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1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 3, 2017

In seminary we used to tease one another with a little ditty that went “My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Moody Press”. Of course this is a takeoff from the old hymn however it makes one think about what their hope is built upon. Christmas is based on hope and the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior, the Messiah, of the world! As believers, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also wait eagerly for the Second Advent when Jesus returns!

A large part of our lives center around anticipation. The enjoyment in many of life’s events is built on the fact that we have time to anticipate them. Whether it is Christmas, vacations, trips, or sporting events, all grow in value because of the hours we spend looking forward to them. Now imagine the anticipation of the salvation the hope of mankind coming to earth. That is what the first Sunday of Advent is all about, our expectation and hope! Let’s discover why…

READ: Isaiah 9:2-7

Salvation would not break forth until it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to Isaiah, “In that day… if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds.” (Isaiah 5:29-30 NIV) It is always darkest before the dawn and we discover that…

I. The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world! (Vv. 2-3)

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

1. We are often introduced to a myriad of end of the world scenarios, from fiery asteroids crashing into the earth to killer zombie viruses. Yet few in our day notice the spiritual darkness that has engulfed the world. It is the same spiritual darkness that was overwhelming Israel. Like the spread of darkness by the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien. We find in the pages of Scripture that whenever mankind neglected their God, spiritual darkness spread. But now, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The veil is torn in two! The darkness is pierced by the rising sun! Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings tells the embattled at Helms Deep, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East!” Noticed again that Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”! John wrote, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world!” (John 1:9 NIV) Jesus related, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21 NIV) Isaiah saw that the light of God would return to spiritually dark Israel, and in fact, “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” While those who loved God had been reduced to a remnant, they would be “enlarged” and their “joy” increased. They would rejoice again! The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!

EXAMPLE: As a child, I began to fear the darkness. Part of the problem was my brother Ed who loved to whisper frightening scenarios to me after we had crawled into bed. But it was also because I could not see what laid in wait in the darkness. Now isn’t it interesting that Scripture tells us that the ungodly love darkness “instead of light because their deeds” are evil. And, in fact, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” I loved to have a flashlight as a kid that I could turn on to make sure there was nothing out there that could harm me. Light does that. It exposes anything that tries to hide in either the darkness of sin or a darkened room! With great anticipation Isaiah longed for the first Advent when the hope of the Messiah would bring light into a darkened world!

David would cry, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalms 51:3 NIV) Mankind has always struggled with sin. Jesus reminded us, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NIV) But, now Isaiah tells us…

II. The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin! (Vv. 4-5)

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

1. No one could have believed for even one second that the weak, ineffective, and subservient Israelites would pose any kind of threat to the more powerful Midianites. Yet, God did just that and in fact did it through someone totally unexpected! The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian enslavement. Then, the whole of the great nation of Israel was redeemed, whereas now only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption! Isaiah compares it to the day when Gideon broke seven years domination of Midian over Israel. And, it would occur not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judges 7)! It was God “as in the day of Midian’s defeat” who “shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, (and) the rod of their oppressor.” He did it through the One whom he will send. This would be a supernatural work of God! So complete will be the act of God sending his Messiah to ease our burden of sin that, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” We see that all the trappings of the oppressor are heaped into a pile and set on fire; and, as they blaze up, the freed slaves exult in their liberty. Even the blood-drenched cloaks have been stripped from the corpses; they are tossed on the heap, and, saturated as they are, they burn! So complete is the victory that even the weapons of the conquered are destroyed. Our conquering King has been manifested, that he might annihilate the powers by which evil holds us bound. His victory is utterly complete; by his power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

EXAMPLE: Today the Federal debt has become an enormous financial burden that many simply ignore. Each citizen’s share of this debt is horrendous. And it increases every day by $3 billion! It is a huge burden on us and future generations because it is an added tax to everything we buy and will affect how we live. Fewer college graduates will get jobs because there are fewer people retiring in order to survive, fewer companies hire because they have to pay off their share of taxes, and therefore goods and services increase for the same reasons. Incomes and retirement are reduced as taxes increase. It is a debt we can never pay that we had no say in what we owed! The sin debt of Israel and the entire world was enormous and could never be paid by all the sacrifices that could ever be made! Rejoice! By His power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

The promise of God would take an unexpected turn as his promises often do. This is why I often chuckle over those who think they have the return of Jesus all figured out, especially when Jesus remarked, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV) This is why it was so amazing when Isaiah prophesized thousands of years beforehand that…

III. The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

1. Here is a wonderful amazing truth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The Savior of the world, the Messiah, would be born a babe and all of God’s government would be placed squarely on his tiny shoulders! Do you understand the significance of these words? Can you grasp their meaning for all mankind? God’s messengers would share with scruffy shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV) There it is, amazing isn’t it? But more than that, “he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace.” Four beautiful names describe him for us; He will be an exceptional teacher, the embodiment of our powerful God, reflecting His eternal nature, which brings the peace that surpasses all understanding! Now, Isaiah did not fully realize that Jesus would be the One who would fulfill all of this during his first advent, but it will come about that “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” God’s promise to David would come true! God would rule and reign through his Messiah! How and why would God do this wonderful thing? Isaiah says, “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” It would be done because God joyously chose to do it! How totally marvelous that the fulfillment of God’s promises is found in a tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling, lying in a manger! Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man is complete in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: Jesus related, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48 NIV) “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 NIV) “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV) “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11 NIV) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25 NIV) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) The first Advent is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:

The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man!

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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How to remain faithful! — 1Timothy 4:1-7

How to remain faithful! — 1Timothy 4:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 26, 2017

Here in America we have not faced the persecution that exists in much of the rest of the world for our faith. We think that if someone feels ill-will towards us or says a nasty thing about our faith that this is the same as the persecution others around the world face — it is not. Certainly we are facing more and more resentment, ungodliness, and outward bitterness towards Christianity but we are not yet suffering beatings, slavery, and religious genocide as others have and are. Yet how are we to remain faithful if persecution for our faith worsens?

Paul knew very well what real religious persecution was all about. He not only felt it as he followed Jesus but had inflicted it on other believers before becoming a Christian himself. This is why he was being so urgent with Timothy; being a believer in Paul’s day meant being persecuted for your faith. So how does one remain faithful in light of such a prospect? Let’s find out…

READ: 1Timothy 4:1-7

Paul knew there would be those for whatever reason who would try to sway the early church to not adhere to what Jesus taught and so tells Timothy that in order…

I. To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ! (Vv. 1-2)

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1. Jesus had taught his disciples that “false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time… No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:22-23, 32 NIV) And Peter had written to remind the church that “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?’ Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation… But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2Peter 3:3-4, 9 NIV) So like Jesus or the other disciples I do not think Paul was specifically writing Timothy about a set date but rather he knew everyday brought believers closer to the day of Jesus’ return and that “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Never forget that anyone who teaches against the gospel in the antichrist and any teaching that goes against what Jesus taught is demonic. John would write that “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist… every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1John 2:22; 4:3) So Paul warns Timothy that “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ!

EXAMPLE: I believe in fact this is what we are facing now in our day. There are those who want to dismiss Jesus as just another human who taught good things and was a nice guy who loved everyone. While this is the partial truth it is not the actual truth. Adam Rutherford in his book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Human Genes writes that history is “foggy” and therefore untrustworthy so if we “Flit back a few centuries, and there is no contemporary evidence even for the existence of Jesus Christ, arguably the most influential man in history. Most of our tales about his life were written in the decades after his death by people who had never met him. Today, we would seriously question that, if it were presented as historical evidence. Even the accounts that Christians rely on, the Gospels are inconsistent and have irreversibly mutated over time.” This is not the gospel message of Jesus who came to “seek and save the lost” rather it is part and parcel of a worldview to dismiss Jesus. To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Jesus Christ who “appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1Timothy 3:16 NIV). To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ!

There are a lot of false notions that have existed even for decades concerning what is taught in Scripture. As believers we must not appear hypocritical in our faith walk nor in our teaching of what Scripture actually says. Therefore Paul tells Timothy that…

II. To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth! (Vv. 3-5)

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

1. There is a lot of ungodly teaching concerning Jesus in our day and sadly a lot of it comes from “Christian” churches. Some of comes from the pride of the preacher who speaks it; some of it comes from the human adherence to unbiblical teaching; and some of it comes from those who would want to deceive you in order to gain some kind of control over your life. I learned early on that the best thing believers can do is to read their Bibles but again sadly few actually do. Instead we allow others to fill our heads full of gospel gunk that has no actual bearing on what Jesus, the disciples, or biblical writers actually taught! As I have heard and taught the best thing to remember when reading what others say about a certain passage: A text taken out of context is a pretext to a false doctrine, and so we must be willing to make sure we contextualize what we read or hear concerning Scripture! Paul gives us some examples of what folks do who have an axe to grind rather than truthfully teaching what is actually in Scripture. Some of these folks “forbid people to marry” like ascetic Catholics or those who think marriage is not necessary or that it can be redefined to fit their personal perverted proclivity! Or those who “order [believers] to abstain from certain foods” like Seventh Day Adventists and their schizophrenic attitude towards the Old and New Testaments or those who teach that Christians should eat only certain “healthy” things forgetting that all things “God created [were] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” Going back to what Jesus actually taught and how he completed God’s plan and therefore the law, redemption, and what we should know about God, Paul reminds us that “everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth!

EXAMPLE: Pontius Pilate stood in front of the truth of God in human form, Jesus, and asked him “What is truth?” In our day the answer to this question has been reduced to some personal esoteric often emotional concept. We have churches that are complacent in not teaching the entire truth of God found in Scripture. Some do it in order to sooth their own guilt, some do it in order to promote themselves, and some do it so they will not “offend”. The gospel message is offensive by its very nature. Never forget Jesus bluntly taught his followers, “All men will hate you because of me.” (Luke 21:17 NIV) Later Paul would write Timothy, “For the 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.” (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV) To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth!

What the world needs today is the gospel truth yet there are those who will defy it, discredit it, and try to dissuade others from following it. Therefore as Paul taught Timothy in order…

III. To remain faithful we must teach others the truth! (Vv. 6-7)

If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.

1. I have found it frustrating, kind of funny, and often puzzling when you use logic with others and they resort to name-calling, vulgarities, or lying. It is truly sad when those who profess faith in Jesus do these things. Paul understood that this would occur as well and he wanted his young friend Timothy to be aware of his concerns. He knew the Jewish community, the pagan world, and even other jealous believers would resort to these kinds of tactics when faced with the stark truth of the gospel. So he writes that it is his duty as a pastor to teach the truth in season and out of season no matter what others claim. In fact, Paul writes, “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” The same is true for each of who profess our faith and trust in Jesus. In fact, Paul would write Titus, another young pastor, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8 NIV) Paul would later tell Timothy to “Keep reminding them of these things.” (2Timothy 2:14 NIV) In fact he would tell him to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” (2Timothy 2:15-17 NIV) And in fact this is why there still exists a resistance for some to follow actual biblical teaching rather than what has “always been taught”. This has created a false correction by some and spiritual rebellion by others. Therefore we are to “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; [but] rather, [we are to] train [ourselves] to be godly.” To remain faithful we must teach others the truth!

EXAMPLE: I have found it beneficial to allow others to read for themselves what the Bible says rather than always trying to tell someone what it says. This is why I will use specific passages when witnessing to someone else and allow them to read them out loud and tell me what they think they say. Now do not think I am saying that reading some Christian books are not beneficial because they are, but we need to be more discerning in what we read even if it claims Christianity. As Paul would write, “‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV) We must follow and teach what the Bible actually says and not our own inclination. Much of what is taught about Jesus’ coming, prayer, angels, worship, church membership, giving, church leadership, and salvation has more to do with manmade doctrines rather than what is actually taught in Scripture. Paul tells Timothy that in order to remain faithful we must teach others the truth!

Conclusion:

To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ! To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth! To remain faithful we must teach others the truth!

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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Keep Your Promises!

Keep Your Promises!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2017

What is a promise? The Bible relates that it is the same as an oath and is reliant and reflects upon not only the character of the person giving it but it reflects on God himself. If a person says that they believe in God, makes a promise – an oath – and then breaks it they are reflecting poorly not only their own dishonesty but that God cannot be trusted either. This is why Jesus would teach his disciples, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37 NIV) Satan, the “evil one” Jesus is referencing here, is the chief liar in all of history.

Jesus has a curious conversation with those who would try to accuse him of being dishonest. He bluntly tells them, “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:43-45 NIV) The reason some folks cannot understand the truth, the promise of God through Jesus, is that they are liars. They would rather believe a lie rather than the “gospel truth” concerning salvation through Jesus! Jesus’ language is not clear to a liar because he speaks only the truth and they are unable to hear his language! Wow!

For God and therefore Jesus making a promise and not keeping it is the same as lying. You are a liar if you do not keep your promise. This is why one should always consider the promises one makes and it is why things like marital vows are held in such a high degree. In fact, law courts view breaking the marital vow can result in legal action whereby the guilty party can be held liable. The same is true for contracts we sign and it is why God holds us spiritually accountable for the vows we make, the promises we keep or not, and spiritual laws we are to follow.

So do you think that making a promise to your child, spouse, parents, or others is important to God as a believer? I do and so should you. Keep your promises.

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Hold on to the truth! – 1 Timothy 1:12-20

Hold on to the truth! – 1 Timothy 1:12-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 8, 2017

Like a lot of things in our society today, the truth has become subjective; truth depends upon how one feels, whether or not one thinks they are justified in whatever perverted proclivity they desire for the moment, or the deliberate movement of society’s moral boundaries. In a world where truth can be a slippery slope of a mixed bag of tricks one many wonder where in the world does the truth lie? What truth do we hold on to in our day and age?

Paul was a convert to the Christian faith and it wasn’t an easy thing for him to do. He knew where he had come from and in the Book of Acts he related “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.” (Acts 26:9-11 NIV) That was the truth Paul had known but he now had learned to hold onto a different truth, one that was revealed to him by Jesus. Let’s see how he tells Timothy to hold on to the truth…

READ: 1 Timothy 1:12-20

I could never figure out how in the world my parents could figure out what I had been up to until I got to be parent and then I realized it was because, as hard as it could be to fathom, they had been kids at one time as well! Nothing is hidden from someone who has already been there and done that; it was then I realized like Paul did in his relationship with Jesus that…

I. The truth exposes ignorance and unbelief! (Vv. 12-14)

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1. Far from persecuting believers Paul had become one himself and now he could honestly relate that “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord”. The Messiah had saved him for a purpose. His purpose would be to reach the non-Jew, the gentiles of Asia Minor. It was Jesus who had given him “strength” to face those who now would doubt his conversion or question his integrity to the faith. In fact Jesus “considered” Paul “faithful”. So much so Jesus called Paul “to his service”. No greater endorsement could Paul have been given than that of Jesus and Paul had it “even though [he] was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man”, he was “shown mercy” by Jesus “because [he had] acted in ignorance and unbelief”! What had turned Paul around was his exposure to the truth in the form of Jesus! Remember while Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus had already affirmed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) Paul had a face-to-face meeting with the Messiah while on his way to Damascus to persecute the church! But now he could boldly proclaim that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” What Paul had once held dear in life no longer mattered compared to knowing the truth of Jesus as his Messiah! Paul knew the truth exposes ignorance and unbelief!

EXAMPLE: These past few weeks have been kind of different for me. I suppose it happens whenever anyone has to be examined in such an intimate and personal way. Being a very private person it was really embarrassing especially when I had to be in my birthday suit! I had to undergo a biopsy for the possibility of prostate cancer. After they took sonograms I told the doctor they had better not end up on Facebook! I am sorry if that makes you uncomfortable but I share this to say that sometimes total exposure can be totally disconcerting. Paul understood because the truth exposes ignorance and unbelief!

Sometimes in life we all need forgiveness for something. Compassion and understanding comes when we realize we need God’s forgiveness. Remember Paul said he was “shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” and that the “grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love”. Paul clearly understood that…

II. The truth gives mercy to sinners! (Vv. 15-17)

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1. From where Paul had come from and where he was now in his life was a complete 180 degree turn around. He knew his past of being the “worst of sinners” and so “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance”, namely that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. He now realized that his personal vendetta against believers had come from his own selfish ambition. Remember he described it as an “obsession”. In fact Paul “began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3 NIV) Whole families were taken away from their homes and persecuted by him in the past and the early church had not trusted him at first. “But for that very reason [Paul] was shown mercy so that in [him], the worst of sinners” Jesus might be glorified by the “display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life”. Paul now understood that Jesus loved sinners like him and had died and rose again for them and therefore him! What an extremely unimaginable thing to have happen! Paul would write, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:9 NIV) Paul knew that Jewish tradition taught a strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and therefore taught a completely different view. Paul now realized that the truth gives mercy to sinners!

EXAMPLE: We live in a world where folks want to be loved but few understand unconditional love. Many think love is found in lust, feelings, or by getting others to do things for them that they like. In fact there is a false notion that if couples live together first they will fall in love and their cohabitation will therefore be stronger. Contrary to the liberal mythos out there that wants you to think that this is true, it isn’t. In fact living together creates unresolved issues of trust, consistency, and commitment. Plus children created from these inconsistent relationships have problems of trust, consistency, and commitment in life. No wonder many in our day and age have a problem understanding that Jesus loves them unconditionally. Paul teaches us the truth gives mercy to sinners!

The message that Jesus brought is powerful not only because of what it offers but what it actually does. Paul would write that “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV) this is the truth of God and Paul teaches us that…

III. The truth never allows a lie! (Vv. 18-20)

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

1. Paul knew Timothy and knew him well enough that he could confidently write to Timothy as if he were his own child and so he writes “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you”. Timothy had been called to the ministry and those around him evidently had testified and spoken to this fact. Later we will learn that Paul would tell Timothy “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic (or uttered) message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Timothy 4:14 NIV) More about this later, but we see that Paul had come to know Timothy personally and intimately enough he could write him in this way. Paul also knew Timothy was young and inexperienced and immature in some areas of his ministry. Timothy needed to be reminded that he needed to remember the spoken words of others that were made concerning him “so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience”. Paul would use the metaphor of being in a fight several times in his letters. He understood the consequences and the spiritual battle involved because “Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” For whatever reason some of the early believers either never believed, were easily swayed, or were threatened to the point of denying their faith! Evidently “Among them [were] Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom [Paul had] handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme”. To deny Jesus after saying you believed in his sacrifice and salvation was the height of blaspheme, in fact Jesus taught to know he was the Messiah and then to deny him “would never be forgiven”. (Mark 3:28-29 NIV) Were these men redeemable? Perhaps this is why Paul spiritually handed them over to Satan “to be taught not to blaspheme” literally lie about Jesus when they had said they had believed the truth of Jesus! The truth never allows a lie!

EXAMPLE: For my father one of the worst things a person could do was to lie especially when it was to cover up something they knew could harm others. My sister could lie about anything, anytime, to anyone when she thought it benefited her. She was a rebellious teenager. We were all lined up and questioned about who had broken my mother’s prize cookie jar. We all said we did not do it. In fact I was wondering just when Mom made cookies to put in the cookie jar so that it might be broken when someone was stealing them! Since each of us said it wasn’t “me” all of us suffered the consequences. Many years later my brother and I learned it had been our sister who had done the deed. Even at 64 I still struggle that she was willing to throw us all under the bus by lying. We learn from Paul that the truth never allows a lie!

Conclusion:

The truth exposes ignorance and unbelief! The truth gives mercy to sinners! The truth never allows a lie!

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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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!
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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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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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