Tag Archives: God’s love

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 11, 2018

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites. They needed to be open to God and what did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how…
READ: Malachi 1:1-5

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their intermarrying with nonbelievers, divorces and general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Malachi teaches us that…

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message! (V. 1)

An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.

1. One man’s message is another man’s burden! Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word Hebrew mas-saw’ (burden), which this book begins, sets kind of a somber mood. The NIV translates this word as “an oracle”. The word comes from the Old English language of the middle ages. We now think of an oracle meaning a person like a priest or priestess who gives out kind of obscure advice that kind of sounds meaningless unless you are “wise” enough to interpret it. This is not the idea here from Malachi. In the prophetic books the Hebrew word mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Something he had to say but did not necessarily want to. It became a burden. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself: “The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi”! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message!

EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel through Malachi. Our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

“I have loved you”, says the LORD. But you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD–even beyond the borders of Israel!”

1. An appropriate response to love is devotion! Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, he could have chosen anyone else but he chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of Jacob and his rejection of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel questions God! “How have you loved us?” What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for love and hatred do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it is shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus. The vindication of God’s love claim is given: “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” He is expressing his past relationship with Israel and Edom and also his historical and present dealings with these people. This then provides the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland and leave his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called A Wicked Land, as opposed to God’s Holy Nation. God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, just like Edom, and perhaps just like we often are of failing to respond to God’s love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parental curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope you have children just like you!” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it truly is!” That time would come through Jesus. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God’s love in our lives!

Conclusion:

Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel did, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love. The spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message and not be like spoiled Israel who failed to respond to God’s love!!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Love one another! – 1 John 4:7-21

Love one another! – 1 John 4:7-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 25, 2018

After the horrific shooting in Florida a lot of folks are asking what went wrong. Some blame guns, law enforcement, the public school system, or society itself. At its core I believe it reflects how we view ourselves and God. Interestingly in the midst of all this discussion Pastor Billy Graham died. Perhaps God decided to take one of his children home to heaven this past week in order for us to refocus on what I mean. As believers we are to love one another.

In our society many have elevated their children to a status of child worship while others totally ignore their kids and want others like schools to raise them. We allow children to be exposed to any and everything and no longer protect childhood innocence. We have reduced God to a myth and humanity to animals and wonder why life is not considered sacred. John knew that believers could lose sight of what love of God meant. Let’s learn what John wrote…

READ: 1 John 4:7-21

If young lives matter then our society would stop the sale of alcohol and end abortion because both are slaughtering thousands of children. The return of our society to honoring human life has to begin with a refocus of believers loving one another. John relates this is how we know for certain if someone is actually a Christian or not.

I. Christians are to love one another! (Vv. 7-12)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 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 begins this section by writing “beloved” or “dear friends” in the NIV using the word agapētos which means a love that sacrifices. This is important because John was continuing his theme of what it meant to believe in Jesus. So John writes “let us love one another” because he knew that this kind of “love comes from God” himself. John knew that “Everyone who loves” in this way “has been born of God and knows God.” John was not talking about feelings here. Rather he knew the proof was in the pudding so-to-speak in that “Whoever does not [sacrificially] love [a fellow believer] does not know God, because God is love.” God is the perfect example of this kind of love! In fact “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.” If we say we believe in Jesus we will also love his children. John knew that “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Sinful people don’t love a holy God but as Paul would declare, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NIV).” John’s notion is the fact that “since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” John understood human nature and its skeptical attitude toward anything or anyone that would love them unconditionally. And he knew that those who tended toward atheistic notions that what they could not see they could not believe and writes, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” Tada! That’s how we know who true believers are! We see him in the lives of believers as they love one another! Christians are to love one another!

EXAMPLE: What have you done for a fellow believer this past week; without being asked, without being prompted, and without expecting anything in return? It is often easy for Christians to display kindness, good deeds, or compassion to the unsaved – the world expects us to do so, but what about those who love the Lord? Have you been a secret saint in the life of a Christian, and I mean by more than just praying for them. It can be easy to stand far off and pray because we do not have to get our hands “dirty” so-to-speak. I mean going down into the trenches where the rubber meets the road and discipling a new believer, mentoring someone, or helping a fellow Christian in some way. Christians are to love one another!

Love is more than being “hooked on a feeling or high on believing”. It is how we as believers in Jesus Christ show others the love of God in our lives. In fact John teaches us that…

II. Whoever lives for Jesus loves God! (Vv. 13-16)

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

1. Now the reason John could write what he did was because he walked with Jesus for 3 and a half years and he had believed in him as his Savior and Lord. John’s entire life was lived for Jesus and so he writes, “We know that we live in him and he in us”. How could John be so certain? Was he deluded or was it simply wishful thinking on his part? The answer is NO “because” John writes that God “has given us of his Spirit”! The Holy Spirit is God living in the believer and is his stamp in us for his presence and power in our lives! Jesus promised his disciples that “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26 NIV).” Paul would tell believers that “you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13 NIV).” John absolutely understood what had happened and continues by stating that “we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” It was a reality and a certainty for John because of the Spirit of God that lived in him testified to the fact! For John placing one’s faith and trust in Jesus was everything. It meant that you had chosen to willfully follow Jesus no matter what. That you willingly said “no” to your distrust and to your own selfishness. Therefore for John the truth was that “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.” There was no doubt about it in John’s mind “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Why? John knew that “God is love.” He is the absolute example of sacrificial love for mankind! And “whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him!” Whoever lives for Jesus loves God!

EXAMPLE: The world is unimpressed by Christians because they no longer see the sacrificial love of God displayed in their lives. Hudson Taylor was headed for the mission field in China. Several ladies and his mother were onboard ship to say their “goodbyes” and his mother stayed behind. She smoothed the wrinkles out from the blankets on his bed and told her son, “Hudson, you must take care of your health. Without health you won’t be able to complete the task God has given.” He rolled his eyes and said he would. She went ashore and stood on the dock. As Taylor’s ship left he wrote: “I eyed my mother running along the dock and waving her handkerchief. She stopped at the end and contained herself no longer. The cry of her mother’s heart overpowered all sounds. It was at that moment that I had a better understanding of God so loved the world and his ache when His children walk away from Him.” Whoever lives for Jesus loves God!

Worship is not how we show the world we love God. Building bigger churches, having hymns or choruses, or even good preaching, and simply living good lives will not display it either if the world is not paying attention. John knew it was more than these things. He wrote that…

III. Whoever loves God will show it! (Vv. 17-21)

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 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. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1. Having the presence of God in one’s life is a powerful thing. There is not a believer who ever lived that does know what this means. It’s because of the presence of God in the Holy Spirit we have direct access to Jesus. For John one’s actions spoke a lot about one’s faith and so he declared, “In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like him.” Jesus’ love is made complete among us when we display his love to fellow believers. Judgment has no fear for us! “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Christians have absolutely no fear of eternal punishment. Besides, when the Holy Spirit resides in a person they want to do those things that please God. Those who do not truly know God fear him or they fear he might go after them in some way if they are not “good enough”. Sadly there are those who actually think that they have to “balance the scales” in life to make sure they have the same amount of good deeds or more in order to be loved by God! Nothing could be further from the truth! John reminds us that “The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” John related that if we truly have believed in Jesus then “perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” Wow! What a wonderful truth! John finishes this section on the love of God and our love for others by reminding his readers “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” about what he says he believes because “anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Whoever loves God will show it!

EXAMPLE: What have you done for the lost world this last week? What will you decide to do in the following week? There are many places where you can volunteer to serve in our community. Elementary Schools need volunteers to read to kids, shelters need volunteers to feed, cloth, and counsel the homeless, addicted, and disenfranchised. Food pantries need food and help to distribute meals, food, and clothing. Disaster Relief needs volunteers to be trained and go to continue cleanup efforts in California and down South. Senior adults need friendship, house cleaning, and your time. What will you do this year, this month, this coming week to show your community the love of God? Whoever loves God will show it!

Conclusion:

Christians are to love one another! Whoever lives for Jesus loves God! Whoever loves God will show it!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The expression of God’s love! – John 3:16-21

The expression of God’s love! – John 3:16-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 4, 2018

How do you express your love? Since February is the month when we celebrate love because of Valentine’s Day I thought it would be good for us to pause and reflect on what love truly means for the believer. And being able to express, know, and understand what love is supposed to be is extremely important. Far too many carry false notions and understanding of what love is all about therefore it is important for Christians to be able to help others truly know the expression of God’s love.

When I first meant my wife she was my best friend’s kid-sister who took perverse joy in teasing us. Being the “mature” High School freshman I was I was not impressed by a 13 year old Junior Higher. Now for 42 years I am very impressed and interested in my best friend’s kid sister. Of course it took a lot of time, effort, and commitment for me to express just how much I care about her. It still does and I still do! God did the same thing for us and his plan took thousands of years to express fully. Let’s take a look at the expression of God’s love…

READ: John 3:16-21

Valentine’s Day originally was celebrated to honor one of several martyred “saints”. One for marrying Roman soldiers against the Emperor’s will and another who imprisoned for his faith wrote his final letter to his wife and signed it, “From your Valentine”. The oldest known valentine in existence is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. In this popular passage from John…

I. We see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself! (Vv. 16-18)

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.

1. The message contained within these verses is so profound and simple that it mystifies the spiritually blind and confounds the spiritually ignorant. Yet in a world that hungers for real love there is no greater expression of it than what we discover here in John’s Gospel. In the past the mythological creations of mankind were vain attempts to try to explain the angry world around us. We saw the wrath of gods in the weather, we experienced the inhumanity of mankind, and the march of death and tried to make sense of it all. It is only here in Scripture where we discover the profound truth that God does indeed exist, he created all things, has a plan in progress and that “God is love.” And here we discover that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”! He did not bring forth a child like himself, he came himself as a child, grew to be a man, was tempted in every way we are, remained pure, and willingly died for us for the simple reason “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”! This is the key to knowing and experiencing God’s love for one’s self – you must believe in him! If you do you will never “perish but have eternal life”. That’s a pretty special love gift! In fact we cannot be forced, coerced, or pushed into belief. The choice is ours because “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” God’s final judgment will come later when he returns to gather his children to himself. Jesus, God in human flesh, related 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.” We condemn or free ourselves by the choice we make. What a marvelous thing to discover in this love message from God that we see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself!

EXAMPLE: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” is a line from a wartime speech made by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 20, 1940. I have to laugh because when I hear this I am reminded of my friend Andy from 1st grade. He was in “love” with a little blond girl in our classroom. I thought he was bonkers and in a sense he was. I found him one day out on the playground in tears. When I asked him what happened he related that he had offered the girl his cookies from his lunch. He wasn’t sad because she refused them he was dismayed because she had actually taken and eaten them! Andy now understood what sacrifice meant. We see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself!

The only time I truly like total darkness is when I want to go to sleep or when I want to see the stars. Sadly it is tough to see the stars clearly because of all the ambient light that shines into the night sky. There are those who try to proclaim another truth than the one Jesus did and the only way to see the difference is by shinning the full truth of the gospel against its darkness. John related that…

II. We see the expression of God’s love by its illumination! (Vv. 19-21)

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.

1. Recently I watched a diatribe by a young atheist on YouTube who vainly tried to refute the life of Jesus. She not only distorted historical facts but did not know the historicity and evidence of biblical facts. It was laughable. As we learned before, no one forces anyone to believe. That’s why it is called “faith”. However, Jesus taught that there are consequences both good and bad for making one’s own choice concerning God. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” The sad but utter truth is that evil does not like exposure. Whether it is a political cause or a religious sect, neither wants folks to look to closely at the real truth hidden behind the veil of lies. Fanatical religions and myopic socialism has murdered hundreds of millions. Jesus’ teachings are the only truth that demands and asks one to take as close a personal look as possible. However be forewarned if you are trying to hide something, you will be exposed for what you are: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John later on in life would write, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (1 John 4:13-15 NIV)” This is why atheists rail against Jesus and false religions try to hide the truth. Jesus taught “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32 NIV)” There is no fear of faith or of God for those who are willing to trust Jesus with their lives because “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.” How wondrous to know that we see the expression of God’s love by its illumination!

EXAMPLE: I remember reading the Bible before I came to Christ; I barely understood any of it. After accepting him as my savior and Lord my ignorance changed and I could not read it enough. It made sense and it fit! Kind of like when I first began my relationship with my wife. I had dated several girls and when I dated her things began to change. But the change wasn’t complete until I married her. I no longer see her as my “girlfriend” but rather as my wife and believe me that is a whole lot deeper relationship emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The same is true when we come to Christ. Before it’s only head knowledge, shallow, and kind of boring but after experiencing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we see the expression of God’s love by its illumination!

Conclusion:

We see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself! We see the expression of God’s love by its illumination!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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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!

Conclusion:

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!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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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.

Conclusion:
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!

Conclusion:
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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