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Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33

Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 19, 2017

Interestingly there have been some articles recently that show that marriage is coming back into vogue. In fact, research has shown that married couples live from 5 to 10 years longer than singles do. Married couples are more financially, emotionally, and spiritually secure. And contrary to what you may have been told about divorce, recent studies show that evangelical Christian couples’ divorce rate is around 10% and nowhere near the regurgitated story of 50% like you often hear.

Contrary to what we may know about the Bible we are more often shown what not to do in marriage than what to do as we look at the lives of some of the biblical characters. This is because God deliberately gave us his words concerning his interaction with mankind with warts and all. However there are some great verses that do teach Godly concepts of how wives and husbands are to interact. Here in Ephesians Paul teaches us about the church and in doing so also instructs us about wives and husbands; let’s see what he teaches us…

READ: Ephesians 5:22-33

A happy and secure marriage begins and ends with what its focus is; if it isn’t focused solely on God first at its core it is misdirected. And within this relationship…

I. Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! (Vv. 22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

1. This has become one of the most talked about, misunderstood, or disdained pieces of Scripture there is within the Bible. Millennials hate it because it suggests they must be submissive and in a “me first” society this is an anathema! However when Paul wrote “Wives, submit to your husbands” he did not end his thought there but he continued by writing what he meant exactly: “as to the Lord”! All believers are to be in total submission to the Lord, period. The original Greek word for “submit” (hupotassō) means to be subordinate to, to be under obedience, or willingly submit oneself to another. It is a personal willful choice as in when one willingly submits their selves by faith to Jesus! Was Paul a misogynist, a narrow-minded bigot, or just plain old fashioned in his thinking? No way! In fact he was very progressive because he continues by sharing his reasoning: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Like Jesus who established the church through is willing sacrifice, husbands are to be respected or submitted to by their wives because of their willingness to make sure their wives are successful in marriage by their own sacrifice! It is done just “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Paul never meant this as a form of slavery or second class citizenship but rather as a godly union of a couple where the man should do his manly duty and be the wise, kind, and compassionate example like Jesus he should be so his wife can submit to him! Wives are to yield to their spouse!

EXAMPLE: Does this mean a woman should be a willing doormat to her husband? No way! God never endorses one sin over another. Paul is teaching relationship. Just as Jesus sacrificed everything for his church, his bride, husbands should be willing to sacrifice everything in their relationship with their wives so she can willingly submit to his displayed wisdom, kindness, and compassion! Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse!

Paul continued in discussing what he meant a married couple’s relationship should be like. Wives were to willingly submit to their husbands however…

II. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! (Vv. 25-28)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

1. Far too often folks have a tendency to ignore the fact that in the New Testament that when the word “love” is used it is most often translated from the Greek word agapaō, meaning “sacrificial love” and not the emotional kind of love the world at large wants to give it. This is the love Paul uses and is the same we find in verses like John 3:16 where we learn that God so sacrificially loved the world that he sent Jesus. So Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church”. So often we hear liberal Christians putting the emphasis on the emotional aspects of Jesus’ love; that he was kind, compassionate, and “loved” people while ignoring the action part of the word. Jesus showed, displayed, and proved his love by his actions and especially by his willingness to die for our sins! So husbands are to sacrificially love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”! It is a husband’s duty to love their wives by making sure she is exposed to and mentored in God’s Word the gospel message! To make sure his family, beginning with his wife, is in Jesus’ body his church! Why would this be so important? Paul knew that any family is centered in how the home is run and that always begins with the mother and wife. Husbands are to make sure his wife’s needs are met; especially her spiritual needs “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”! So Paul writes that “In this same way”, just as Jesus sacrificed himself “husbands ought to (sacrificially) love their wives as their own bodies.” We want to make sure we are taken care of and so as husbands we are to make sure our wives are taken care of first because Paul understood that “He who (sacrificially) loves his wife loves himself.” Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a “me first” society that we have often lost what marriage is to be all about. It is not making sure your needs are met, rather it is an investment in a deep personal relationship that is to last a lifetime. Marriage is based on personal sacrifice and not emotional needs. Yes, certainly emotional needs are to be met within marriage but they cannot be until we are willing to do whatever it takes to have a successful marriage. Husbands are to be like Christ in leading in personal sacrifice with their wives. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

Paul understood what personal sacrifice meant because he had given up everything, including being able to have a family for the ministry of the gospel! So he understood what it meant to be totally committed and he understood that in marriage…

III. Both spouses must give their all! (Vv. 29-33)

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1. Paul realized that both wives and husbands might have a problem with what he was trying to teach them. He also knew one of the first arguments would be that he was not married. How could he understand what it took? Yet Paul did and he wrote that “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.” Jesus had come to seek and save the lost but he also left behind something so radical that it would change the world within a few hundred years; namely his body the church. And just as Jesus cared for and fed his church, as married couples we are to make sure each other is fed and cared for in every way: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The church is to care for one another. So Paul was not just making a point about marriage but about the church body. The body of Christ is to sacrifice for one another just as Christ did for his church. Each member is now part of the whole because of what Jesus did “for we are members of his body”. Marriage is the same, we are no longer our own we become part of something bigger than ourselves and it is “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We spiritually, emotionally, and physically become something more than we are as ourselves as a church body and as a married couple! This is why Paul would continue by stating that “This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Jesus’ love for his church should be reflected in marriage by both husband and wife and so Paul finishes by writing, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Both spouses must give their all!

EXAMPLE: Just as there are many reasons for people joining a church there are many reasons why folks get married; some for personal fulfillment, some for personal gain, some for love, and some for utterly selfish reasons. And just as folks have forgotten how the church is sacred thing established by Jesus; marriage is sacred as well. It is not to be entered into lightly. It demands more than some individuals are willing to give but if they want to be successful in marriage they must learn and respond to the fact that both spouses must give their all!

Conclusion:

Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! Both spouses must give their all!
—-
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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Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21

Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 12, 2017

The spiritual strength that God provides gives the believer the tenacity to stay the course. Wanting to mature in her spiritual life one woman started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small slip of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar. Some days she had many praises; other days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read the slips. She discovered how God had given her simple things like a sunset or an evening stroll; or how he had provided momentary grace to handle a difficult situation.

What is it that gives the believer the strength to go into hardships, frustrations, and at great personal sacrifice to foreign fields to share the good news? How can they spend years serving far away from their home country, neighborhoods, and families to serve the calling of Christ? How can the average believer stand fast in their faith where they work or within the hostile environment of family and friends? Here in Ephesians Paul gives us the answer: Spiritual strength.

READ: Ephesians 3:14-21
We can forget as believers that God provides for us in ways we often do not realize. Here Paul related that we do not have just one source of spiritual strength but rather…

I. We have several sources of spiritual strength! (Vv. 14-17a)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

1. It was for the mystery of the gospel message that Paul did what he did. His ministry to the gentiles compelled him to preach the good news. And so he writes the Ephesians that it is “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Paul’s kneeling in prayer is one of several postures for praying (standing, kneeling, and lying prostrate) found in the Bible. However, notice his first comment is directed toward God the Father the first personality of the Trinity. The connotation here is not that God is our Father as some cults view him but rather God is the creator of all things. The Hebrews understood this and often referred to God as their “Father” the beginning of everything! But then Paul continued with the second personage of the Trinity and related that he prayed “that out of (God’s) glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”. Remember Paul had equated that this spiritual power was “like the working of his mighty strength” as when Jesus was resurrected and ascended! (Vv. 1:19-20) And all believers “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”! (Vv. 1:13-14) Finally Paul tells us why the Spirit does this by directing us to the third person of the Trinity, Jesus “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”! He prays to the Father who is the Creator that he would strengthen with the Holy Spirit’s power in them so that they would have a stronger faith! Wow! Paul shares with his readers and us that we have three sources of spiritual strength!

EXAMPLE: It is aggravating to hear about athletes who think they are so awesome that they are all a team needs to win. They do not listen to their coaches or teammates and fail to understand that it takes a team to win a team sport. Each coach and player is part of the whole plan to win. In the spiritual realm we can never forget that we have several sources of spiritual strength!

I am not totally sold on 3D movies. I find that often when they make a movie 3D it is because it is a lousy movie otherwise. I do not always need a multidimensional experience, except where my faith is concerned. Paul teaches us that…

II. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! (Vv. 17b-19)

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1. Paul continued his thought by writing what some of his chief concerns for them as new believers was: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love”. This is kind of a reference to the Psalmist who declared that the person whose delight is in the Lord “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3 NIV) Or like the “wise man” Jesus referred to 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.” (Matthew 7:24, 25 NIV) The believer’s faith is to be established, firmly plant in the love of God as expressed in Jesus! We are to be rooted and to continually be planted in him! Why? Paul says that it is so we “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”! Someone once wrote that “The more a Christian knows about Christ, the more amazed he is at Christ’s love for him.” In our day far too many think that this is a feeling or an emotional response and they desperately try to gain access to it over and over like spiritual drug addicts by doing good deeds, spiritual hype, showmanship worship, or continual self-abasement. However Paul makes it plain that it is a relational thing that we are “to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (we) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Jesus taught that “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23 NIV) Faith is more than an emotional experience; it is the deep rooted relationship one has as they walk with God in Jesus! It is wider, longer, higher and deeper than we can imagine and surpasses all the knowledge of the world! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes about our spiritual strength by asking, “What are the five best toys of all time?” He continues by writing that “Jonathan H. Liu suggested the following: A stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt” from a GeekDad column at wired.com. All are readily available, adaptable, and suitable for all ages. They are cheap and are powered by our imagination and no batteries are required. Imagination gives us the ability to use common things and make them something else. We are multidimensional in our play. After asking God to strengthen them with his power through the Spirit Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

Just when a person thinks they have God nailed or trapped in a box, they discover that he is far more than one could ever conceive. We can become so jaded in our walk with God that we fail to see it as it truly is and therefore fail to understand its potential in our lives. Paul reminds us that…

III. Our spiritual strength is inconceivable! (Vv. 20-21)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

1. Paul closes his personal prayer for the Ephesians with a final teaching concerning Jesus. He tells them that his desire is that God would “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”. Now we can imagine a lot of things but Paul is following up the idea that our relationship with Jesus is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than we can imagine! And so we can ask for more than we realize when we walk with him because we will understand more about our relationship with him! Notice Paul qualifies this prayer with the words “according to his power that is at work within us”! This mighty power is the same as that which resurrected Jesus! It is the same power that gives the believer eternal life! It is the same power that bought us back from the pit of eternal damnation! It is the power of God at work within us! So Paul expresses his praise by stating “to him (God) be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” Only God through Jesus could get all races, tribes, countries, and nationalities to work together in his body the church. Paul would also write the Roman church, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NIV) The Apostle John would write that the saints in heaven would sing about Jesus, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” How wonderful to know that our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

EXAMPLE: God is not commonplace. Far too many have relegated God into a position of being just like any other deity that mankind could dream up. Nothing could be further from the truth. God did not “evolve” from a plethora or pantheon of gods until mankind was far along enough in their mythos to finally make him into their image and monotheistic. Nor do we discover the same god in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. While there can exist comparable concepts and even similar stories, it does not mean they all come from the same source. That would be like saying Mien Kampf and Tom Sawyer are from the same author since they both deal with personal struggle and racism! Paul relates that we should never forget that like God our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

Conclusion:

We have several sources of spiritual strength! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! Our spiritual strength is inconceivable!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The return of the promise! – Ephesians 2:1-10

The return of the promise! – Ephesians 2:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 22, 2017

A promise is simply empty words if it isn’t kept. This is why my Father would remind us to “Never make a promise you cannot keep.” He understood that a promise is only as good as the one who keeps it. A man is only as good as his word.

Throughout Scripture we discover that God makes promises to his people and that he always keeps his promises. If he did not then we could not trust him to be who he is: always holy, always loving, always truthful, always faithful and so on. So we know that when he makes a promise, he keeps his word. Jesus promised eternal life and salvation to anyone who believed in him. Paul teaches the Ephesians just what this promise means for them and future generations. Many thought that God had left them but he had not; his promise had returned, had been fulfilled! Let’s discover what this means…

READ: Ephesians 2:1-10

We forget our condition as it concerns ourselves and God. God is holy and we are not. Paul relates…

I. The promise reminds us of our condition! (Vv. 1-3)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

1. Paul now gets down to the nitty-gritty. Like a parent who patiently desires their child listen to what they are about to say he retorts, “As for you”! He wanted them to pay attention to what he was going to teach them. He reminds them that “you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. In fact, they were dead to God just as all of us are! When we speak of death we mean the absence of communication or physical contact with the living. Lest we forget we must understand the truth that anyone who is dead spiritually has no communication with God; they are separated and disconnected from God! We are therefore the living dead; alive in the world but dead in our transgressions and sins “in which (we) used to live when (we) followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air”. We either follow God’s ways or the ways of this world that is dying and under a different rule! Now Paul was not giving the Devil any power or authority that he does not have. He is a created being and in fact does not rule anything. This world, this “kosmos” in the Greek that God created is an ungodly fallen system and therefore is a “satanically” organized system that hates and opposes all that is godly. This is why Jesus taught, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19 NIV) In this vein the Apostle John would write that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19 NIV) and because of this Paul would write that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) He is “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” And “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.” We all lived according to the world and its desires and corruption! Therefore, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” The promise reminds us of our condition!

EXAMPLE: Politicians promise us a lot of things but few follow through. It has always amazed me why some vote over and over for the same person or political party expecting people to follow through on their promises but they still have crime ridden neighborhoods, poor schools and education, deteriorating infrastructure, higher taxes and unemployment. Perhaps it would do us well to remember we are voting for people just like us who are sinners by nature and by choice. This is why Paul reminds that the promise reminds us of our condition!

The wrath of God remains on anyone who does not come to Jesus because simply by his nature, which is holy, he cannot abide ungodliness in any form. However, Paul reminds us that…

II. The promise gives us a new life! (Vv. 4-7)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

1. Paul knew immediately what God did for us and why: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions”. While God hates sin he loves us because he is “rich in mercy”, his “loyal love” (hesed)! We were and are objects of God’s wrath, yet because of his “great love for us” we are “made alive with Christ even when we were dead”! Why? Why would God who is holy, righteous, and just do such a thing? Pauls says simply “it is by grace you have been saved.” Double wow! The only way a spiritually dead zombie can talk to, communicate with, or walk in fellowship with is to be made completely whole and therefore be made alive again! And it is only “God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17 NIV) God’s freely given grace, unearned and unmerited favor, makes us alive in him through Jesus! How is this possible? Paul explains that the promise of God is fully enjoyed because “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”! We are no longer dead and dying earthlings relegated to the dust of the earth but we are the living breathing citizens of heaven! This kindness, this grace, this mercy of God was given to us so that we might live as his children in this dying world. We are his ambassadors, citizens of heaven, living here in this realm of the dead and dying “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” The promise gives us a new life!

EXAMPLE: Growing up in a family that did not have a lot, in fact we were poor. At one time we were even homeless for a while. We therefore grew up often buying used things like furniture, appliances, clothing and such. Getting something new was a treat. After realizing that I was indeed a sinner by nature and by choice and that God loved me so much that he sent his Son Jesus to die for me on a cruel cross to give me a new life, it changed me completely! Like the Prodigal Son I was lost but then I was found! Paul understood this as well and teaches us that the promise gives us a new life!

Gaining a new life in Jesus is an unimaginable gift. And this is what makes the world pause and wonder at the sheer magnitude of the gift God gives us. This is why Paul teaches us about…

III. The promise gives us the gift of God! (Vv. 8-10)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

1. Paul gives his readers a final explanation of the wonderful truth that “it is by grace you have been saved”. This is a revolutionary truth that no other religion in the world teaches or offers. The grace of God is what the salvation of God is all about. It is the intrinsic testimony of the entire Bible. It is why Jesus came and it completely explains “the incomparable riches of his grace”, of God’s unmerited favor. And this grace is “through faith”. Scripture reminds us that “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Faith therefore is not something we can feel, do or earn, and it is not a “work.”  We in no way merit salvation; faith is only the means by which one accepts God’s free gift of salvation! When we finally and willingly admit there is nothing we can do that God has already done for us! Paul also relates that “this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” God’s gift is freely given by him alone and we can never earn it, pay for it, or be nice enough to get it. We cannot earn enough “brownie points” to get into the good graces of God let alone his kingdom. There are no heavenly scales whereby the good things we do outweigh the bad things we do. We are sinners by nature and by choice. This is why Paul would write the Roman church: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV) The payment to get in has already been done by Jesus through his sacrifice for us on a cruel cross! Nothing good resides in us at all so how in the world could ungodly people do anything good enough that would remotely be worthwhile to a holy God? And this is the point Paul is making because he understood that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The good deeds we do come from our faith and this promise gives us the gift of God!

EXAMPLE: We have a creator who loves us and has given us all things in his Son. The promise gives us the gift of God! This is why Paul would write the Roman church: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV) And we will later read how he wrote the Ephesians that he desired that they would be able “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”. (Ephesians 3:18) This promise gives us the gift of God!

Conclusion:

The promise reminds us of our condition! The promise gives us a new life! The promise gives us the gift of God!
—-
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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Nothing in life is free! — John 6:22-33

Nothing in life is free! — John 6:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 1, 2015

There is a tale that the great circus promoter P. T. Barnum once quipped, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” There is a lot of doubt as to whether he actually said this or not, but one thing I have heard over and over again is the old truism “nothing in life is free.” This is true of anyone who wants to sell you the latest get rich scheme, diet pill, or quick spiritual fix. Nothing in life is free. However, the Apostle Paul wrote, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24 NIV)” In other words, we receive the gift of salvation freely from God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Nothing in life is free, except salvation from God through Jesus!

And here in John’s gospel we find that there were those during his day that wanted something for nothing as well. Some things never change.

READ: John 6:22-33

Here in John’s gospel we discover that…

I. Some folks just want free food! (Vv. 22-25)

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

1. Following Jesus and his disciples getting miraculously to the far side of the lake we discover that the very “next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone.” Some people look far and wide for the wrong things in life in order to find themselves or the answer for their lives. Often, it is right in front of them but they do not recognize it. Kind of like the crowd and Jesus. Later on in John’s gospel we discover that when the “chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. Jesus said, ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’ (John 7:32-34 NIV)” It is too late to look for Jesus when you’re looking for the wrong things in life or when your life is over! The crowd, afterwards “realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.” They diligently searched for Jesus for entirely the wrong reason, free food! There are still people who follow Jesus for the wrong reason. They follow him in order to make themselves happy; they follow him in order to be more spiritual; or they follow him in order to have a spiritual safety net. We are to follow Jesus because he is the Savior, the Messiah, of the world! Notice what the crowd’s first reaction is after they find “him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?'” They were not interested in Jesus’ welfare, they were not interested in where the disciples were, they were only interested in their bellies. Some folks just want free food!

EXAMPLE: Like I stated before, some folks today seek Jesus only for the freebies they think he offers them in life. Joe Stowell writes in Strength for the Journey, ” Each year over 3.5 million people visit Yellowstone National Park. The park is loaded with signs that read, “Don’t feed the bears,” but visitors are constantly doing just that. As a result, bears become too lazy to look for food. So, sadly, some of them starve to death in the woods—which are full of nourishment—when the tourists aren’t there to give them handouts. Ever wish you could get a few spiritual handouts from God? A lot of us are like those bears when it comes to walking with Jesus. We’d like to have everything handed to us, straight from God—no questions asked. We keep looking for those divine snacks of His direct involvement in our lives. It’s tempting to measure the quality of our relationship with God by the frequency and intensity of those times when we see Him reach into our lives and change things. This leaves us prone to the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” attitude. When God doesn’t live up to our expectations, we get bogged down in discouragement, doubt, and even a dysfunctional view of Him. Admittedly, it’s easy to feel cheated by the absence of those spiritual freebies. If I hear Bob talk about how God provided an anonymous donor for his mortgage payment just in the nick of time, I begin to wonder why God never does anything like that for me. Sound familiar?” Some folks just want free food!

We also learn that…

II. Some folks will work for the wrong food! (Vv. 26-29)

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

1. We find that Jesus knows exactly why they followed him around the lake and so, “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.'” What these folks said with their mouths did not match with what they believed about Jesus in their hearts. All they wanted was free food! Jesus confronts their hypocrisy. Often we show up to worship only desiring that Jesus “fill us” in some kind of way that will make us happy for the moment so we can get through the day or the rest of the week. This is a horrendous view of who we believe Jesus is and what he was sent to do. All we want is a quick fix from God and not something that will last for eternity. Jesus warns his listeners, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Now Jesus was not, as some incorrectly conclude, endorsing good works for salvation. Rather, he was trying to focus their attention where it needed to be, on their need to be cleansed of their sin. The loaves and fishes would eventually mold and decay, the real food Jesus offered “endures to eternal life.” which only the “Son of Man” could give them. Only Jesus gives us the food that matters and lasts forever, eternal life. In fact, only “On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel would declare, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ (Matthew 4:4 NIV)” Notice, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?'” God did not require that they earn their salvation, he requires that they only believe in the one he sent! This is why Jesus bluntly responds, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Some folks will work for the wrong food!

EXAMPLE: Cults and heretical religions are attractive to some because it soothes their guilty conscience when they can earn part of their spirituality. However, we discover the wonderful truth when Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)” In other words we are saved for the works we are to do after salvation! We do them because we love God! Our good deed do not save us for if they did, Jesus did not have to die on the cross and rise again to give us eternal life. Yet, sadly, some folks will work for the wrong food!

And finally, we find that…

III. The only bread we need is freely given by God! (Vv. 30-33)

So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

1. These people just seem not to get the picture and we find them asking Jesus, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?” Like people at an accident scene, they simply cannot get over their preoccupation for the unbelievable or inexplicable. They wanted Jesus to sing and dance for them! Jesus would later remind his listeners, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Matthew 12:39 NIV)” The crowd wanted more than manna from heaven, like the Israelites of Moses got. This is why they said, “Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Perhaps, they thought Jesus’ miracle was less significant because manna fed the whole nation for 40 years. However, they missed two things. First, the Israelites who were fed 40 years did not believe! They blew it and suffered for their unbelief!  They failed to understand the significance of their being fed by the hand of God. Second, both Moses and Jesus were absolutely validated by God and therefore both should be listened to and believed. So, Jesus remarks, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.” In fact, Jesus continued, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jesus is the life-giving bread they needed in order to survive for eternal life! In fact, the only bread we need is freely given by God!

EXAMPLE: “In cultures with an abundance of food choices, like our own, bread is no longer a necessary part of the diet so some choose to live without it for various reasons. In the first century, however, bread was viewed as an essential staple. A diet without bread was a foreign concept. One day a crowd of people sought out Jesus because He had performed the miracle of multiplying loaves of bread. They asked Him to perform a sign like the manna from heaven that God had provided for His people in the desert (Exodus 16:4). When Jesus said He was ‘the true bread from heaven’, the people didn’t understand.” (Our Daily Bread, Marvin Williams, Oct 9, 2013) The only bread we need is freely given by God!

Conclusion:

Some folks just want free food! Some folks will work for the wrong food! The only bread we need is freely given by God!

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

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What do you know about God? — John 5:39-47

What do you know about God? — John 5:39-47
by Pastor Lee Hemen
January 11, 2015

I have known a lot of folks who were penny-wise but pound foolish. They knew a lot about a lot of stuff but did not have wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two different things. Kind of like those who say they know God, but what they think they know and what they actually know are two very different things. And what many actually think they know about God is what they actually feel about God rather than the real truth of who God is. So, let me ask you, what do you know about God?

The Jewish people thought they knew a lot about God, but what they thought they knew was not true! They forgot what God had actually said and promised them and how he works within his creation and with his people. Jesus had just gotten through accusing his detractors that they had “never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor [did] his word dwell in [them], and the reason for this was simply that they did “not believe the one he sent.” They refused to believe Jesus, God’s one and only Son! What they thought they knew about God therefore was incorrect. This is why today we need to discover for ourselves what we know about God. Let’s find out what John writes…

READ: John 5:39-47

Jesus reminds us in the gospel of John that…

I. The Scriptures help us to know God! (Vv. 39-42)

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.

1. The Hebrews held the Word of God in high regard. So much so that they thought that by constant study of them they could deduce some secret or hidden meaning that would impart some kind of eternal blessing. There are those today who view the Bible in almost a cultic way in it becomes something they worship instead of the subject it is written for! The Bible contains the words of God and it points us to a greater understanding of who God is and how he communicates and works within his creation and with his people and why. Jesus retorted to his listeners, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.” However, simply studying the Bible or memorizing a multitude of passages does not give anyone eternal life. In fact in may not even make the learner any more close to God than if they had studied a encyclopedia or dictionary! If we memorize the Bile or study the Bible but it does not lead us to a knowledge of Jesus something is wrong with our due diligence. The reason was obvious for Jesus because ” These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” Every passage, every verse, and every word testifies to the Messiah, to Jesus Christ! “Yet” they refused to come to Jesus to have eternal life! Their myopic view of the Scriptures kept them from looking closer at Jesus and to come to him for eternal life! They loved to hear the praise of men who would tell them, “Wow, you sure know a lot about the word of God!” Or that “You sure can quote verbatim a whole lot of the Bible!” Jesus did not need or accept such praise and by their own example of how they worshipped Scripture instead of God, Jesus knew that they did “not have the love of God in [their] hearts”! How overwhelmingly sad. Yet there are folks today who want you to think they know a lot of Bible by their memorization, their adherence to ungodly teaching, or their misinterpretation to Scripture, but if they truly knew Scripture they would know Jesus! The Scriptures help us to know God!

EXAMPLE: We can be so intellectually-minded or theologically-blinded that we are no heavenly good! Years ago when I was attending seminary I had a professor who was trying to complete his second doctorate in New Testament Studies and had written a book that focused on the philosophy of the New Testament. While this sounded interesting at the time he proved to be so intent on his book that he forgot what the Bible and the New Testament taught us. He had us reading so much material and discussing things that did not pertain to the New Testament, that I had to lead a group of student to protest his methods. He had been so intellectually-minded he lost all perspective of what he was supposed to be teaching! The Scriptures help us to know God!

There is more than just having fuzzy feelings about God, in fact we learn that…

II. Knowing God comes from following him! (Vv. 43-44)

I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

1. How is it that folks are more than willing to listen to or accept the words of some “expert” talk about something they truly know nothing about? It is like listening to the late Carl Sagan talk about God when in fact he knew nothing about God! And in fact many of the things he believed about the universe are being proven wrong as well! Yet there are those who give way too much credence to someone simply because they have a PhD or some other initial in front of their name. Now I am not saying education is not a good thing, because I truly believe it is, but those educated in one area would do well to listen to others who know more about an area they know little about. This was the case in Jesus’ day. He told his listeners, who thought they knew everything there was to know about God, that he “had come in [his] Father’s name, and you do not accept me.” The one who knew more about God, because he was God, than they did they were unwilling to listen to him! However, “if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.” We do the very same thing when we allow people into our homes, through the front door, TV, books or movies who say they know about God but their knowledge is suspect, ungodly or wrong! The Jewish leaders loved to give one another praise because of their position in life, their knowledge, or even because of their age. Yet, they did not desire what truly mattered. Jesus bluntly asked them, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” Those who say they love God should seek the love of God. Remember Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? (John 3:11-12 NIV)” They should not be so concerned with the accolades of people but rather the praise of the one who created them in the first place! Knowing God comes from following him!

EXAMPLE: It has always baffled me that people are willing to say they know God but they do not know the first thing about what the Bible teaches us about God. Far too many today want an easy believism or a quickie spirituality without any personal investment. Jesus would say that when we come to know him we must be willing to give up our life in order to follow him, “anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 NIV)” In fact he told a man who declared he had kept all the commandments since his youth, ” One thing you lack, go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Matthew 10:17-21 NIV)” Knowing God comes from following him!

Reading the Scriptures, the Bible, or walking with God help us to know him better, but we are to understand that…

III. Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words! (Vv. 45-47)

But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?

1. Listening is more than just acknowledgement or nodding our heads in agreement. Listening comes when we actually act upon what we hear and apply it to our lives. One of the major problems the Hebrews had was the fact they refused to listen and acknowledge Jesus’ words. So, John relates that Jesus tells them, “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father.” He had already told Nicodemus that he had not come “into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world” instead (John 3:17). It was needless for Jesus to accuse the Jews. Moses, whom they claimed to follow and honor, would condemn them because they had broken the covenant of God he had established. In fact, Jesus tells them, “Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.” The Jewish leaders would say that their father was Abraham, meaning that was where their people came from, and that Moses was their spiritual leader where they had gotten the commands of God. Yet they had set their hopes on a false premise that if they diligently and methodically studied the commandments Moses received from God they would be blessed. Salvation for them came from their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Because of their spiritual blindness for thousands of years their people lived and died under a false premise. Jesus tells them, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” Jesus did not come to do away with the law or the prophets, he came to fulfill, finish, and complete them (Matthew 5:17). Paul would teach that “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Romans 2:13 NIV)” In fact he would later write, ” “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV)” This is why Jesus would ask, “But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!

EXAMPLE: When I was young I had a hard time focusing on listening to what people were saying to me. I cannot tell you the number of times my mother would ask me, “Are you even listening to what I am telling you?” or she would declare, “You haven’t heard a single word I have said to you!” For years I thought I was the only child who had this problem of focusing in this way, but then one evening we watched a Peanuts special and depicted there was exactly what I had experienced all of my youth! In the Peanuts cartoons when the adults would speak all one heard was, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” Perhaps this is what the Jewish leaders heard when Jesus spoke! If they did it was because their lives were not focused on who he was nor did they know God! Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!

Conclusion:

The Scriptures help us to know God, knowing God comes from following him, and knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!

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

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The Interview! – John 3:1-21

The Interview! – John 3:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 2, 2014

I hate interviews because I often do not know what I should say. And surprise interviews are the worst. When someone all of a sudden springs questions on you that you’re not prepared for it can be a bit disconcerting to say the least. That’s why in school I never did well on pop quizzes. For me it was like having a big old bear jump out of the bushes when all I was doing was minding my own business. I can honestly say that I never liked interviews.

Jesus has a surprise interview by someone his disciples would never have suspected, one of the leaders from the Jewish High Council. What surprised everyone is that he came at night to interview Jesus. What occurs and how Jesus responds to his inquiry is very interesting as it is also instructional. Let’s discover what occurred during the interview…
READ: John 3:1-21

We discover that…

I. The interview began with an introduction to a new birth! (Vv. 1-4)

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:1-4 NIV)

1. I have explained to you about the Pharisees before. They believed in an afterlife, angels, miracles and keeping themselves holy for the Lord. And evidently they were curious about Jesus because of who he claimed to be and the miracles he did. One of them was curious enough to come by himself to find out more concerning Jesus. His name was “Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. This was the Sanhedrin. All of the Jewish religious and political life was determined by them. For one of their own to come secretly at night to see Jesus himself reveals a lot about this man’s interest. “He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’” Later, the Jews would pick up stones to kill Jesus after they demand that he name himself the Messiah, and he responds, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. (John 10:25-26 NIV)” Was Nicodemus someone who was seeking the truth concerning Jesus? I believe this is probably true because it is Nicodemus with Joseph of Arimathea who would ask for Jesus’ body, “He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. (John 19:39 NIV)” Jesus wants Nicodemus to verbalize his interest and thereby declare for himself his intentions. “In reply Jesus declared, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’” Jesus desires Nicodemus truly understand who he is. I believe he did because he saw in Nicodemus someone who truly wanted to find out if Jesus was the Messiah or not. Nicodemus’ contemporaries were not so curious. Jesus sets up the gospel message for Nicodemus, he must be “born again.” We can almost sense the intellectual and spiritual frustration as Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and then he follows with, “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Like many, he did not understand the spiritual reality of Jesus’ statement. Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth!

EXAMPLE: In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes they often discussed, dissected and dissed the art world, which, Watterson once wrote, “attracts its share of pretentious blowhards.” These discourses usually happened in the snowman strips. In one such episode, Calvin is building a snowman, despite Hobbes’s reminder that the one he made the day before had already melted. Calvin retorts, “I’m taking advantage of my medium’s impermanence,” And then Calvin boasts. “This sculpture is about transience (humanity and our death). As this figure melts, it invites the viewer to contemplate the evanescence (meaning the disappearing shortness) of life. This piece speaks to the horror of our own mortality.” No one expects a child to speak this way. However, mankind has always wanted immortality but there is only one way to enjoy it; we discover it in this interview concerning the new birth.

We also discover that…

II. The interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God! (Vv. 5-13)

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man. (John 3:5-13 NIV)

1. Jesus had just gotten through telling Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” And now, Jesus reiterates, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” One must be born into the material world and then born again into the spiritual kingdom of God! And so that Nicodemus would not misunderstand, Jesus continues, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” People give birth to people but only God can spiritually give new birth to someone spiritually dead. One needs to be spiritually reborn to enter the kingdom of God! Nicodemus, a respected rabbi, should “not be surprised” at Jesus saying, “You must be born again.” Why are the spiritually degenerate always shocked to hear that the only way we can live eternally is through spiritual rebirth! Salvation is not found in being nice, being religious or meditating – it is only found in being born again through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit! Jesus tells him, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” While spiritual rebirth is inconceivable to us, it is not impossible with God! “How can this be?” Nicodemus asks. Being a rabbi and a Pharisee, Nicodemus should have had an understanding of these things. Again, Jesus bluntly reiterates to him, “I tell you the truth,” as in “I am telling you plainly” that “we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.” Interestingly Jesus is referring to the witness and testimony of God the Father and the Holy Spirit as well when he uses the term “we”! It is not the royal we that we often refer to but rather a deliberate reference to his own testimony. But still they did not accept his, the Spirit’s nor God’s testimony! In fact, Jesus spoke plainly “of earthly tings” and he still had a hard time believing it, “How then” could he believe Jesus if he spoke of “heavenly things?” It would be impossible! The kingdom of God is populated by those who know God! And the Messiah would come from his kingdom in heaven! Therefore, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” Nicodemus did not realize it but the interview turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God!

EXAMPLE: We often forget that we are sinners by nature and by choice. We are born into a sin-fallen universe and we decide if we sin or not. Often folks are so insecure that they incorrectly think God could never love them. Then there are those who so arrogantly depend on themselves they think only they can provide their own salvation. Both are false. We forget there is a spiritual counterpart to the material world. We are held accountable to a holy God. They also realize that if it is true then they are accountable! This is why Paul would write, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV)” Like many in our day who try to disdain spiritual things, Nicodemus did not realize it but his interview had turned to the kingdom of God!

Nicodemus needed to realize…

III. The interview would finished with his need of salvation! (Vv. 14-21)

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:14-21 NIV)

1. From rebirth to the kingdom of God, Jesus takes Nicodemus on an intellectual and spiritual journey. Now, Jesus brings it on home so-to-speak when he tells Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus takes him back to the wilderness when the Israelites had rebelled, and were suffering and dying because of their sin. They cry out for relief. Moses was instructed to fashion a brass snake on a pole and anyone who would simply look at that pole would be healed. Just as the brass snake saved those back then, those who now believe “in him may have eternal life.” Jesus would be lifted up on a cross for our salvation. I am sure Nicodemus was wondering why God would do such thing. Jesus relates, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Simply because God loves us that he would do such a thing! Why? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus’ task was to present the message of salvation, he was not sent to condemn the world – he was sent to be lifted up to save it! Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” I am sure that Jesus understood people’s indifference and their unbelief but I am also sure it was sometimes frustrating for him to be who he was, work the miracles he did, and teach the way he taught and still folks would not believe! God gives sinful man every opportunity to come to him through faith in Jesus and it is their own unbelief and refusal that will condemn them! “This is the verdict” Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” Sinful man loves to hide their sin but their sin will be exposed, however, those who live by the truth come to Jesus, the light. The interview would finish with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

EXAMPLE: The story is told that Queen Victoria was deeply moved during a church service. Afterward, she asked her chaplain, “Can one be absolutely sure in this life of eternal safety?” He did not have an answer. But an evangelist named John Townsend heard about the Queen’s question, and after much prayer he sent her a note: “With trembling hands, but heartfelt love, and because I know that we can be absolutely sure now of our eternal life in the Home that Jesus went to prepare, may I ask your Most Gracious Majesty to read the following passages of Scripture: John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10?” Two weeks later, the evangelist received this letter: “. . . I have carefully and prayerfully read the portions of Scripture referred to. I believe in the finished work of Christ for me, and trust by God’s grace to meet you in that Home of which He said, ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ — Victoria Guelph” We find that here the interview concerned Nicodemus’ need of salvation! (Radio Bible Class, May 20, 2013)

Conclusion:
Nicodemus’ interview began with an introduction to a new birth, turned into a lecture about the kingdom of God, and finished with Nicodemus’ need of salvation!

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

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The Light! — John 1:1-5

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

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

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

READ: John 1:1-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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