Tag Archives: God’s love

Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21

Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 12, 2017

In 1993 there was a movie based on the life of the singer Tina Turner that used the title of her hit song “What’s Love Got to do With It”. The song deals with the confusion a person has between physical and emotional love. For her it is only a “second hand emotion” that is “a sweet old fashioned notion”. People have confused emotional love and sexual lust for centuries.

Biblical love has been misinterpreted for generations as well. In fact there are those in our day and age who think that while God is love and that he so loved the world then he loves everyone equally the same. I hate to burst your politically correct bubbles but this is simply not true. When John taught that since God loved us then we should live in his love he did not mean some emotional state or an acceptance of ungodly sin. God’s love is sacrificial and we are to walk in that kind of love.

READ: Ephesians 5:1-21

God sacrificially loved us so much that he came as Jesus to die for our sinful condition. Because of our willingness to accept his sacrificial love we must be willing to live in the same kind of sacrificial love ourselves.

I. We must emulate God’s love! (Vv. 1-7)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

1. We live in a world where there is a complete misconception concerning what the love of God is all about. If you have believed in Christ you will be changed by his sacrificial love for you, period. If that change is not displayed in your life, then there is something drastically wrong. Paul bluntly writes, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love”. Sacrifice is to be part and parcel of the believer’s life as God’s children. In fact Christians are to live such sacrificially focused lives “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”! We are to set aside the ungodly sinful desires we had before because “among” God’s children “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” In a society where every song, every movie, TV show, commercial, and way of life is saturated with an ungodly and unhealthy view of what real love is this can seem impossible! But a child of God is spiritually changed and that change should affect every aspect of their life. And as God’s holy people there should not be any “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”! Paul understood that there should be a change; he had experienced it for himself! This is why he continues that “of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” When someone tries to fool you into thinking he or she is saved when in fact they are not they are dishonest, dirty, and or grasping self-indulgent narcissists and they have no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”!  When one claims the sacrifice of Jesus they are being deceptive and their words mean nothing and God’s wrath remains on them because of their disobedience. Paul says, “Therefore, do not be partners with them.” We must emulate God’s love!

EXAMPLE: I can tell when my granddaughter needs her diaper changed. She can smile, giggle, and make like there is no need but just one whiff and you know she needs to be changed. And like a dirty diaper on a baby you can tell by the smell if a person is truly saved or not by the way they live their lives for the Lord. When we allow the ungodly world to dictate to us what the love of God is we become partners with the world, instead we are to be “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” just like Jesus. We must emulate God’s love!

When we live in God’s love we are changed from our sinful condition and brought into a new life. Therefore Paul writes that…

II. We are to live in the light of God’s love! (Vv. 8-14)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

1. Just because we come to faith in Christ does not mean we are instantly changed in our attitudes or actions. Old habits die hard but die they must. We may ask, “Why?” Paul explains that it is simply because “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Light has always been seen as a means to disclose what lurks in the dark corners; including in a person’s life! When the light of the Holy Spirit shines in the sin-darkened life of the individual all of our ungodliness is exposed. God’s children are to “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)”! But more than that we are to “find out what pleases the Lord”! Paul would ask the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV) Christians are to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather (as God’s children we are to) expose them” for what they truly are. We have forgotten that “it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Yet we watch it, read about it, talk about it, and sing about it all the time! Rather than being disgusted with people’s ungodly behavior we make their filthy lives into mainstream media hits! Is it any wonder that while the world has accepted wholeheartedly ungodly lifestyles and behavior that they hate anyone who lives for God? Paul explains it is because “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.” The Christian church has become dazed and mesmerized by the perversion of the world. Paul writes, “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” We are to live in the light of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: My mother could not believe what we had been up to, however, she could smell it and see for herself. She demanded, “You tell me right now what you were doing today!” We had been having cow chip fights. Cow chips are cow manure that has been hardened by the heat of the sun and you can throw them like Frisbees. Some were still kind of soft in the center, thus the smell and such. She vehemently told us, “That is disgusting! Why would you do such a thing? You boys are to never ever do that again, do you hear me?” I wonder how God views people who claim Christ but are willing to accept the ungodliness of the world. While believers are called not to participate in the filthy sin of a degenerate world, we are not to judge it; that duty is reserved for God alone. However, we are not to encourage or participate in the filth either! We are to live in the light of God’s love!

We have discovered that the love of God is more than an emotional state of being. His love is active and sacrificial. Paul continued to teach then that…

III. We are to make the most of God’s love! (Vv. 15-21)

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

1. The world is no longer wise in what it accepts and does. Wisdom does not come from accepting anyone or anything that feels good or looks good. Wisdom weighs the final result and works toward the best possible outcome. This is why Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We have forgotten that we live in “evil” days. Paul was not fooled by the things of the world, he knew that every day is evil until the Lord returns, so he continued by writing “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Sadly it seems as if fewer Christians try to understand what the Lord’s will is. He desires that we be his body in the world sharing the good news of Jesus! Instead we focus on what makes us happy for the moment. Paul knew this would happen when we forget about how we are to live in love! He tells them, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” “Debauchery” is an old fashioned word that means utter depravity and the corruption of personal norms of decency and morality. Our world sees booze and drugs as a means to get high in order to have a moment of happiness. However, “Instead, (we are to) be filled with the Spirit.” When we are filled with the Spirit it will be evident in our lives and we will “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” The idea is where the focus of our life is to be; either on the ungodly world or the holy things of God. Spirit-filled folks will “Sing and make music in (their) heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In fact our lives will be lived in how we “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We are to make the most of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: The complete acceptance of getting drunk or using pot has now infested the Christian church to its utter shame and disgrace. We make excuses in how we should be just like the world in our drunkenness or our pot usage. The shear immature impudence expressed is not just disheartening it is mindboggling in its audacity. Just because everyone is doing it, it makes us feel better for a time, or that we all did it at one time is no excuse. We all have sinned so does that mean we should continue to do so? God forbid! Believers are to try to mature in their faith. We are called to be holy; Christians are to be like Christ! We are to make the most of God’s love!


We must emulate God’s love! We are to live in the light of God’s love! We are to make the most of God’s love!
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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Christmas Is All About Love…

One of the things I have learned over the years is that Christmas is all about love. It begins with God who is love displaying himself in his love for all mankind. And this marvelous and mysterious love has infected all of mankind whether they want to believe in that love or not. The infection has manifested itself throughout the entire world. God’s love does that whether we want it to or not. It is manifested in the godly things we do to one another without asking for anything in return. It is seen in the trust little children have in the belief that God’s love is found in believing in a saintly man who loves children enough he is willing to share that love to those who are willing to be good for goodness sake. It is heard in the songs sung about that silent night when two people became parents for the first time a long way from home and their baby boy would be the hope of all mankind. Love is displayed in the red, green, and white decorations that celebrate the coldness of winter but the warmth of that Godly love. The wrapped gifts given are the shadow of the wonderful Wisemen who journeyed across stream and fountain, moor and mountain to an animal feeding trough outside of a tiny town in an obscure kingdom ruled by a mad king to set before the king of Kings their precious offerings of love. The love of God is reflected in the lights strung on houses, trees, and bushes and buildings; they blind us as Holiday Displays or warm us next to a fireplace as they twinkle on a tree. Each and every part of Christmas may be prepackaged or commercial for some but there deep inside of all the Christmas dress up is the love of God. And whether you like it or not there it is, his love sent in his Son and it is his birthday we celebrate. That’s what Christmas is all about.

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Let’s be fair about it! – James 2:1-13

Let’s be fair about it! – James 2:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 6, 2013 AM

I’ve noticed that even some four or five-year-olds have low self-esteem. Helping them build a healthy self-image as an important part of a parent’s task. It involves more than handing out stickers; it also involves nurturing them. All children need fair, impartial, and caring treatment to instill the self-confidence they need as they mature. Every child should be treated as a special gift of God.

Although we can treat some people as special, that does not mean we should do so at another’s expense. Favoritism results from using superficial means to evaluate others and making that evaluation the basis for how we treat them. Favoritism is being kind or courteous to some but not to all. It is showing mercy to and forgiving some but being unmerciful and unforgiving to others. Even Christians can fall into the trap of showing partiality in their families, workplaces, and churches. They are drawn to people with whom they identify easily and exclude people who are different or are considered unimportant or unattractive. James teaches us that this is simply evil, let’s discover why…

READ: James 2:1-13

James pulled no punches in emphasizing that partiality is totally unacceptable among believers. In fact, favoritism is a sin that brings judgment. James denounced favoritism in the church; we are to…

I. Ignore the externals! (James 2:1-4)
1. James counseled believers to stop practicing (“habitually exercising”) their faith in their current manner. He writes, “Don’t show favoritism.” The word favoritism expresses the idea of arbitrarily assigning more worth to some people than to others and extending preferential treatment to individuals deemed more worthy. James made it clear that obedience to Christ excludes partiality. “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.” The phrase your meeting literally is “your synagogue” and indicated believers coming together for worship. As Jewish Christians, these believers would understand the term “synagogue” for their place of worship. James supposed that two visiting men entered this group of gathered Christians. James described their economic status. One man was wearing a gold ring and he was wearing fine clothes. Then a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. This man had only the clothes on his back. He had only one garment that bore the stains of daily use. James set the scene with starkly contrasting descriptions. The gathered believers’ response to these two men was immediately revealing. James asks, “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated”? Why are we tempted to show favoritism to certain people? What helps us to refuse to show partiality? James concluded his possible scenario with a rhetorical question to which he expected an answer of yes, “Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” To make such a blatant and shameful distinction based on appearances and economic status demonstrated that believers were practicing discrimination! Showing bias on the basis of outward appearances makes believers judges with evil thoughts. Instead of relating to one another as brothers in Christ, these believers created a division among themselves, believers are to ignore the externals!
EXAMPLE: We should always dress well and put our best foot forward for a job interview, however, believers are not to display discrimination based on eternals. Our culture shows blatant partiality to people who are attractive, talented, wealthy, powerful, successful, or socially prominent. Superstars abound in today’s culture. Great soccer players cause fans to riot in the bleachers. Popular musicians have fans who stand in line for hours for tickets. And Hollywood celebrities hire bodyguards to protect themselves from adoring stalkers. We easily can fall victim to favoring church members, potential church members, or even those who are not likely to be members on the basis of external trappings. We can treat people impartially only when we ignore any external differences between them, others, or ourselves. As Christians, we are to live according to a higher standard. We are to ignore the externals!

James goes on to indicate behavior that dishonors God’s people and that honors people who mistreat believers. He teaches us that we are to…

II. Honor all God’s people! (James 2:5-7)
I. James writes, “Listen,” because he wanted them to give careful attention to what he was about to say. He reminded them of what they already knew from their Jewish background: God champions the poor. While most Christians at this time were poor, God never exhibits favoritism. He responds positively to all people who turn to Him in faith, regardless of their financial status. James asks, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” James had in mind those who, while poor, were rightly related to God through Christ. James did not mean God selected the poor above anyone else; it is the idea of God’s initiative in extending grace to the poor as He did to all people. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said God had sent Him “to preach good news to the poor.” They were included in God’s redemptive purpose. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NIV) James’ reference to Jesus’ beatitude assured the poor they shared in God’s kingdom. Although these believers might have been materially destitute, they were spiritually wealthy. God honors the poor by extending His grace to them and exalting them. Evidently, these believers had dishonored a poor man. James writes, “But you have insulted the poor.” If he was a visitor, they did not know whether he was a Christian or an unbeliever. If He was a Christian, they had denied his equality with them in the faith. If he was an unbeliever, they had failed to exhibit God’s grace and love. James asks three rhetorical questions, “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?” They all demanded a “yes” answer. The assumption is that they had forgotten who had been persecuting them. Those they had thought highly of, because of their wealth, had used their wealth for persecution! The implication was clear, the rich were the ones who “slandered” or “spoke evil of” Jesus! These Christians were showing favoritism to people who constantly expressed their contempt for Christ! As believers, we are to honor all God’s people!
EXAMPLE: A Washington Post article reported that studies into the nature of prejudice found that almost everyone harbors biases, and these attitudes affect even those who actively resist them. A University of Kentucky psychologist says that much of our self-esteem comes from feeling better about ourselves than about others because of the group we belong to. Prejudice is not easy to overcome, even within the family of God. Christianity out of all the religions of the world is the great equalizer. No clan, no ethnicity, no social status, or educational background separates us from the love of God. Nor should they separate God’s people in loving one another! Because His people are important to Him, we are to honor them, not to ignore them or to give preferential treatment to people who abuse them. In fact, we are to look for ways to serve other believers. Also, we are to counter abuse of all people but especially mistreatment of Christians. We are to honor all of God’s people!

James strongly stated believers had only two options for treating others: loving them or sinning against them (vv. 8-13). Christians are to fulfill “the royal law”: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, we are to…

III. Extend God’s love! (James 2:8-13)
1. James tells them, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” The phrase the royal law meant the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV) We are to extend to all the same care and concern we have for ourselves. In contrast, believers who continually show favoritism “sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” They were missing Christ’s mark of God’s grace! We are to love God completely and others as ourselves! When we don’t, it convicts us as sinners! Then, James used a common Jewish teaching to demonstrate that disobedience is no light infraction. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” To be law-abiding, a person has to keep all the law; which is impossible. James’s point is that God’s people are to keep all His laws. James quoted the 7th and then the 6th Commandments. By associating partiality with adultery and murder, James stressed the seriousness of exhibiting favoritism. He did not mean the sin of partiality is the same as adultery and murder; however, to reject any of God’s commands is disobedience. James warned against failing to love others as God commanded and as Jesus affirmed. Believers are to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” All believers are to live in the understanding that in God’s final judgment, the gospel will be the standard by which we will be measured. We must remember, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 NIV) James connected mercy with loving others and treating them fairly; he connected lack of mercy with showing favoritism. People who have received God’s mercy through Christ are to extend God’s love to others.
EXAMPLE: Charlie Brown, the comic strip character, identified with the underdog, probably because he always felt like one. In one scene he was building a birdhouse when the cynical Lucy came by. “I’m building it for sparrows,” Charlie told her. Lucy said, “For sparrows? Nobody builds birdhouses for sparrows.” “I do,” replied Charlie Brown. “I always stick up for the underbird.” If we do not treat people in ways that express love and mercy, we are committing sin. Believers need to stick up for the “underbird”! We show love and mercy by treating all other people fairly, refusing to show favoritism. We live in the tension of being measured by the gospel, which affirms every person’s worth.

1. We can treat people impartially only when we ignore any external differences between them and others.
2. Because people who belong to God are important to Him, we are to honor them, not to ignore them or to give preferential treatment to people who abuse them.
3. If we do not treat people in ways that express love and mercy, we are committing sin.

This article is the copyrighted property of Lee Hemen and may not be edited or redistributed without his written permission.

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Jude – Be On Guard!

Jude – Be On Guard!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 17, 2013 AM

What motivates you in life? When I was in a JNROTC program, we were stationed for several weeks at Quadra, a Canadian military base. We had to learn basic commands in French because of the cadets that were from Quebec that were there training with us. All I remember is “stand easy” was “repos,” “dismissed” was “écartée!” and “attention” was “garde à vous!” We were motivated to be alert because if we did not follow the commands quickly enough, we were punished for our lack of knowledge. Our drill instructors did not care that some of us did not know French. We had to learn them correctly and quickly. We were highly motivated.

For the Christian, our motivation needs to be Jesus Christ. When Jude wrote his letter there were those who had begun to get discouraged because they thought Jesus was going to return any day. The signs were all there but He still hadn’t come back. Then, in the midst of mounting persecution, there were those who began to teach other doctrines concerning Christ than those taught by the apostles. They claimed they were “secret” teachings that only the truly spiritual could understand. Jude had to put a stop to such nonsense even if it wasn’t popular to do so. Just like today, believers then needed to be on guard against false teachers and their ungodly teachings. Let’s discover how…

READ: Jude

I remember the first time I stood watch aboard the destroyer I was stationed on during the summer. I was a skinny 18-year-old with a 45-caliber pistol strapped to my hip! I was supposed to challenge anyone trying to come aboard not authorized or who could not be recognized as part of the ship’s crew. I could barely squeak out a good “Halt, who goes there?” Yet, there I was standing guard. For me it was an awesome responsibility. That is, until I had to do it several more times in the wee hours of the morning. Then, it became boring, hard, and a burden. The same can be true for those who do not recognize the importance of their Christian doctrine. They can spiritually let down their guard. This is why Jude wrote that believers were to be on guard by…

I. Maintaining their faith! (Vv. 3-4)

1. Jude begins in earnest by telling his readers, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” He wanted to “urge” them about what they shared in common; instead, he had to warn them about the struggle they were headed for. Jude relates there were ungodly people trying to slip into the church’s fellowship. There were these certain individuals who were not content to trust the truth of the gospel and instead had to make up their own doctrines concerning Christ. Something had to be done. Jude was telling them to “contend” or struggle “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” In other words, they may have to do battle for it if they had to! For Jude it meant both a physical and spiritual battle! Notice that their faith was threatened by “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago.” Folks had joined, slipped in unnoticed like camouflaged snakes into the assembly of believers, pretending to belong with them when actually they were enemies of the gospel. Jude was being like a guard on duty, challenging the church about these false teachers. He gives three areas of concern: They were 1) “godless men,” 2) who changed “the grace of our God into a license for immorality,” and 3) they denied “Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Sound familiar, it should. We know that anything-worthwhile needs constant maintenance, including our faith and sometimes it is a struggle. Jude wanted the early church to be on guard by maintaining their faith!

EXAMPLE: Our little brown dog used to try and sneak into the kitchen to pilfer the cat’s food. She would wait to see if anyone was watching her and then slyly sneak into the kitchen as if she was going there to get a drink. I would wait until she bent over to nibble the cat’s food, then I’d holler, “Hey! What do you think you are doing?” She would jump at least a foot and slink back to her rug. Isn’t it amazing how people will try the same trick, thinking no one is watching them? Not necessarily pilfering cat food, but stealing other things. This can also occur spiritually within a church as well. People sneak in trying to appear spiritual and godly, when all the while they have ulterior motives. Jude called them “blemishes… clouds without rain… autumn trees without fruit… uprooted and twice dead.” Believers have to be on guard and wrestle and contend against such ungodly people.

A few years ago, a fossil was found that was supposed to be a missing link between humans and apes. The front page of Time magazine read, “How Apes Became Human.” A few fragmentary bones were found in Ethiopia by a graduate student named Yohannes Haile-Selassie. A photo of one small bone was captioned, “THIS TOE BONE PROVES THE CREATURE WALKED ON TWO LEGS.” There was just one problem, they did not tell you until the very end of the article. The toe bone was actually found some ten miles from the other small bone fragments! The whole premise was made from shoddy science! Christians can do the same thing when we adhere to the latest spiritual fad without finding out if it is valid. Jude faced the same problem and tells his readers to be on guard by…

II. Recognizing false teachers for what they are! (Vv. 8, 10-13, 16-19)

1. False teachers are like Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 8). Jude wrote, “These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit (v. 19).” They were natural men loving the things of the world more than they loved God. So much so, that they had begun to be perverted in their thinking and actions! They were “grumblers and faultfinders; they follow[ed] their own evil desires; they boast[ed] about themselves and flatter[ed] others for their own advantage (v. 16).” And, “like unreasoning animals,” they spoke “abusively against whatever they [did] not understand; and what things they [did] understand [they did them] by instinct!” This is a picture of people who are more in step with their own selfish selves, feelings, and desires than with their Creator! It is the same raw animal instincts people follow today! Jude is telling us that false teachers have understanding that is debased and ungodly! Notice the three areas Jude condemns them for: 1) “They have taken the way of Cain.” This could mean they disobediently devised their own ways of worship, were envious of others, or hated others with a murderous spirit! 2) “They have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error.” Peter declared, “They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness!” (2 Peter 2:15 NIV) These false leaders were greedy for money and led others into sin without fear, and, 3) they were “destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Korah led a revolt against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16). Their rebellion was actually against God Himself! Cain jealously murdered his brother, Balaam was only out for himself, and Korah spread the lie that they could worship God anyway they desired! Likewise, these false teachers had rebelled against God’s authority; and as a result would be destroyed suddenly. Their destruction was so certain Jude stated it in the past tense, “they have been destroyed.” Their fate was sealed by their actions! Believers are to be on guard by recognizing false teachers for what they are!

EXAMPLE: I used to spend hours and hours pestering red anthills around our house. I would watch the ants carrying bits and pieces of insects, wood, twigs, and seeds they had found. When I asked my father why they did what they did, he said, “It’s their natural instinct.” I used to track deer, raccoons, and beaver. I would watch them from a distance to see what they ate, how they acted, and where they slept. When I asked my father why they did what they did, he replied, “It’s their animal instinct.” Today, when people do all kinds of ungodly things to satisfy themselves I often wonder why they do what they do. The false teachers of the world would have you believe we do these things because it is our natural animal instinct, but Jude reminds us that we are not animals! We are created in the image of God and are to be His children! Paul would say, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV) Believers are to be on guard by recognizing false teachers for what they are!

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by life’s circumstances that you have forgotten just how much God loves you? When we do, we can often turn to other things. Some people use drugs, alcohol, money, or relationships to hide the hurt or pain they suffer. Yet even during those times in life, when we think all is lost and are in utter despair, there is the wonderful light of God’s love. Jeremiah even in his greatest lament said, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV) Jude faced a similar problem and reminds his readers to be on guard by…

III. Keeping oneself in God’s love! (Vv. 17-25)

1. Christians keep themselves in God’s love by remembering, “What the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.” Paul warned about “savage wolves” that would try to come in to destroy the flock of Christ (Acts 20:29-30). Peter warned, “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord.” (2 Peter 2:1 NIV) Jesus warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:15-16 NIV) Christians keep themselves in God’s love by building up their “most holy faith”! Literally, Jude meant that we are to work at it or to build upon what we have already learned! Not through works of faith, but rather working at being the holy people God desires us to be! Personal edification (“build yourselves up”) comes from progressing in the knowledge of “your most holy faith.” Notice Jude states that Christians keep themselves in God’s love through “prayer”. Prayer is the personal spiritual mortar that builds your relationship with God and keeps it close at hand. We “pray in the Holy Spirit” as we walk with Jesus! And, Christians keep themselves in God’s love as they expectantly “wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life!” Jesus can come back at anytime. This is no End Times scenario. This is why Jude writes, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Rather when things get mundane or tough in our spiritual walk, the believer is to remember that Christ will return and we are to be ready! Jesus warned, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come!” (Mark 13:33 NIV) He said we “must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him!” (Matthew 24:44 NIV) Being on guard is a matter of keeping oneself in God’s love!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever gotten an unforeseen phone call late at night? Have you ever received news that someone you just spoke to the other day, had died? Why do these things bother us so much? Because, as we go through our mundane life when something like this happens, it is totally unexpected. We do not expect those who claim spirituality to be liars or to have ulterior motives, we do not expect the unexpected. We do not often think about the coming of the Lord either. We often live under the false impression that things will keep on as they always have. This simply is not true. While we cannot be prepared for every life contingency, we should be on guard for the coming of the Lord. This is why Paul wrote Jesus’ coming would occur “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.” (1 Corinthians 15:52 NIV) Jesus reminded His followers, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33 NIV) Being on guard is a matter of keeping oneself in God’s love!

Jude wanted the church to be prepared for spiritual attacks from outside of the church as well as inside of the church. He warned them to be on guard and to be prepared for when Jesus does return. I do not know if the story is true or not, but it is said that the Great Wall of China, built to keep out the Mongol hoards, was breached when one guard was bribed. What area is breached in your Christian walk, in your church, in your nation or world? Jude would say, “Be on guard! Contend for the faith, watch out for false teachers, and keep yourself in God’s love.”

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 © 2012 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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1 Corinthians 13:4-8a — Love’s attributes!

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a — Love’s attributes!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 26, 2012 AM

What is love? It is a question that poets, prognosticators, and psychologists have tried to answer. Love’s theme fills hundreds of thousands of books, songs, and blogs. Tina Turner cynically sang, “Oh what’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second hand emotion? What’s love got to do, got to do with it? Who needs a heart, when a heart can be broken?” Most contemporary songs in today’s society have reduced love to either feelings or lust, whichever fits the needs of the moment. It reflects the shallow and sometimes cynical view folks have for the meaning of love for their lives. However, if we are to understand Scripture we have to answer the question, “What is love?”

The Bible does define for us what love is. It begins with God himself when we learn “God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NIV) Love’s definition is furthered clarified when he showed what his love is all about in sending his Son. (John 3:16-18) This love of God transforms the individual from the inside out to the extent that they are changed forever in their personal relationship with him, their personal attitudes and their interactions with others. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV) and “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12 NIV) The problem is what does the rest of the world see when it looks at the life of a believer? Does it see the love of God revealed in us? With all the misunderstanding, negativism, and cynicism concerning love in our day and age, the question we need to answer this morning is, “What is love?” More specifically, what are love’s attributes? Let’s find out for ourselves…

READ: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

I came across the Top 10 Geeky Ways to Say “I Love You!” It comes from Wired.com and sadly, I understand every single one of them. You may not but here they are anyway:

10. “You give me so much energy I could give up caffeine.”

9. “In the software of my life, my love for you is a feature, not a bug.”

8. “My love for you is a stat, and I rolled an 18 … on three dice.”

7. “If feelings were LEGO sets, my love for you would be the Death Star.”

6. “The myth that we don’t belong together? Busted!“

5. “If I were a Vulcan, I’d go Pon Farr for you every seven minutes.”

4. “If I had to choose between you and an iPad, I’d pick you.”

3. “If I was Frodo and you were the One Ring, Middle-earth would be toast.”

2. “You’re the Konami code for the video game of my life.”

1. “You’re my 42.”

If you do not fully understand all of these, take heart you are not as geeky as you thought you were! If you want an explanation, ask the geek sitting next to you! However, in these verses…

I. We discover what love is! (Vv. 13:4, 7-8a)
1. I wanna know what love is….. I want you to show me….. (Mariah Carey)
1) All Mariah had to do was open her Bible! We discover that love is patient, or as some translations state, “long suffering.” Yet the idea is not one of patiently putting up with something or someone, but rather that of steadfast devotion. There is a serene tolerance involved whereby the believer, as Paul admonishes is to “Be completely humble and gentle; [by being] patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2 NIV) Love is also kind, again as in being “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) Love always protects like a covering or a bird that shelters her young with her wing, and love always trusts in its fellow man. In other words, the love a Christians displays sees the best in the other person. How in the world could love do that? Because it also always hopes in that it always sees the bright side of life even in difficult circumstances. Love is able to do this because it perseveres. It stays the course set out for it in life, it keeps on keeping on when others falter and persists when others only see failure. Love is all these wonderful things: kind, patient, protective, trusting, hopeful, and persistent! When it is, it never fails! This is what Godly love truly is!
EXAMPLE: In a morally corrupt world we see what the redefinition of love accomplishes. It focuses on self-gratification and reduces love to its basest instinct of emotional lust. Love becomes about selfish relationships, instead of the foundational truth it is supposed to be. Like the redefinition of marriage that ignores the familial outcome of emotional stability and the continuance of the human species. Contrary to the amoral selfish redefining of marriage, this is why God resoundingly condemns homosexuality. Marriage also defines who we are as male and female. Homosexuality not only swims against common biological sense, it forces itself against the foundational psychological truth of moral behavior. At its core godly love is sacrificial and is never based on what you get out of it, it is based on what change has occurred in your sinful human nature that makes you love others in spite of yourself! This why John would write, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 NIV)

For Paul, love was more than what you can gain it flows from what you have already obtained. We have found out what love is, we also have to learn what it is not. Here in these verses…

II. We discover what love is not! (Vv. 13:4b-6)
1. If this isn’t love, tell me what it is! (Jennifer Hudson)
1) Jennifer should know that love is more than losing weight! Love does not envy, it does not boast, and it is not proud. It does not stoop to petty jealousy or green-eyed behavior. It does not care about what others have or obtained, but rather rejoices with another’s success! Nor does it brag about itself to others, but rather it knows its place. Therefore it does not puff itself up in the eyes of others, like a gangsta thug or short-term sports hero, for its own gain. In a world where being crude and sarcastic has reached all time new lows, the love a Christian shows is not to be rude or crass. Godly love never seeks the lowest common denominator, it has high standards. It does for others rather than for itself, never seeking its own desires first. It keeps a lid on its anger and in so doing it does not keep track of the wrong others have done to it. And unlike the world, who knows “God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, [and] they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”, (Romans 1:32 NIV) love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” of God! Notice anything about the picture painted here of what love is not? The love of God as expressed in the lives of believers is to be nothing like what the world offers. That’s why the world does not understand it nor does it understand Christ or Christianity. In Christ we discover what love is not.
EXAMPLE: I always laugh when the world tries to define what Christianity is for us. Recently Presidential candidate Senator Rick Santorum was bludgeoned by the mainstream media for a comment he made concerning President Obama’s extreme environmental views. They tried desperately to persuade listeners to think Santorum was making a comment about the President’s faith. No one who actually heard the comment in its context could make such an absurd conclusion. Santorum was speaking about the President’s theology of radical environmentalism. Contrary to what the media would try to persuade you to believe, Christianity is not based on what we feel about Jesus, it is based on what Jesus taught and at its core is the fact that a person can only claim being a Christian after they have confessed their sinful condition and placed their faith and trust in Christ himself. Like societies redefinition of love, the Christian faith is not based on selfish emotionalism. And this morning, we have learned from Paul what love is not.

We have discovered what love is and we discovered what love is not!

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 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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1 John 4:10-12 – This is love!

1 John 4:10-12 – This is love!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 12, 2012 AM

What does it mean to have a servant’s heart? It is more than good intentions or having a strong desire, it is an eagerness to act no matter the cost to yourself because at its core is the willingness to sacrifice. Jesus teaches us firsthand what it means when he related that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NIV) Paul wrote that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant!” (Philippians 2:5, 7 NIV) There is a greater concern for self-fulfillment in today’s Christianity than there is in self-sacrifice. A servant’s heart comes from loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves! This is a servant’s heart! This is love!

In the few verses we will take a look at this morning we are astounded when John defines for us exactly what love is for the believer. Let’s take a look at what John wrote concerning this is love…

READ: 1 John 4:10-12

One day, during a short break from construction work, he picked up a scrap of paper and while seated upon an empty lemon crate, Fredrick Lehman began to write a hymn. The third stanza had been garnered from the Jewish poem, written by a Jewish German Cantor in 1050 AD, that had so impacted Lehman after he first heard it, that he decided to write a hymn incorporating the words.

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

John would tell us…

I. This is love, not that we love God! (v. 10)
1. The ungodly only want God’s love when it benefits them!
1) John makes it clear what unconditional love; a love that cannot be matched in worldly today terms is all about, namely, “not that we love God, but that he loved us!” It is a love that is antecedent to the love of his people; it existed when theirs did not; when in fact they were without any love for him at all and were his enemies! Paul tells us that, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” (Colossians 1:21 NIV) He reminds us that, “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.” (Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV) So little did we care about God’s love that “we were by nature objects of [his] wrath!” (v. 2:3) Paul goes on to explain this mystery and how we really did not give a hoot about it when he writes, “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.” (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV) “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9 NIV) The wonderful good news is that God “sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” while we did not care, would not care, could not care! This is love, not that we loved God!
EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes for Our Daily Bread about a friend of his whom “described his grandmother as one of the greatest influences in his life. Throughout his adult years, he has kept her portrait next to his desk to remind himself of her unconditional love. ‘I really do believe,’ he said, ‘that she helped me learn how to love.’ Not everyone has had a similar taste of human love, but through Christ each of us can experience being well-loved by God. In 1 John 4, the word love occurs 27 times, and God’s love through Christ is cited as the source of our love for God and for others.” This is love, not that we loved God! (Adapted from “Well-loved” by David McCasland, Our Daily Bread, December 5, 2011)

We all want the love of another, but it is often far more difficult to return that love in some tangible way. We are selfish critters by nature and only look out for our own best interests. From the womb to the tomb we often live each day looking for only what is best for ourselves. Far too often our motto is, “What’s in it for me?” So when John writes us about what God’s love is all about and how we know God’s love, we discover that…

II. This is love that we ought to love one another! (v. 11)
1. How you love a fellow believer says a lot about your faith!
1) “Beloved”, which is the wording that John uses, since we who were once the objects of God’s wrath have now experienced for ourselves his grace and mercy, and we are his “beloved”, we should therefore “love one another!” This follows the same Old Testament ideal set forth in the Shema to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV) and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV) These were later reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 22:37, 39 and Mark 12:30-31 as the two greatest commands of God whereby all other commands derived. God’s love for us should be our grand motive to love others, especially fellow believers! We should love one another for God’s sake since he first loved us (v. 19), the notion here is one of continual love! In other words our love is not to be conditional on whether we have experienced or received any benefit from the other person, the admonishment is only that they are fellow Christians! If you dear warrior of the Lord who were once in sin have experienced the saving love of God you must, no matter what, love your fellow soldiers! Jesus stated, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV) This is love that we ought to love one another!
EXMAPLE: One of the biggest problems the world has with Christianity is how Christians treat their own. People who study sharks tell us that they are most likely to attack when they sense blood in the water. The blood acts as a trigger to their feeding mechanism and they attack, often in a group, creating a deadly feeding frenzy. Blood in the water marks the vulnerability of the target. Sadly, this is sometimes how people in the church respond to those who are hurting. Instead of being a community where people are loved, cared for, and nurtured, it can become a dangerous environment where predators are looking for the “blood in the water” of someone’s failings or faults. And then the feeding frenzy is on. Instead of kicking people when they are down, we should be offering the encouragement of Christ by helping to restore the fallen. Of course, we’re not to condone sinful behavior, but this is love that we ought to love one another! (Adapted from “Feeding Frenzy” by Bill Cowder, Our Daily Bread, January 28, 2012)

It is easy for the world to say, “I love you man!” but only mean it for the momentary emotional minute. True Godly love comes from the inner being of a person who has been so dramatically spiritually changed that their whole being is different towards others. Continuing the thought he had just presented, John continues his ideas on what love truly is for the Christian. He tells us that…

III. This is love that his love is made complete in us! (v. 12)
1. Love is completed when we are changed!
1) Missouri is known as the “show me State.” Sometimes it seems as if the entire rest of the world has adopted this slogan for their own when it concerns their spirituality. However, this is impossible unless you are willing to accept the testimony of others, because “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) In fact, John bluntly remarks that “No one has ever seen God.” Certainly Moses got a whiff of God’s glory as he passed by him, but even he was not allowed to actually see God. No unholy human could withstand the holy presence of God. Yet, John remarks that we can know for sure if God lives in us “if we love one another” because of the inner change that has occurred. John would clarify this by writing, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (v. 13), this is how God’s “love is made complete in us!” We can love others who are hard to love because his love lives in us through his presence. Later John would declare, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20 NIV) You cannot say you love God who is love and then hate your fellow spiritual sibling in the Lord! If you do there are only two possible certainties: Either you are a liar or God is. John says you are the liar. Dear child, God’s love so changes our human condition from the inside out that we can now love those whom we could not beforehand! This is love that his love is made complete in us!
EXAMPLE: Years ago, Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, saw a sign by the road: “End of Construction—Thank you for your patience.” Smiling, she remarked that she wanted those words on her gravestone. After her death in June 2007, her desire was carried out. Her grave marker bears the Chinese character for righteousness (Mrs. Graham was born in China), followed by the words that made her smile. You know what, today we are in a “construction zone” and while God may not be finished with us yet, this is love that his love is made complete in us! (Adapted from “End of Construction” by David McCasland, Our Daily Bread, September 14, 2008)

This is love, not that we loved God! This is love that we ought to love one another! This is love that his love is made complete in us!

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 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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John 3:13-18 – The love of God revealed!

John 3:13-18 – The love of God revealed!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 5, 2012 AM

The “Blind Men and the Elephant” is a fable that originated in India. It was translated into English in the 19th century as a poem by the writer John Godfrey Saxe. He incorrectly saw it as a means to warn against religious intolerance. Therefore, the story has become widely used in philosophy and religion classes to illustrate the need for either religious or cultural tolerance, thinking that we form our reality and belief system on our limited experiences. In other words, perhaps each religious faith only holds partial truths that make up one part of God. However, the original tale actually dealt with the spiritual blindness of the four individuals and how if blind men could not grasp the physical reality of an elephant they could touch, how are we, spiritually blind people, going to grasp a God whom we cannot see.

This brings up a very interesting notion. If people in our day and age have a distorted view of spiritual things, especially where it concerns the Bible, God, and Jesus Christ, how do Christians help them to see the truth? We live in a nation full of folks with the opinion that religion should be all about them and what many evangelical churches have taught for the past several decades has only added to the confusion. Many cater to the self-centered nature of the situation rather than teaching the truth of Scripture. Jesus dealt with a myopic spirituality as well. The Jews of his day thought that God only loved them and that he should respond to others the way they thought he should. It was a startling revelation when Jesus taught that God loved and desired a relationship with anyone who would come to him by faith. It was the love of God revealed, let’s discover how and what this means for us today.

READ: John 3:13-18

The Bible teaches us over and over that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts, yet we quickly forget this truth. From Hollywood to television and into popular culture the media and mainstream desires to mold God into their image. They squeeze him into a bottle that he simply cannot fit into. The love of God is grander than our constraints and in fact we do not completely comprehend it. Jesus demonstrated this for us in that…

I. The love of God is revealed from heaven! (v. 13)
1. We only hear what we want to hear!
1) Jesus tried to speak to his listeners on a level they would understand, yet they deliberately refused to do so. He earlier 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.” (v. 12) We find Jesus teaching his followers in parables so that only they would understand what he was instructing them. He warns, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9 NIV) When asked why, he tells them that he did it to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” (Matthew 13:13-14 NIV) The idea of having “ears to hear” means being able to comprehend the spiritual truth Jesus was teaching. Now, dear adolescent of the Lord do you have ears to hear what I am talking about? This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone into heaven” and then come back to earth and able to give clear teaching about divine matters, “except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man!” The Son of Man being a descriptive term for the Messiah. Jesus of course was referring to himself. Therefore, what we refused to comprehend or acknowledge has occurred, the love of God is revealed from heaven in Jesus Christ!
EXAMPLE: Cindy Kienow, who works at a popular restaurant in Hutchinson, Kansas, had been waiting on one of particular customer for 3 years. He always tipped her well, sometimes leaving as much as half the tab. Then, one day, he outdid himself—he gave her a $10,000 tip for a $26 meal! He told her, “I want you to know this is not a joke.” What an amazing display of radical generosity, however, an even more radical display was the love of God revealed from heaven!

No one had gone into heaven, but God was more than willing to come to earth! Now this is a rather radical and remarkable thing because mankind has constantly throughout history tried to reach up to the gods they create, but here in the pages of Scripture we discover that God through Jesus has reached down to mankind. In fact, God did something so extraordinary and so wonderful that it is hard for many of us to grasp. We discover that…

II. The love of God is revealed through the death of his Son! (Vv. 14-16)
1. Sacrifice is at the heart of God’s love!
1) When we think of love in our day and age we filter it through our experiences and what we are constantly taught. Love for us means something quite different from what Jesus meant here. The idea of love here is one of sacrifice. The amazing thing is God did not have to do what he did he did it because of his grace. We equate love with emotion. We think it is dependent upon need or yearning, yet the Bible tells us that God is sufficient in of himself. He needs nothing else, including fellowship. Now think about this for a moment my Biblical Buckaroo. If we know that God is all powerful, all knowing, all holy, everywhere all the time, then why would we ever think he is insecure? Contrary to what some would have you think, God does not need your praise or your friendship because he is lonely or in need! We find that God sent his Son to be “lifted up” as a means of spiritual healing just as the brass snake was lifted up before the rebellious Jews in the wilderness so that if they were willing to look at it and trust in God to heal them, they would be saved. (Numbers 24:4-9) And God did it for our faith and trust in him because, “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.” (John 3:14-15 NIV) However, behind this wonderful truth is a horrible reality: God’s Son would willingly die for us on a cruel cross that would be lifted up! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV) The love of God is revealed through the death of his Son!
EXAMPLE: The story is told of a young preacher named Augustus Toplady, who was taking a walk through the English countryside when a sudden storm swept across the landscape. Toplady spotted a wide rock formation with an opening—a cleft—where he sought shelter until the storm passed. As he sat out the deluge, he contemplated the connection between his shelter and God’s love. He had no paper to write on but found a playing card on the floor of the cave-like structure and began to write the words to the beloved hymn “Rock of Ages.” Written on that stormy day in 1775, this hymn has been a source of strength for Christians ever since.

Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

The love of God is revealed through the death of his Son!

Sarcasm aside, most men want to emulate a leader who would ride into the enemy’s fire to save a fallen comrade! Women want a white knight that would gallantly ride in, scoop them up, and save them from the dragon’s teeth! Now you may think you are too jaded enough that you do not desire this in your life, but deep within the human heart there is a yearning for nobility and salvation, for sacrifice and honor. Let me share with you a wonderful truth: Both of these things have come true and are yours for the asking. In fact, we discover that…

III. The love of God is revealed through our faith! (Vv. 17-18)
1. Faith cannot be earned, passed on, inherited, or given away by us or anyone!
1) “Consequently,” Paul would write that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NIV) What is the message? Namely, that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The word “perish”, in verse 16, does not mean annihilation or total destruction but rather a final destiny of “ruin” in hell apart from God. We learn that Jesus spoke vibrantly about the truth of eternal damnation for those who refuse to believe. It is startling for some sophisticates to realize that Jesus sternly warned his listeners, “I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:5 NIV) That one to fear that Jesus spoke of was God who loved the world! Yet God also tells us that “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32 NIV) The truth is that he desires everyone be saved! In fact it “pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3b-4 NIV) It is a truth that mystifies scholars and confounds common folk. You cannot be good enough, do enough, or wish it to be so enough because it is the simple truth, dear child, that “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.” (John 3:18 NIV) The choice is yours. The love of God is revealed through our faith!
EXAMPLE: I read a story about a believer who was invited to a dinner party where he was seated next to a belligerent unbeliever who delighted in taunting Christians. Throughout the evening, the man baited him mercilessly about the evils of Christendom throughout the ages. With each insult, the Christian calmly replied, “That’s an interesting point of view.” And then he asked a question that revealed genuine interest in the man and deflected the discussion away from the issue that divided them. As the two were walking out the door at the end of the evening, the man fired a final jab, at which point the believer put his arm around the other man’s shoulders and chuckled. “My friend,” he said, “all night long you’ve been trying to talk to me about religion. Are you a religious nut?” The man’s animosity dissolved in a burst of laughter and then in sobriety, for he was indeed a religious nut. All human beings are. We’re insatiably and incurably religious—hounded by the relentless love of God, though we may try to keep him away. (Edited from a story by David H. Roper, RBC Ministries, Daily Bread, June 11, 2009) The love of God is revealed through our faith!

The love of God is revealed from heaven, the love of God is revealed through the death of his Son and the love of God is revealed through our faith! Do you know the love of God in your life?

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 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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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