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United! – Acts 2:42-47

United! – Acts 2:42-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 11, 2017

Unity, what does it mean to be unified? I know as a military unit you have to work together to achieve the same objective in order to win the battle. As a company you have to be on the same page as to what your objectives, projections, and costs are. And if you are a church the Scriptures teach us that we are to be united as well in order to achieve the kingdom of God here on earth until Jesus returns, but what does that mean and what does it look like?

In our day and age few churches teach about unity except as a spiritual concept or construct but few believers understand or know what it means for the body of Christ, his church, to be unified. In the book of Acts, which is the early history of the first century church we discover that they were united in purpose. Let’s find out what that means for us today…

READ: Acts 2:42-47

If a group wants to achieve anything worthwhile the members have to be on the same page and working together. When they don’t they are dysfunctional, however, in the Book of Acts we discover that…

I. The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! (Vv. 42-43)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

1. Dedication comes in many forms; some make their dedication into a ritual. They do the same things every day in the same way in order to achieve a specific goal. Whether it is running a certain distance, losing weight, or reading through the Bible folks who are successful in achieving their goals have a certain amount of dedication and the early church was no different. However, notice what they were dedicated to: First, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”. There was no New Testament written yet and so they devoted themselves or steadfastly continued in what they had learned about the gospel message and the teachings of Jesus. The gospel became their basic manual and teaching for how they were to conduct themselves and live their lives as Christians. Paul and other apostles began to write commentary in the form of personal letters in how to achieve this. They also continued in “the fellowship” of the church. This means they were members of a local church and made sure to keep themselves in fellowship. The word is the Greek koinonia which refers to a communal attitude and intimate working together. This is possible because believers share the Holy Spirit. Their devotion to learning, being discipled, and to their church was a conscious decision. It demanded personal sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure! Secondly they devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. Now some suggest that this means eating together rather than observing the Lord’s Supper regularly, but I am more inclined that Luke meant it as further evidence of their devotion to fellowshipping with one another in a spiritual capacity. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper and common prayer does unite a church body and we discover that because of their willingness to focus on spiritual learning and furthering their spiritual connection to one another that “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Much of the modern church has lost its awe of the wonder of God in its midst because we think church should be about promoting us and not our common relationship with the Lord. Here in Acts we discover that the early church was dedicated to their spirituality!

EXAMPLE: She and her children wept when they found out they had to move out of the area. They wept because they were leaving a church family they loved. Being a part of something because it fulfills a check off list for your kids, your personal experience, or the jazzy music is not the same as becoming part of a local body that becomes your spiritual family. When you worship, serve, pray and are discipled together you form mutual spiritual bonds that are strong or even stronger than your physical family. Because we share the same Spirit we call one another brother or sister. The early church understood this and was dedicated to their spirituality!

Families come together as they build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Churches are like families and they too are to build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness; this is done according to the Book of Acts as well. We discover that…

II. The early church was willing to share with one another! (Vv. 44-45)

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

1. Notice that Luke tells us that within the Jerusalem Church “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” In the original Greek it literally states that “all that believed” were together. This is important because it tells us that the first requirement of being part of the church was to be a member. In order to be a member certain criteria had to be met: 1) Members had to be a believers meaning that you had to have placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and you had to have followed through in baptism; complete immersion. The word used in the Bible for church is the Greek word ekklesia, meaning a group of called out (ek – a primary preposition from which the action proceeds, like example) or specifically elected people (klesia a derivative of kaleō – where we get call from) who are called out to do a specific task. In this case the spreading of the good news. Christ does his work through his called out folks in the local church. The church is Jesus’ called out body in the world. As Paul would state, “we are members of his body”. (Ephesians 5:30 NIV) It is through the local church that our time, our talent, and our treasure are best utilized for the furthering of God’s Kingdom! The church knows that “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:29 NIV) We know that “the collection for God’s people” should be done “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income”. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NIV) And Paul again reminds us that our time, talent, and treasure are to be measured out generously: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV) We find that the early church had this spiritual concept down pat and had implemented it in the real world by “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” True believers have a generous spirit because Jesus gave to us generously and was willing to sacrifice for those he never met! The early church was willing to share with one another!

EXAMPLE: This is not communism, which some vainly try to equate it with. It is not the government taking everything from the populace and then doling it out as it sees fit. Rather this is a communal sharing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the lives of Jesus’ body the church by its active members. They were not compelled to do this but did it willingly out of the abundance of their own hearts. The early church was willing to share with one another!

We are often told that “Good things happen to those who do good things.” The Scriptures teach us continually that one reaps what they sow in this life so if a church stays united we learn that…

III. The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth! (Vv. 46-47)

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

1. The outcome of a church fellowship staying close and being united was evident. We discover that the result for the early church was that “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” This would be like our church meeting every day down in front of the county court house praying, worshipping, and singing hymns together! Every day the early church in Jerusalem went up to the temple, at the time of prayer! Wow, can you imagine what kind of witness this was for the early church to the rest of Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin. Later the early Christians would be forced out of their local synagogues and the temple because so many of the Hebrew people were being converted to Christianity. We also learn that in places like Ephesus “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” instead. (Acts 19:8-9 NIV) In fact, because so many people were converting to Christianity in the area of Asia Minor it affected the sales of silver idols and so “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.” (Acts 19:23 NIV) The fact is that when believers are unified and doing what they are supposed to do they influence their communities, neighborhoods, and nations! We find that the church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” This is being the salt and light, the holy leaven in a sinful world. The outcome of such unified living is that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” If the church stays united there will be physical and spiritual growth!

EXAMPLE: Some churches depend on programs, music, a really good show to bring in the people, but this is in a way false advertising. When the music, program, or show changes the audience leaves. They are not invited to become part of the family of God, the body of Christ. Instead they were brought into a concert hall atmosphere whereby if the entertainment is not to their liking they will leave and go to the next “spiritual” venue down the road. Yes you can grow a crowd and call it a church, but a true body of believers is made up of those who have commonality in Spirit, relationship, and discipleship of the gospel. We discover that the early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!

Conclusion:

The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! The early church was willing to share with one another! The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!
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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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Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33

Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 19, 2017

Interestingly there have been some articles recently that show that marriage is coming back into vogue. In fact, research has shown that married couples live from 5 to 10 years longer than singles do. Married couples are more financially, emotionally, and spiritually secure. And contrary to what you may have been told about divorce, recent studies show that evangelical Christian couples’ divorce rate is around 10% and nowhere near the regurgitated story of 50% like you often hear.

Contrary to what we may know about the Bible we are more often shown what not to do in marriage than what to do as we look at the lives of some of the biblical characters. This is because God deliberately gave us his words concerning his interaction with mankind with warts and all. However there are some great verses that do teach Godly concepts of how wives and husbands are to interact. Here in Ephesians Paul teaches us about the church and in doing so also instructs us about wives and husbands; let’s see what he teaches us…

READ: Ephesians 5:22-33

A happy and secure marriage begins and ends with what its focus is; if it isn’t focused solely on God first at its core it is misdirected. And within this relationship…

I. Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! (Vv. 22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

1. This has become one of the most talked about, misunderstood, or disdained pieces of Scripture there is within the Bible. Millennials hate it because it suggests they must be submissive and in a “me first” society this is an anathema! However when Paul wrote “Wives, submit to your husbands” he did not end his thought there but he continued by writing what he meant exactly: “as to the Lord”! All believers are to be in total submission to the Lord, period. The original Greek word for “submit” (hupotassō) means to be subordinate to, to be under obedience, or willingly submit oneself to another. It is a personal willful choice as in when one willingly submits their selves by faith to Jesus! Was Paul a misogynist, a narrow-minded bigot, or just plain old fashioned in his thinking? No way! In fact he was very progressive because he continues by sharing his reasoning: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Like Jesus who established the church through is willing sacrifice, husbands are to be respected or submitted to by their wives because of their willingness to make sure their wives are successful in marriage by their own sacrifice! It is done just “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Paul never meant this as a form of slavery or second class citizenship but rather as a godly union of a couple where the man should do his manly duty and be the wise, kind, and compassionate example like Jesus he should be so his wife can submit to him! Wives are to yield to their spouse!

EXAMPLE: Does this mean a woman should be a willing doormat to her husband? No way! God never endorses one sin over another. Paul is teaching relationship. Just as Jesus sacrificed everything for his church, his bride, husbands should be willing to sacrifice everything in their relationship with their wives so she can willingly submit to his displayed wisdom, kindness, and compassion! Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse!

Paul continued in discussing what he meant a married couple’s relationship should be like. Wives were to willingly submit to their husbands however…

II. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! (Vv. 25-28)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

1. Far too often folks have a tendency to ignore the fact that in the New Testament that when the word “love” is used it is most often translated from the Greek word agapaō, meaning “sacrificial love” and not the emotional kind of love the world at large wants to give it. This is the love Paul uses and is the same we find in verses like John 3:16 where we learn that God so sacrificially loved the world that he sent Jesus. So Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church”. So often we hear liberal Christians putting the emphasis on the emotional aspects of Jesus’ love; that he was kind, compassionate, and “loved” people while ignoring the action part of the word. Jesus showed, displayed, and proved his love by his actions and especially by his willingness to die for our sins! So husbands are to sacrificially love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”! It is a husband’s duty to love their wives by making sure she is exposed to and mentored in God’s Word the gospel message! To make sure his family, beginning with his wife, is in Jesus’ body his church! Why would this be so important? Paul knew that any family is centered in how the home is run and that always begins with the mother and wife. Husbands are to make sure his wife’s needs are met; especially her spiritual needs “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”! So Paul writes that “In this same way”, just as Jesus sacrificed himself “husbands ought to (sacrificially) love their wives as their own bodies.” We want to make sure we are taken care of and so as husbands we are to make sure our wives are taken care of first because Paul understood that “He who (sacrificially) loves his wife loves himself.” Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a “me first” society that we have often lost what marriage is to be all about. It is not making sure your needs are met, rather it is an investment in a deep personal relationship that is to last a lifetime. Marriage is based on personal sacrifice and not emotional needs. Yes, certainly emotional needs are to be met within marriage but they cannot be until we are willing to do whatever it takes to have a successful marriage. Husbands are to be like Christ in leading in personal sacrifice with their wives. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

Paul understood what personal sacrifice meant because he had given up everything, including being able to have a family for the ministry of the gospel! So he understood what it meant to be totally committed and he understood that in marriage…

III. Both spouses must give their all! (Vv. 29-33)

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1. Paul realized that both wives and husbands might have a problem with what he was trying to teach them. He also knew one of the first arguments would be that he was not married. How could he understand what it took? Yet Paul did and he wrote that “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.” Jesus had come to seek and save the lost but he also left behind something so radical that it would change the world within a few hundred years; namely his body the church. And just as Jesus cared for and fed his church, as married couples we are to make sure each other is fed and cared for in every way: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The church is to care for one another. So Paul was not just making a point about marriage but about the church body. The body of Christ is to sacrifice for one another just as Christ did for his church. Each member is now part of the whole because of what Jesus did “for we are members of his body”. Marriage is the same, we are no longer our own we become part of something bigger than ourselves and it is “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We spiritually, emotionally, and physically become something more than we are as ourselves as a church body and as a married couple! This is why Paul would continue by stating that “This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Jesus’ love for his church should be reflected in marriage by both husband and wife and so Paul finishes by writing, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Both spouses must give their all!

EXAMPLE: Just as there are many reasons for people joining a church there are many reasons why folks get married; some for personal fulfillment, some for personal gain, some for love, and some for utterly selfish reasons. And just as folks have forgotten how the church is sacred thing established by Jesus; marriage is sacred as well. It is not to be entered into lightly. It demands more than some individuals are willing to give but if they want to be successful in marriage they must learn and respond to the fact that both spouses must give their all!

Conclusion:

Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! Both spouses must give their all!
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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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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…

By Pastor Lee Hemen’

July 19, 2014

 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33 NIV) For we know that our old self was crucified with him… (Romans 6:6 NIV) 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… (Ephesians 4:22-23 NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace… (1 Peter 4:10 NIV) The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11 NIV)

 

What is up with all the “selfies” people take? What does this say about us? We go to different places and then stick a cell phone in our own faces, snap an intimate shot of our facial imperfections and nose hair to share with thousands of others. We cannot even see what is behind us because the whole focus of the picture is us! I am not speaking to the world here but to believers who say they love Jesus and want to live for him. Could this modern-day electronic digital affliction be problematic of what we have allowed society to implant in us? Perhaps this is true. If we take the snapshot selfishness into our church membership, our relationship with Christ, or our spiritual growth what we will end up with is a lot of the focus being on us instead of the big picture – namely God’s kingdom. Couldn’t we take one picture of our nose hairs and simply lie to others about where we are in our selfies? Are we so focused on ourselves that we do not serve, we do not seek ways to grow God’s kingdom, or we have become static in our spirituality? Perhaps we need to take the cell phone out of our faces and take a snapshot of our lives in Christ instead. Would we like the hairs and imperfects we would see there? If so, then what will you do about taking so many selfies instead of sacrificially serving the Savior? Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 21, 2014

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:47-48 NIV)

I was just wondering; how do you feel about being betrayed? You know what I mean, you trust someone is your friend because they have said so and yet they betray that trust. One of history’s harshest examples of personal betrayal is when Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. He is selling out Jesus, his friend and Rabbi, out to those who would falsely convict Him on trumped up charges and then crucify him. We are all appalled at the almost flippant way Judas betrayed Jesus and he did it with a sign of friendship, a kiss on the cheek. Perhaps, he did it for money, perhaps to force Jesus’ hand so that He would proclaim Himself Israel’s King. But whatever the reason, he betrayed Jesus and we hold most betrayers with contempt. Kind of like many do when they betray fellow believers. Now, have you ever betrayed a friendship or a trust? We have all been dumped by a schoolyard crush who then says something like, “We can still be friends!” Yeah, right. Yet don’t we do the very same thing when we say we love our church, our fellow Christians or church members and yet dump them at our slightest whim? It is kind of like kissing them on the cheek and slapping them as we slam the door. The Apostle John experienced the frustration of this kind of betrayal when those who said they loved Jesus and His church, but then left. “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19 NIV) Why is this seen as betrayal? Because we forget that Jesus views fellow church members as His body in the world doing His work and will and not their own work and will. Today many think that they can leave a church for whatever reason they desire or they simply never join a church. Both are not biblical. Just as the disciples fell asleep and were chastened by Jesus, many of those who think church membership is simply going through the doors of worship or leaving when things get tough will find that it is a form of betrayal as well. Not just to the church in general, Jesus’ Body, but to the Lord Himself. We cannot “kiss” Jesus on the cheek, then walk away whenever we desire from His church. We cannot remain “fiends” with Christ when we still have thirty pieces of silver jingling in our pocket as we take a hike. Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 13, 2014

They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:7-10 NIV)

I was just wondering if you would be willing to suffer a whole lot, be bloodily beaten to unrecognition, for others who could care less and then be willing to be horrendously killed just so those same uncaring folks could decide if they wanted to believe in your willingness to die for them or not. Come on, sounds like a real deal, doesn’t it? Yet here we find Jesus willingly doing just that. In our day and age we would not be surprised if he had just spurred the donkey on and headed for the Judean hills in a cloud of dust and hardy “Hi oh Silver, away!” (Yes, we do not know if the donkey’s name was “Silver” or not, but you get my drift.) In fact, we find Jesus knowing that he would be betrayed by one of his own men whom he had personally chosen, that he would be dragged around town by a greedy and corrupt religious establishment, be tortured, mocked, and crucified for those who were doing the mocking, torturing, and crucifying! I can hardly wrap my brain around this. Jesus knew. He knew as he rode on that little donkey colt’s back into Jerusalem. He knew as he whipped the hypocrites out of the temple area. He knew as he knelt before his prideful disciples, washed their feet, and he knew as he sat by the one who had already betrayed him. He knew as he broke the bread and shared the wine of his last Passover meal. Few of us find it hard enough to get up on Sunday morning, go to church and Bible Study, let alone suffer and die for a stranger! “Sacrifice this!” is our retort. It should make one wonder…

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