belong to [their] father, the devil, and [they] want to carry out [their] father’s desire!” (John 8:44) In fact, Jesus tells them, “If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.” Sin is fundamentally irrational. Their hatred of Jesus was without any rational cause which also fits the pattern of hatred for all righteous people from the prophets, David, others and now them and us! This is why the world, “Hated [Jesus] without reason!” It fulfills their self-guilty law of personal survival at any cost! When faced with this kind of irrational hatred towards goodness and righteousness believers might be tempted to camouflage their faith or hide themselves in the crowd. Jesus reminds his disciples with the comforting truth that “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” We need not fear what the world does, we have God in us! In fact, when we live for Jesus we are living for God and are testifying to the truth of Jesus! This is why Jesus reminds them specifically, “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” They had seen the miracles of God, had seen and heard the words of truth, and knew Jesus was the messiah; therefore they must now testify to what they had seen and experienced for themselves! The servant of God will testify concerning Jesus!

EXAMPLE: The little blond freckled-faced imp in front of me readily declared, “I just don’t like him!” when I asked why she was so mean to a fellow playmate. I tried to get her to find some reason and she simply responded, “I don’t have any reason, I just don’t like him!”  However, finally after several minutes of coaxing a truthful response, she confessed, “I don’t like him because he always plays by the rules!” When they played their games together the little boy would always play by the rules they had established together to begin with while she often wanted to bend them to meet her needs of the moment and then he would let her know she was breaking her own rules! While it can be tough sharing with others they need Jesus, when they think they are perfectly okay, the servant of God will testify concerning Jesus!

Conclusion:

The world hates Christians because it hates God! The servant of God will testify concerning Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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True Love – John 13:31-38

True Love – John 13:31-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 13, 2015

Recently those who study such things declared that Facebook can be detrimental to a relationship or a marriage and in fact more and more divorces are being done because of Facebook. Some suggest that a Facebook relationship status for some is the equivalent of a high school promise ring! Left over photos of old relationships is another problem. Also a photo that you may think as completely harmless, may make her cringe, cry or call it quits. Not constantly posting every wonderful little detail of your last date might bring her wrath as well. Plus, if you get too many nice comments from old flames, she may feel threatened and throw your ring at you. And it is worse when her old flames keep telling her how sexy she looks. Then there is the number of friends, if for some reason she has half the metro area befriended you may struggle where her interest really lies. Face it; Facebook is not the best place to try to nurture your relationship. Love is deeper than your posting.

True love is found in Jesus and we discover here in John’s gospel the true extent of his love for us. During the last Passover meal he shared with his disciples we discover what that love looked like and how Jesus described it as well. Let’s begin to look at what true love looks like…

READ: John 13:31-38

It is comes as no surprise that most of us realize that we live in a “me first” era. This myopic attitude has crept into the church as well. Some have forgotten that worship, church, and our lives in Christ are not about us. Like Paul would declare, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28 NIV) The reason is obvious and here in John’s gospel we discover that…

I. True love glorifies God!  (Vv. 31-32)

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

1. In our day and age we have forgotten what it means to glorify God. I believe that many think it simply means to feel good about or to have nice feelings towards God. Then there are those who think if they give God some credit for the good things happening in their life, then God will bless them even more! Neither of these is true. Here we discover Jesus wanting God to be glorified. However it takes on a whole new meaning when we fully understand that it is Jesus who is the one who desires to glorify God. After Judas slithered away to do Satan’s will, Jesus prays out loud, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.” The words glorified and glorify occur five times in these two verses. Jesus’ humility and His righteousness were also made known when he came to earth as a baby, grew to be a man, and humbled himself in his death, burial, and in the victory of his resurrection! The Father was also glorified in Jesus’ death because it displayed his sacrificial and gracious love. The culmination of Jesus’ life purpose was about to occur, so, “If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.” Whatever was about to occur the disciples did not need to worry or be concerned, it was all part of the glory of God. What we often forget is the fact that this is true for our lives as well. If we live for Jesus we are glorifying God with our lives and he is pleased. Like Jesus we are to live our lives for God because true love glorifies God!

EXAMPLE: One of the most poignant moments in the New Testament is when facing his own death Paul writes his friend Timothy, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:6-7 NIV) Hudson Taylor, the wonderful English missionary to China said that, “I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.” True love glorifies God!

II. True love loves fellow Christians! (Vv. 33-35)

“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1. Jesus, knowing what was about to happen, tells his disciples, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer.” It is an endearing term of someone who has spent time, effort, and a lot of sweat daily training and working intimately with his disciples. He knew they were still immature, like little children, in their spiritual understanding. He knew they would be devastated when he was illegally tried, convicted, and murdered. Jesus deeply cared for the men he had trained for three and a half years to be the foundation of his church. So he reminds them of what he had been telling them all along, “You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.” Jesus was going to be in the hands of those who would kill him and he would die. Their time for martyrdom had not come. However, Jesus leaves them with a new focus for their lives. He tells them, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” This is not the limp-wristed hurtsy feelie kind of mushy love that many exhibit in our day. It is the down in the trenches getting dirty kind of love that is willing to sacrifice one’s time, talent, or treasure to see the lost won to Jesus. Christians are to love one another in spite of their many foibles failures or disappointments. Jesus knew Peter. He knew the rest of his followers just as he knows us now. Jesus loved us through his sacrificial death and we are to sacrifice ourselves for one another as well! It is his command and not a suggestion. And yet it is often far easier for some believers to love the lost more than they care for their fellow Christians. The truth remains, Jesus tells them, that “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” True love loves fellow Christians!

EXAMPLE: There was a movie out not too long ago called The Bucket List. The main plot follows two terminally ill men (portrayed by Nicholson and Freeman) on their road trip with a wish list of things to do before they “kick the bucket.” What if Christians realized that their lives were not their own and that they needed a “bucket list” of gracious things they would do for fellow believers? Paul relates, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10 NIV) Jesus tells us, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” True love loves fellow Christians!

III. Sometimes we fail at true love! (Vv. 36-38)

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”

1. We do not like to discuss it or face it in our own lives, how would we explain it in the life of one of Jesus’ disciples? Especially when it comes to Peter who is supposed to be one of the giants of the New Testament? Yet we see for ourselves Jesus telling him that despite his confessed love for his Master, he would fail him during his greatest need. Clueless Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” Like the rest of his disciples Peter is still thinking of the moment. His focus is not on what Jesus is going to do or even where he is going to go but rather on how it will affect his own life! Peter’s love for Jesus was such he wanted to be with his rabbi. Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Jesus’ words are prophetic in that Peter would be martyred later for his faith just as Jesus would soon die for them, but not now. Impulsive Peter like many in our day and age, who are quick to speak their devotion for Jesus but are unwilling to understand the consequences of their choice, naively speaks up, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Peter does not fully understand what his impulsive statement means. Jesus response is chilling, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Peter does not understand that mere words of devotion are sometimes simply not enough. Actions speak louder than words and his actions would soon speak louder than his hasty words! Sometimes we fail at true love!

EXAMPLE:  The old saying, “There but for the grace of God go I” could be used for those who want to live for Jesus but sometimes find it difficult to do. Even Paul lamented that “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15 NIV) I don’t know about you but that describes me all too often. The wonderful truth is that even when we fail in showing our love for Jesus, we can dust ourselves off and decide to live for him anew. John would later write, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV) Like Peter, we sometimes we fail at true love!

Conclusion:

True love glorifies God, loves fellow Christians, and sometimes we fail at it!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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