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Goodbye! – Ephesians 6:21-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 7, 2017

There was a very schmaltzy song from the 1980s called “Friends” sung by Michael W. Smith that everyone and their monkey were singing. The chorus went: “And friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never ‘cause the welcome will not end. Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” I got sick and tired of hearing this over and over at every youth camp I did but it does express some spiritual truths concerning Christian friends and goodbyes.

Paul became close to the people in the churches he established. He knew that because of their small size and how few and far between these congregations were Paul feared for them as friends. And when he had to leave them for whatever reason it was tough for him to say “goodbye”. Let’s discover what Paul wrote about this…

READ: Ephesians 6:21-24

How would you say goodbye to someone you loved if you thought you may never see them again in this life? We discover in his closing words that…

I. Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”! (Vv. 21-22)

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

1. How would you describe your closest friend? What makes them close? The apostle Paul describes for us in this personal letter his friend Tychicus as a “dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord”. In Colossians he wrote that Tychicus was “a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:7 NIV) So this man was beloved by Paul, faithful to him and the gospel message, and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ! Interestingly in this writing we discover that Paul set an example for mature personal spiritual relationships. Besides remembering his friends and companions, he expressed genuine concern for them. Paul knew that the early church in its infancy would need extra care and compassion. His friend Tychicus would fit the bill, so-to-speak for Paul. Tychicus, which means fortunate, was an Asiatic Christian who, with Trophimus almost caused a riot in Jerusalem, accompanied the Apostle Paul on a part of his journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem. He is also thought to have been with Paul in Rome when he was imprisoned where the apostle sent him to Ephesus probably for the purpose of building up and encouraging the church there. This is why he had become so dear and faithful to Paul. Paul absolutely trusted Tychicus and knew if he sent him to do something he would do it. How many friends do we have that we know would do the same? Paul writes that this faithful servant in the Lord would be trusted to “tell you everything” and in doing so he would share exactly how Paul was and what was going on in the ministry. This was more important than you realize because there were those who sought to spread lies and distortion about Paul and the early church so Paul was sending him “for this very purpose” that these new believers would really “know how” Paul was doing and that he personally would “encourage” them by doing so. Paul knew that his faithful friend would be his voice to others he sent him to and that he would encourage them during perhaps difficult times. Paul was not someone who signed his letters with “Love ya!” or TTFN. His concern was real, deeply felt, and he wanted them to know it personally so Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”!

EXAMPLE: When I had to say goodbye to my best friend as we moved from my hometown to go live with my sister it was tough. My friend Greg and I had done everything together. We had built go carts, wind-powered cardboard wagons for our stuffed animals, humongous stilts that we could get on and off of by stepping onto our roof, and of course the hikes, Boy Scouts, adventures, bikes, slingshots, marbles, cars and trucks, swimming, and other things of childhood. How wonderful to discover later that my best friend now an adult was a believer as well! For us “goodbye” became a thing of the past. Here we discover that Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”!

I learned I guess that “friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them” and here in this final passage in Paul’s letter we discover that…

II. Goodbye is not forever for the believer! (Vv. 23-24)

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

1. Goodbye can be hard to say and it becomes even worse when you may not have a chance to say a proper goodbye. However if one knows that they will be reunited with the person they are saying goodbye to it isn’t as harsh as it could be. Paul wanted his readers to know that his letter was not all they would have form him and in fact we know just how much Paul cared about the Ephesian church. We know from Scripture that “Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.” (Acts 20:16-17 NIV) He then spoke to them, encouraging them, and Luke writes, “When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38 NIV) To say Paul had a special relationship with the Ephesian church is putting it mildly. Paul deeply cared for these new believers and desired that they grow in their relationship with Jesus and is why we find him ending his letter with several concerns for them: “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul desired they as fellow “brothers” in Jesus would know intimately God the Father’s and thereby Jesus’ “peace” (prosperity), his “love” (sacrificial love) “with faith” (deep conviction)! I believe Paul could not leave his emotions for them just there though and he continues to share with them in his closing just how much he did care for them by telling them “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love.” Paul knew he would see them all again whether it was later in life or in the future in heaven with Jesus. God’s unmerited mercy is always extended to those who truly “love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love”! Paul knew that goodbye is not forever for the believer!

EXAMPLE: When the young couple knew their first child was on its way they began to pray he would be a missionary to China. Later when that young man gave his life to Christ he knew he would go to China. Hudson Taylor’s mother and one or two friends boarded the sailing ship that would carry him far away and in his cabin they prayed and sang and read a Psalm. “Dear Mother,” he said, “do not weep. It is but for a little while and we shall meet again.” When his mother had gone ashore, he wrote on a piece of paper, “The love of God which passeth knowledge. J.H.T.” This note was tossed across to his mother as she stood on the pier weeping. As the ship sailed away, he climbed a mast that he might have a longer view of the friends on the shore. There he waved his hat, while they waved their handkerchiefs until the boat was out of sight. Hudson Taylor did not see his mother again in this life. Goodbye is not forever for the believer!

Conclusion:

Paul sent his trusted friend to say “goodbye”! Goodbye is not forever for the believer!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 21, 2014

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

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

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What God Requires! – Micah 6:6-8

What God Requires! – Micah 6:6-8
by Pastor Lee Hemen
04-13-14 AM

Jesus was preparing to go to the cross and He only had a few days left to impart some last instructions to His disciples. Already He had planned how He would celebrate His last Passover meal with them. He already knew the significance of the bread and the wine He would share. He also knew what He had to do to provoke the Jewish leadership by going to the temple and driving out their wretched money changers. But before all that He would have to make His entrance into the City of David. He knew that some in the crowds that cheered Him today would cry for His crucifixion in a few days. Neither the leadership nor the common crowd understood just how far they had wandered from God and how He would provide a way back to Him. They did not understand what God required.

The same could be said of what Micah teaches concerning Israel’s wandering from the Lord and how they needed to return to Him. Israel misunderstood what God required of them. They were depending upon their own way instead of God’s. Sound familiar? Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Micah prophesied in the eighth century BC during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. His one statement on what God required of His people stands the test of time as a pillar of what God requires of His people. Let’s discover what Micah teaches…

READ: Micah 6:6-8

Ashes placed on our foreheads cannot bring about the change God requires. Micah’s first question helps us to put a personal perspective on what many of us think concerning our own relationship with God. Micah wondered…

I. How in the world do I come before a holy God?
1. Micah takes on the roll of someone who is coming to worship the Lord and he asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” He immediately begins to question his ability to be seen in the presence of God. Why? You see, he views himself differently than many believers view themselves. Micah saw himself as unworthy of coming before the Lord. There was a reason for this. Like Paul, Micah would agree, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)! Micah understood who he was and the nature of God. God was holy! This truth is often lost on some of us today where we think we are the most important thing in the world! In truth, the world does not revolve around you, nor does the plan of God. It revolves around His Son, Jesus. God related early on to Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1 NIV) The connotation was that God is holy and Abraham needed to be as well in order to walk in relationship with Him! In fact, we find God telling His people, “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44 NIV) So, the worshipper asks, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?” It is a question we should ask. How do we dare come before a Holy Lord this morning? How can we bow down before Him? Remember, we know that God’s ways are neither our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. A Holy God is so far removed, exalted, from us, how dare we come before Him at all? So, the next thought of the worshipper is, “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” The notion here is perhaps that which has been purified in the fire on the altar of God or that which is completely innocent would please God. We forget that a burnt offering was completely burned away and all that was left was ashes. And perhaps we discover that this is how we approach a holy God. Perhaps when we are totally burned away and all that is left is noting of us we can come before His throne?
EXAMPLE: In order to approach a holy God we have to have our sin burned away and become innocent. Sadly, there are those of us who arrogantly think we have the right to approach God. We forget the innocent sacrifice that was required for us to do so. Now we may think if we just feel burnt up enough, dried out in our emotions, we are a burnt offering before God. Or if we are simply saddened by our sin it is enough. Yet we discover that God requires us to be completely His. After all a sacrifice cannot crawl off the altar, it is burned up. Let me ask you, “How in the world do you come before a holy God?” Have you forgotten the innocent sacrifice required for your sin?

The crowds would cheer; strip off their cloaks and the branches of nearby trees to place before Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. They thought they had a rescuer, perhaps a warrior king, who would change their disgraceful enslavement. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” Surely God was pleased with them! About 800 years before, Micah knew better and he would consider…

II. How in the world can I please the Lord?
1. Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, “If I just do more!” Yet we are reminded of the words of God, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What he is doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! “I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!” And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, “the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites, which many of us have copied with our lives in our day! However, we should never forget that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, “with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased” (Hebrews 10:6) and that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us!
EXAMPLE: I like a good bargain, but we should know better than try to bargain with God, yet many of us try to anyway. Children are infamous for knowing or trying to bargain their way out of trouble. My Dad used to tell us over and over when we tried the tactic of pleading we were “sorry” and that we would “never do it again”, “I appreciate your being sorry, but you still will suffer the consequences of your actions.” Like little children caught doing what we know is wrong, some believers will try to bargain with God. We make foolish statements that we will not to do it again or that we will change, if only He will forgive us this time. When we do we often know we will not change, we are just trying to bargain with God. How in the world can we please God, only through sacrifice and Jesus has already done it for us!

Slowly the donkey colt plodded into the city along the dusty path. With great frenzy the crowds greeted Jesus. Periodically, Jesus would look at the faces, smile, and acknowledge someone in the throng. Today was a day of joy; soon it would be one of great sorrow. Jesus knew what would be required of Him. And here, we discover in the lines of the prophet Micah…

III. What is required of us!
1. Micah addresses Israel with the words of God, reminding them exactly what they are to do, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This advice carries over to believers today. Over and over God has shown His people what they were to do as His people. Over and over God showed them how they were to live before Him. We know several eternal truths that never change: God’s ways are not our ways, He does things differently than we do and in His timing rather than in the hurried-up mode of sinful evil mankind; that we reap what we plant in life and therefore we will, or future generations will, suffer the consequences of our ungodliness; and we are to love God completely and others as our selves. Here, God through Micah reminds His people what is required of them by Him as their Creator, Father, and God. Those who say they follow God are to ” act justly” no matter if the rest of the world acts unfairly; we are to “love mercy” even when the rest of the world desires revenge; and we are to “walk humbly before our God”, even when the rest of the world is drenched in self-indulgence and self-gratification! Walking humbly before God means we live for Him first and foremost in our lives and we willingly place ourselves last. Jesus taught, ” If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 NIV) Christians are to place God and others before themselves. This is “walking humbly” as opposed to “walking in pride”. Perhaps we need to be reminded of the words of Paul who said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) When we ask, “What does God want me to do?” In truth, we know the answer just as the Israelites did. We know if we are walking in our own self-indulgent sin or not, we know if we place ourselves first rather than the Lord and we know that we are living for the moment rather than eternity. Paul would also say, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NIV) Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!
EXAMPLE: We often go through life wondering what we should do or not do. Believers have no reason to live this way because we know what we should do. We often go through making New Year resolutions that we hardly ever keep. We begin with good intentions but before long old habits take over. It may start out just once in a while not following through with our promise to change, then it gets worse and we soon have forgotten what we promised to do. Instead of making goals we never truly intend to keep or that we cannot keep, perhaps we need to follow the advice of Micah and walk humbly before our God! Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!

Conclusion:
1. In order to approach a holy God we have to be burned away and innocent.
2. How in the world can I please the Lord, only through the sacrifice of Jesus!
3. Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance


This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 12, 2014

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:7 NIV)

Have you ever wondered dear child of God, ”Is the Lord pleased with me?” Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, “If I just do more!” Yet we are reminded of the words of God, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, “Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What he doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! “I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!” And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, “the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul”! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites! Who are you willing to sacrifice for your silly sin? We should never forget that “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, “with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased” (Hebrews 10:6) and that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us! Makes one wonder…

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 11, 2014

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life.” (Job 2:3-4 NIV)

Hey there dear brother or sister in the Lord, what excuses do you come up with when you know you should not be doing what you are doing with your life? Did you know that way back when God allowed Satan to consider Job, we discover Satan telling God that sinful people will give up anything and anyone to make excuses for their sin or for their troubles in life. In fact, “Skin for skin” was a proverbial saying, possibly about bartering or trading animal skins! Whose “skin” are you willing to trade? You see, Satan was insinuating that Job would willingly trade the skins (lives) of his own children because in return God had given him his own skin (life). He was implying that Job was selfish. Now you may think, “I would never do that!” But we can do this very thing when we trade the lives of our children, parents, family, or friends for our selfish choices. We often skin others when we say, “I need this relationship” or “I deserve this thing” or “I don’t do this very often”. And, when we do, we skin our children, family, and friends alive for our sin because our sin has consequences not only for our life, but it always spills over into the lives of others around us. Now, I know God knew Job and his integrity before Him, but remember He also knows you and your integrity or lack thereof. Does Satan smile when you make your excuses for your sin knowing you will give up anyone or anything, including God, for your sin? Makes one wonder…

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James 4:1-17 – Who Is Your Best Friend?

James 4:1-17 – Who Is Your Best Friend?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 27, 2013 AM

How many close trusted friends do you have, not family, who stick with you “through thick and thin”? A number of years ago, an interim pastor read the opening verse of Philemon where Paul wrote “our dear friend.” He stopped reading and inquired: “If I asked you how many true friends you have—friends you can count on—what, would you say?” He paused for a few seconds and then shared how many intimate friends he had. Slowly, he held up two fingers. He had two friends to whom he could go at any time and share anything with the assurance of total acceptance and support!

Folks want friends and would gladly welcome even more friends in their lives. This is also true of God. God desires everyone to be His friend. The first step is to become one of His children. Some folks are unwilling to make this commitment. Some do not care about being known as God’s friend, and do little to confirm they are! They never nurture their relationship. They assume their salvation is enough to ensure a close, intimate relationship with Him. Let’s discover why James teaches our friendship with God is important and how he helps us to consider who our best friend truly is.

READ: James 4:1-17

James addressed a serious situation among the believers he was writing. Conflict was severe and ongoing. He denounced Christians’ worldly behavior, noting it indicated they were friends with the world rather than with God. If we want to be God’s friend…

I. We are to reject worldly behavior! (4:1-5)

1. Evidently, the peace and peacemakers James wrote about were in short supply among these Christians. James asks, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” The word fights refers to chronic military campaigns, while quarrels indicates separate battles in those campaigns. In the context of conflict among believers, some were expressions of ongoing hostility while others were temporary flare-ups. James answered his first question with a second question that calls for a “yes” answer: “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” Desires refer to lustful passions that could be sensual or could be desire for money or power. We get our word hedonism from the Greek term. It conveys intense desire for what a person does not have. These believers kept on desiring and went on failing to get what they desired! James charged, “You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” James was not describing petty differences but substantial and chronic conflict among believers. The sense is probably that these Christians wanted what others had, could not get what they wanted, and deliberately broke the Tenth Commandment! James retorts, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” And “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” When these Christians petitioned God, they still did not get what they wanted because their desires were not in line with God’s will. God’s answer to selfish, self-serving prayers is a resounding “No!” They were adulterous people who were more at ease with the world! Didn’t they “know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” In fact, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God!” We might paraphrase verse 5 as, “Do you suppose the Scripture does not mean what it states?” God’s Spirit begins to reside in believers at conversion, and His Spirit continues to yearn jealously for our loyalty. With love, He intensely pursues us! “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” Thus, the Spirit seeks to guide us in realizing that if we want to be God’s friend, we are to reject worldly behavior!
EXAMPLE: Feudin’, Fussin’ and a-Fightin is a musical comedy which starred Donald O’Conner. One of songs went, “Feudin’ and fightin’ and a-fussin,’ That’s all that’s goin’ on with us’n. We are such neighborly people peaceful and sweet, all except when we happen to meet.” Sounds like some Christians I know! Being God’s friends involves rejecting worldly behavior and eliminating attitudes that lead to trouble between others and us and between the Lord and us. Ongoing rivalry and conflict among Christians destroys fellowship and diminishes—if not negates—our witness for Christ! If we want to be God’s friend, we are to reject worldly behavior!

James stressed the availability of God’s grace to correct believers’ conflict with one another. On the basis of that grace, he called on them to submit and draw near to God through repentance and humility. If we desire to be God’s friend…

II. We should draw near to God! (4:6-10)
1. We do not have to continue in a state of bitter, selfish conflict. In contrast to destructive infighting, greater grace is available to overcome hostility and restore relationships. James writes that, “But he gives us more grace.” Grace is the necessary power to end chronic conflict with others, renew loyalty to Christ, and relate in love. James quoted Proverbs 3:34 to remind us of the peril of pride and the need for humility: “That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” God is always in opposition to the haughty and arrogant, but He continually extends His favor to His people. James contends we are to, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!” Because of God’s presence and power with them, the Devil would flee from them. Evil would be vanquished from the battlefield. In rapid-fire succession, James gave three additional imperatives. By deliberate choice, Christians are to submit, resist, and come near! He urged believers to draw near to God for the purpose of offering Him reverence and worship. To do so would strengthen or repair their personal relationship with Him. But would believers do this? James described his readers as sinners and double-minded, as such we need to wash and purify ourselves! The use of these terms was meant to shock them into awareness. James stressed the sincere repentance believers should demonstrate because of their sins. They should be so upset that they are moved to lament with tears. Their frivolous laughter should become lamenting; and their shallow, worldly joy should be changed to dejection. Only deep, genuine repentance would lead to the forgiveness they needed to remedy their situation! James repeated himself, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” He called on them to confess to God their sins, weaknesses, and inadequacies. They were to admit their need for His grace and be open to receive it. As a result, God would raise them up! If we desire to be God’s friend, we should draw near to God!
EXAMPLE: When our attitudes in prayer and worship are proper, God makes His presence known to us. In approaching God, however, we have to deal with sins in our lives through repentance and God’s forgiveness. We need to get rid of our selfish motives, as well, and sincerely desire to know and do God’s will. For many of us, submission has a negative tone. It has overtones of weakness. Submission to God, however, frees us to become what He can make of us by His power, love, and grace. If we are His friends, we obey Him and draw near to Him in reverence and worship. In addition, we eliminate attitudes and actions related to pride. If we desire to be God’s friend, we should draw near to God!

Believers were criticizing and judging one another. James rebuked them for assuming God’s right of judging people. If we desire to be God’s friend…

III. We need to recognize God is Judge! (4:11-12)
1. A key element in believers’ humbling themselves before God is to stop slandering one another. James’ words indicate these Christians were engaging in criticism and needed to stop the practice. James declared that a believer who uses malicious, insulting language against another Christian or who issues withering sentences of condemnation against a believing brother or sister does the same against God’s law; particularly, the command to love your neighbor as oneself. God’s law was designed to evaluate people; any person who criticizes or judges others has taken over the law’s function. Actually, that individual presumes to take on God’s role, but only God is qualified to judge people. In doing so, the individual accuses the law and God of not doing an adequate job! That person assumes a stance of superiority to the law instead of living as the law teaches. James reminds us that, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” James reminded believers that only one lawgiver and judge exists. The literal translation of the Greek text is emphatic! “One is lawgiver and judge.” James emphasized that God is the only lawgiver, judge, and all-powerful. He can save or destroy. God has the ability to preserve life or to end it. In light of His sovereignty and mercy, which of us could presume to take His role and judge a neighbor? No Christian is qualified to do so. If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to recognize God is Judge!
EXAMPLE: When conversations turn to criticisms of people not present, how do you usually respond? What if the conversation concerns your pastor? God alone sets guidelines for living. His directives seek to protect people from evil and to free them to develop characters of high ethical and moral qualities. He alone is qualified to judge, because only He has the complete knowledge of people. James may have had in mind Jesus’ warning against judging others: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV) Being God’s friends involves recognizing He alone is Judge and eliminating all judgmental criticism of others. If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to recognize God is Judge!

James warned people who made business plans without considering God’s will. He emphasized the arrogance of such planning. If we desire to be God’s friend…

IV. We need to seek God’s will! (4:13-17)
1. James turned to a familiar life-situation to stress believers’ need to make God’s will their first priority. James described a meeting in which hard-working small businessmen—probably believers—proposed a business plan: “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” As was typical of Jewish traders of that time, these men would travel to a city and promote their business. They had everything neatly worked out. Yet, James reminds them, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?” He reminds us that we have no guarantees about the future! Each day would bring its challenges and surprises. In fact, they had no assurances concerning their lives. Tomorrow might dawn for us, and it might not! James compared people’s lives to a bit of “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!” The Psalmist would write, “For my days vanish like smoke!” (Psalm 102:3 NIV) Both writers stressed life’s frailty and brevity. James made his point clear. The traders had not included God in their plans. They felt self-sufficient and secure. Life’s uncertainty should have led to dependence on God. “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” Note that James stressed seeking God’s will in business, not merely in religious matters. The implication is that everyone is to seek God’s will in all segments of life. James knew that “As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” He condemned the merchants’ presumption and self-reliance. Their bragging about plans and perceived profits expresses arrogance. Such boasting in one’s intelligence and skills not only is empty; it also is evil because it excludes God and exalts their own human ability. James succinctly writes, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins!” God’s will is that believers demonstrate their faith by living good lives for Him! To understand this truth and to fail to act on it is sin! Failure to act misses the mark God has set for His people. If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to seek God’s will!
EXAMPLE: If we are not careful, we can live as though relationship with God does not matter. We can depend on our abilities to chart our futures and thus be guilty of the sins of presumption and arrogance. Being God’s friends involves seeking His will before we make decisions or plans and eliminating attitudes and actions related to arrogance.

Conclusion:
If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to:
1. Reject worldly behavior.
2. Draw near to God.
3. Recognize God alone is Judge.
4. Seek God’s will.

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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Commitment: A path to fulfillment! – Micah 7:1-7, 18-20

Commitment: A path to fulfillment! – Micah 7:1-7, 18-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 14, 2013 AM

“Jim” is a committed Christian who works in a large real estate office. He has been reprimanded more than once by management for being “too candid” about problems with the properties, he shows. Most of Jim’s fellow workers either are not Christians or are spiritually shallow. He does not join their conversations about movies because they usually discuss movies he avoids due to their content. He is not invited nor does he want to join them after work at the local bar. Because of his commitment to Christ, he feels lonely and isolated in this ungodly environment. Jim shared his frustrations with his pastor, who suggested he join a men’s support group that met each week for encouragement. Jim agreed and there he found other men who shared his frustration at their places of work.

Does anything in your work environment cause you difficulty as a Christian? If so, how do you handle it? Christians increasingly find themselves living and working in an ungodly and immoral culture. Government, educational institutions, and media do not support a Christian worldview. Some Christians surrender to the temptation to compromise their faith in order to advance or just get along with their unspiritual companions. Others make a conscious decision to live faithfully for Christ no matter what the cost financially or socially. In today’s passage, Micah gives us an apt description of being a godly man in an ungodly culture. Micah succeeded in resisting the temptations of his day, and through commitment to the Lord, he was effective in the ministry God called him to accomplish Let’s discover how Micah could remain committed to God in an ungodly world.

READ: Micah 7:1-7, 18-20

Micah lamented the increase in wickedness in his culture. The numbers of people disobedient to the Lord increased and the magnitude of their sins increased. Micah described a society growing more and more violent. People treated one another as animals of prey. The prophet also lamented the lack of order in society and the corruption of officials who failed to uphold justice. Micah found a path to fulfillment in a…

I. Depressing Culture (Mic. 7:1-6)

1. Micah laments, “What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave.” Micah expressed his personal experience as a godly prophet living in a nation that had turned away from God. He knew that “The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net.” Fellowship and friendship are based on shared values. Micah’s commitment to the Lord isolated him from the disobedient citizens of Judah where he lived. They would not repent and join him in obeying the Lord, and he would not compromise his loyalty to God and join them. Micah, like many godly individuals in a corrupt society, lived a lonely and isolated life. Micah described a violent society where the wicked preyed on the helpless like animals. Their sins were premeditated as they waited in ambush to shed blood. They used deception to catch their unwary victims. The word for net refers to a device used by hunters. Wicked predators lured victims with temptations and false promises that appealed to the sinful nature. He confessed, “The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you. Now is the time of their confusion.” Micah even related that they should not “trust a neighbor” or to “put no confidence in a friend.” Even families could not be trusted, “For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.” The breakdown of morals in society inevitably leads to a breakdown of order in the family and vice-versa. Each feeds on the other in a vicious cycle. Wow! What a totally depressing culture!

EXAMPLE: Micah’s description of his culture reflects the current direction and characteristics of our own society. For example, many in the secular academic world promote theories or philosophies opposed to biblical precepts. Many in secular entertainment continue to challenge biblical authority and truth through glorification of sin and depravity. When unsaved and unspiritual people control the culture, virtues are despised and vices are praised. Godly Christians increasingly are isolated and criticized for their convictions concerning these and other important issues of today. Christians also face personal morality issues in the world of business. Abstaining from alcohol amid its widespread use for entertaining and socialization is certainly one challenge. Also, Christians are sometimes pressured to participate in immoral conversations or acts by others. The pressure to get along with others can wear down even faithful believers. Christians today need to realize the pressure they feel from the world to compromise their convictions is not new. Godly men and women have faced similar temptations throughout history. We are facing an old challenge that Jesus warned us about. He told us a world that hated Him also would hate us (John 15:18). We must be careful to follow His command to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:15-16) We can find fulfillment in a depressing culture when we follow God!

Micah also condemned religious leaders who failed to act as watchmen and warn the people of the coming judgment from God. Selfishness and sin destroyed the natural affections of friends and family. In fact, it was replaced by betrayal and conflict. Micah, however, pledged loyalty to God and obedience to His Word. He spoke as if the judgment on Judah already had occurred. He predicted not only God’s judgment but also a future restoration when the people would turn their hearts to repent and obey the Lord. Micah found a path to fulfillment by making a…

II. Determined Choice (Mic. 7:7)

1. “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,” Micah pronounced, “I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” In a depressing culture, Godly people “wait for God.” Faithful believers today can identify with Micah. He too faced cultural pressure and temptation to conform to low standards. “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,” signaled he would continue a course of faithfulness despite the moral defectors around him. Micah’s pledge of obedience to the Lord is similar to the statement by Joshua that he and his family would serve the Lord no matter what choices those in his audience made, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV) In the course of biblical and church history, many faithful saints have had to stand alone or with a small minority. The standards of political and religious leaders in Micah’s day had been lowered, but he did not follow them. He knew he was accountable to the Lord. The phrase “I wait for God my Savior” expresses Micah’s abiding faith and hope. Evil people were having their way for the moment, but the prophet knew their time of judgment was coming. God’s wrath would be on the wicked, but God would bring salvation to the righteous. The phrase “my God will hear me” reveals Micah was a man of intense and persistent prayer. He called on the Lord for strength and help in those difficult days. Micah determined to choose to follow God no matter what the world did.

EXAMPLE: Christians today face powerful pressures to conform to the evil practices of this world. As just noted, Christians in the business world are often asked to take actions that are either illegal or unethical. Also, Christian singles are tempted to stop waiting for a godly mate and settle for immoral behavior or an unspiritual spouse. Gambling, profanity, pornography, and greed are representative of the bait Satan often places in his traps for Christians. Paul urged believers to surrender their bodies as living sacrifices and warned that since they served God they were not to conform to the world (Romans 12:1-2). Faithful Christians today can take courage from heroes like Micah who stood firm in faith against the temptations of an ungodly society. We know the importance of church and Christian friendships. We should seek out others who will encourage us to stand firmly for God’s principles. We must be willing to do what is right, however, even if we stand alone in doing so. The choice is ours.
Micah concludes the chapter by calling on the Lord to shepherd the people of Israel. The prophet asked the Lord to deliver them as He had delivered the people from slavery in Egypt. Micah prophesied that the nations who opposed a regenerated Israel would be humbled and forced to submit to the Lord. Micah marveled at the grace of God in forgiving sinners and praised God for His faithfulness and loyal love for His people. In finding his path of fulfillment, Micah had a…

III. Distinct Confidence (Mic. 7:18-20)

1. Micah knew that when God returned and redeemed his people the nations that had subjugated them would “be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will lay their hands on their mouths and their ears will become deaf.” In fact, “They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground.” Micah reminds his listeners that there was no God like his Lord. He related, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” Micah did not imply the Lord would not judge His nation. He knew a devastating punishment would come, but he also knew the Lord would forgive His people when they repented. The blessings of mercy and forgiveness would be experienced by the remnant of His inheritance. Micah praises God by stating, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” depicts God as a conquering Warrior who tramples our sins underfoot. We cannot defeat sin through our efforts. Only the Lord can destroy our sins and defeat Satan, who encourages us to sin. Only the Lord can give us power and victory over the sinful nature within all of us. Micah pictured the Lord taking our sins and casting them into the depths of the sea! Micah closed his prophecy with praise to the Lord for His loyalty and faithful love to Jacob and Abraham, who represented the nation that descended from them. “You will be true” literally refers to the attribute of truth and stability in God’s nature. The word translated “mercy” also emphasizes God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. Together God’s loyalty and love provided the basis for Micah’s hope about the future. The prophet was confident the Lord would restore His people after the devastating judgment. Micah knew his own faithfulness would be rewarded because of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. Micah knew God to “be true to Jacob.” God had always shown “mercy to Abraham” because God had “pledged on oath to (their) fathers in days long ago.” In his path to fulfillment, Micah had confidence in his God!

EXAMPLE: Christians today have a more complete understanding than Micah did of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We know what God did in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus defeated Satan and makes possible the removal of our sins by God’s grace and through our faith. Wise Christians know the pleasures of this world are fleeting and that God will discipline believers who succumb to its temptations. We can live confidently knowing God will reward those who remain faithful. We know that Jesus Christ will return to bring all His people into His glorious kingdom that will never end. In our commitment to God our fulfillment comes from our confidence in Him!

Conclusion:
1. We can persevere in living for the Lord even though rampant violence, selfishness, greed, corruption, and disloyalty may depress us.
2. We can persevere in living for the Lord by choosing to wait patiently for His help.
3. We can persevere in living for the Lord by confidently and consistently praising Him for who He is and what He is doing.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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