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Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20

Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 30, 2017

Armor All is a line of car care products manufactured by American company Armored AutoGroup of Danbury, Connecticut, United States. Its sprays, gels, liquids and wipes are specifically designed to clean, shine, and protect most interior and exterior automobile surfaces. It is now owned by Spectrum Brands which is a diversified company that makes weed killer, batteries, and pet products. On the Armor All logo is a Viking dressed in his armor to portray the protective properties of the product.

The believer has been given spiritual protection by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul listed what he believed the protection of God consisted of and his list is not to be either comprehensive or all there is to the protection one has under God’s grace. Paul’s desire was not to give Christians a check off list to follow or adhere to but rather to show them that we are in the midst of a battle and that we have been given a gracious gift to go into combat. As believers we have the Armor All of God; let’s see what Paul meant…

READ: Ephesians 6:10-20

Paul is coming to a close in his letter to the Ephesian Church and his desire was that they remain true to the gospel and faithful to Jesus and so he writes them about…

I. The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! (Vv. 10-12)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

1. It is important to notice what Paul wrote here. He writes them to “Finally be strong”. Paul knew that the main battle people face is a spiritual one. Not everyone understands this or notices it because most just get up each day and do the same things over and over. Now certainly there are those who face psychological or physical handicaps but the point here is that we can become so focused on us that we forget about our spirituality. Many have and therefore do not give it a thought. It makes their lives a greater struggle than they realize. However, Paul reminds us that one can be strong “in the Lord and his mighty power”! God has given us what we need for our spiritual challenge! He reminds believers to “Put on the full armor of God”. Not just part of the armor but all of it. Again, Paul is not making a list so you can check it twice each day but rather he is reminding his readers that they face a foe far greater than they realize. We put on this armor “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”, literally his wiles or methods. His scheme is to get people from focusing on the spiritual aspect of their lives and to focus on themselves instead. Paul understood that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The world does not understand the war being waged and that it is dying and decaying right before our eyes and many are blinded by the blight. We forget that everything in the universe and everyone in the world whose focus is not Jesus as Lord are spiritually blinded and doing battle against him! Remember Paul began his letter by writing 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) Paul is reminding us of the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

EXAMPLE: When soldiers are sent into battle they are reminded to remember their training and to stay focused on the task ahead. Each Roman soldier of Paul’s day was trained to fend off ten enemies. They knew they could depend on their training and their armor to give them the advantage against their enemies. Christians are not to stand against the sin and evil of the world in their own strength but rather in the full armor of God! The reason is simple: we face a foe that is far stronger then we are and who will use every method he has to trick us into focusing on ourselves instead of God. We are to armor up and face the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

Paul understood that in a sin-driven world it would be hard for believers to go out and live lives that were diametrically opposed to the ungodliness of the society they lived in. So he writes them to remember that…

II. Believers have everything they need to do battle! (Vv. 13-15)

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

1. Remember the old Superman motto that he was for “truth, justice, and the American way”? Of course if you were to repeat this in a college classroom today you might be lynched for being way too xenophobic, racist, and misogynist. Yet here in Paul’s encouragement we discover him declaring “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace”! Since our battle is a spiritual one Paul relates we are to “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Paul was not necessarily speaking of a particular day of evil but rather when evil on any given day challenges our lives in Christ. When this occurs we will be able to stand our ground in Jesus! Notice how many times he tells us to “stand”. He does not call us to attack but to stand firm because when all else fails in our lives we need to be able take our stand in Jesus alone! So how in the world does one stand in Jesus? Paul writes we are to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Look at the progression Paul does here in his writing about this armor: Again it is “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace.” He is referring to the truth of salvation in Jesus alone, the righteousness that comes because of it, and gospel of peace Jesus preached between man and God because of him. We are to gird ourselves therefore in the truth of Jesus, dress ourselves in the righteousness that comes from believing in him, and walk in the readiness daily that comes from the gospel of peace we know in Jesus! Paul is teaching his readers about the confidence they can have no matter what the ungodly sin-fallen world throws our way! We can stand confidently and calmly as we go into the world no matter what occurs in our life because we have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and we are ready to stand with our feet fitted firmly in the gospel! Paul knew that believers have everything they need to do battle!

EXAMPLE: One of things I learned early in life was that if my parents told me to “stay right there and don’t move”, I was to stay right there and not move! I later learned that if I was lost in the wild I was to remain put so that anyone who was searching for me could easily find me. Most people die in the wilderness when they are not prepared, go alone, or do not remain where they said they would be. However, we sometimes can focus so much on the what the meaning of the equipment meant that Paul listed that we forget the core truth Paul was making here; namely that we are to remain firm in Jesus. We are to stay put because we know that believers have everything they need to do battle!
Paul continues in his list of grace gifts and concludes with those that are the basics of Christianity. And in doing so Paul reminds us that…

III. The battle all believers confront is a daily business! (Vv. 16-20)

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

1. Interestingly Paul ends his teaching with what occurs in the life of a Christian when they first believe. Here’s what I mean: Paul shares about faith, salvation, the word of God, and then prayer. So he writes that “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” A soldier’s shield was often made of wood overlaid with linen and leather. And it was often soaked in water before battle in order to smother any flaming arrows. The one thing that protects the Christian is their faith and Paul knew it was like a shield. When a person’s faith is strong in the Lord it can snuff out any smoldering ember the enemy tries to use in igniting sin in our lives. Paul then encourages his readers to place “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” together. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8 NIV) the Christian’s hope is certain and secure and we know that the Word of God is “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) These things are not to be done necessarily in order or as a one-two-three kind of thing but rather Paul’s wording here suggests a constant and continual action. And the spiritual glue, so-to-speak, that we can hang our armor on is prayer. So Paul tells his readers: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Again this is a constant and so “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Prayer is the believer’s conversation, petition, and praise to God himself! Paul was acutely aware of this and so asks, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Paul probably imprisoned for his faith and so he knew quite well what it meant to be strong in the Lord. We are to armor all because Paul knew that the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

EXAMPLE: There have been several movies called “Death Takes a Holiday.” While the Bible describes a messenger of death sent from God in several places, the Bible does not teach there is a specific being in charge of death. And while it is pure fantasy to think that death might take a vacation at some point, evil never does. The Bible does teach that all of creation is in a fallen state. It is all tainted by sin and therefore in a state of death, dying, and decay. My Mom would say that “Evil never sleeps.” I am not sure if she was referring to us boys or what but I do know she was correct. More than ever Christians need to armor all because the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

Conclusion:

The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! Believers have everything they need to do battle! The battle all believers confront is a daily business!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13

The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 5, 2017

The books and televisions programs of Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and others are fantastic mystery series. I love a good mystery. Trying to figure out who done it, how they did it, and why is great fun for me. I also like a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies and books as well because of the suspense. Yep, there is nothing like a good mystery; except where God is concerned.

There are many in our day and age and in the past who have tried to lie to mankind and declare only they know the secret or hidden mysteries of God. That all others except themselves need a special book, specific revelation, seer stones, a guide, or advanced teacher to tell us the hidden mysteries of God. Therefore isn’t great to know that the mystery of God has now been revealed through his Son, Jesus? There is nothing hidden, tucked away, or kept from those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus. And here in his letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us all about the mystery revealed!

READ: Ephesians 3:1-13

You can never truly know anyone; even one’s spouse can surprise you once in a while which can be a good thing. The great thing about the gospel message is that it reveals Jesus for who he truly is and Paul knew this to be true as well. He knew that…

I. The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! (Vv. 1-5)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.

1. Things can be confusing when you do not understand them whether it is some new fangled electronic gadget or something that is theological. In these situations it is often good to have someone who knows the ins and outs, kind of like a mentor, teacher, or guide. Paul understood this, not the electronic gadget part but the theological nuances that would have utterly confused both his Jewish converts but in particular the non-Hebrew gentiles. And so he begins to share with his readers from his own personal experience, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”. He considered himself a prisoner, which he probably was in Rome, of Jesus not just in a criminal sense but also as one called out as a volunteer to be willingly held captive by Jesus. He was held captive not for himself but for their sake! Paul saw his life’s calling as the “administration” as a personal stewardship or trust “of God’s grace”. God had given him this “household task” and “surely” they had “heard about” it! Paul had been made an apostle, messenger, to the Gentiles by Jesus. This grace was the “the mystery made known to (Paul) by revelation, as (he had) already written (them) briefly.” The mystery was that God would come in human form, be born of a virgin, grow to be a man and willingly give his life as a sacrifice for our sins! Also do not forget that Paul at one time did not understand this mystery and in fact had held the cloaks of those who willingly stoned to death one of Jesus’ followers. Only later when he was given instructions by the chief priests to go to Damascus to persecute more of Jesus’ followers did God intervene and call Paul to be his disciple to the Gentiles. And so Paul now tells the Ephesians that “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

EXAMPLE: The mystery of the ages is not difficult to understand; the problem is we as believers often make it harder than it is. It is kind of like the old joke about the Rabbi and the Priest who were by the side of a country road holding a sign that read: “The End is Near! Turn around before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that passed didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted, “Leave us alone you religious nuts!” All of a sudden they heard the screeching of brakes and a big splash. The Rabbi turned to the Priest and asked, “Do you think we should have written: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” I am so glad that the mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

The good news, the Gospel message is the mystery revealed. But what exactly does this mystery do and how does it do it? Oh that is a spectacular and most wonderful thing! Paul writes that…

II. He was entrusted to preach this mystery! (Vv. 6-9)

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

1. Paul continued by getting right to the heart of the mystery. He relates that “This mystery is that through the gospel”. What is through the gospel? What is this good news? Namely that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel” of all the promises of God! All believers no matter where they come from or their background become the chosen people of God! In fact we are “members together of one body” which is the church, the called out ones by Jesus that form his “body” in the world! Therefore we are all “sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”! This promise is more than joint heirs of God’s promise to his people it also gives eternal life and the presence and power of God to all who believe! Part of Jesus’ final prayer was when he asked God the Father, “My prayer is not for them alone (meaning his disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21 NIV) Paul came to understand what this oneness meant as he explains that “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” God had imparted this mystery to him on the road to Damascus and thereby he became its servant! Now his readers could have wondered why in the world God would do such a thing to someone like Paul. Yet he knew his past and writes that “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Paul had been entrusted to preach this mystery! And like Paul we also are “to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things”. He had written his friend Timothy that he was to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV) From the Four Gospel narratives to the Book of Revelation we are entrusted to preach this mystery!

EXAMPLE: It is sad but there have always existed charlatans who would use the gospel for their own purposes; from Ananias and Sapphira to the likes of Peter Popoff there are those motivated to use the mystery of the gospel for their personal greed and power. Remember Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” He knew a “time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV) We are entrusted to preach this mystery!

Jesus had ascended back to his heavenly realm and left his body the church to fulfill the preaching of the gospel mystery. For Paul it was important that his readers understand that…

III. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery! (Vv. 10-13)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

1. Paul bluntly relates that Jesus’ “intent was that now, through the church (Jesus’ body made up of his called out members), the manifold wisdom of God should be made known”. It is our job to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Jesus had) commanded”! (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Paul writes that this was part and parcel of God’s plan all along, that this “wisdom… should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”. God made this mystery known to all of the heavenly realm when he came as Jesus and when he died on the cross for our sins “according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord”! If that isn’t a mystery I don’t know what is! The Greek adjective “manifold” (polypoikilos) referred to the beauty of an embroidered pattern or the variety of colors in flowers. God redeemed all the “colorful flowers” of the world; all the patterns of races, colors, and creeds to himself through faith in him! This mystery brought Hebrew and gentile together into one body the church! “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Through faith in Jesus we have the right of freedom, the “courage, boldness” to confidently approach God’s throne! Hebrews reminds us that “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV) This is why Paul writes the Ephesians, “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” He was asking the body of Christ to pray for him a fellow believer! He knew he could because Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

EXAMPLE: There are those in our day and age who think that the church is a show you come to once in a while in order to feel good about yourself and God. There are others who believe it is a repository where we are to dispense our good deeds to the unwashed world. Or there are those who think that the church is an organization one belongs to in order to gain entrance into certain segments of society or culture. None of these are correct. The church is the body of Christ in the world made up of many members where each does its part for God’s plan that he has for them in the world in order that his message, the gospel, is shared. In this process we come together for worship of him, encouragement of one another, and mentoring to be sent out into the world with his message. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

Conclusion:

The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! We are entrusted to preach this mystery! Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Truth Will Set You Free! – John 8:30-36

The Truth Will Set You Free! – John 8:30-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 17, 2015

Shel Silverstein once quipped, “Tell me I’m clever, Tell me I’m kind, Tell me I’m talented, Tell me I’m cute, Tell me I’m sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I’m perfect – But tell me the truth.” Contrary to what some would like you to believe, there can only be one truth. However, for some the truth is completely relative, meaning it is only relevant when it benefits them or agrees with their own preconceptions. In our day and age where many think that lying is just part of life, we would do well to remember what Mark Twain wrote, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Jesus was the embodiment of the truth. He never lied nor did anything for his own benefit; his life was one of complete honesty, humility, and sacrifice. God knew that if he was going to relate the gospel message of salvation by faith through Jesus, Jesus would have to be completely truthful in every area of his life. In fact, Christians are to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom! (James 2:12 NIV)” Jesus would later ask the Heavenly Father to “Sanctify” those who follow him “by the truth” because he knew that his “word is truth. (John 17:17 NIV)” This is why here in John’s gospel we learn that the truth will set you free, let’s discover what this means.

READ: John 8:30-36

My father used to tell us, “A man is only as good as his word.” What he meant was that if someone said they agreed to something, they would definitely follow through. A man’s word would be dependable. Not everyone in our world today agrees with this but everyone wants others to do so! Jesus was completely dependable and he knew…

I. Everyone needs to know the Truth! (Vv. 30-32)

Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

1. When we read that “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him,” doesn’t mean that the fickle crowd all of a sudden got religion or was saved; this is not what John means. More than likely he meant that some of the crowd began to realize that Jesus was indeed the Messiah he claimed to be. They began to possibly realize that Jesus was exactly what he claimed and nothing more or perhaps he was a great Prophet. They could see something different in his life, they heard it in his teaching, and saw it in the miracles he performed. They understood that Jesus did only do what pleased God and noting else. He did not seek glory for himself or for his followers. He only glorified God! Interestingly, we read that “To the Jews who had believed him” Jesus begins some heavy teaching. Perhaps Jesus knew some of them were ready to understand more fully what he was about or perhaps he knew that while many were willing to “believe” they were not willing to commit. There are those who say they believe in God or that they believe in Jesus, but what they believe and what they do with their lives says otherwise. I believe this is why Jesus immediately follows up with the concise comment, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” The term “hold” here meant to abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, or stay firm in Jesus’ teaching. Not simply feel the urge one moment and then the next moment live otherwise. Far too many have a heartburn faith. They will burn to be filled and then walk away sated only to feed from some other trough that makes them feel good. If one wants to be called a disciple of Christ, one must hold to his teaching moment by moment, “Then you will know the truth, and truth will set you free!” The freedom Jesus spoke about was the freedom gain from the sin condition that infects everyone and freedom from the bondage of trying to please God. The truth of the gospel is not a fleeting feeling, a principle to post on Facebook, or an urge to be filled; it is a way of life! The truth is Jesus Christ and everyone needs to know the truth!

EXAMPLE: Sadly, there are those who claim Jesus but who will pridefully tell you that they will allow their children to make their own decision concerning spiritual things. What? They would never dream of saying, “I eat healthy myself, but I am going to allow my children to decide for themselves what they eat.” Or, “I don’t play with poisonous snakes, but I am going to allow my children to decide for themselves if they want to or not.” There is a reason God told us “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)” The idea here in Scripture is that the parent takes the time to train their children in the Lord daily and they would then continue to walk in their faith. Too few Christian parents actually train their children in the truth of the gospel Jesus Christ. We discover here that ignorance is not bliss; everyone needs to know the truth!

When I had our dog put down someone later remarked, “Well now she is happy and running around in heaven” I just looked at them. They were shocked that I did not believe our dog went to heaven; after all I am a pastor! I blandly asked them, “What constitutes a ‘good’ animal over a ‘bad’ animal?” Did they think all the mosquitoes, flies, ants, slugs, triceratops, tyrannosaurus rexes, wooly mammoths, snakes, whales, dolphins, sharks, eagles and vultures made it as well, or just dogs and cats that we liked in life? Spiritual ignorance is nothing new and here we discover in John’s gospel that…

II. Not everyone knows the Truth! (Vv. 33-36)

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

1. Now remember that Jesus was speaking to those who had “put their faith in him.” And notice how they respond to his doctrine that they had to hold on to his teaching. Like folks who try to justify their shallow faith today they retort with a truly ignorant statement, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Of course they had been slaves to all most everyone! They were slaves to the Egyptians, slaves to the Babylonians, slaves to the Persians, Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Assyrians and they were now slaves to the Romans! And the great big elephant standing in the temple was that they were now slaves to their sin! This is why Jesus came, to set them free; to seek and save the lost! There are some who think that this response was from those who had not placed their faith in him, but John specifically and deliberately tells us that he was speaking to those who had “put their faith in him.” Jesus gives them the truth they needed to hear but probably would not listen to, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Everyone sins. Everyone is a slave to the sin condition of the world! Claiming their ancestral pedigree did not excuse their spiritual ignorance. This is why Jesus responds by telling them, “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” Jesus wants us to fully understand that only those who would choose the truth of the gospel message, that he is indeed the Savior Messiah, would be saved. Like many today, they had no sense of their bondage to sin! Some think that since they feel they are a good person they are spiritually okay, some think that if they walk into a church once in a while they are spiritually okay, and there are those who actually think because their spouse, their parents, or some relative is a pastor, deacon, or faithful then they are spiritually okay — nothing is further from the truth! One is only set free by the one who buys your bondage, Jesus. This is why Jesus tells them, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Sadly, not everyone knows the truth!

EXAMPLE: My Dad used to say, “A shade tree mechanic is only worth the free advice he gives — nothing.” The same is true for those who give spiritual advice but know nothing of what they are talking about. The problem the Jewish people had was that they had forgotten what God desired. They were depending upon spiritual leadership that knew nothing spiritually about God. They knew how to follow their man-made rules and keep themselves wealthy while the common folk suffered. Kind of like today’s politician. People are easily fooled by birds who sing loud but who only want to feather their own nest. Their spiritual blindness is seen here in John’s gospel. Sadly, not everyone knows the truth!

Conclusion:

Everyone needs to know the truth but not everyone knows the truth!

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

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Whispers! — John 7:11-18

Whispers! — John 7:11-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 1, 2015

Have you ever had a vicious rumor spread about you or someone you know that was not true? I have. Gossip, like whispers in today’s passage, can be like a burning fire and consume everything and anyone in its path. The Bible relates that “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 18:8 NIV)” In other words gossip can seem satisfying at first, but in reality it is like poison and affects those who participate in it and those who it is often about. It is like digested food, retained and remembered.

When folks gossip it says a lot about their character and what they value. How we handle gossip says a lot about who we are and our character as well. Jesus faced those who wanted to whisper or gossip about him and how he handled himself and those who wanted to spread rumors speaks volumes about Jesus’ character and who he was. Let’s find out what Jesus did about the whispers or gossip concerning him…

READ: John 7:11-18

Some folks make gossip a game. Douglas Adams, who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ quipped that “Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules.” Someone once wrote that “The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.” This could be said of the folks of Jesus’ day as well. We discover that…

I. Whispers can fill the sails of speculation! (Vv. 11-14)

Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.

1. The Jews, meaning the Scribes, Pharisees, Teachers of the Law and other enemies of Jesus expected him to be at one of the biggest Jewish festivals and so they “were watching for him and asking, ‘Where is that man?'” The wording here denotes their disdain for Jesus and also their view of who they actually saw him as, a mere man and not the Messiah. Some surely wanted to find him and kill him, while others wanted to test his teaching or see some miracles. I believe some deliberately refused to name him publically because of their contempt. Certainly there are those who think they might have been afraid of the Jewish leadership, but that does not make complete sense with the word usage and how we just learned they desired to kill him. It is easy to dismiss someone or gossip about them when one uses non-descriptive terminology rather than a personal name. Whatever the reason, we discover that “whisperers were divided as to who Jesus might be, “Some said, ‘He is a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, he deceives the people.'” Both whispers were erroneous because Jesus is more than just a good man and he certainly was no deceiver. However, the gossip had already begun its dirty work. The people were in fear of the Jewish leadership and this is why “no one would say anything publicly about him.” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him.” Interestingly, we also learn from John that it was “Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.” It is then, at just the right time that Jesus begins to confront the whisperers. The gospel goes against the gossip. This is exactly what one has to do when confronted by gossip, teach the good news through our responses, attitude, and actions. Remember, whispers can fill the sails of speculation!

EXAMPLE: Those who love to foster the sinister speculation of others do not like to face those they whisper about. Whisperers love to remain in the shadows of “she said, he said” “some say” or “it has been said.” Twain said that “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” When met with gossip Jesus confronted it with the gospel and we should as well. Jesus discovered that whispers can fill the sails of speculation!

When we talk frequently with God, we will speak the words we have heard. When we spend our time in speculation, we will discuss the lies we think we know. Again, we discover here in John’s gospel that…

II. Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth! (Vv. 15-18)

The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

1. When Jesus begins to confront his gossips with the gospel, “The Jews were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?'” My grandmother would say, “Ignorant folks think those they talk about are just as dumb as they are.” This was the case here with the Jewish leadership and Jesus. They just could not believe this hayseed from Galilee could be so spiritually smart. As Jesus taught he did not teach as others did, he taught with authority and the truth. Jesus was not like those who wanted to garner other men’s praise, he desired that his listeners only know and understand the words of God. They were surprised at Jesus’ knowledge of the Scriptures; that he should be familiar with them; to be able to intelligently interpret them and give them sense and meaning in a clear concise manner as he did! Jesus answers his gossiping critics, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” He only taught what he learned from God. How much better would the world be if this were the case today in many of our lives as well. In fact if his listeners wanted to make sure what Jesus taught was the truth or not, all they had to do was the wil of God. He relates, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” Later on in John’s gospel Jesus would confront his skeptics by telling them, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. (John 12:49-50 NIV)” Jesus knew where their problem was, it found in their pride. The Jewish leadership thought they were the keepers of God’s words, his law, and now they were being confronted with the truth. This is why he continued by telling them, ” He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” The true goal of anyone should be to glorify God! In a sense, Jesus is exactly what we were meant to be! We were meant to be holy and teach the truth of God to others! When others began to gossip about Jesus, he confronted them with the truth! Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!

EXAMPLE: I like what Dennis DeHaan wrote concerning telling the truth, “How prone we are to lying! With a stroke of exaggeration here, an omitted detail there, or a misleading silence we distort the truth. Yet truth is the foundation and superstructure of all relationships. Remove the girders of truth, and society crumbles in on itself. This moral absolute is so self-evident that even criminals punish their own who lie to them. The ninth commandment forbids purposeful deceit against our neighbor and underscores the sacredness of truth in all our dealings. The two Hebrew words used for “false” in Exodus 20:16 and in Deuteronomy 5:20 mean “untrue” and “insincere.” Any expression of insincerity and untruthfulness, therefore, is bearing false witness against our neighbor. This commandment also exposes two underlying motives that God hates—malice and pride. When we lie, it is usually to cast a person in a bad light or to place ourselves in a good light. The first springs from malice, the second from pride. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John. 14:6 NIV)’ The closer we are to Him, the more truthful we will become with ourselves and with others. The question is, ‘Are we followers of Him who is the truth?'” Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!

Conclusion:

Whispers can fill the sails of speculation! Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!

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

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Jesus saves when God selects! — John 6:60-71

Jesus saves when God selects! — John 6:60-71
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 15, 2015

We often hear that hindsight is better than foresight, meaning that we know the past but not what the future brings in life. There are those who spend large sums of money in order to discover what the future holds. Houdini, the great escape artist and magician spent years debunking mediums and spiritist frauds that scammed innocent people of their hard-earned money. Houdini’s training in magic allowed him to expose frauds who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics. He was a member of a Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernatural abilities. None was able to do so, and the prize was never collected. Christians would do well to remember what God told the Israelites concerning such things, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:31 NIV)”

One thing we can rest assured in is the fact that once we are chosen of God, he never leaves us nor forsakes us. It is interesting to note that even Jesus’ disciples had a hard time accepting his teaching on the fact that we must “eat of his flesh and drink of his blood”, meaning we need to place our faith and trust in him completely. And, like some today, they had a hard time accepting that God chooses us and knows who will come to him or not. It is a matter of Jesus saves when God selects. Let’s find out what John writes concerning the subject…

READ: John 6:60-71

When we focus on the wrong thing, we can be easily confused. This is why magicians are so successful, they are able to make us focus our attention in the wrong direction in order for them to pull of their trickery. Jesus was not trying to fool anyone and in fact addresses his disciples’ concern head on. In understanding the truth…

I. Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing! (Vv. 60-64)

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

1. People have not changed at all. They acted just the same in Jesus’ day as they do in our day and age. The crowd grumbled at Jesus’ tough teaching on who he was and now we discover that those who were his disciples grumbled as well, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?'” Yet we know they were focused on the wrong thing. They could not get past the notion of Jesus saying, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (John 6:56 NIV)” And that Jesus had just reminded them that the manna they demanded would only lead to death while the bread of life he offered brought eternal life! Jesus was not talking about flesh and blood issues, but rather sacrifice and eternal life concerns! How humorous to note that Jesus was “Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this” and so he bluntly asks them, “Does this offend you?” Does this scandalize your sensitivities? Are you in shock over what I just told you? So he then turns the tables on them and relates, ” What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” And in fact, they would do so! They would see him ascend into heaven and they would be told by God’s messenger, his angel, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11 NIV)” Jesus then gives them an important piece of advice, one that we would do well to remember, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” Nothing else matters in this life than the words of Jesus! And in fact, he reiterated that “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” They were spiritual truth, they are spiritual truth, and only his words mean anything for eternity! Yet, while he was saying this, he knew who would betray him, but it did not matter. What mattered was the truth. Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “He can’t see the forest for the trees.” It means the person might be focusing in the wrong thing in life. Money, family, sickness, jobs, or school are just some of things that take our focus off the correct thing in life and give us narrowed vision. One time, a disciple of Jesus, requested that he be permitted to return home and bury his father. This man’s father was not dead or even at the point of death. This disciple was simply saying he wanted to return home and wait until his father died. Then he would return and follow Jesus. His request demonstrated he felt discipleship was something he could pick up or lay down at will. He put material concerns ahead of Jesus, for he apparently wanted to receive the estate when his father died. Jesus’ response, Let the dead bury their own dead, showed that following Him carried with it the highest priority. Jesus said that in the grand scheme of things the physically dead could be cared for by those who are already spiritually dead. He needed to focus on what truly mattered in life. Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing!

It can be hard for our finite minds to grasp the infinite truth that God knows our beginning and our ending. Job would remind us, “How great is God–beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out. (Job 36:26 NIV)” and David would sing, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:15-16 NIV)” It should not surprise us then that…

II. Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you! (Vv. 65-71)

He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

1. While the disciples were trying to wrap their heads around what Jesus was trying to teach them, he gives them something else to ponder. “He went on to say, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'” Jesus not only knew who would betray him, he already knew who would come to him! And, it was God who enabled them to come to him in the first place! Now because of their traditions and their spiritual blindness to what God was doing in their midst, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” His rejecting their desire to make Him their political king; His demand for personal faith; His teaching on atonement; His stress on total human inability and on salvation as a work of God — all these proved to be unpalatable for many people. They gave up being His disciples. — (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) Jesus had many who had followed him until now and so he asks his closest disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” The truth was that his own disciples, the apostles, would struggle with who he was even after his resurrection! But now Jesus is trying to refine their faith and to help them understand that their faith was far more important than they understood. They in fact would be the heralds of a new covenant with God. Peter who is often quick to respond and slow to think through his actions correctly responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter was not confessing Jesus as a good teacher, another great master, but as the Messiah! No one else has the gift of eternal life. “We have believed and have known” is a better translation of the Greek. Where else indeed could they go for the words of life? Certainly not the old and tired works-oriented misguided temple worship of Jesus’ day. Just as they chose to follow Jesus, he had first chosen them to be his inner circle, his disciples, the apostles. He tells Peter, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” John in his hindsight writes, “He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.” Jesus knew one of them would or could betray him, and in fact any one of them could, yet he had chosen each of them to follow him just as God elects us now. Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you!

EXAMPLE: My father used to play a game with us where we had to select which hand we wanted. We learned to be careful which one we chose because he never relented and gave us the other choice when we picked wrong. When God selects us we think that his predestination is unfair because we equate it with getting the short end of the stick, so-to-speak. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s desire is that all mankind come to know him personally, but in his omniscience, God already knows who will  and who will not to choose to come to him for salvation. Not everyone chooses eternal life. If you are being prompted today to give your life to Christ, do so because we have learned that Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you!

Conclusion:

Jesus saves when God selects, we should not focus on the wrong thing! Jesus saves when God selects, and he has selected you!

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

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The testimony of the truth! — John 5:30-38

The testimony of the truth! — John 5:30-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 4, 3014

For a lot of folks, truth is relative. In other words truth is only true when it benefits them personally, however, this is not true! Truth is not defined by the moment, the era, social definitions, or our own desire to be happy. Truth is truth, period. In the movie Mary Poppins the main character sings a song to her charges to make things easier for them. The song is “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The lyrics relate that anything, even hard work is better with the right attitude, however, far too many think that the truth should be delivered in the same manner, with a spoonful of sugar. They often sugarcoat it in order for it to be more palatable for their listeners.

Jesus knew that truth was relative as well, so-to-speak. In fact, he knew it because his Father was the author of the truth. But he did not change the truth to suit his needs or to make people feel better about themselves. The truth was who Jesus was because his Father was the truth. Jesus here in John’s gospel gives us the testimony of the truth, let’s discover what he teaches us…

READ: John 5:30-38

My father had so instilled in me that lying was one of the worst things a person could do that I never even attempted to do so. In fact, I was horrible at it. He often said that “the truth will find you out.” We learn here in John’s gospel that…

I. The truth is the will of God! (Vv. 30-32)

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. (John 5:30-32 NIV)

1. Jesus continued on the theme he had begun with that by himself, as the Messiah in human flesh, “I can do nothing.” And even though he has the authority to judge (v.27), he relates three things concerning his judgment: 1) he judges only as he hears from God, 2) his judgments are always just, and 3) he never seeks to please himself but only seeks to please his Father concerning the judgment he gives. Jesus’ will is to do the Father’s will. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34 NIV)” What sustained and satisfied Jesus in his ministry was the fact that he was completely in God’s will for his life. We can rely on this truth as well for our lives because when we are in the will of God, we can be confident in all we do with our lives. We know when we are not in the truth of God when we begin to cover up our faith, are embarrassed by our faith, or make excuses for our faith. Jesus would also relate, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him. (John 8:29 NIV)” Jesus knew that God never leaves us or forsakes those he loves. Jesus knew that if what he said about himself was only from him, it might sound like boasting, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.” He also understood that the Jews wanted more than one source when someone was giving evidence about themselves and he bluntly remarks, “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” God testified concerning his Son, Jesus. Jesus was content to submit to the Father’s will and to let the Father authenticate Him. The truth is the will of God!

EXAMPLE: David Roper writes concerning the will of God: “We’re often looking for God’s will—especially when we’re in a difficult situation. We wonder, What will happen to me here? Should I stay or does God want me somewhere else? The only way to know for sure is to do what He asks you to do right now—the duty of the present moment—and wait for God to reveal the next step. As you obey what you know, you will be strengthened to take the next step and the next. Step by step, one step at a time. That’s how we learn to walk with God. But you say, ‘Suppose I take the first step. What will happen next?’ That’s God’s business. Your task and mine is to obey this day and leave the future to Him.” Jesus looked to his Father and allowed him to lead him. He did nothing without God’s leading. He could do so because he lived in the truth and the truth is the will of God!

I have one of those new flat screen TVs where they measure the resolution in 780p, 1080p, or HD. I have come to the realization that the truth of my resolutions are often in sub-standard definition! Yet, through it all I have discovered that…

II. The truth is the light of God! (Vv. 33-35)

You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. (John 5:33-35 NIV)

1. Jesus did not just depend on the testimony of himself or that of God the Father, he also reminds his listeners that John the Baptist’s function was that of a witness. He tells them, “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.” A good witness tells the truth. John’s witness about Jesus had integrity. However, Jesus immediately relates, “Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.” Human testimony is dependent upon human frailties. We cannot see everything, we cannot hear everything, and we certainly do not know everything; but God does! Jesus knew that his listeners respected John the Baptist because of who he was, but Jesus did not necessarily need John’s acceptance to be who he was or to say or do what he did. John’s gospel began by telling us that John the Baptist “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:7-8 NIV)” It was through the light of God that all men would believe and be saved. Jesus mentioned John’s testimony about himself so his listeners would “be saved.” Jesus’ truth, his light burns eternally, but “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” John’s light, his testimony, only burned for a little while and then Herod ended up killing him, but Jesus’ testimony, his truth shines forever! John the Baptist was sent for the people’s benefit, however sinful people are in such darkness that they need someone to tell them what is light! “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5 NIV)” How interesting is it then when Jesus is in front of Pontius Pilate, who accuses him of declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (John 18:37 NIV)” The truth of God shone brightly in front of sinful man, but they were blinded to its truth! The truth is the light of God!

EXAMPLE: One of the things we like to do when we go into the nearby Ape Cave is to turn off any lights. We are immediately engulfed in complete and utter darkness. You cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Just as it is hard to see in utter darkness, it is difficult for us to see the truth when we are in the darkness of personal sin. Sin blinds us to the light of the truth in our lives. Jesus would teach, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NIV)” We learn here that the truth is the light of God!

The problem with a new year is that it goes in one year and out the other! Kind of like our New Year’s resolutions. We make them only to break them. How wonderful to know then that there is something and someone we can utterly depend on and that is Jesus. The reason is simply because…

III. Seeing is believing the truth of God! (Vv. 36-38)

I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. (John 5:36-38 NIV)

1. Not only did Jesus have his own testimony, God’s testimony and the testimony of John the Baptist but he also had ” testimony weightier than that of John.” Sometimes we are trusted and known not just by what we say about ourselves but in what we actually do with our lives. Our actions speak louder than our words. Jesus was also justified by the things he did. He relates, “For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” The very miracles the Jews had such a hard time with because Jesus was willing to display God’s compassion instead of their legalism, spoke volumes to who Jesus was. Jesus would later tell Philip, one of disciples who wanted Jesus to prove who he was, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:10-11 NIV)” Earlier Jesus told his detractors, “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NIV)” When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and then died on the cross and rose from the grave, he testified to the truth of who he was! Isaiah the Old Testament prophet would declare concerning the coming of Jesus, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:5-6 NIV)” Sadly, the Jews of Jesus’ day were so calloused and hardened by sin they could not recognize who he was, but those of who do recognize Jesus for whom he is are blessed! Jesus retorted, “For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17 NIV)” This is why he said to those Jewish leaders, “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” The question this morning would be, “Do you see, hear, and recognize Jesus for who he is and will you give your life to him?” For Jesus, seeing is believing the truth of God!

EXAMPLE: My Uncle and I were working in my grandmother’s garden. I had been entrusted to weed it while he had worked on the other side of the house. When he came back he asked me how in the world I had gotten done so fast, then he realized I had just cut the tops off all the weeds instead of pulling them up by their roots. He informed me that a real man is not only seen by their words but by their work ethic as well. I learned that day that simply saying I did something carried little weight, but instead I was judged by what I had actually done. The legacy we leave in life is not just with our words but in what we do with our lives. We may struggle with believing in Jesus by what he said, but when we look intently at his life seeing is believing the truth!

Conclusion:

The truth is the will of God, the truth is the light of God, and seeing is believing the truth of God!

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

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Live or die! — John 5:25-29

Live or die! — John 5:25-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 28, 2014

One of the most fascinating things ever written was by the Apostle Paul when he wrote his friends in Philippi, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV)” How could Paul be so confident in making such a bold statement in a world that was so evil and full of death? Paul had come to the conclusion that whether he lived or died, he lived or died in the Lord. Live or die it did not matter for Paul as long as he was living for God when he died he knew he would live for God!

Such confidence in Jesus is not born out of wishful thinking on the part of Christians, it is based on fact. We know to live or die rests solely with the Lord. When I was about 9 years old my best friend and I were playing in his backyard. We had climbed to the utmost top of a couple of fir trees that grew in his yard. They were huge and we climbed as high as we could. Just as I was reaching the top of one tree, the branch I was on snapped and I plummeted to the ground below, hitting dozens of branches on the way down. I hit the ground on my back, knocking the wind out of me, and blacking out. I remember thinking that I was going to die and end up in heaven. Imagine how surprised I was when I woke up only to find my friend standing over me. Live or die, it is up to the Lord. Let’s find out why and what John writes about it in his gospel…

READ: John 5:25-29

New years are full of hope because we think we can start new and fresh. Out with the old and in with the new, yet within a few days, even though we might make a resolution to do better, we find ourselves in the same predicament we were in before the new year. However, here in John’s gospel we discover that a truly fresh beginning begins when…

I. We live because of Jesus! (Vv. 25-26)

I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.

1. Jesus knew what he said was true, we discussed this before, and because of this he related that “a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Jesus knew that he would usher in a new way of life and that time was coming and had been established simply because he was in the world. Just as Jesus would command Jairus’ daughter upon his saying “Talitha koum!” (little girl get up) to rise from her ill-fated death, or the widow of Nain whose dead son lived after Jesus said, “young man, get up” and his friend Lazarus upon Jesus calling him to “come forth!” ultimately Jesus would also be able to call those who trusted in him from the death to life as well! Those dead in sin would live eternally after placing their faith in God’s Son, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” Jesus can do it because of who he is! Just as God was the giver and taker of human life, Jesus was as well! Later Jesus would bluntly state, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (John 10:17-18 NIV)” Jesus has the power of life! We know it is true because God said so! John would later write, “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12 NIV)” We live because of Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We have all heard the phrase, “Life is short.” However, few of us think about that fact until life becomes, well, short. When we are younger we give no thought to the consequences of many of our actions. We take greater risks thinking we will live forever or at least longer. I will never forget a close Christian friend who was making deliveries for his work near Battle Ground when his truck was hit head on by a logging truck. He was killed instantly. Some would have focused on how sad it was for such a kind and godly man so young to be killed so tragically, yet his life was celebrated by all who knew him as the vibrant Christian he was. We all knew as he had that we live because of Jesus!

Live or let Die was the name of an old James Bond film. James Bond is ordered by his boss, M, to investigate the deaths and their connections to Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island called San Monique. Bond meets Solitaire, a beautiful virgin tarot expert who has the uncanny ability to see both the future and remote events in the present. There are those actually think fortune tellers can foresee the future for our life or our death. None can. Here in John’s gospel we discover that if we do not confess our faith in Jesus…

II. We will die because of our sin! (V. 27-29)

And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

1. Jesus told his detractors that God “has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” Paul would teach that God’s power was “exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything. (Ephesians 1:20-22 NIV)” Jesus has the power and the authority because “he is the Son of Man!” He is God’s chosen one, his anointed, the Messiah! Jesus related that his listeners should “not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out” of their graves. In fact, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him… And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 6:9 & 8:11 NIV)” Wow! We live because he lives! Yet, Jesus also related that “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” In other words those who have sinned and are not cleansed of their sins will die in their sins! Paul would remind us that “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 NIV)” Later, when those Jesus was talking to could not believe in who he was, he bluntly tells them, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:24 NIV)” We will die because of our sin!

EXAMPLE: Many people in Jesus’ day thought that when you died, you were dead. Dead is dead. In fact, when they remembered that Jesus had promised to resurrect himself, they determined to have his tomb sealed and guarded! They knew that if he did indeed rise from the grave then it would prove who he said he was! What they forgot was the fact of why they were dying in the first place. Paul would write that “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned… (Yet) at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, 12 NIV)” The fact is, we die because of our sin!

Conclusion:
We live because of Jesus and we will die because of our sin!

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

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