Tag Archives: disciple

Follow me! — Matthew 8:18-22

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

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

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

READ: Matthew 8:18-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The rule to end all rules! – Matthew 7:12-14

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

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

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

READ: Matthew 7:12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Conclusion:


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

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Go the distance! — 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25

Go the distance! — 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 21, 2018

During an elementary school track meet a young boy ran three of the laps in a race very fast and was out among the leaders. But on the last lap, instead of staying on the track and rounding the end to get to the finish line, he left the track, cut across the football field to the track on the other side, and then finished. Someone asked him why he cut across, he simply said, “I got tired.” Though he ran well, he did not finish well and was disqualified. He failed to go the distance.

There is a definite need in America today for God’s people to serve the Lord with all one’s heart. Some of Northern Israel’s kings rendered admirable service to the Lord for a while, but in time their obedience was well rather incomplete. They sinned and did what they wanted rather than following the Lord. Their examples illustrate the importance of serving God with wholehearted consistency and persistence. Today we will take a look at why it is so important for believers to go the distance…

READ: 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25

Why do some Christians start well in their relationship with God but then do not serve with wholehearted consistency and persistence? Why don’t they go the distance? We can blame it on a lot of things but whatever the reason God calls his people to go the distance! We discover that…

I. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings! (Vv. 4-6)

Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.

1. When Jehoahaz became king of Israel, he continued his predecessors’ practices. He approved of and took part in the worship of the golden calves set up by Jeroboam at Dan and Bethel. Because the people followed their leader’s example and as punishment for their sins, God kept Israel under the oppressive power of the Aramean kings Hazael and Ben-hadad. This condition continued during Jehoahaz’s 17-year reign. “Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.” While we are not always faithful, God always is. The word “sought” carries the idea of turning to God in weakness or helplessness. God heard Jehoahaz because God saw the oppression Hazael, king of Aram, inflicted on Israel. The Hebrew word translated “heard” means not only that God listened to the prayer of Jehoahaz but also that He answered his prayer: “The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.” Just like in the Book of Judges God once again sent someone to deliver his people. He acted to deliver the Israelites and restore them to a time of peace. They were able to live in their own tents or homes as before. Sometimes, people never learn from their mistakes. This can be true of a nation as well. “But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.” God’s deliverance did not motivate the Northern Kingdom Israel to turn back completely from idolatry and worship him only. Israel continued to practice the sins that Jeroboam, Israel’s first king, initiated when he set up calf worship in Israel. The nation also kept the Asherah pole standing as a symbol and place for the worship of the female goddess Asherah. An Asherah pole was a wooden pole erected to the Canaanite goddess of fertility. May poles that some dance around nowadays are the remnants of this paganism. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings!

EXAMPLE: I enjoy being in the company of people who have a sense of humor. Lighthearted conversation sprinkled with laughter is always enjoyable. I also like serious discussions about important spiritual, moral, and political issues, especially when the participants express different points of view with intensity and feeling. I must confess however that I don’t enjoy conversations when I am being rebuked. It’s hard to face my failings. As I look back on my life, however, I must confess that some of the reprimands have brought me moral and spiritual benefit. I remember my uncle who was “disappointed” in me because I took a shortcut in weeding my grandmother’s garden. I remember a coworker telling me he wasn’t satisfied with the job I did. Both made me a better person. Rebukes hurt, but they are helpful. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings!

Jehoahaz was wise to go to God in prayer for help. The worship of Baal and Asherah had not brought his nation deliverance from Aram. When God delivered the Hebrew people, they should have turned to him in gratitude and served him with all their hearts. However, they fell short spiritually. They accepted God’s favor but continued in their evil ways. We discover that…

II. Persistence pays off in going the distance for God! (Vv. 14-17)

Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”

1. What was a king to do? His army had been reduced to 50 horsemen, 10 chariots, and only 10,000 foot soldiers. His nation was suffering from the incursions of the Arameans and was spiritually corrupt. Now, the Nation’s top prophet “Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died.” The names of the kings here might be confusing. “Joash” and “Jehoash” are two ways of spelling the same name. This confusion is complicated because Israel and Judah both had kings with this name and their reigns overlapped. In verse 10 the king of Judah is called Joash and the king of Israel is called Jehoash. For clarity’s sake, this is how the names will be used. So we find that the “Jehoash king of Israel went down to see (Elisha) and wept over him. ‘My father! My father!’ he cried.” He saw Elisha as his nation’s spiritual father. The word also implies a master, a protector, an advisor, or a governor. God had made Elisha a spiritual leader to Israel! Through the years, Israel had defeated its enemies by depending on Elisha, not by depending on the nation’s military strength. So now the king cries, “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Though Elisha was very ill, he answered Jehoash’s request for help. Elisha tells him “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.” The prophet’s action symbolized that God would have his “hand” on the king in battle against Aram. Jehoash would have to face the Arameans, but God would guide him in the battle. The prophet’s next instructions were to open the east window. The Arameans were located in the area east of Israel, which included the area across the Jordan. Pointing the arrow out of the window toward the east, Elisha commanded Jehoash to Shoot! When the king shot the arrow, Elisha declared, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha promised Jehoash would receive victory over the Arameans at Aphek a city east of the Jordan and near the Sea of Galilee. What circumstances tempt believers to think ministry for the Lord is no longer possible? In what area will you continue to serve the Lord regardless the circumstances? Even while very ill Elisha continued to serve the Lord. Persistence pays off in going the distance for God!

EXAMPLE: A. J. Cronin a doctor who was forced by illness to take a leave of absence from his medical practice decided to write. He became discouraged when half done and threw his manuscript into the garbage. Later when Cronin was walking the Scottish Highlands he met a man digging in a bog, to drain it for use as a pasture. As Cronin talked with him, the man related, “My father dug at this bog and never made a pasture. But my father knew and I know that it’s only by digging you can make a pasture. So I keep on digging.” Feeling rebuked Cronin went home, picked his manuscript out of the garbage can, and finished it. That novel, Hatter’s Castle, sold three million copies! There are times we may feel trapped by circumstances that demand persistence. Are we willing to keep digging away at whatever “bog” God has assigned to us? Persistence pays off in going the distance for God!

Elisha rendered persistent service to the Lord, even when he was suffering from a terminal illness. Elisha’s actions remind us that the Lord wants believers to continue serving him as long as they are able, regardless of what they are experiencing. We learn that…

III. We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience! (Vv. 18-19, 24-25)

Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”… Hazael king of Aram died, and Ben-Hadad his son succeeded him as king. Then Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured from Ben-Hadad son of Hazael the towns he had taken in battle from his father Jehoahaz. Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns.

1. Elisha instructed the king to “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Now here is the key to understanding what the king should have done, how he failed Elisha’s direction, and therefore failed to follow through with his trust in God! “Strike the ground” with the arrows Elisha told him but the king struck the ground three times and stopped. How many arrows did Jehoash have in his hand? We do not know but if he had followed through he would have been completely successful! Jehoash could have held all the arrows in his hand and struck the ground three times, or he could have shot three of the arrows into the ground. I believe he had a lot more arrows and he had failed to strike the ground the number of times the arrows represented. God desired to give him a complete victory but now he would only enjoy a partial one. How often does this occur in our lives when God asks us to trust him and we only partially follow through? Elisha became angry when Jehoash stopped after striking the ground only three times. The prophet said he should have struck five or six times. If he had, then he would have defeated Aram totally, until he put an end to them. But because he struck the ground only three times, he would strike down Aram only three times. The king’s actions reveal half-heartedness in accepting Elisha’s word from God. The king’s actions suggest a lack of faith and determination to be all he could be in the hands of Almighty God. We learn that after the king of Aram’s death Jehoash seized the opportunity to recapture from Hazael’s successor, Ben-hadad, the towns Hazael had taken from Jehoash’s father Jehoahaz. In the battles for those towns, Jehoash was able to defeat the Arameans under Ben-hadad but only three times, thus fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy. What task or challenge are you facing right now for the Lord in which you are tempted either to ignore or to face half-heartedly? What steps can you take to go the distance with God in this challenge? Jehoash was not limited in his success by the strength of the Arameans but by his own lack of wholehearted obedience. God had promised complete victory, but the king had not been committed to obeying and serving God obediently. God would have gone the distance and defeated the Arameans if only Jehoash had gone the distance with him. We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!

EXAMPLE: After getting home from church a little boy’s mother asked what they had taught him in Sunday School. He sighed and responded, “Obedience… AGAIN!” We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience! Oswald Chambers wrote: “The Lord does not give me rules, but he makes his standard very clear. If my relationship to him is that of love, I will do what he says… If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself.” Cindy Casper writes: “When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. Arthur W. Pink said that love is ‘a principle of action, and it expresses itself . . . by deeds which please the object loved.’ To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks.” We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!

Conclusions:

To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings! Persistence pays off in going the distance for God! We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

A mentor – 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 9, 2018

When I began as a pastor, I heard that Sunday School was a way to reach, teach, win, and develop believers. I chose to adopt these concepts. Developing Christians requires personal mentoring as well as teaching. As a church we are to be alert for Christians who are growing spiritually and who give indications they would make excellent workers in the Lord’s kingdom and then mentor them for that task. In spite of our busy schedule, lack of confidence, or belief that only God or staff members can mentor another believer we are all called to mentor others in Christ.

First Kings ends with the ascension of Ahaziah to the throne of Israel, and 2 Kings begins with Ahaziah already reigning as king. 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book. The approximate date for the starting point for 2 Kings is 853 BC. The first two chapters in 2 Kings record the last two acts of the prophet Elijah and the first three miracles of his successor Elisha. Elijah’s mentoring of Elisha provides an illustration of some helpful steps any Christian can take in mentoring another Christian. Mentor means a trusted guide, a tutor, or a coach. Let’s discover what that means for us today…

READ: 2 Kings 2:1-3; 7-14

Whereas Elijah mentored Elisha to be his successor as God’s prophet, most Christians will mentor workers for other tasks like teaching, witnessing, serving, working in Extended Teaching, Trail Life or any number of ministries to which God leads them. What qualifications would you look for in another Christian to determine if that person is ready to be mentored? In these verses we discover how to…

I. Test others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:1-3 NIV)

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.”

1. Just before Elijah’s home going in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on the way from Gilgal. The Hebrew word translated whirlwind can also refer to a windstorm, a gale, or a violent wind. God took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. In the prophets’ relationship Elijah was able to demonstrate to Elisha what this ministry was all about. Elisha was able to watch Elijah closely and see how he served God as a prophet. When the time came for Elijah to go to heaven and for Elisha to assume Elijah’s work; Elijah tried to get Elisha to remain in Gilgal by telling him to stay there while he went on for the Lord. Elisha responded by saying, “I will not leave you.” So together, they went to Bethel. Three times Elijah tried to leave Elisha behind (vv. 2, 4, 6). Each time Elisha refused to leave. Elijah’s command to Elisha to stay behind was a test of Elisha’s determination to become a prophet. Elisha showed he would remain with Elijah. As the two approached Bethel, the sons of the prophets came out to speak to Elisha. These men were prophets and were being trained or mentored in their religious duties by leading prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. They asked Elisha if he knew the Lord was going to take his master from him that day. The expression from you, or literally “from your head,” alludes to the custom of students’ sitting at the feet of their teachers. Their being in that position made the teacher taller than their heads. Elijah was Elisha’s teacher who was mentoring him for future prophetic service. God had revealed to these students that Elijah’s time on earth was over and that God was going to take him that day to heaven. God had revealed the same sad truth to Elisha also, for he said, “Yes, I know.” However, he told the prophets, “Be quiet,” for that news was very painful. God was also testing Elisha to see if he was ready to assume the prophetic mantle of Elijah.

EXAMPLE: It is good for churches to test prospects for service within their ministries. Over the decades I have watched as some churches have not done this and suffered the consequences of their inaction. When churches were considering setting a person aside for a particular ministry they would have a time of training, then allowing the candidate to serve within the particular ministry, followed by an evaluation period. These verses teach us this morning that it is a good idea to test others while mentoring them!

Elijah was testing Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity and determination to follow him and become his successor just as God planned. Like Elijah, all mentors need to test those they mentor to see if they are spiritually committed and suited for their particular function in God’s service. Elisha, however, had no trouble passing the test. In these verses we learn to…

II. Mentor others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:7-10 NIV)

Fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours–otherwise not.”

1. Elijah and Elisha arrived at the Jordan after their trip from Gilgal and Jericho. Fifty prophets came out and from a distance. The Jordan River here is where it flows into the northern end of the Dead Sea. When they reached the Jordan, Elijah took his mantle, struck the waters and the water parted, allowing them to cross on dry ground to the east side. Just as God parted the waters for Moses when he held his staff over the sea God parted the Jordan for them. Now “Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.” Elijah’s question to Elisha was very important. Before he died, Elijah asked Elisha, “What can I do for you?” This question was another test for Elisha. Would he ask for riches, fame, safety, or something like that? Instead, Elisha’s reply was a request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha was not asking for twice the amount of Elijah’s spirit or some form of mystical power. The double portion terminology goes back to passages like Deuteronomy 21:17. A father’s oldest son received a double share of the inheritance. That implied the oldest son would succeed his father and have his father’s authority and blessing. Elisha wanted to follow Elijah in his prophetic ministry. He asked for Elijah’s spirit his zeal because he knew Elijah’s power and ability came from God working in Elijah. Elisha’s spiritual sensitivity made him aware that he would need that same God-given spiritual ability to be Elijah’s successor. Elijah called Elisha’s request something difficult. He knew only God could answer such a request. But he promised Elisha that he would inherit his prophetic office and his spiritual gifts if he remained with him and witnessed his death. If not, then Elisha would not receive what he requested. Elisha must reveal his willingness to stay with Elijah all the way. The older prophet could not produce his spiritual power in Elisha but he could mentor him and prepare him for God to use him. Elijah mentored through example and through teaching. He made sure Elisha saw that God was the source of his power and preaching.

EXAMPLE: Mentoring another is not an easy task yet every believer is called to do so at different times. It could be someone they lead to the Lord; it could be their children, a spouse, a friend or someone within the church! I had several mentors over the years from friends, pastors, deacons, teachers, and others. God used these men and women to polish the edges, give me greater wisdom, and the ability to learn how to be the best possible pastor I could be. Through the years I have tried to mentor others as well. As believers we are called to mentor others.

In evangelism we often challenge Christians by saying, “Each one should win one.” In discipling others for Christian service, we need to challenge each other by saying, “Each one mentor one.” However there comes a time when the ones we are mentoring must be left on their own to develop and mature in Jesus in their own time. In the following verses we discover that we must…

III. Leave the work to others! (Vv. 2 Kings 2:11-14 NIV)

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

1. The time came for Elijah to go home with the Lord. As Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking together, God revealed a chariot of fire with horses of fire. God took Elijah up into heaven in the whirlwind. The picture of Elijah and Elisha walking along the road together and talking with each other is a good picture of the mentoring process. The mentor must spend time with the one being mentored. The learner needs to ask questions and the mentor needs to demonstrate what is to be done and to explain how and why the one mentored needs to do these tasks. God often revealed himself through fire, as he did to Moses at the burning bush and to Elijah on Mount Carmel before the prophets of Baal. The appearance of the chariots and horsemen was used elsewhere to describe an appearance of God (see 2 Kings 13:14). God separated them; Elijah to go home with him and Elisha to stay and minister to his people. Elisha addressed Elijah as “My father, my father,” meaning his spiritual father. After watching Elijah go out of sight, Elisha tore his clothes apart in anguish. This action and his intimate address of Elijah as “My father, my father” revealed the grief of Elisha’s heart at the departure of Elijah. Evidently in Elijah’s miraculous translation to heaven in the whirlwind, he either discarded or dropped his mantle. This garment was part of the uniform of Elijah the prophet and served as a symbol of his ministry. Elisha picked up the mantle and went back to the banks of the Jordan where Elijah had parted the waters. Taking Elijah’s prophetic cloak was meaningful symbolism. Elisha was assuming responsibility as Elijah’s successor and began his journey back to Israel to serve the Lord. Using the mantle in the same manner as he had seen Elijah use it, Elisha struck the waters. He asked, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Elijah was gone. Only his cloak remained. Was God gone also? Facing the obstacle of the river was Elisha’s first test as to whether God really had called him and empowered him to succeed Elijah. When Elisha used the cloak on the river, it divided and he crossed over. God answered Elisha’s question: God was with Elisha as He had been with Elijah! Elijah had left the work to others, namely Elisha!

EXAMPLE: We need to be reminded that unlike now because of Jesus’ resurrection we enjoy the power and presence of God always. During Elijah’s and Elisha’s day this was not the case. The presence of God through the Holy Spirit had not been given permanently as it is today. Elisha was unsure and he needed to be reassured by the Lord. God show him that he indeed was Elijah’s true successor by parting the waters of the Jordan just as he had done for Elijah. That hairy old garment was not magical or special, it was the people God worked through who were. Elijah had left Elisha to continue the work of being God’s prophet.

Conclusion:

1. Mentors need to test those they are mentoring to see if they are suited for the task.
2. Those who demonstrate spiritual sensitivity to serving God should be mentored.
3. Those mentored must be released do the work for which they have been mentored.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! – Philippians 4:1-9

Exhortation, encouragement, and prayer! – Philippians 4:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 26, 2018

How do others see your faith? How do those who witnessed to you or mentored you find your faith walk? Often time we can get so caught up in how the world sees us that we forget or begin to think it unimportant how fellow believers view us. In fact some try do hard to blend in with the world that their church, Christian fellowship, and their daily devotion to the Lord suffer.

Here in this last chapter of his letter to the Philippian church Paul desired that they know exactly how he saw their faith. And so he end this letter with not just advice on how to be stronger and more devoted believers, he writes to exhort, encourage, and pray for them. In his words we can find spiritual truths that will help us this morning as well. Let’s take a fresh look at what Paul wrote…

READ: Philippians 4:1-9

Lately I have been watching the Little League World Series. I enjoy the sheer joy, sometimes sadness, and frustration that these youngsters openly display as they play a game they love. What is truly inspiring is to listen and watch as their coaches go out to calm them down or sooth their shaken spirits. Like Paul with the Philippian church they urge them to remember the joy they have and to enjoy the moment. Here we find Paul…

I. Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! (Vv. 1-3)

Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

1. There are those who think that simply because they know someone who is nice, kind, and or accepting then they are “good people”. I knew a man who was nice, kind and accepted just about anyone but he was a drunkard and spent every penny he made on booze. Just because someone is “nice” doesn’t make them saved. Nor does it mean that God smiles at their little indiscretions. Paul wrote the Philippians that he desired they be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. So, he writes “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” In a world that hates holiness this is extremely important! Evidently some at Philippi had forgotten whom they followed. “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” These two women had become so caught up in their problems with each other it had boiled over into the church itself! These two women, Euodia and Syntyche, did not live up to the meanings of their names. “Euodia” means a “prosperous journey.” “Syntyche” means a “pleasant acquaintance.” Instead they were causing dissention and nothing was prosperous or pleasant about their behavior! Evidently Paul had to ask for help in this matter from fellow church members. “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” These women who had once worked side-by-side with one another and Paul were pulling in opposite directions! “Yokefellow” her could be a proper name which is “Syzygus” and Paul needed his, Clemet’s, and the rest of the church’s help! We find Paul therefore exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Interestingly when we went to Wyoming we went on a wagon train ride. The two horses were huge Percherons named Mike and Pay. Each horse knew exactly how to pull the wagon and worked together to do so. They started, stopped, and turned together in perfect unison. I found it also interesting that the teams were almost exclusively made up of all female teams or all male teams. They discovered that these horses worked best, pulled together, and minded well when they were of the same sex and not trying to “impress” or flirt with one another! Christians can lose their focus in life.  We find Paul exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus!

Sometimes every one of us can use a good kick in the pants in order for us to remember who we are. But more than that we sometimes need to be reminded of what our attitude should be like if we truly follow Jesus. We can get so down on ourselves or others. Here we discover Paul…

II. Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! (Vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1. Life can throw trials and troubles our way but when the Lord is in our lives these things are put into perspective. Paul with a few short sentences reminds us what our attitude should be in life when he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul wasn’t telling Christians to be happy all the time nor was he saying we should force ourselves to be exuberant. Rejoicing for the believer should be a way of life because it is a state of being in Jesus! When we have the Creator of all things living inside of us through the power of the Holy Spirit we have everything we need. Certainly there are circumstances in which Christians cannot be happy. But they can always rejoice in the Lord and delight in him. Paul continues by telling believers that we should let our “gentleness be evident to all.” Jesus the gentle Lamb of God is the great pacifier first between God and man and also with one another and can take the angriest heart and make it gentle. And for Paul the reason was obvious because “The Lord is near.” Not just that he would return soon but the plain fact he is always near those who love him. He lives in us! Joy and gentleness and the reminder that Jesus is always near had to be a great encouragement for Christians throughout the ages. When we as believers do feel anxious, and we will sooner or later, Paul reminds us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Paul uses four words to describe our communication with the Lord: Prayer meaning speaking with God, petition meaning our requests, thanksgiving meaning our grateful attitude, and requests which is different than petitions because one is supplications and this is asking for what we truly need. If we can do this then “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul reminds us of our delight in the Lord by encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: In Jackson Hole I was reminded how my grandparents endured great hardships to build a life there in the Teton and Jackson area. They lost children to disease, lost a home due to a natural flood, and they could have given up. I learned that they were supposed to be one of the few families chosen by the early Latter Day Saints to open the area up for the heresies of Mormonism. However, my grandmother returned to her Christian roots and she and my mother would clean and set up what is now known as the Church of the Transfiguration in the Teton National Park, an Episcopal church. They were very faithful and returned to what they knew to be true in Jesus. I find it wonderful to discover Paul encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord!

Our walk with the Lord should produce certain spiritual and outward characteristics in our life. Why, because our focus in life is to be different than the world’s. The world wants us to have good feelings about one another, to always be kind, and to accept anyone, anytime, for anything they want to do as long as it fits their personal paradigm of what they think the world should be like at that moment. Paul reminds his readers that because of their salvation they have been changed and their focus in life has changed as well. Paul finishes by…

III. Praying that believers should practice what they preach! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

1. Paul ends his teaching by relating, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Aren’t these the very things all believers should focus on in life? These are the attributes Christians are to display in life! For Paul thinking about such things is the same as doing them. In fact you had to actually do them in order to think about them! Being true because Jesus is the truth, being noble because Jesus was noble in life, being right and pure because we are called to holy living, and going after what is lovely, admirable, and whatever is excellent or praiseworthy in life. There are those who think that acceptance of perversion or being kind is the answer to the world’s problems of racism, hatred, or strife but Jesus wanted his followers to be like him; and these characteristics that Paul lists exemplifies Jesus! Never forget that Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24 NIV)” Paul fully understood what this meant because he first and foremost followed Jesus and therefore could write the Philippians that “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.” Wow! Could we all say the same thing with our Christian example? Could we dare other believers to exemplify or put into practice what they see in our lives In Jesus? I wonder. However if we were to follow what Paul writes here we can rest assured we are following and practicing what Jesus would do. Finally, Paul ends this section by praying that “the peace of God will be with you”! The peace of God is not just the absence of strife or violence; it is the inner change displayed outwardly in our lives in Jesus! What a wonderful thing to read Paul praying that believers should practice what they preach!

EXAMPLE: Today we will observe the Lord’s Supper. There is nothing mystical or magical about doing so. It in no way imparts any grace or special dispensation to the adherent. If it did we would do it every week and we would not have to place our complete faith and trust in Jesus. Sinful man cannot atone for their sins, we are not holy nor are we seen as the sacrifice God required. If you do not believe me read Galatians and Hebrews. What it does is to remind us of who we follow and what he did for us. We observe it to honor him who sacrificed himself for our sin condition. Now we are to live like we believe it. We are to live everyday in remembrance of him. I find it encouraging that Paul prayed that believers should practice what they preach!

Conclusion:

Exhorting believers to remember why they follow Jesus! Encouraging believers to remember their enjoyment in the Lord! Praying that believers should practice what they preach!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

In running life’s race we are to focus on the goal! In running life’s race we mature as we follow Jesus’ example! In running life’s race we are to remember who we are!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Two wonderful men! – Philippians 2:19-30

Two wonderful men! – Philippians 2:19-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 22, 2018

What qualities do you look for in a friend? Sometimes folks can ask a lot of friendship but give little in return. Winnie the Pooh said, “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

Paul understood friendship because he understood Jesus. He enjoyed the friendship of many people but there were those who he considered more than friends; Paul saw them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Friends with the common bond of Jesus are closer than any earthly friendship. In his letter to the Philippians he shares about two wonderful men of God who he considered his friends. Let’s see what he wrote about these men…

READ: Philippians 2:19-30

The world loves itself. It delights in being good and showing others just how wonderful it is. But God tells us that there is more to being good and being wonderful because as wonderful or as good as the world seems at its core it is full of sin. The first wonderful man Paul writes about is…

I. Timothy! (Vv. 19-24)

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

1. Paul writes the Philippians “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon”. Timothy was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. He joined Paul during one of Paul’s later missionary journeys. Paul called Timothy “my true son in the faith”. (1 Timothy 1:2 NIV) Timothy was probably in his late teens or early twenties when he joined Paul and had distinguished himself as faithful to the gospel. He probably responded to the gospel when Paul came through the area of Derbe and Lystra on his first missionary journey, but we don’t know for sure. Timothy served as Paul’s representative to several churches and is mentioned as being with Paul when Paul wrote the New Testament letters of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Paul wrote that Timothy had a “genuine faith,” the same as that which lived in his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:1-5 NIV). Paul decided to send Timothy in order to “be cheered when [he received] news about” them. Paul spoke highly of Timothy and tells them “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.” Timothy cared because he first loved the Lord. This is why Paul writes that “everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” Paul knew people’s hearts. Those who trust Jesus know the love of Christ and Paul knew that “Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Timothy worked side-by-side with Paul and Paul saw him as his son! Paul knew Timothy’s character and so he hoped therefore “to send him as soon as I see how things go with me”. Paul could send Timothy in his stead knowing he would be a good worker and would care about them just as Paul did. And besides Paul was “confident in the Lord” that he would “come soon” to them as well. Paul trusted Timothy as a wonderful friend!

EXAMPLE: Interestingly Timothy means “precious to God” and it is evident he was. What do you hold precious in life? What character traits do you hold precious in the life of those you call friend? Fred Rogers, who was a wonderful Christian, said that “When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” Fred Rogers loved God and we discovered this morning that Timothy also loved God and was a wonderful friend to Paul and a wonderful man of God.

Friendship for the world is often based on “What can you do for me?” Friendship’s foundation is based on emotionalism and selfishness whereas friendship for the believers is founded upon the love of God for us. Friendship is founded on Jesus’ sacrificial love for us and we discover a wonderful man of God in…

II. Epaphroditus! (Vv. 25-30)

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.

1. The next man wonderful man Paul mentions is Epaphroditus and he thought it “necessary to send” him “back to” the Philippians. Notice what Paul calls him. First he writes that Epaphroditus is “my brother”, his adelphos, the one who shared the same womb. Paul’s affection for Epaphroditus was strong. Those who share the same spiritual birth in Jesus share the same spiritual womb and are called brothers and sisters in Christ! Paul goes on to writes that Epaphroditus is his “fellow worker and fellow soldier”. Epaphroditus was Paul’s co-laborer and his co-campaigner for Jesus! They shared in the work and in the battle! Epaphroditus also carried a message to Paul from the Philippians and he was sent to him to take care of Paul’s needs and evidently he had gotten ill. Epaphroditus longed “for all of [the Philippians] and [was] distressed because [they] had heard he was ill and almost died”. Yet Paul had good news for them that “God had mercy on him, but not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow”. Epaphroditus had been sent to Paul from the Philippians with gifts and now Paul was ending him back to them and Paul had grown to like Epaphroditus immensely! Paul wrote “Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.” Paul wanted them to be glad, and he wanted to be relieved of all anxiety himself. The believers in Philippi were not to think wrongly of Epaphroditus for coming home and in fact they were to “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” Wonderful men of God sacrifice themselves for the Lord they serve like Epaphroditus. Paul was encouraged and strengthened by a wonderful man like Epaphroditus.

EXAMPLE: Interestingly, Epaphroditus’ name is of pagan origin. It means “belonging to Aphrodite”; the name of this pagan Greek goddess is actually incorporated into his name. This is not unusual for Paul’s day. Parents wanted their children to have any advantage in life they could and thought by giving their children such a name would garner the favor of that deity. Such is the power of the gospel that a man is set free from dead paganism to serve the living God. When Epaphroditus received the gospel, he was “belonging to Jesus,” and the idol had no more claim on him, regardless of his name. The new birth of Epaphroditus overcame his birth name. When a wonderful man like Epaphroditus gives of himself for the sake of God’s kingdom, many people benefit. Such a man is worthy of honor, and his presence is cause for rejoicing! Epaphroditus was a wonderful man of God!

Conclusion:

What does it take to be a wonderful man of God? Paul gives us two great examples in Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two men display for us what wonderful men of God are like. They have genuine faith in Jesus, love their fellow believers, and are selfless. Let me ask you are you a wonderful man of God or do you know a wonderful man of God? I pray you are or that you do. Timothy and Epaphroditus are two wonderful men of God.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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