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Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49

Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 2, 2017

Wikipedia relates that “‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the ‘inalienable rights’ which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.” The writers, the signers, and those who fought for our freedoms believed passionately in these inalienable rights for all people. At the core of this belief was their reasoning that God created mankind for more than servitude and it came from the notion that even nations ruled by kings should fear God.

Today’s America has taken the notion of personal freedom to the extreme that it is a free ticket to do any ungodly or immoral act and excuse it as a personal right. They would do well to remember the spiritual law involved that you reap what you sow in life. The Psalmist here teaches us that those who fear God live; let’s discover what he says about this…

READ: Psalm 49

Many in our day think they can rewrite the laws of God to fit their particular perversion in order to excuse it as sin. The Psalmist reminds us that…

I. Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! (Vv. 1-6)

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

1. Sometimes it is hard to gain the attention of those you are speaking to and so sometimes you have to do something to shake people up so they will listen. The Psalmist does that here by including everyone in his pronouncement: “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike”. He tells them by a command of sorts to “hear” and to “listen”. The first refers to actually intelligently understanding what is being spoken to those who are willing to be taught by the words he is speaking! The second refers to giving an ear or to someone who harkens to the sound of his voice like one would to a herald or a town crier who goes about saying “hear ye, hear ye!” or like a child who listens to the voice of their mother calling them home. Notice that the Psalmist’s announcement is for “all you peoples…who live in the world…both low and high, rich and poor alike”. Why should anyone listen to him? “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.” There are few things or folks worth listening to in this world of fake news and made up headlines or exaggeration. Yet he would “turn [his] ear to a proverb; with the harp [he would] expound my riddle”. It is like Jesus who told and taught his disciples “many things in parables”. (Matthew 13:3 NIV) Like Benjamin Franklin with Poor Richard’s Almanac or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense who both used humor and pity sayings to teach deeper truths, the Psalmist does this as well. He begins, like any good orator, with a question: “Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?” He expected an answer probably in the form of question itself; more than likely: “How in the world could you not fear evil days, wicked deceivers, or the ultra rich?” For the Jews of his day only those who were well off could scoff at these things, certainly not a common person! The Psalmist wanted his listeners to know that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

EXAMPLE: Benjamin Franklin wrote that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” But he also had a deep faith in a Creator who gave all things. He was not a believer per se but a Deist, someone who believed in a higher power. Later in life he held stronger views on God and especially Jesus and confessed his faith, contrary to what many theists and atheists would have you believe about Franklin. He would write, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” The Psalmist knew this several thousands of years before Franklin. He understood that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

One of the attractions that drew people from all over the world to America was that you could become whatever you could in America through shear hard work and tenacity. However, far too many have forgotten where their lives come from. The Psalmist teaches us that…

II. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! (Vv. 7-13)

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him–the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah

1. With his very next words, the Psalmist writes such an important lesson that the world today would do well to heed it. “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him”. Is this true? For the Hebrew of this era it was and it is why Jesus’ teaching was so astonishing because everyone knew “the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay”. These words were never forgotten by the Jews and so when Jesus came and taught one could live forever through faith in him, it was astounding! Perhaps we have forgotten life is costly. This is why the framers of the Declaration of Independence included the phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It establishes three inalienable rights which the Declaration states that have been given or endowed to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created by the same God to protect. Life is costly and yet things are not as costly, “For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.” What you so dearly hold on to right now and think so precious probably will be sold in a garage sale, trucked away to the Salvation Army, or dumped in the trash! In fact, even those who are wealthy, famous, or powerful in this life will soon learn that “Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves.” What good news then is that while “the ransom for a life is costly” Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”! (Matthew 20:28 NIV) You see the Psalmist knew what a lot of folks forget, namely dead is dead and once you are dead you are the same as all other dead folks! That “man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.” He is not teaching about how you or your pets end up eternally but rather more like the morose teachings of Ecclesiastes who lamented, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19 NIV) “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.” However, the tacit implication is that those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

EXAMPLE: If you look at many of our coins you will see the inscription, “In God We Trust”. The phrase appears to have originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza states, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.’” The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins” in order to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism”. It wasn’t until the Civil War that one and two cent coins were inscribed. In 1865 Congress passed legislation to place the motto on all gold and silver coins. However on the 50th anniversary of the motto in 2006 Congressed affirmed “In God We Trust” as the United States of America’s national motto. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

In America we have problem with death. Unlike past generations who realized life was short, often took care of the elderly themselves, and where people often did not live past their sixties because of illness, war, and poor health conditions. The Psalmist reminds us that…

III. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die! (Vv. 14-20)

Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

1. We all face death and just “Like sheep [we] are destined for the grave, and death will feed on [us]”!  There is tremendous good news in the Psalmist’s message however, “The upright will rule over [the rich, powerful, or famous] in the morning”! In other words when God comes to finally judge the living and the dead while “their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions”, ours won’t and it will be like a fresh new dawn! The Psalmist was well aware that indeed “God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” He had full confidence in God who loved him. Here dear little child of God is where we are to never forget those wondrous and amazing words of Jesus when he promised, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3 NIV) So, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.” As one old preacher stated, “We are all lay on the same level in the grave, unless we stand with Jesus!” And sadly, “Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life.” But not those who trust in God instead. Remember Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) and do not forget the words he told the weeping Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV) Dead is dead unless you know God in Jesus but “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”  Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

EXAMPLE: Unlike past generations where people celebrated death and those who had died by annually setting aside a time to remember them; today we have such a problem with the idea of dying we make roadside pagan shrines to the dead hoping they somehow realize that we now care. But dead is dead. It may be a means to assuage our own guilt and fear of dying. However, the godly person has absolutely no fear of death because we know our destination because of the one we have trusted in. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

Conclusion:
Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!
—-
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!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The bread of life! — John 6:34-59

The bread of life! — John 6:34-59
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 8, 2015

They say that a person’s sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory trigger inducers. You can smell a certain scent and it will immediately remind you of a person, place, or time of your life. I know this is true because when I smell Aqua Velva, an aftershave lotion, it immediately reminds me of my father. the same is true for fresh baked bread. The smell instantly reminds me of my mother’s kitchen when I was growing up and the smell of her wonderful bread. She made the best bread in the world. We could hardly wait to get a thick warm slice with melted butter or peanut butter.

As I expressed before, bread was an important part of everyday life during Jesus’ day. It was how people survived and was the meal for even the poorest of folks. However, it was not like the bread we enjoy today. It was flat, ,chewy, small, round, thick, and kind of tasteless, but it sustained people for the day. It was often dipped in olive oil or wine. And here in John’s gospel we discover Jesus referring to himself as the bread of life. Its meaning carried with it several important connotations. Let’s find what Jesus meant and John wrote about the bread of life…

READ: John 6:34-59

First, we discover that…

I. Jesus is the bread of life! (Vv. 34-40)

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

1. The crowd still wants free food, but not just free, they want it for as long as they can get it. This is why they responded by telling Jesus, “from now on give us this bread.” From now on sustain us! When Jesus had earlier told them that the bread he gave gives “life to the world” they understood it to mean it would sustain everyone! And in fact it does but not in the way they thought. The sustenance Jesus gives is that of eternal significance. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” It is a personal relationship Jesus calls us to and it satisfies forever! We must be willing to partake of the spiritual food, gospel, Jesus offers in order to gain any sustenance from it, then we will not spiritually thirst or go hungry. Yet, like some today, even though they hear Jesus’ words and see the truth for themselves, they still do not believe. Jesus told them that in fact, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” When we beg for this bread of life, God willingly gives it! And he has chosen to gi e it to us and will not play games with us by giving it and taking it away. For Jesus the reason was obvious, he tells his listeners, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” This is the promise of God that his Son will not lose anyone who comes to him for salvation. It is dependent up his promise and not our guilty conscious. When we come to Jesus by faith we can rest assured when he returns that none of us will be lost  and we will be raised up on the last day! The truth is, Jesus reminds us, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jesus is the bread of life!

EXAMPLE: M.F.K. Fisher, in “The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition” wrote that “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…[and bread-making is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” Mahatma Gandhi said that “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” In John’s gospel we learn that Jesus is the bread of life!

II. Jesus is the sacrificial bread! (Vv. 41-51)

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

1. You can give people free bread, but often they will want butter to go with it as well! Some people are never satisfied. The “Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.'” They gripped because they thought they knew Jesus, he was one of their own. Like many small towns, everyone knew everyone else’s business, or so they thought. Yet this tells me some important things concerning Jesus that are often missed. They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?” Jesus was like most boys growing up! No one noticed anything out of the ordinary about him as a lad. He was very Jewish in his countenance and upbringing. This fulfills what Isaiah wrote concerning the Messiah to come, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2 NIV)” They did not think Jesus could do what he said nor did they believe he was who he claimed to be because he was Jesus, Joseph’s son. Yet, Jesus rebuts them by relating, “Stop grumbling among yourselves, no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” He can and will do exactly what he said he could do! “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” If they listened to Jesus’ words and believed they would have known the truth of God, because it would be God drawing them to himself! Jesus had seen the Father because he was with him from the beginning and all things were created through him! He then bluntly lays out the spiritual truth for them so they will fully understand it, “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Jesus is the sacrificial bread!

EXAMPLE: Part of the setup of the Jewish temple was the table of showbread. It was an important focal point of worship for the Hebrew people. The showbread of the temple consisted of twelve loaves made of the finest flour. They were baked flat and thin, and were placed in two rows of six each on a table in the holy place before the Lord. They were renewed every Sabbath and the old ones were to be eaten by the priests only in the holy place. The number of the loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and also the entire spiritual Israel, the true Israel; and the placing of them on the table symbolized the entire consecration of the Hebrew people to the Lord, and their acceptance of God as their God. Jesus is the sacrificial bread!

III. The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses! (Vv. 52-59)

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

1. Far too many can only see as far as their noses. They only want what the world offers and do not care for the eternal things God has given us. The crowd first focused on the free food Jesus provided, then they focused on him giving them more of it, and finally they are focusing their attention on the wrong truth! The ” Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'” Jesus was not condoning cannibalism nor sacramentalism whereby the bread and wine would mystically turn into his flesh and blood! Rather, Jesus was teaching the eternal truth that unless you come to him, “eat of his flesh… and drink his blood”, in other words trust in his death and sacrifice, “you have no life in you”! The truth for Jesus is the fact that, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” The Jews were appalled at such a prospect because they could not see past their own prejudices of him being a small town boy and their preconceived notion of who God was. Jesus was teaching metaphorically. The person who could get past their spiritual ignorance and accept the truth of Jesus’ atonement, his sacrificial death and resurrection for them, they will be saved! In fact Jesus responds, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” Moses’ providing manna in the wilderness did not save anyone, in fact they all eventually died, but now we all can live when we receive Jesus by faith. The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

EXAMPLE: When the Hebrew people sinned against God by not trusting him, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. While there, God provided food for them in the form of manna and quail. The name manna is said to derive from the question man hu, seemingly meaning “What is it?” from the question the Israelites asked Moses. Only those who were deemed holy could eat the bread and it had to be eaten in a holy place, but now we hear Jesus saying that we are to partake of him to become holy. Jesus is the sacrificial bread! The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

Conclusion:

Jesus is the bread of life! Jesus is the sacrificial bread! The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

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

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Live or die! — John 5:25-29

Live or die! — John 5:25-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 28, 2014

One of the most fascinating things ever written was by the Apostle Paul when he wrote his friends in Philippi, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV)” How could Paul be so confident in making such a bold statement in a world that was so evil and full of death? Paul had come to the conclusion that whether he lived or died, he lived or died in the Lord. Live or die it did not matter for Paul as long as he was living for God when he died he knew he would live for God!

Such confidence in Jesus is not born out of wishful thinking on the part of Christians, it is based on fact. We know to live or die rests solely with the Lord. When I was about 9 years old my best friend and I were playing in his backyard. We had climbed to the utmost top of a couple of fir trees that grew in his yard. They were huge and we climbed as high as we could. Just as I was reaching the top of one tree, the branch I was on snapped and I plummeted to the ground below, hitting dozens of branches on the way down. I hit the ground on my back, knocking the wind out of me, and blacking out. I remember thinking that I was going to die and end up in heaven. Imagine how surprised I was when I woke up only to find my friend standing over me. Live or die, it is up to the Lord. Let’s find out why and what John writes about it in his gospel…

READ: John 5:25-29

New years are full of hope because we think we can start new and fresh. Out with the old and in with the new, yet within a few days, even though we might make a resolution to do better, we find ourselves in the same predicament we were in before the new year. However, here in John’s gospel we discover that a truly fresh beginning begins when…

I. We live because of Jesus! (Vv. 25-26)

I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.

1. Jesus knew what he said was true, we discussed this before, and because of this he related that “a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Jesus knew that he would usher in a new way of life and that time was coming and had been established simply because he was in the world. Just as Jesus would command Jairus’ daughter upon his saying “Talitha koum!” (little girl get up) to rise from her ill-fated death, or the widow of Nain whose dead son lived after Jesus said, “young man, get up” and his friend Lazarus upon Jesus calling him to “come forth!” ultimately Jesus would also be able to call those who trusted in him from the death to life as well! Those dead in sin would live eternally after placing their faith in God’s Son, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” Jesus can do it because of who he is! Just as God was the giver and taker of human life, Jesus was as well! Later Jesus would bluntly state, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (John 10:17-18 NIV)” Jesus has the power of life! We know it is true because God said so! John would later write, “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12 NIV)” We live because of Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We have all heard the phrase, “Life is short.” However, few of us think about that fact until life becomes, well, short. When we are younger we give no thought to the consequences of many of our actions. We take greater risks thinking we will live forever or at least longer. I will never forget a close Christian friend who was making deliveries for his work near Battle Ground when his truck was hit head on by a logging truck. He was killed instantly. Some would have focused on how sad it was for such a kind and godly man so young to be killed so tragically, yet his life was celebrated by all who knew him as the vibrant Christian he was. We all knew as he had that we live because of Jesus!

Live or let Die was the name of an old James Bond film. James Bond is ordered by his boss, M, to investigate the deaths and their connections to Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island called San Monique. Bond meets Solitaire, a beautiful virgin tarot expert who has the uncanny ability to see both the future and remote events in the present. There are those actually think fortune tellers can foresee the future for our life or our death. None can. Here in John’s gospel we discover that if we do not confess our faith in Jesus…

II. We will die because of our sin! (V. 27-29)

And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

1. Jesus told his detractors that God “has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” Paul would teach that God’s power was “exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything. (Ephesians 1:20-22 NIV)” Jesus has the power and the authority because “he is the Son of Man!” He is God’s chosen one, his anointed, the Messiah! Jesus related that his listeners should “not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out” of their graves. In fact, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him… And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 6:9 & 8:11 NIV)” Wow! We live because he lives! Yet, Jesus also related that “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” In other words those who have sinned and are not cleansed of their sins will die in their sins! Paul would remind us that “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 NIV)” Later, when those Jesus was talking to could not believe in who he was, he bluntly tells them, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:24 NIV)” We will die because of our sin!

EXAMPLE: Many people in Jesus’ day thought that when you died, you were dead. Dead is dead. In fact, when they remembered that Jesus had promised to resurrect himself, they determined to have his tomb sealed and guarded! They knew that if he did indeed rise from the grave then it would prove who he said he was! What they forgot was the fact of why they were dying in the first place. Paul would write that “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned… (Yet) at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, 12 NIV)” The fact is, we die because of our sin!

Conclusion:
We live because of Jesus and we will die because of our sin!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 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 Father and the Son! — John 5:16-24

The Father and the Son! — John 5:16-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 21 2014

Bill Crowder writes for the Radio Bible Class that “The Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, are known for their beautiful sweaters. Patterns are woven into the fabric using sheep’s wool to craft the garments. Many of them relate to the culture and folklore of these small islands, but some are more personal. Each family on the islands has its own trademark pattern, which is so distinctive that if a fisherman were to drown it is said that he could be identified simply by examining his sweater for the family trademark.” We all have the distinctive marks of our own father imprinted in us and not just in our DNA but often in our mannerism and even sometimes in our spirituality.

Fathers and their sons do not always have the greatest of relationships and in fact it has only gotten worse because so many fathers are absent in the lives of their children. Yet we discover in John’s Gospel that Jesus had an excellent relationship with his father. Let’s discover what this relationship was between the Father and the Son…

READ: John 5:16-24

In John’s gospel we discover that Jesus’ DNA runs deep and that…

I. Like Father like Son! (Vv. 16-18)

So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

1. Last time we discussed how the Jews persecuted Jesus because he dared do things on the Sabbath that benefited his fellow human beings. And isn’t interesting that while God became man in in human flesh as Jesus, the Jews lost their humanity in trying to please God and themselves. Their answer was to get angry and persecute the Messiah God sent them! What they did not realize is that Jesus was busy doing the will of God. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’” God was not asleep nor had he forgotten his people, even though they often felt he had. Sometimes we often think that God does not care or is not concerned about what occurs here on earth, yet he does. Just as he entered onto human existence as a baby, he still is involved moment by moment with those he loves today. David wrote that God “will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalms 121:3-4 NIV)” Israel had forgotten this promise. Have you? And it was for this very reason that “the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” You see they understood what Jesus was telling them, but they did not want to believe it because it did not fit into their paradigm of what they wanted the Messiah to be. How could God have a son and how could this carpenter’s son really be the offspring of God? It was blaspheme to them! However, Jesus would later tell them, “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9 NIV)” In other words, like Father like Son!

EXAMPLE: We often forget what Christmas is all about. It is more than presents, decorated trees, or carols. It is not a Hallmark moment written in a card. It is about the incarnation of God into human existence! God become flesh! When Mary held Jesus she was holding God. No longer would God be unknowable, no longer would he be untouchable, and no longer would he be something out there somewhere because he was here and now! And when we read about Jesus and how he interacted with the folks of his day and age we can understand how he acts with us today! We can trust him because Jesus is the complete embodiment of the Father and now we know what God is like! In other words, like Father like Son!

However, Jesus continues with his discussion to his persecutors and we discover that…

II. The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father! (Vv. 19-24)

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

1. Jesus would later let his detractors know “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” Jesus is the Truth and there is no other truth but him. This is why he would often begin his statements by relating, “Amen, amen” or “Truly, truly,” meaning that what he was about to relate was the absolute truth! So when he turns to his accusers here in John’s Gospel, “I tell you the truth” he means that what he is about to relate to them they should listen to and understand completely. Jesus tells them that “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Jesus could only do what he saw his Father doing because they were and are the same! We must ask ourselves, “Why this is so important for them to trash and why it is the one thing that Jesus’ detractors always try to dismiss?” The answer is simple: Because if Jesus is God then what he said and what he did does matter! In fact, Jesus goes further and states, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” Wow! God and Jesus are in complete sync because their relationship is built on who they are and their attributes! The greatest of these is the grace or love of God! And, if they had a problem with him healing a lame man then they were going to have a real problem with what he was going to do next! “Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” God can create or bestow life to those he desires and Jesus would do this very thing because he was the Messiah! In fact, those who now stood in judgment of Jesus would one day face his judgment because God would entrust all judgment concerning life and death to Jesus his Son! Why would God do this? Because “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” A holy God was willing to send himself as a man to die for us; we had better recognize this truth or suffer the consequences of our dismissal! Jesus bluntly relates, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

EXAMPLE: In the face of certain death or danger the hero turns to the victim, holds out his hand, and says, “If you want to live, come with me.” Whatever the end-of-the-world apocalyptic scenario is for the movie script we find folks are often saved at the last minute by some tough guy or gal who steps up and fights off the bad guys. Here in John’s Gospel we discover a hero who is unassuming, not some tough guy, but rather a spiritual intellect who offers his listeners salvation in the face of certain death. How do we know this to be true? We know it is true because God the Father said it was. He sent his Son to save mankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)” The Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

Conclusion:
We have discovered that like Father like Son and that the Son bestows life to those who believe his Father!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 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 Official’s Son — John 4:43-54

The Official’s Son — John 4:43-54
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 7, 2014

There is an old saying that states, “It’s all fun until someone gets hurt” and this is more often the truth about our lives as well. What is true on the playground is true for life as well. Here is what I mean: Many do not give a single thought as to the consequences of their lives or their actions until the fun suddenly and abruptly come to a screeching halt due to sickness, death, injury, or just plain life happening. Then and only then do we cry out for the help we have always needed thinking that God should be at our beck and call.

Here in John’s gospel we find a royal official who had it all. Life was good and good things happen to good people, right? He had his office, his power, his money and recognition but now all of that is worthless because his child is sick and dying. When life falls apart, as it always does, who are you going to trust for strength, answers, and hope? Let’s discover what occurs with the official’s son…

READ: John 4:43-54

People have not changed much. We discover here in John’s gospel that…

I. Trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment! (Vv. 43-45)

After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.

1. In the other gospels we discover that when Jesus went to his own hometown they took offense to what he tried to teach them about the Kingdom of God. We discover that Jesus “went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ (Mark 6:1-4 NIV)” It was a derogatory comment about not only his occupation but his family as well. Their inference was that Jesus and his family was common, ordinary, and without education so how in the world could he teach like he was? So, after leaving Samaria, he heads to Galilee. “When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” Interestingly, later even Jesus’ own family would question his ability and his teachings! And we find that the only reason the Galileans were interested was because “They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.” They saw Jesus go after the corrupt in their midst and not thought he might suit their needs, not that they believed he was actually the Messiah! This is not faith, and this certainly is not trusting God! Like many today, those in Jesus hometown were only interested in Jesus when he could meet their needs. We discover, however, that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment!

EXAMPLE: John is describing people’s spiritual selfishness. They only wanted something to do with Jesus when he could meet their needs of the moment. It is like the person who complains, “What has God ever done for me?” But they have never had anything to do with God! Like children on a playground who walk by a ball and when asked to pick it up declare, “It’s not mine!” or “I didn’t use it!” Their focus is only on what benefits them at that moment. Jesus would later admonish his listeners by telling them, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children. (Luke 7:31-35 NIV)” Like many today, those in Jesus hometown were only interested in him when he could meet their needs. We discover, however, that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment!

II. Faith in Jesus begins with trust! (Vv. 46-50)

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

1. Jesus was back where it all started with his first miracle and “Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.” However, since that time things had changed and others are now taking notice of Jesus. We read that “there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.” Isn’t it interesting that things have not changed much in that those who show no interest in godly things all of sudden do so when life reaches out and affects their lives? This official could have been goyim, a Hebrew, a Roman, or someone from Herod’s court, but we are not told who he is or what his function was as an official. But now he takes an interest in Jesus because, “When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.” Here is the crux of the matter, his son was sick and close to dying. Jesus became this man’s last hope for his ill son. He was willing to beg Jesus to come and heal him. We forget that Jesus wants folks to fully understand what it means to ask him into their lives. This is why when preachers who do not tell the entire truth concerning the gospel are not only frustrating the message but they are angering the Lord. Like a lot of folks do, the royal official wanted Jesus to heal his son simply because he asked! Why is this convoluted thinking on his part? Many think God should do what they want when they want him to because it suits their needs, heals their hurt, and helps them in some way. They think that a relationship with God begins and ends with their need of the moment. Was it tragic this man’s son was sick and dying? Yes! But is it God’s responsibility to act when we have never even given him any of our time, talent, or treasure? This is why Jesus responds, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” A faith built only on miraculous signs, only on what Jesus can do for you, is not a complete faith!  There is a change in the man’s attitude however and Jesus has compassion on him. He tells Jesus, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” The term “sir” is Lord, meaning he was willing to submit to what Jesus desired of him. Here is where true faith begins! Jesus replies, “You may go. Your son will live.” And notice what the man does! “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” He trusted Jesus to do what he promised! Faith in Jesus begins with trust!

EXAMPLE: When teaching a child how to ride a bike, swim, or take their first jump off a high dive, they first learn to trust the person how is encouraging them. The fear is in falling, failing, or not being able to take that leap of faith. The same can be said for those who often fear to let go and allow God into their lives. However, there is no other way for God to work in the life of someone without their willingness to trust him. There is no such thing as partial trust. Faith in Jesus begins with trust!

We also see here that…

III. Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards! (Vv. 51-54)

While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

1. The royal official is hurrying back to his home. He can only think of his little boy slowly dying. In Jesus’ day, if you got sick with a common cold, measles, a mere fever – you would probably die. Life was and is fragile. We are not given a promise that we will all live to be 110 and then die quietly in our sleep. Some of us die from falling down a stair. We die from cancer, from drunk drivers, from war, a mosquito or spider bite, pestilence, hunger or thirst. Life is fragile and death waits in the wings to claim us at any moment! We think it is unfair and unjust when those we care about or love are ripped from the fabric of life by whatever means. But now, “While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.” He is ecstatic and “Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’” Does Jesus heal everyone? No. Did Jesus heal everyone he met? No. Jesus worked and works within the universe of his creation and according to his plan. Healing for God is not necessary. Our physical condition is not all there is to life or death. We are created for eternity and we forget what that means. Paul would later write, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NIV)” Our labor, our lives are to be in the Lord! Notice, the man cannot believe what he is hearing. And then it comes to him and he realizes that his simple trust in what Jesus told him to do was the means by which his son was cured. I believe he went home and shared everything with his household and this is why we read, “So he and all his household believed.”  Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards! “This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.”

EXAMPLE: Do you have some of those “rewards card”? I do. Some I use and others are just taking up space in my wallet. I stopped getting them several years ago because they are the junk mail of my wallet. I think there is a hidden truth here in that not everything we are asked to trust in gives us the rewards we think they do. That includes religion. Some want you to meditate until you levitate; some want you to genuflect until you are circumspect, but only in Christ can one find hope. I have discovered as did this royal official that trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards!

Conclusion:

We discover that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment! Faith in Jesus begins with trust! Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 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 Light! — John 1:1-5

The Light! — John 1:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 31, 2014

In the strictest sense this Gospel has no author named like Paul’s letters do. It is anonymous. In fact, none of the four Gospel authors identify themselves by name. There is a good reason for this, they are not meant to be private letters to specific churches or individuals, except perhaps Luke’s Gospel. Yet we discover that often the writer reveals himself through his writing and we discover that church history can often reveal who the authors were. Putting all of these facts together makes a good case for the author of the Fourth Gospel having been John, one of the sons of a fisherman named Zebedee.

The date for the writing of the Gospel of John was probably between 85 and 95 AD, however, there is good evidence that it could have been written as early as 45 and 65 AD before the destruction of the Temple. And, John himself tells us why he wrote his gospel, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 NIV)” Matthew’s gospel begins with a genealogy, Luke is dedicated to his friend Theophilus, Mark begins with the preaching of John the Baptist, but John’s gospel begins with Jesus the Light! Let’s discover why…

READ: John 1:1-5

John Wayne in the movie The Cowboys asks Jebediah Nightlinger, Rosco Lee Brown, about his bona fides as a cook and Nightlinger then remarks how he can cook and cook well by reciting his cooking credentials. A person’s bona fides serves to guarantee a person’s good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials. John begins his gospel in reciting Jesus’ bona fides as the Light. John writes that first of all…

I. The Light is God! (Vv. 1-2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

  1. John immediately establishes Jesus’ credentials, his bona fides, as being God by giving him a new moniker. John addresses Jesus as the Word, logos. It was a common Greek philosophical term which had become the rage of the day for even the religious leaders of the Jews. Like the Greeks, they loved to debate. So it was a common term in Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy as well and it was familiar to his readers. John’s usage becomes quite clear when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” The “logos”, Jesus, was with God in full fellowship in the very beginning of all things. But more than that, “the Word was God.” John states, “logos en Theos”, and so his meaning is very clear. The Light, Jesus, is God! He existed from the very beginning, he was and is in complete total fellowship with God, and the Light is God himself! Not “a god” as the heresies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Latter Day Saints teaches. John is clearly setting up the doctrine of the Trinity, whereby the Father, Son, and the Spirit are one; coequal in power, authority, and nature. This is very important because we discover Jesus teaching later, “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” and “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father. (John 16:28 NIV)” He also affirmed, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am! (John 8:58 NIV)” and finally, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:15 NIV)” When we look at Jesus, we see God Himself! (John 12:45) John begins by teaching, “He was with God in the beginning.” It is the divine nature of who Jesus is; that namely the Light is God!

  EXAMPLE: There is a whole lot of confusion in our world today concerning what it means to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Many readily say “I believe in God.” But what they mean by that usually means they believe in some kind of higher power than themselves. Jesus is more than just a wise holy man, he is more than a nice guy who taught great things, he is the Logos, the Word; God himself! If Jesus is not God then what he was sent to teach us about God and what he eventually did, die on a cross and come back to life, means nothing! In J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf explains why he has selected a small hobbit to fight the enemy. He says, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” As nice as that sounds, it was the Light who did that greatest act of kindness ever in order to pierce the darkness of sin! The Light for John is God!

The Light for John is God; he is foundational to all things ever taught to the Hebrew people. He is the hoped for Messiah, but he was much more. For John…

II. The Light is the Creator! (v. 3)

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

  1. Like bullets in a PowerPoint presentation Johns immediately establishes for his readers exactly who Jesus is. However, for John it was important that we understand what he meant that Jesus is God and that he was in the beginning of all things. “Through him all things were made” is a statement for the power and authority of Jesus as well. While the Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father, we discover that Jesus did not at some point in time come into existence or begin a relationship with the Father. From eternity past the Father and the Son have always existed together; both are God, not two Gods. Jesus is Creator God. This is why Paul would affirm, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV)” And he would reiterate that in fact Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)” This is why John would teach us that “without him nothing was made that has been made.” Why is this so important? Simply because there are those who would have you believe that everything came into being, BANG, on its own or that some pantheistic god holds everything together and we just have to tune into the vibe of it. Nothing could be further from the truth! We are not part of the amoebic whole nor were we some blob that finally crawled up on a beach somewhere and evolved into the image of our creator! The mere existence of Jesus disproves all of these false teachings! The Light is the Creator!

  EXAMPLE: The Bible teaches us that God spoke and everything came into being, some call this ex nihilo, meaning out of nothing something. Why is this important for us to know? Paul wrote the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV)” Here is a beautiful truth that while we were once just as Paul describes us, the new reality is that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)” The Light, for John, created all things proving he is indeed God, but he also created us in him! The Light is the Creator!

The reason I say this is because of what John writes next about the Light. John knew that Jesus was more than some unreachable deity; he was just like us without sin. However his whole life reflected who he was. For John…

III. The Light is life! (Vv. 4-5)

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

  1. Life is sacred and it is the most important benefit of who we are as sinful humanity. God granted and gave us life. God gave us Jesus the life of all mankind. We all understand that to lose a loved one is a tragedy and to lose someone we love without them knowing the love of God is truly heartbreaking! Yet what John writes gives us hope. In Jesus “was life, and life was the light of all men”! Jesus is the Creator and he is the source of all life, especially eternal life! We know “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:15-16 NIV)” Jesus would affirm, “I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6 NIV)” And, he would teach, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the Light of the world! He is the one who gives us eternal life and a hope in the darkness of sin and death! This world is full of evil, violence, and death. None of us can say how long we will live or when we will die, however, if we know the Light of the world to live is Christ and to die is gain! Jesus would lovingly tell his disciples, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46 NIV)” In Jesus we have wonderful hope in a sin-darkened world! “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” That which is sinful and ungodly does not recognize the light of life! Jesus came to rescue us from the darkness of spiritual ignorance, death, and the sin condition of our lives. Paul would ask, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)” Matthew would write that “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16 NIV)” John knew that Jesus the Light is life!

  EXAMPLE: When comedian Robin Williams recently committed suicide people were shocked, dismayed, and hurt. Yet we soon discovered his life was full of personal demons of self-doubt, drugs, and alcohol. While much of Hollywood embraces all things weird, odd, or strange what a difference it could have made if even one of Williams’ friends would have shared Christ with him. I have known others who suffered some of the very same doubts, used drugs and alcohol to try to sooth their darkened souls, but found hope, personal peace, and light in darkness because of Jesus Christ. Life is sacred and we only have one to live on this earth. God granted and gave us life in Jesus. For John, Jesus the Light is life!

Conclusion:

Jesus the Light is God, Jesus the Light is the Creator, and Jesus the Light is life!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 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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