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Persevere! – Jude 1:17-25

Persevere! – Jude 1:17-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 20, 2018

Recently a lesbian couple went on vacation with their six adopted children; the couple got drunk and drove off a California coastal highway into the Pacific Ocean at 90 miles an hour killing all of them. They left Minnesota when they claimed one of their children was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, and moved to Oregon, and finally Washington. Actually they fled Minnesota after bruises were discovered on a preschooler and the “mother” received a three-month suspended jail sentence and a year of probation. The Harts later moved to Oregon and began homeschooling their brood, but relocated to rural Woodland, Washington when Oregon began to suspect them of abuse. They fled their Woodland home after CPS workers tried to contact them about starving and neglecting their children.

The warning signs were all over the place concerning this couple but few responded fast enough to rescue innocent children. Sadly many of us face warnings every day we refuse to respond to. We have forgotten that every day following the ascension of Jesus we are living in the end times. Each day brings us closer to his return. We think that because it has been a long time that we do not need to persevere and remain strong in our faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s find out what Jude writes concerning how believers should persevere…

READ: Jude 1:17-25

Recently a centenarian, someone who lives to be 100 years old, was asked what he did to live so long. He quipped that he just faced “each day as it came and kept on keeping on!” As believers we learn that…

I. Jude warns us to persevere! (Vv. 17-19)

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

1. Jude begins with reminding his readers that they are his “beloved” or “dear friends”. All believers share a common bond in Jesus Christ. Jude then continues by relating the basics by reminding them that in order to keep on keeping on in their faith they needed to “remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus foretold.” The early church did not have the luxury of being able to read their Bible anytime they wanted. They were verbally taught and they had to remember what they were taught. Therefore the teachings of those who had actually walked with and who were taught by Jesus himself were extremely important to learn and know. Paul had warned Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations” (2 Timothy 4:3-5 NIV). In fact he had told Timothy to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV). Jude now reminds his readers that “They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’” We now live in those “times”! There is a concerted effort to not only weaken Christianity but to make it sound like another myth and “unscientific” and many young people have fallen for these ungodly heresies. Sadly there are even those who say they believe in Jesus but have reduced him to just a nice guy who taught good truths to live by. Jude direly warns that “These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” And that is the problem with the world today – it does not have the Spirit of God. Jude warns us to persevere!

EXAMPLE: Two little boys were fishing on the side of the road. They made a sign saying “The end is near! Turn around now before it’s too late!,” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that passed didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted, “Leave us alone you religious little nuts!” All of a sudden they heard a big splash. One turned to the other and asked, “Do you think we should just put up a sign that says: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” Sometimes warnings aren’t heeded simply because folks do not know the truth. In a world where many ignore the truth we as believers need to remain faithful and Jude warns us to persevere!

Warnings can go unheeded because folks simply do not believe the warning. In a world that seems to want to feel faith instead of know the truth of their faith it can become frustrating. Thankfully we discover that…

II. Jude tells us how to persevere! (Vv. 20-23)

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

1. Again, Jude writes to his “dear friends” in order to encourage them to persevere. Knowing we should keep on keeping is one thing but it sure is helpful when we are told what we can do in order to persevere. Jude remarks that first of all we need to “build [ourselves] up in [our] most holy faith”. We can do this as we “pray in the Holy Spirit”. Now Jude is not endorsing speaking in tongues as some rather odd folks would have you believe but rather he is referencing the fact of our “most holy faith”. That faith comes when we trust Jesus as our Messiah and Lord. Salvation is found only in him alone. We pray in the Holy Spirit when we know Jesus. Secondly Jude writes “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Notice our perseverance is not a one and done kind of thing but rather it is a lifelong walk. We “keep” ourselves in Jesus by walking closely with him through our prayer, study of Scripture, and fellowshipping with other believers in worship, study, prayer and friendship. Paul wrote “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)” Lastly, Jude goes an extra step in that he writes that believers should “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Christians are not to be in bed with or develop affection for those who disdain Jesus. We are to be “merciful” to those who are weak in their faith and if we have to we should drag them out of the fire of hell they are attracted to! However we are to hate even the very clothing of those who are “corrupted” by the world of unbelief! Jude writes that believers should literally “show mercy mixed with fear” in other words disdain anything that teaches us anything other than Jesus is the only means of mankind’s salvation. Praise God that Jude tells us how to persevere!

EXAMPLE: I have had folks tell me “keep the faith” but what in the world does that mean? I know Jesus never leaves me nor forsakes me and that I am safe and secure in him, but how do I “keep the faith”? Keeping the faith is more than trying our hardest to be nice people. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ I am to walk daily with him. I am to trust him with my life. Paul would write, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)” I am grateful that Jude tells us how to persevere!

I have shared before about several men who had a huge impact on my spiritual life. Brother Mac was one such man. In his nineties he was still very active in serving the Lord. When he would say good-bye to his friends he would use these final verses of Jude. I was glad to call my friend and he often prayed Jude’s prayer to me. I have since learned that…

III. Jude prays for our perseverance! (Vv. 24-25)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy–to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

1. Jude was certain of his faith and who had saved him and this is why he closes his letter to his “dear friends” in the Lord by writing them “To him who is able to keep you from falling”. Jude absolutely knew that if you had trusted Jesus you were his forever! No one and nothing could cause you to “fall” out of his grasp. But even more than that the promise of Jesus was more than a here and now kind of thing it was a forever promise! Jesus keeps us from falling but he also will “present [us] before his glorious presence without fault and with glorious joy” in heaven! Jesus is happy to do it! He willingly gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins and so he is overjoyed to present us to himself in heaven! WOW! Paul understood what Jude is expressing here. He would declare, “You see, 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 NIV)” The apostle John would write that “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)” Jude was totally blown away by this fact and it is why he continued: “to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!” What a wonderful thing to know that Jude prays for our perseverance!

EXAMPLE: James teaches us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16 NIV)” Prayer is never the last thing we can do nor the only thing we can do but it is the most powerful and precious thing we can do. As a pastor I could not do my job without your continued and consistent prayers for me. Your prayers provide me with strength, encouragement, and protection to preach the word and be the pastor I need to be. Paul would pray for those he cared about: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)” This is why I believe that Jude prays for our perseverance!

Conclusion:

Jude warns us to persevere! Jude tells us how to persevere! Jude prays for our perseverance!

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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Pollution – Jude 1:1-16

Pollution – Jude 1:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2018

I always laugh when the media does a story on pollution and they show pictures of steam coming from “smoke” stacks. Few realize that there are very few real “smoke” stacks within the US and Canada and this is why the media has to use billows of steam in order to make you think it is smoke. It’s like when they would write dire warnings about radiation from nuclear power plants and they would show us pictures of the water cooling towers and the huge plumes of steam coming from them.

Is there pollution? Does it occur today? Absolutely! And there is also a spiritual pollution that is just as harmful that many do not realize has affected the way they think about the Bible, salvation, and even Jesus. Most of the New Testament writers had experienced spiritual pollution firsthand. Jude, Jesus’ brother, meets this contamination head on and dramatically reveals it for what it truly is. Let’s discover for ourselves what he wrote concerning pollution…
READ: Jude 1:1-16

Many in our day and age let others do their thinking for them. They are not good at discernment and rely on others to tell them truth when in fact these folks may not have their best interests in mind. As believers we must be willing to find the truth, especially when it concerns Jesus. Jude writes that…

I. Pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! (Vv. 1-4)

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

1. Jude introduces himself right away as “a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James”. He is not someone who speculates about Jesus because he declares he is a “servant” a “doulos” or bond slave. Someone who willing bound himself to the one he served and in this case for Jude it was Jesus. Jesus was his Master but also notice that he writes that he is the “brother of James”. There are three differing arguments as to who Jude was: 1) Jude the Apostle but he never mentions being one, 2) Jude an early leader in the Jerusalem church and one of two nominees to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus, but early church history and evidence does not support this, and finally 3) he was Jesus’ half brother which most historians support. He calls himself a “servant” because he had not always believed in Jesus. He now was writing “to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. He wanted them to know the “mercy, peace, and love” of Jesus as he now did “in abundance”. He wanted to write them about their shared faith but instead he “felt” that he “had to write and urge [them] to contend for the faith that was once for entrusted to the saints”! Jude was worried because “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago [had] secretly slipped in among” the believers! Like wolves in sheep’s clothing these ungodly men camouflaged themselves in the flock of Christ. They were “godless men” meaning they did not care about the Lord at all. Instead they wanted to “change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord”! Wow, things have not changed much have they? These guys wanted to add to or subtract from what Jesus taught and who he was! Sound familiar? In fact they wanted to do so, so they could excuse their immoral behavior! Jude knew that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

EXAMPLE: The word “contend” is an old-fashioned word that isn’t often used anymore. It means to fight for, stand up for, or stand firm for. The idea is someone who is willing to stand their ground for what they know to be true! Here is a good example: 71% of Americans identify themselves as “Christian” but 51% of those who identify themselves as “churchgoers” have never heard of the Great Commission! Many in our day consider themselves “spiritual” but not religious. The Barna Group writes that “The twin cultural trends of deinstitutionalization and individualism have, for many, moved spiritual practice away from the public rituals of institutional Christianity to the private experience of God within.” It is a faith based solely on feelings rather than actual facts. It can excuse the immorality of murdering babies in the womb, living together before marriage, and same sex marriage. Why has this occurred? Jude writes that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

Can there be consequences for not “contending” for our faith? Jude writes that there certainly can be and in fact the consequences can be dire. James in fact goes on to write that…

II. Pollution carries its own consequences! (Vv. 5-9)

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

1. What James was writing them wasn’t anything new but he wanted to remind them what their inaction could cost them if they were not willing to clean up their spiritual act so-to-speak. So, he writes, “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” Say what!? Remember the little incident with the bronze snake on a pole? And how those who made and worshipped Golden Calves died in the wilderness without ever seeing the land promised to them? “And the angels” Jude writes, “who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” You mean God holds even angelic being accountable? Yep! And “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” All of these “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”! Jude knew that “in the very same way” those who slithered into the church and corrupted the gospel that “these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings” just as the perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah did! Curiously Jude then cites a pseudepigraphical book, The Assumption of Moses, in showing that these false teachers had no respect for even heavenly beings: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” These folks had deliberately brought the gospel, Jesus, and who he was down to their level on purpose. They wanted to excuse their polluted spirituality but Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

EXAMPLE: Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Generation Z, those born between 1999 and 2015, is the first truly “post-Christian” generation and what they don’t believe is alarming. They do not assert any religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is more than double that of the US adult population. It appears that today’s youth struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God. More than one-third (37%) believes it’s not possible to know for sure if God is real. More than half of all Americans, both teens (58%) and adults (62%), agree with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life; there is no ‘one true religion.’” This is the result of believers not contending for their faith at home, in the classroom, at work, and in the market place. Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

Spiritual ignorance is at an all time high. People often place more credibility on what they feel than what is real. Believers spend too much time arguing over the gnat and the world has swallowed the camel. It’s time to stop arguing over biblical minutia and focus on what matters. Jude writes that…

III. The result of spiritual pollution stinks! (Vv. 10-16)

Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

1. Interestingly when people no longer have a spiritual core they distrust and even hate anything spiritual. Jude writes that “these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Cain killed his brother in jealousy, Balaam tried to get rich by selling his gift to the highest bidder, and Korah said that they could worship God anyway and anywhere they wanted! Jude writes very descriptively about these deceptive individuals: “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” Interestingly Jude quotes another pseudepigraphical book of Enoch where “the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” While Jude used books his audience would be familiar with he wasn’t endorsing them as holy or spiritual. He wanted his audience to realize that “These men [were] grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude knew that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

EXAMPLE: In partnership with Summit Ministries, Barna conducted a study among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism have influenced Christians’ beliefs. They found strong agreement with ideas to nonbiblical worldviews among practicing Christians. For instance 28% strongly agree that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of more than 27%. The New Spirituality worldview has also inched its way into Christian ethics; 32% strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” Almost 23% strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” And it was noted that younger believers were willing to embrace Marxism alongside their faith! These things are ungodly, unbiblical, and heretical. Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

Conclusion:

Jude reminds us that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence! Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

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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Baptists and baptism – Matthew 28:16-20

Baptists and baptism – Matthew 28:16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 29, 2018

Christians should be baptized out of obedience to and love for our Lord Jesus. Water baptism by immersion is the biblical method of baptism because of its symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Water baptism symbolizes the believer’s total trust in and total reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to live obediently to him. It also expresses unity with all the saints because we are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19), that is, with every person in every nation on earth who is a member of the Body of Christ where there “is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Water baptism conveys this and more, but it is not what saves us. Instead, we are “saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are baptized because Jesus commanded it: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Total immersion was practiced for the first 800 years of church history.

Water baptism is for believers. Before we are baptized, we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation. We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, that he was buried, and that he was resurrected to assure our place in heaven. When we turn to Jesus, asking him to forgive our sins and be our Lord and Savior, we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ. At that time we are scripturally qualified to be baptized. Infant baptism was not practiced for the first 300 years of church history and some texts by early church fathers regarding the issue deal with heresies. It is not found anywhere in Scripture and the closest we find are three references to “households” being baptized but a household only considered those over a certain age of maturity meaning adults.

Water baptism is a beautiful picture of what our Lord has done for us. As we are completely immersed in the water, we symbolize burial with our Lord; we are baptized into his death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin. When we are raised out of the water, we are symbolically resurrected—raised to new life in Christ forever. Water baptism also illustrates the spiritual cleansing we experience when we are saved; just as water cleanses the flesh, we are cleansed when we trust Christ.

The fact that water baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water—the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). This self-confessed sinner acknowledged Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him. The thief asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was spiritually baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to eternal life by the power of Christ’s word (Hebrews 1:3).

Why Baptists?

Baptists derive their name from their view of baptism and from the word “baptizō” (bap-tid’-zo) which is a Greek word for dipping cloth.

Sadly, most people today do not have a proper understanding of who Baptists are and where we came from. Baptists are not “Protestants”. We never protested or were part of the Reformation where Luther broke free from the Catholic Church. We came from a group known as the Puritans. Puritans tend to be thought of as old stogies who just wanted to spoil everybody’s fun. However, the modern-day view of the Puritans is far from the truth. They did not wear black with white collars and frown a lot. In fact they wore very colorful clothing and were happy joyous folks. They broke away from the likes of Lutherans and Anglicans.

The Puritans wanted to see real biblical reform come to the Church of England. The Anglican Church was founded by Henry VIII so he could marry whom he wanted. It was basically a “Catholic Light” organization. These early Puritans were led by Bishop Hooker and Thomas Cartwright and they began to call for a “pure” Church. However, the Queen and the Church of England were not willing to put up with these Puritans and thus began to enforce religious conformity by law.

Catholics and Anglicans both believe that only they can impart the grace of God. It is faith in Christ and then the ministering of God’s grace through specific acts within the “church” that saves a person: infant baptism, confirmation, confession, acts of contrition, prayers, marriage and in some cases how you die. Grace is seen as a big bucket you dip into.

This demand of conformity from the political and religious persecution in England produced a group known as the “Separatists”. The principles behind this movement were the freedom of the Church from State rule, pure doctrine rather than a watered-down or compromising doctrine, and overall reform of the Church. The Separatists took the Bible seriously and they were determined to order their lives by its teachings. They separated themselves from the Anglican Church. They believed in believer’s baptism after one placed their faith in Jesus and no longer in infant baptism.

From this group of Separatists came a small group know as General Baptists because they believed in a “general” atonement. General Baptists also had a distinct belief that Christians could face the possibility of “falling from grace”. The two primary founders of the General Baptist movement were John Smyth and Thomas Helwys.

The earliest General Baptist Church was thought to be founded about 1608 by John Smyth (1570-1612) and it was located in Holland. Smyth’s history begins in England where he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594. Soon after his ordination, his zeal landed him in prison for refusal to conform to the teachings and practices of the Church of England. Smyth continually battled the Church of England until it became obvious that he could no longer stay in fellowship with this church. Thus, he finally broke totally from them and became a “Separatist”.

From the General Baptists a second group formed known as the Particular Baptists. They came out of the Separatist movement as well. This group emerged in the 1630’s. It was influenced by the great reformer John Calvin and held strongly to a “particular” atonement. The first church was thought to be founded around 1633 or 1638. This small group in 1644 acted together to issue a confession of faith called the First London Confession of Faith. This confession preceded the widely known Westminster Confession of Faith by two years. Present-day Baptist churches can be traced back to these early Baptists. Many of these folks fled to the New World and America for religious freedom. Many of the pilgrims were Separatist and Baptist in theology.

The first Baptist church in America is thought to be the church at Providence founded by Roger Williams in 1639. This church was founded on Particular Baptist doctrine, but in mid-1650 fell away to a more General Baptist position. Even though there was growth for Baptists in the 1600’s in America, it was during the 1700’s that the Baptist churches in America began to gain a widespread voice. In 1700, there were only 24 Baptist churches with 839 members, but in 1790 there were 979 churches with 67,490 members. The Baptist John Leland was influential in having the First Amendment placed within the Constitution that guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.

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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Malachi 4:1-6 – Being prepared!

Malachi 4:1-6 – Being prepared!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 22, 2018

Most of us on that Tuesday morning had not given much thought to what the day held. After all it was a pretty normal day. I was on my way to Morning Prayer and my thoughts were on the day. I was not thinking about eternal things. This was true for most of those who boarded planes in Boston, went to work in New York City, or began their day behind a desk at the Pentagon. Few that day had any idea of what the next few hours would bring, yet with devastating swiftness we were all reminded just how quick death comes. Since 9-11, it has made me wonder how many folks are prepared for eternity.

We find that the Prophet Malachi was very concerned about the subject of preparedness. It was in his thoughts as he wrote to the Israelites. He wanted them to consider the eternal consequences of their lives. He knew that if they did not think about their actions and faith now, there would come a time of reckoning for his nation and for each individual. This morning, as we read the final few verses of Malachi, we will be forced to consider the matter of being prepared as well. Let’s discover how…
READ: Malachi 4:1-6

When we are younger we think we have plenty of time to do what we want and then we discover that the years go by faster than we first thought. Living a life of no regrets doesn’t mean doing whatever we want when we want, rather it means living our lives in such a way as to not regret some of the decisions we have made. Malachi teaches us that being prepared means realizing that…

I. There will be a day of reckoning! (V. 1)

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”

1. It had been hundreds of year since Israel had heard from the Lord. It seemed as if he no longer cared for his people. He did but they had turned away from him instead of drawing close during a time that they should have been one of reflection and spiritual growth. Instead the Israelites had wasted their time and neglected the things of God. Malachi startles them by reminding them that “Surely the day is coming” and it would not be just an ordinary day because “it will burn like a furnace.” This is a dire warning and one that needed to be heeded. God’s words to the Israelites meant there would be harsh judgment coming. No one and nothing would be able to stand its fiery heat that would melt away all pretense and burn away any falseness. In fact, “All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire”. This is more than the purification of Israel and has to do with the judgment of all people everywhere. Israel may have felt alone, lost, and that God did not care but he did. He had not forsaken them and he would hold all of sinful mankind responsible; so “says the Lord Almighty”! God had said it and so it was true! Judgment was coming. God promised it would and “Not a root or a branch will be left to them” who had been the enemy of Israel. We far too often forget in our day and age that we are going to be held accountable for our attitudes and actions and that there will be a day of reckoning!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train!” There are those who live their lives for the moment. “It feels good to me, let’s do it!” is their motto. But whether you believe in it or not there will be a day of reckoning. Israel had thought that just because a lot of time had transpired, God was no longer involved. We can adopt the same false notion when we think we can do whatever we want whenever we want. However, God’s warning should wake us up! “Surely a day is coming” and there will be a day of reckoning!

The world was going to be judged. It still is. Nothing has changed yet the world has not learned the lesson Malachi wanted to teach them. Malachi reminds us that in being prepared we need to…

II. Remember who we follow! (Vv. 2-3)

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty.

1. Those that followed the Lord would not face the harsh judgment of God. Malachi gives the Israelites hope by reminding them “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” If we revere the Lord, lift him up and follow him we have nothing to fear. Those who revere God follow him no matter what others do or say. Reverence for God means you honor him with your life and not just give him lip service. The Day of the Lord would be horrendous for the wicked but for God’s people it would be one not of darkness but of sunshine and healing! The promises of God would come completely true for those he loves. No longer enslaved, no longer held captive, no longer seen as nothing God’s people would now “go out and leap like calves released from their stall.” Like a new day when the farmer lets his livestock out to forage and where the little calves leap for joy at being let go for the day the Israelites would leap for joy at being freed! These words are attributed to the Messiah who would come. The righteous would be victorious. God’s promise was that they would “trample down the wicked”. In fact they would “be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things” the LORD Almighty promised. Malachi knew the Israelites had stopped following God but he had not given up them. Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow!

EXAMPLE: Why do you think that so many politicians end their remarks with, “God bless America”? Some would say it is an attempt at misguided patriotism. I honestly believe it is because they are trying to connect themselves with God whom they have forgotten, hoping their listeners will think they are both patriotic and religious. Perhaps, they want to re-identify themselves with their country and the inherent ideals that were foundational in her formation, although I rather doubt it. Why am I so skeptical? God has always been at the center of our nation no matter how many try to say otherwise. God is to be the foundation of any nation. His law is where we get our notion of freedom and liberty, the idea that everyone has worth. Malachi knew that God’s people are to remember their relationship with God. Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow!

The Israelites needed to remember their past in order to prepare themselves for the present situation. If they could not they would not be prepared to step into the future God had for them. The same is true for us and our nation as well. Malachi understood this and reminds us that in being prepared…

III. We should reconsider our future formation! (Vv. 4-6)

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

1. For them to remember the important moments of faith and Moses’ teachings would reestablish their spiritual foundation. Malachi tells them “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Too often we forget the past, and when we do we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Malachi attempted to correct the problem of forgetting the teachings of God by calling the Israelites back to those basic tenets of faith. God’s people are to remember their relationship with God! To prepare ourselves for eternity, we need to reorient our hearts to him. His words refer to the act of actually remembering the Law combined with appropriate actions. The Israelites thought that Elijah would come before the Messiah came because of what Malachi shared: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” He would “turn the hearts” of those who were willing to listen. The work of this Elijah-like messenger was found in John the Baptist. Malachi relates, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” There is no greater need in America today than fathers to be actively involved in the spiritual lives of their children. We face a paternal spiritual crisis where fathers are not involved in the spiritual preparation of their children and because of this we face a vacuum that is being filled by all other kinds of ungodly behavior. This future formation must be heeded because unless God intervenes, the nation would be “cursed”. Malachi reminds us that we should reconsider our future formation!

EXAMPLE: Stamped on our money are the words, “In God We Trust,” yet is this true? The stones that Joshua put in the Jordan have been washed away, the fire pit of Elijah is overgrown with weeds and forgotten, and the temple in Jerusalem is no more. No one knows for absolute certainty where the empty tomb of Christ is. The only monument that stands the test of time is the one made in the human heart by God’s handiwork through the blood of Jesus. Will we remember the prayers we prayed and our conscious decision to follow God again? Will the dust of our dried out faith become the soil of renewal where “In God We Trust,” really means what it says? The choice is ours to make this morning. Joel said that, “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.” Then he asked, “Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11 NIV) Malachi reminds us that we should reconsider our future formation!

Conclusion:

Paul said that, “the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 NIV) Malachi warned Israel that here will be a day of reckoning, Malachi reminds us that we need to remember who we follow, and Malachi prompts us to reconsider our future formation!

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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Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2018

At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.

Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…

READ: Malachi 3:7-12

Why will one child graciously share while another display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude? The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…

I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)

“Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ ‘Will a man rob God?’ Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.”

1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust! God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude: “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond: “Return to me, and I will return to you”. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through because he does “not change”. The Israelites smirk, “How are we to return?” They knew their problem was they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They falsely believed “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).” The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” The quality of their sacrifices was poor and they deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice”! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Offerings however were to be above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV) The Israelites displayed the disobedient attitude of not trusting God!

EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?

It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…

II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)

You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me.

1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing! When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings. Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children? Here we discover the result of what disobedience brings!

EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you? Malachi teaches us the result of what disobedience brings!

For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).This is why Malachi reminds us that…

III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God! The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings? Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by brining the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. Malachi teaches us that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemerlives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

Conclusion:

We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.

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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Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 8, 2018

Being a parent is tough, but I cannot imagine being a single parent. When we were kids my mother, after a particularly hard day, would tell us, “You kids are going to wear your old mother out!” Looking back on this I find it kind of humorous since at the time she was only about 35 years old and she had the backup of my father! Perhaps it was the constant care she had to give to two young active little boys who were always on the go? Being a good parent can, at times, make one feel a little worn out.

I wonder how God feels when his constant care of his children wears on him. Not that God can be worn out, he is God after all. However, when his children continually distrust, disobey, and disrespect him, God tells us he becomes “weary.” Malachi tells the Israelites that God has grown weary of their endless spiritual platitudes. Who were they trying to fool? They did not trust God. We discover that Malachi’s message is just as valid today as it was when he first presented it! As God’s children we are to fully hope in God and not weary him! It’s a matter of being hopeful, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 2:17-3:6

God’s people can begin to think and act without faith. We can begin to blame God for the outcome of our own sinful choices. Israel did just that. God’s people need to remember that faith begins and ends in hope. In fact Malachi reminds us that…

I. Our actions show our hope in the Lord! (V. 2:17)

You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”

1. How we live says more about what we believe than all our empty words of praise! First, the Israelites had no hope because they were spiritual beggars! They begged God for blessing without investing anything themselves. They are accused of wearing the Lord and ask, “How have we wearied him?” The implication was, “It’s not our fault it’s God’s fault!” They were blinded to their sinful manipulation! The Psalmist related they “soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for (Psalm 106:13-14 NIV)!” They were acting and talking as if they had no God to hope in! This world is a spiritual desert, a wasteland and Christians can give into their cravings when they beg God and then blame God for their choices! Secondly, the Israelites had no hope because they trusted in themselves, in their judgment, and in their own decisions of what was right or wrong. They had the gall to sarcastically declare, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” Can you imagine a nation where God had blessed it and manifested himself daily, saying this? Christians can do this very thing when they question why God allows the ungodly to prosper and then question why God doesn’t make them prosper too! This is defining for God what sin should be according to our standards! And finally the Israelites had no hope because they wanted to know, “Where is the God of justice?” In other words they demanded, “If God is real, where is he when we need him?” And this was coming from God’s own people! WOW! Talk about audacity! They questioned God’s justice by saying that he delighted in evil people more than those he chose to love! Yet they were the guilty ones, they were the ones who were unfaithful! God was only God to them when they could see the benefits! Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever known people who are always demanding attention, wanting more for themselves but never giving anything in return? No not your preschooler. What do we call children who act this way? Spoiled! This is what God’s people had become, Spiritually-spoiled brats! They had begun to think that they deserved being blessed because they were God’s chosen people and not because they were faithful. Their hope was not in the God of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac. Their hope was only in what they could get from God now! They had become like the pagan world around them, seeing God as a good luck charm, something to be manipulated for personal gain. We can weary God when we do the same thing. A God who is infinitely patient and loving was pushed to the point of judgment by those who should have been placing their hope in him. Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

It would be about 500 years before John the Baptist would be a voice crying out in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites would be defeated again, taken into national captivity, and enter into a time of spiritual desperation. Through it all the Israelites had a reason to not despair and we discover that…

II. God offers us hope in a hopeless world! (Vv. 3:1-6)

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

1. The gospel writer Matthew quoted Isaiah concerning Jesus by stating that “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV) First, Malachi writes about the coming of God’s wonderful messenger! (V.3:1a) This title “the messenger of the covenant” occurs only here. Many believe it points to John the Baptist, others believe it references Jesus. Malachi relates that “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” Yet, what if the people aren’t prepared and are still sinning? Jesus has “entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV) God’s messenger has come and the Messiah has entered his temple! Secondly, Malachi mentions God’s judgment! Malachi asks two questions: “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” The answer is “No one.” The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment on the whole world for those who do not know the Messiah, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” No one will escape Jesus’ judgment! In fact “he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” God tells them, “I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.” God will judge what we believe and how we live! Yet, in all of this there is the basis for hope! Will God’s people be destroyed or put to shame? God says, “No.” “I the Lord do not change!” We can trust in God to do what he promised, “So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” God has left a remnant in those who believe in Jesus. Peter reminds us that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)” — those who trust in Christ are never put to shame. God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

EXAMPLE: Hope is a gift of God. It does not come wrapped in fancy packaging. In fact real hope came in the form of a very ordinary looking man. He wasn’t anyone you would notice or think of as a hero or a celebrity. Yet at just the perfect time he came to give us all hope, the greatest gift of all. This hope is a free gift as well. It isn’t a come on or a con. Although the hope offered by this one man, changes the con or the priest or the seeker of truth. He is God’s Messiah. He is the hope of the world. He is Jesus Christ. What the Israelites had a tough time understanding in Malachi’s day, we can have in hindsight this morning. Jesus has already come, proven his love for us in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

Conclusion:

Dave Franco talks about his young married life as a writer. He had lost his job, his apartment building evicted his family and was becoming a co-op. His wife was pregnant with their second child. In New York City, out of a job, in a place with high rent, and a new family–Dave was frantic. One day they were walking home and he could not stand the pressure of a silent God. “What is God doing?” he angrily demanded of his wife Nicole. Just then his three-year-old son Julian threw a fit because they had passed an ice cream truck and did not stop. “Not now,” they told him. That didn’t work. Finally, after all else failed, Dave told him, “Julian, you’re just going to have to wait!” Dave’s wife remarked, “You know, Julian’s doing exactly the same thing to us that we’re doing to God. God is saying, ‘Wait,’ and we’re telling him we want our ice cream and we want it now.” Israel had become spoiled and negligent spiritually. They failed to place their hope in the One who gives us hope. Dear child of God, have you? Remember, our actions show our hope in the Lord and God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

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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Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 — We have a risen Lord!

Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 — We have a risen Lord!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 1, 2018 AM

The message of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus as an event that means much more than a historical fact. His victory over death brings peace and comfort to all who have trusted in him as Lord and Savior. Further, Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for the believers’ resurrection and living with him forever. Therefore, this is the beautiful truth of Easter: We have a risen Lord!

After Jesus’ death, Joseph buried His body hastily in a nearby tomb. A large stone rolled in front of the entrance was meant to keep out marauders and wild animals as well as Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 27:62-66). All day Saturday Jesus’ followers grieved, but they could do nothing. The Fourth Commandment prohibited work, including preparations for burial, on the Sabbath. Finally, Sunday morning dawned, the first day of the week and some of the women who had followed Jesus went to visit his grave. They could not have imagined what they were about to experience. Their initial response was fright, but soon they realized that Jesus had risen! Let’s rediscover this truth again…

READ: Luke 24:1-8; 36-48

The inspired writers of the New Testament who declared the resurrection of Jesus never actually described the sequence of events inside the tomb. Nobody saw Jesus’ dead body when God miraculously transformed him. No human eye observed Jesus coming out of the tomb. What the Gospels and the Epistles record, instead, are two amazing facts: Jesus’ tomb was empty and he appeared alive to his followers. The only possible conclusion was that he had been resurrected and because of this we know for certain…

I. Jesus is alive! (Luke 24:1-8)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

1. We find that “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” Afterwards, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Jesus’ body was gone. And “While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.” Next, however, they heard unexpected words. The news they received began the process of taking them from despair to hope and faith. And the words they heard were from a very unlikely source. They were asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” They did not find the body they were looking for. Instead they saw two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning, an obvious reference to angelic beings. These men reminded them of the words Jesus had spoken about His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 9:31; Luke 18:31-34). If they could not find what they were looking for, why were they looking for it there? The fact was, “He is not here; he has risen!” They had forgotten what Jesus had told them while still in Galilee, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” It was only after they realized what had occurred they “remembered his words”! We have a risen Lord! Jesus is alive!

EXAMPLE: When a teenager named Poh Fang learned about Jesus’ love for her and received him as her Savior, her parents weren’t sure about the merits of Christianity. So they sent her older sister with her to church to keep an eye on her. But something happened that they didn’t expect. The powerful Word of God penetrated the heart of the older sister, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior as well. Think back to the time you first realized Jesus is truly alive. Consider today that proclaiming the good news to lost people must include the truth that Jesus arose from the dead, for there is no good news without Jesus’ resurrection. How can you help others know that Jesus is alive?

Luke writes that the women told their experiences to the disciples, who thought they were spouting nonsense. Later that day, two of Jesus’ followers were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Jesus appears beside them with his identity concealed and engages them in conversation. When at last they realized he was Jesus, they rush back to Jerusalem. They discover that rumors about the resurrection were spreading like wildfire. In the turmoil that follows we find that…

II. Jesus provides peace! (Luke 24:36-48)

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

1. We now find the disciples still discussing what occurred when without warning Jesus himself stands among them! That they were “startled and frightened” was because they still hadn’t grasped the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That night, Jesus helps them understand this new reality. Jesus immediately tells them, “Peace to you!” The first gift of the Lord Jesus was peace. The Jewish greeting now had a much fuller significance. Christ’s followers had been in terrible turmoil, seeing their Lord tortured and crucified. But now even in the midst of this they could have “peace”. He asks, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” And then reassures them, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” He provides proof by showing “them his hands and feet” and asking for something to eat and then eating with them. Jesus showed his followers all the facts written… in the Old Testament about the Messiah in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. In doing this, he “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Namely, that “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” They could find peace in this because they were “witnesses of these things!” They experienced every bit of the prophecies being fulfilled! In His presence, in his fulfillment, and in his resurrection Jesus provides peace!

EXAMPLE: Today around the world millions of Christians will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. They will meet in cathedrals, storefronts, and homes. Some will meet openly with thousands of other believers. Others will meet secretly with a handful of fellow Christians for fear of persecution. All will be there affirming the good news that Jesus offers his followers peace in troubling circumstances, just as on that first Easter. We have a risen Lord and because of this Jesus provides us peace!

Conclusion:

We have a risen Lord! Jesus’ resurrection is established by the empty tomb and by His appearances. The risen Christ provides peace in the midst of troubling circumstances. Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Scriptures.

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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