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Paralyzed! — Matthew 9:1-8

Paralyzed! — Matthew 9:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 18, 2019

We can become paralyzed by different things in life. Fear of the unknown, disease, not knowing how to act, or many other things can cause us to be paralyzed in life. But when it comes to sharing our faith about God we should never be paralyzed. Our duty is to share the love of God when we are given the opportunity by the Lord and never be fearful of the outcome.

Here in Matthew’s gospel we read about an incident that occurred when Jesus heads back across the Sea of Galilee and enters his own home town of Capernaum. Some men or perhaps some friends bring to Jesus a man who is paralyzed but we soon discover that the real paralytic were those who should have acted in compassion but were more concerned for their outward piety than for the man who needed forgiveness. Let’s discover what it means to be paralyzed…

READ: Matthew 9:1-8

We can become narrow-minded and forget God is always at work around us. And here in Matthew…

I. We learn that we should act out of faith not fear! (Vv. 1-4)

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?

  1. After healing a demon-possessed man Jesus isn’t done. He then “stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town”. Jesus returns to Capernaum which is now called his town because after leaving Nazareth, he made Capernaum his Galilean home. Matthew often is very straight forward in describing events while others are often more descriptive. It’s a matter of personal choice in their writing and nothing more. We learn that as Jesus is ministering from his home in Capernaum “Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.” The same incident is described by Mark in that “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. (Mark 2:4 NIV)” Matthew relates that “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” Some have argued it was the friend’s faith Jesus saw but I believe it was the entire group’s faith. The four men’s willingness to help their friend and the paralyzed man’s yearning to be healed and allowing his friends to take him to Jesus! Some think that because of this incident that if we do acts of kindness God will respond, but this is not the case at all. Remember, Jesus “saw their faith” which meant their willingness to believe he was the Messiah and could heal their friend. And because of their faith Jesus tells the paralytic “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Now Jesus is not teaching that this man’s illness was caused by his sin, but rather Jesus knew and understood who was nearby because when Jesus forgives him “some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, ‘This fellow is blaspheming!’” While the friends and the paralytic could see Jesus was the Messiah, the blind teachers of the law did not. “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’” These men should have been the ones who immediately saw Jesus for who he was, the promised Messiah, but they did not. Instead they were focused on their narrow vision of what constituted faith: ritualistic adherence to the Law of Moses. The four men overcame their fear and brought their friend, the paralytic overcame his fear and let them, but the teachers of the law could not overcome theirs. We learn that we should act out of faith not fear!

  EXAMPLE: Herbert Lugt writes that “I agree with the statement ‘Faith chases out fear, or fear chases out faith.’ But I also know that no believer is immune to panic or terror.” Recently I was nearly forced into oncoming traffic by another driver who turned into the wrong lane next to me. Being caught in a major earthquake can cause panic even to believers. Those who have survived intense bombing attacks say that anyone who claims he wasn’t afraid at the time is either a liar or a fool. Lugt notes that “It is not a sin to feel panic or terror in a life-threatening situation.” We need to remember:  “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. (Psalms 56:3 NIV)” We learn we should act out of faith not fear!

Holding one’s head up high whenever we feel afraid is okay but here in Matthew…

II. We discover that faith casts out fear! (Vv. 5-8)

Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

  1. The teachers of the law were so caught up in their traditions and following strict rituals they had forgotten who God was! We see this today with religions that place strict adherence on ritual, regulations, laws, or ceremonies on their people instead of teaching them about the love of God. There is comfort in ritual because it is a personal act one does in order to appease God and so one can mark off their list of duties that they have done so. So Jesus turns their strictness on them and asks, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” Jesus knew it would have been impossible for them to forgive the paralytic’s sin and not just because they were not God but because they could not force themselves to overlook their strict adherence. They believed the man deserved his suffering because either his parent’s had sinned or he had; which of course was not true! And they did not have the power or the faith to give the paralytic back his ability to walk! They were quick to call Jesus a blasphemer but were helpless and unwilling to help the paralytic in any way possible either. They were afraid to step out of what they had practiced for personal piety for so long. Jesus bluntly responds to them, “‘so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…’ Then he said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.’” Can you imagine the looks on the faces of the teachers of the law? Sucking sour persimmons would have produced better results! Like little old ladies stuck in their sowing circle of threading gossip and mischief these self-promoting pious men were caught with the pompous security down. And to their self-righteous horror “the man got up and went home”! Mark relates that “He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ (Mark 2:12 NIV)” and Matthew tells us that “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” The crowd understood what had occurred. The paralytic and his friends understood what had occurred. But the teachers of the law were still blind in their faith and it is here we discover that faith casts out fear!

  EXAMPLE: There are a lot of people afraid to travel by air. Many know what the statistics say—that they are safer in an airplane than in the family car. But that doesn’t matter. Researchers say that a conscious fear of crashing is usually not the problem. The real root of their anxiety is the fear that they will lose control of their lives once they leave the ground. A similar crisis of faith may occur when a person puts himself in the care of God. He too is carried a long way from what the world considers ‘solid ground.’ Trusting an invisible Lord can be frightening, especially for a new Christian.” However, we discover that faith casts out fear!

Conclusion:

We learn that we should act out of faith not fear! We discover that faith casts out fear!

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

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Safe with Jesus! — Matthew 8:23-27

Safe with Jesus! — Matthew 8:23-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 4, 2019

Safety is foremost in the minds of many. Electronic and digital surveillance, digital safe guards, credit card, cell phone and computer virtual private networks, firewalls and virus controls are all selling well. But there is also a push for financial security, healthcare, and retirement safety. Keeping people safe at work, school, and in public places has become foremost in the minds of many. As alarmed as folks seem to be about their family’s safety and their own safety they disregard their spiritual security.

I have heard many sermons and talks that teach about Jesus calming the storms of life and they use this passage as a foundation to do so. There is nothing wrong with this but it is used so often that we may miss the spiritual meaning here that perhaps Matthew and others wanted us to discover. We find that three of the gospel writers included this incident because it had such an impact on the disciples’ lives. Let’s find out this morning why it is important to understand the truth that we are safe in Jesus…

READ: Matthew 8:23-27

We can think we are safe when in fact we are not and here we discover that…

I. In the midst of chaos we are safe with Jesus! (Vv. 23-25)

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

  1. Smoke and CO2 detectors are now required systems for selling or building homes, yet what kind of security system do you implement during the chaos of life? When a loved one dies, a job is lost, healthcare costs become insurmountable or your finances are out of control, what do you do? What plan of action have you made for such situations? The disciples had no such backup plans. They were simply trying to live from day to day, and sadly that is the same for many of us in our day and age as well because we have made no concerted effort for a backup plan either. As the crowds grew increasingly larger and they became a bit more unruly the disciples put Jesus in a boat and sent him across the Sea of Galilee for his safety, “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” While they wanted to protect Jesus they were also ready to follow him wherever he went. And while we may think sometimes that Jesus needs our protection, he really does not. This is an important reminder for us this morning: We are to follow Jesus wherever he goes no matter what occurs around us! In following him Jesus did not promise us perfect life; we see that “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.” This was not and is not unusual for this inland lake. The cool ocean breezes meet the warmer air from the inland and the lake often gets rough and now their boat is about to be swamped! Yet in the midst of the storm “Jesus was sleeping.” While we may think that sometimes God is unaware of our trials or the chaos of our lives he most definitely is. Like the Psalmist we need to remind ourselves, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He 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 121:2-4 NIV)” And even though Jesus was asleep, he was still the Lord of all creation, but in our fear we can forget that God is always in control no matter what our circumstances or our fears are! However in their fear we find that “The disciples went and woke him, saying ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’” But were they really going to drown? Of course not! God was not finished with his ministry yet and his disciples were not done with what he had planned for their lives either. Herein is the truth for our lives: In the midst of the chaos we may be going through and our boat of life feels swamped, God is still in control! In the midst of chaos we are safe with Jesus!


  EXAMPLE: One of the most frightening things that I’ve ever experienced in my life was when at boot camp I was placed in an underground concrete bunker with a team of other men and they filled it with aviation fuel and lit it on fire. We had to depend on our gear, one another, our training, not be afraid — even though we all were – and to keep going to get the job done in putting out the fire we were literally in the midst of! It was chaotic, frightening, and totally out of my control. How wonderful therefore to realize that in the midst of chaos we are safe with Jesus!

We beat ourselves up way too much when we falter in our faith and here we discover that…

II. When our faith is small we are safe with Jesus! (Vv. 26-27)

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

  1. What we are going through in life does not dictate how God responds nor does our momentary fear, hesitation, or even our doubt stop God from working in our lives! Never forget God knows us, he chose us, and he created each of us! Again, as the Psalmist reminds us, “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalms 121:7-8 NIV)” Now dear child of God whatever you are going through does not matter with the Lord, what matters is what he desires to do with you! Paul in the midst of his doubting his faith was reminded by God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore Paul wrote that he would “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)” Wow! So when Jesus’ disciples display their human fear, Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Jesus does not call them names, doubters, rebuke or discipline them he just gently reminds them of their faith and to not be afraid. And dear child of God if you may be in uncertainty right now or in fear, Jesus is asking, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Don’t be because he is right there in the boat with you! He is not finished with you yet! Jesus then does what he knows he can do and “he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” What else would you expect from God? This is a wonderful reminder for us that in the midst of the chaos of life God is in control of our surroundings even when we think he is not! Even if our faith is not at its best, strongest, or where we think it should be. Jesus knows we are not him and that we are more than often frail in our faith. We spend far too much time beating up on ourselves, being ashamed, or frustrated rather than looking to God to clam the storms that surround us. And frankly I find it kind of humorous that “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him!” Well DUH! But again, isn’t this just like all of us? We are so surprised when God works in our lives in spite of our willy-nilly faith! “What kind of man is this?” Jesus isn’t just any “man” he is God in human flesh! This is just as true for us right now this morning as it was for Jesus’ fearful disciples way back then. And it is a beautiful reminder that when our faith is small we are safe with Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: We read throughout Scripture to “be strong in the Lord” but it is another thing when we are in the midst of a storm swamped boat! We forget that even the most heroic biblical figure, the greatest prophet of God, or the most tenacious apostle had moments of despair, fear, and weakness of faith. Yet in the midst of their fear they listened to his still quiet voice in the middle of the storm just as we should this morning. And listen to my words right now; that no matter how you feel about your faith, God sees you and knows what you are capable of and often it is far more than you realize. Just remember that when our faith is small we are safe with Jesus!

Conclusion:

In the midst of chaos we are safe with Jesus! When our faith is small we are safe with Jesus!

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

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Follow me! — Matthew 8:18-22

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

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

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

READ: Matthew 8:18-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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In the Wild! – John 20:30-31

In the Wild! – John 20:30-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 21, 2019

Life is filled with incredible encounters. As we go through childhood, we are constantly discovering everything about the world around us. When we make friends, discover the beauty of nature, and become more aware of everything around us, we begin to realize the world’s vastness. We also begin to grasp that an entire globe of opportunities awaits each of us!

God made us to encounter his love and to enjoy a personal relationship with him that lasts not just for a lifetime, but for eternity. All through his Word, God introduces himself in incredible ways, showing himself to be perfectly faithful, true, compassionate, and merciful. Even though people aren’t perfect, God has a plan to forgive us of our sin and bless us with a relationship with him. As Jesus’ earthly ministry began, he made it clear that his purpose was to make a way for every person to have an opportunity to receive his forgiveness and to enjoy eternal life with God. Jesus wants each of us to encounter his love and to be born again. When we truly meet him, we are never the same! Let’s discover what God has for us in the wild…

READ: John 20:30-31

The world is a wild and wonderful place that is filled both good and bad things. Our journey through life places us squarely within this wonderful but wild world. Wild animals are not the only thing the world is filled with but also with ungodliness as well. We discover that…

I. God came as Jesus into the wild to rescue us! (v. 30)

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

  1. The gospel writers wrote under the guidance of the Holy Spirit about some of the things Jesus did from healing lepers, the blind, the lame, and even bringing back the dead but the most important thing they shared was how “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV)” Therefore, Jesus, God in human flesh, willingly entered into a world full of sin, violence, and hatred to bring and show us the love of God. In fact the wording here literally comes from the notion that God deliberately entered our realm and pitched his tent with us! I love to go camping in public campgrounds and sometimes my camp neighbors are fun to get to know, friendly, and enjoyable but there have been times when those next to me should have stayed home and I wished they had pitched their tent somewhere else! But I am so glad Jesus willingly came and pitched his tent with us! Paul expresses Jesus’ coming into the wild of the world to rescue us when he wrote that Jesus Christ “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV)” Jesus deliberately set aside his deity and came and pitched his tent among us because God’s desire was to change people forever! And he wanted people to experience this wonderful life change for their own selves. It is like when Jesus went to the Samaritans “And because of his words (and the testimony of a Samaritan woman) many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’ (John 4:41-42 NIV)” and as Jesus testified, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10 NIV)” This is what Vacation Bible School is all about; to share the love of God with children about the coming of Jesus into the wilderness of this world to rescue us from our sins! God came as Jesus into the wild to rescue us!

  EXAMPLE: Years ago when my brother-in-law and I were finishing a weekend camping and hiking trip when we encountered three younger teens who were not prepared for hiking in the wilderness. And sadly later on we met two of them who were out of breath because of trying to run for help for their friend who had fallen off a 30 foot water fall. They had been pushing logs over the edge and he had been caught in one and taken over the falls. I ran down the trail while Dale went back to meet the rescue team. I hiked with the team up the creek bed to try and rescue the young boy but it was too late. I am so glad that God came as Jesus at just the right time into the wild to rescue us!

As we journey through the wild here in this world we can chose to have an encounter with Jesus or not. Amazingly we discover that…

II. Jesus desires we have a wild encounter with him! (v. 31)

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.

  1. John was so impacted and astonished at who Jesus was and what he did he never lost the utter amazement of what had occurred. In fact he would finish his gospel by writing: “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:24-25 NIV)” We must never forget that Jesus did not come so we could have a good worship experience on Sundays, an answer for all our emotional, personal, or physical problems; Jesus made it plain: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)” There are those who falsely think this fullness includes all of the things I listed before but in reality Jesus was not referring to this at all! He was teaching about that he came to give his listeners eternal life with God! Jesus’ detractors have always wanted to relegate him to something less than what he is or to rewrite why he came. But Jesus was never deterred. He would bluntly tell them, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30 NIV)” Jesus is God. And his entire purpose was that we would have a wild encounter with him! In a world that has become a wilderness full of those who would purposefully confuse who Jesus is and why he came we have the real truth! The wilderness of the world is full of confusion as to what constitutes sin, God, and has redefined morality. The ungodly world loves to hide in the wilderness and darkness of their sin. Isaiah the prophet declared thousands of years ago the truth that there would be those who would want to confuse you and that they would ultimately be condemned: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20 NIV)” However Jesus related, “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 desires we have a wild encounter with him!

  EXAMPLE: This is why I love Vacation Bible School because it simply and plainly teaches the truth of Jesus and why he came into the wilderness of creation to rescue us. And children see the truth, they know the truth, and they are not confused by the truth. In the week to come children will learn about being in the wild and they will learn about the truth of Jesus! I am so glad that Jesus desires we have a wild encounter with him!

Conclusion:

God came as Jesus into the wild to rescue us! Jesus desires we have a wild encounter with him!

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

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A soldier’s faith! — Matthew 8:5-13

A soldier’s faith! — Matthew 8:5-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 7, 2019

What kind of discipline do you display in life? I have a sister who never saw a shoe store she couldn’t pass by or for that matter a jewelry display she would not stop for. For me it used to be bookstores. However self-discipline is a good thing and is why the military focuses on it so much. They want soldiers who will follow orders and are disciplined enough to be able to handle anything that is thrown their way during a conflict. In fact they are trained to act as a team and to depend on one another.

Jesus desired that his followers learn how to not only have faith in him but also to have faith in one another because he knew their future was going to be tough. And here in this depiction of an incident that Jesus has with a Roman centurion teaches about what it means to have faith in him and to have the willingness to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Let’s take a look at a soldier’s faith…

READ: Matthew 8:5-13

The way Jesus handles the Roman centurion’s faith teaches us that…

I. We have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior! (Vv. 5-7)

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”

  1. It is interesting but first it is a leper who comes to Jesus for healing and now it is a Roman centurion! The Jewish people hated the Romans and there were constant uprisings against them and constant repercussions by the ruling Roman authority. And it occurred “When Jesus had entered Capernaum” a major Jewish town where Jesus lived and went out from to do his ministry that “a centurion came to him, asking for help.” We know that Pontius Pilate used extreme measures to quell any threat to Roman authority. In describing Pilate’s personality, Philo (a first century Greek historian) writes that Pilate had “vindictiveness and furious temper”, and was “naturally inflexible, a blend of self-will and relentlessness”. Referring to Pilate’s governance, Philo further describes “his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine (taking other’s property by force), and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity”. So we understand that the Hebrew people did not like the Romans who occupied their nation. And here this Roman commander comes to Jesus! “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Now wait a minute, you mean to tell me that a Roman soldier who is in command of 100 men is coming to an itinerant Jewish rabbi for help? And we learn it is for a servant no less? In his actions and words we learn a few things about this Roman: 1) He was compassionate (his servant was in “terrible suffering”), 2) He fully understood who he needed to go to for help (Jesus), and 3) he was humble enough that went himself into a major Jewish town and did not send an underling! I believe Jesus saw all of this in this man as well and responds to him by immediately telling him, “I will go and heal him.” Like Jesus, we have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior!

  EXAMPLE: The tough question here is: Can I see beyond the outward appearance of the person? George Washington seems cold and aloof. Yet he served without pay as General of a ragtag Army against the might of the British military. Fiery in temper, he rarely displayed it; he held everyone in high regard with honor and wept over his soldiers. Kids today are likely to spend school time listing “10 things I like about myself” while young Washington, in contrast, diligently copied 110 “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior” into his lesson book! Washington was known to pray often. Here Jesus teaches us that we have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior!
What we may see on the outside is not the actual person inside and here Jesus teaches us that…

II. We have to be willing to understand a person’s interior! (Vv. 8-9)

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

  1. Gauging what’s in a person’s heart is often hard to do but God never asks us to do that. Rather, we can listen and be attentive and deduce by why a person does what they do or says what they say and come to a pretty good conclusion. And further we can ask the Holy Spirit for guidance! Jesus promised “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13 NIV)” Far too often we rely on our “intuition” when we need to learn from God’s interaction! And in his humanity Jesus does just that! Jesus listens to the Centurion’s words and looks closely at his actions. Notice what Jesus hears: “The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.’” This army commander calls Jesus “Lord” meaning here “master”. He recognizes what some people never do: That Jesus is in complete control and in perfect power to do what he desires! Jesus is either the master of our lives or he is not. If he isn’t then he cannot and will not work in our lives until we are willing to become his servant. The Centurion understood all Jesus had to do was “say the word” and his “servant” would “be healed”! A Roman army officer was willing to become a servant in order for his slave to be healed! And notice he tells Jesus exactly why he believes this to be true: “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” You see, there it is, Jesus sees that this man understood the command structure and because he does he understood how God works in the lives of those who willingly place themselves under his command! This rugged Roman Centurion was fully exposed to Jesus from his inside out! Jesus understood what made him tick because he listened and was attentive to the Centurion’s need. Like Jesus, we have to be willing to understand a person’s interior!

  EXAMPLE: The tough question here is: Who controls my life? We all have comfort zones we do not like to leave. Benjamin Franklin drew up a list of 13 virtues he wished to acquire, and a program for practicing them. “I was surprised,” Franklin wrote later, “to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined; but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.” It is safe to stay inside our self-built walls. Yet if we are going to reach this generation with the good news of Jesus we must be willing to take a hard look at ourselves. Like Jesus, we have to be willing to understand a person’s interior!

Who controls our lives says a lot about who we follow and taking a hard look at one’s self can be tough. But here we learn from Jesus that…

III. We may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior! (Vv. 10-13)

When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

  1. Can you imagine what Jesus’ disciple thought? What about the crowd who now followed his every move, I wonder how they responded to Jesus’ willingness to hear and act on the behalf of a Roman? Yet we also discover that Jesus in his humanity could be surprised and “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’” Say what? Jesus is delightfully surprised by the man’s explanation. How cool is that! So much so he admits he had not seen the same kind of faith out of his own people! And Jesus bluntly tells the crowd and his followers, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” The promised feast that all Jews longed for and looked forward to! “But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Say it isn’t so! Basically Jesus is kicking them in the pants with is words! He is telling them that this hated Roman Soldier has more faith than any of them and that “many” of them “will come from the east and the west” to take their “places at the [future] feast with [their Father] Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” [Patriarchs all] but they the “subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside”! They will be punished for their unbelief! For their unwillingness to become Jesus’ servants! Remember Jesus had just gotten through telling the crowd “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 NIV)” In fact he would never know them but he would know this Roman centurion! Jesus teaches us that we may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior!

  EXAMPLE: The tough question here is: Do I need a swift kick in my bottom to get me to do what I know I need to do? Habeas corpus is recourse in law whereby a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment before a court. President Lincoln suspended it during the Civil War. John Merryman, a state legislator from Maryland, incurred Lincoln’s wrath and was arrested for attempting to hinder Union troops from moving from Baltimore to Washington during the Civil War and was held by Union troops. He immediately sought a writ of habeas corpus. However, President Lincoln decided not allow it because he felt state legislators were trying to hinder his ability to effectively fight the war. Lincoln decided to give them a “swift kick” to gain their attention. It worked even though five years later the Supreme Court ruled that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus. Here in Matthew’s account we learn that we may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior!

Conclusion:

We have to be willing to see beyond a person’s exterior! We have to be willing to understand a person’s interior! We may need to give ourselves a kick in the posterior!

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

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It’s all about foundations! – Matthew 7:24-29

It’s all about foundations! – Matthew 7:24-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 23, 2019

Sometimes you can listen to what is being spoken to you but not understand a single word, not because of the language barrier but because you do not understand what the speaker is talking about. I had a seminary professor that was that way. You could sit there and hear every word he spoke but not understand a single word he said. It was literally Greek to me! Kind of like the adults in those Charlie Brown cartoons on TV: “Wah! Wah! Wah! Wah…”

Jesus however spoke plainly and often used terms and words his listeners would immediately understand. Jesus’ words are more than pity sayings to put on a refrigerator door or memes on a Facebook post, they are words of life if you hear them and follow them. Hearing what Jesus said was more than just listening to his words, you had to live by them and for him it was how his followers built a basis for their lives. Let’s discover what Jesus meant when he taught it’s all about foundations…

READ: Matthew 7:24-29

There’s an old saying that “Practice makes perfect” and in the spiritual realm is does as well. I’m not talking about using the perfect prayer to reach Nirvana, doing the most righteous thing over and over to be holy, or discovering your spirit guide. Putting the life of Jesus into practice takes time, effort, and will power. For Jesus a good foundation meant…

I. Consistently applying God’s word! (Vv. 24-25)

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

  1. We have a tendency to muck things up and make them more confusing and complicated than they were meant to be. My case in point is exactly what Jesus was teaching here to those who sat on a hillside and were listening to him that day. No New Testament books had been written and most Hebrews discussed what they knew of God’s word from what they had to learn, which usually was what we know as the first five books: Genesis – Deuteronomy, the Torah. Yes they sang the Psalms and knew other things like Proverbs and such but when Jesus said “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice”, he did not mean from Genesis to Revelation as some may think. Certainly there is wisdom in learning and knowing what we now call the entire Word of God, the Bible, but Jesus actually meant the words he had just spoken to the crowd! If they understood who he was, the promised Messiah – God in human flesh, and put into lifelong practice what he had just taught them then they were “like a wise man who built his house on the rock”! Meaning they had a strong foundation for life! This is why Jesus continued by giving them the example: “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” When one consistently applies the words Jesus had just given them, they will have a strong spiritual foundation. Loving God completely and others as themselves, prayer, judging others, giving, knowing where one’s heart resides, not worrying about every little thing in life, knowing the blessings of God, being the salt and light in a sin-darkened world, handling their anger, lust, relationships, marriage, retribution, and how to treat your enemies were all covered quite well! And the only means to be able to do all of these the way one should was to know Jesus as one’s Savior and Lord! This is the foundational truth the crowd needed to know and understand that day just as it is today right now for our world as well! For Jesus a good foundation began with consistently applying God’s word that they had just heard! It began with knowing him!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus was the “word” they needed to apply! He was after all “the word become flesh that dwelt among us”! Few folks realize that following Jesus is not about checking off a list of rules, following a bulleted list posted on one’s bathroom mirror. Jesus isn’t a popular meme; he is the way the truth, and the life! Just as a good mixture of concrete, sand, and gravel can make a good foundation so does a life that is filled with the teachings of Jesus and it all begins with the cornerstone: Jesus! You cannot put into practice the word of Christ without knowing the Word of God Jesus! For Jesus a good foundation began with consistently applying God’s word – it began with knowing him!

For Jesus foolishness followed faithlessness. Someone who depended upon their feelings, their past good deeds, or who did not truly listen to his words were doomed to be swept away. For Jesus a good foundation meant…

II. Not being stupid with what you base your life on! (Vv. 26-27)

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

  1. In the movie Forest Gump there is a classic line that a lot of folks like but many misunderstand: “Stupid is as stupid does!” Some think he means that to err is human or that stupid people continue to do stupid things but that is not what the quote means nor does it follow the storyline. What Forrest is actually stating is the truth that stupidity is stupid if you continue to do stupid things and they will still turn out stupid! It is more in line with the notion of “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result” being the “definition of insanity”, which is attributed to Einstein but actually he never said it. Jesus knew that expecting people who consistently act in one manner to change that behavior was naïve to say the least. This is why Jesus continued by stating: “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Building one’s life on a foolish foundation will end up disastrous! In fact Jesus goes on to tell his listeners that “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Jesus spoke a lot about a person’s life and what it meant. Life is more than earthly things it is something to give away to God in order to really find life. There are those who think that really living is being able to do whatever you want whenever you want however you want with whoever you want. While it promises personal freedom it is in reality sinful enslavement. We just talked about Jesus being the Word that people needed to apply and in doing so they find real life: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NIV)” Paul understood what Jesus meant when he told the crowd that day to not be foolish with their lives and would later write that he had “been crucified with Christ and [he] no longer [lived], but Christ [lived] in [him].” In fact he would state that “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)” This is why Jesus would emphatically tell his followers, “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. (Luke 12:23 NIV)” If you say you love Jesus then you will not be stupid with what you base your life on!

  EXAMPLE: Bill Cosby used to tell the story about his son who gave himself a reverse Mohawk haircut whereby he had cut a divot from his forehead to the back of his head. After being sent up to his son’s room by his angry wife, Cosby finds him sitting on his bed sad and forlorn and when he asked him why he did it his son’s answer is classic: “I dunno!” It’s funny because most parents have heard this sorrowful excuse uttered by their children at sometime in their lives as in “Why did you hit your brother?” “I dunno!” Sadly this is the same kind of lame excuse many use for their spiritual walk with Jesus as well. It is built on a foundation of sand and ultimately it will lead to destruction. For Jesus a good foundation meant not being stupid with what you based your life on!

After sitting and listening to a local politician pontificate about his past achievements and his promises for the future one man got up in disgust and remarked, “I’ve heard it all before and it sounds like the same old pack of lies and promises.” No one was surprised. Yet here in Matthew’s gospel we discover that a good foundation for Jesus meant…

III. Speaking the words of God with authority! (Vv. 28-29)

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

  1. What people may think they know about Jesus is quite different from who Jesus really is. I’ve heard some truly convoluted views concerning not just the life of Jesus, but his actual words, and what he taught and believed. What is frightening is there is a push in America today that wants to silence the words of Jesus and what he taught. There are those who want to edit the parts they disagree with and are desperately trying to silence churches and pastors from teaching them; what Jesus taught about ungodly lifestyles, perversion, sin, marriage and divorce and also what he taught about his deity. Sadly, some churches and pastors have backed away fearing reprisals, death threats, and the angry mob mentality. Yet now is the time to speak loudly in love about Jesus and his gospel message. In fact, it was Jesus’ preaching and teaching that eventually got him into trouble with the authorities and why he was illegally judged and crucified. And here we discover that “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” What was different about how Jesus taught? There was no legalism, no outward piety, and no self-promotion. Jesus did not add to his listener’s daily burden but instead sought to lift the load so-to-speak. Jesus would declare, “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me. (John 13:20 NIV) Jesus would teach: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)” The crowds were amazed because Jesus taught as one with authority while their spiritual leaders taught by route, through fear, intimidation, and false piety. Paul would write to the early church, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20 NIV)” A good foundation for Jesus meant speaking the words of God with authority!

  EXAMPLE: Joel Gregory was one of the mightiest voices to preach the gospel with a powerful James Earl Jones voice that he had impeccably coached and dynamically used to reach folks in Texas in the 80s and 90s. He followed renowned pastor Dr. Criswell at First Baptist, Dallas, Texas but suffered personal defeat due to infidelity and divorce and ended up selling “pre-need funeral plans”. He was called an “inimitably grand oratorical presence” he has since redeemed himself by speaking in African American churches. He became the “most popular white preacher in African-American congregations nationwide” and now “holds the George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism and serves as the Director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University.” He speaks the word of God boldly and dynamically. A good foundation for Jesus meant speaking the words of God with authority!

Conclusion:

Consistently applying God’s word! Not being stupid with what you base your life on! Speaking the words of God with authority!

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

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You produce what you grow! – Matthew 7:15-20

You produce what you grow! – Matthew 7:15-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 9, 2019

We have a garden that I plant every spring. We usually grow tomatoes and green beans. We keep it pretty simple. One year I planted a variety of tomato that we really liked but a different one grew instead. I went back to the place where I had bought the plant and the clerk said that we were not the first to complain but what evidently had happened was kids had switched the tags on the young plants thinking that it was funny. Needless to say, that although the tomatoes were okay, they were not what we expected.

People during Jesus’ day were dependent upon what they planted and there were a lot of factors that could be beneficial or detrimental to their future harvest. Weather, water, animals, and other things could influence the harvest. Jesus now uses familiar language about planting so that his listeners would fully understand what he meant about their spiritual growth as well. Let’s discover what Jesus taught concerning you produce what you grow…

READ: Matthew 7:15-20

God is in the business of growing things from plants to people. For people he grows us in him. Jesus related that in life you produce what you grow and in doing so…

I. Believers need to be aware of false prophets! (Vv. 15-16)

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

  1. I have found it interesting but as soon as God began to interact with his people there were those who immediately tried to horn in so-to-speak. A biblical prophet was God’s messenger and spokesperson, a representative of God before his people. The prophet delivered and interpreted God’s messages and on occasion, also interceded with God on behalf of the people. False prophets living in the surrounding nations performed similar roles, although with non-existent gods. The Israelites were warned time and time again not to intermingle with pagan nations and thus imitate or participate in their religious rituals. We also find numerous accounts in Scripture of false prophets originating from among God’s chosen people. Jesus knew therefore that after he had resurrected and gone back to heaven this would occur and so later on he tells his disciples, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4-5 NIV)” In fact Jesus knew that there would be many false prophets who would come claiming to be the Messiah, but none of them were or are! So here we find Jesus telling the crowd, “Watch out for false prophets.” He knew there were those like the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers of the Law who were already trying to incite others into thinking that Jesus was false. So he goes on to tell them, “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Jesus was purposely relating to the fact that he had already publicly been called “The Lamb of God” by John the Baptist and many in the crowd would have known that. He confronted the false teaching that those who claimed to be the Messiah were not and those who claimed he was a false prophet were wrong! They could discover the truth for themselves because “By their fruit you will recognize them.” False prophets proclaim themselves as such in order to aggrandize themselves! The focus is not on the Lord but them! Anyone who would be willing to look closely at who Jesus was and what he did and why he did it would immediately recognize his authenticity! Jesus asks, “Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” And the answer is: “Of course not!” Therefore believers need to be aware of false prophets and not be fooled by those who claim to be the Messiah!

  EXAMPLE: False prophets or false beliefs always try to deceive their adherents into thinking they made a mistake to trust Jesus alone. I often call them the “yeah but” religions. They usually teach something like: “Yeah Jesus was a good man but he also taught….” It is faith alone in Jesus alone or it is meaningless! Jesus taught that he was God and if you followed him you followed God: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. (John 3:36 NIV)” Believers need to be aware of false prophets!

In growing good things whether people or plants you have to have good stock. And Jesus continued to teach his listeners that you produce what you grow and so…

II. Believers need to know good fruit from bad! (Vv. 17-20)

Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

  1. I have a nice apple tree in my backyard that looks beautiful when it blooms but produces some of the worst worm-filled apples ever. This year I’m trying something different to see if I can get some good apples from it. If I owned an apple orchard I would not waste my time on it and would have cut it down a long time ago. Jesus knew that just like fruit trees there are those who claim one thing about being God’s spokesmen but only produced poor results. So he goes to say, “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” If their spiritual leaders continually produced poor results aren’t they poor spiritual leaders? The same could be said for many of our politicians today! They make all kinds of promises but few deliver and when one comes along and finally does do what he promised today’s media and those who want to remain in power vilify him just like the Pharisees did with Jesus! People who try to fool others are soon discovered for what they truly are but sadly far too often those they have influenced either become disillusioned or remain deceived! What’s the answer? Jesus teaches that just like a good farmer who sees that his tree is bearing bad fruit there might be only one answer: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” God will not remain being mocked by people’s false lies and teaching. There will come a day of recompense. And next week we will discuss this even further. John would write, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:21-24 NIV)” False teachers and false prophets are rotten fly-infested fruit that live only to please themselves and fool the unsuspecting! Jesus taught that you produce what you grow and that believers need to know good fruit from bad!

  EXAMPLE: While we do not know who is saved or not we can however be fruit inspectors of those who claim to know Jesus. Recently I had someone who claimed to be a Christian say he believed there were “many ways to God”. I asked him if he truly believed what he just said because it was completely contradictory to what Jesus taught about being the only way, the only truth, and the only life and no one comes to God but by Jesus alone. He looked kind of confused so I patently explained to him that many are deceived into thinking that they are being “nice” about God by thinking that he allows many ways to him but he does not. Christians need to know good fruit from bad!

Conclusion:

Believers need to be aware of false prophets! Believers need to know good fruit from bad!

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

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