Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26

The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 16, 2014

Recently one of the local news outlets did a series on prostitution in Portland, Oregon. The people involved are younger and more dangerous than ever before. They enslave their victims, often abusing them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Police are trying to get a handle on the human trafficking in order to gain control of illegal guns on the street as well. Interestingly, no one ever mentioned the fact that the criminals involved did not register their weapons or submitted to background checks. I digress. Some call it the oldest profession, but it is a dirty, nasty, crime-ridden, and immoral blight on society that needs to be eradicated.

In Jesus’ day we discover that many women were placed in this horrendous position simply because they had no other means of support. Pimps, drugs, and illegal weapons were not necessarily a part of the trade back then, however it did carry a societal disdain and a seedier reputation, unless of course you were one of the respected pagan temple prostitutes. These were highly sought after positions that families often willingly gave their daughters over to. However in Jewish society it was seen as it should be, as ungodly and immoral behavior; not fitting for anyone to participate in. Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus with the tainted lady at a local watering hole, let’s discover what occurs…

READ: John 4:1-26

Here we find…

I. Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting! (Vv. 1-6)

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:1-6 NIV)

1. Interestingly we discover the reason for John the Baptist’s disciples getting frustrated that Jesus was baptizing: “The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John.” Now why this would excite them so much? Perhaps it was because of that temple incident where Jesus had forced them to confront their immoral and ill-conceived money changing scheme. Or perhaps it was because Jesus was gaining in popularity and John was waning, but whatever the reason we find out that “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” However, “When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.” Evidently Jesus decided it was not worth causing a stir, it was not time to reveal himself, and decided to head back north to Galilee. Most Jews would have gone a more of a roundabout route going completely around Samaria. They would not have wanted to be tainted with even breathing the same air that Samaritans breathed or walking on the same roads they did because all pious Jews thought of their brethren in the north as half-breeds. Not real Hebrews at all; to be avoided at all cost. Yet Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Jesus deliberately decided to head almost straight through Samaria to get to Galilee! Jesus had a divine appointment to make and “So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” Samaritans “were racially mixed and their religion resulted from syncretism and schism from Judaism.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” It was here Jesus stops to rest. John writes, “It was about the sixth hour”, which was about noon. We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

EXAMPLE: When I first went to have my wrist looked at for surgery, they hadn’t put up their signage yet. It was a new building. I parked the car went around the building, could not find a door with any markings on it. I then backtracked and went to where I started, looked for someone who could help me. No luck. I then called the office on my cell phone and they told me to go through the door nearest the parking lot and take the elevator. I did that and ended going up several floors, walking clear around inside of the building and finally coming to what I thought was the office. I asked the receptionist why they were so difficult to find, she replied, “Didn’t you take the elevator from the ground floor, turn left and come through the door over there?” She pointed to the way I had come in! I had simply been going the long way instead of the shortest distance. Folks can do the same thing when they try to take their own way to God instead of simply trusting him. Here we find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

We listen as…

II. Jesus shares living water with a dead lady! (Vv. 7-18)

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:7-18 NIV)

1. First a direct path and now a candid conversation. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)” So, we find Jesus alone at Jacob’s well with a strange lady. We never know her name. Jesus asks her for some water, which in of itself is unusual. Jewish men did not talk to women they did not know and especially in Samaria and this is why she retorted, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” John reminds us, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” For Jesus to drink from a jar a Samaritan woman had touched would have made him unclean. Having piqued her curiosity, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” She was arguing about well water and Jesus answers with living water! God had told the prophet Jeremiah, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)” Now, God was offering all people the living water found in Jesus, even this Samaritan woman! The water represented the Holy Spirit, the “spring of water welling up to eternal life!” You would have thought she would have been curious as to who Jesus was, what was the gift of God, and why was he talking about living water? Instead, like so many do, she could only think of what immediately benefited her, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jacob’s well is one of the deepest in the region. She challenges Jesus by asking, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus puts her straight, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Her sin blinds her understanding, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus however challenges her sin, “Go, call your husband and come back.” She is surprised and confesses, “I have no husband.” The truth comes to light!  “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Her sin is exposed and we find Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

EXAMPLE: All who are without Christ are spiritually dead. Like dead pools of stagnant water their lives are as still cloudy pools, while those who are born again are alive and active like rushing water that flows over rocky rapids in a clear cold stream. Living water is that which revives the deepest thirst of a weary parched soul. Nothing is more enjoyable in a desert wilderness than a cold drink of crystal clear water. Nothing is more refreshing to the sin weary soul than the refreshing rush of the cleansing spirit in one’s life. And here we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

And we see…

III. It is not about where you worship as to who you worship! (Vv. 19-26)

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:19-26 NIV)

1. We forget, like so many do, that our relationship with God revolves around our worship of him. Worship defines who we are and what we truly believe. This is why Jesus would teach, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24 NIV)” Again, the lady misunderstands Jesus’ words and tries to steer the conversation away from her sin and life predicament, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Women, who are caught in her line of work often, try to flatter the ones they are earning their living from and perhaps this is what she was trying to do with Jesus by calling him a prophet. Yet notice now that she no longer uses the term “our fathers” but rather, “you Jews” to argue with Jesus. She could have repented and confessed her sin but instead turns the argument into the age old discussion about where the true worship of God should take place. It is not the place where one goes through the motions of manmade worship, it is who one worships! “Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.'” Worship begins when one is born again! Jesus bluntly responds, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” The Samaritans were deluded and thought they could worship God in any way they desired. However, the Messiah would not come from Samaria or anyone else but Israel. God promised it would be so and Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise! Yet the Jews were just as confused as the Samaritans! Here is the truth of the matter, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Only those born of the Spirit of God can truly worship God! This is the truth! The woman begins to finally understand and we see a glimmer of spiritual hope when she tells Jesus, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus, I believe smiled and his face lit up as he responds, “I who speak to you am he.” Now she knew the truth of the living water and that it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

EXAMPLE: I was listening to the radio and the speaker was saying that he liked to go to worship because it healed him. It was like going to the hospital for him and he needed to be there in order to face the following week. His whole point was that he viewed worship as for him to benefit from and that is what he felt it was for. Sadly, his view of worship is convoluted and here’s why: He, like so many do, was confusing worship with the church. The act of worship is meant for God and his people are to come to the body of Christ, the church, when hurt to be refreshed and healed. Too many think that when they come away from worship feeling good, their worship was successful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus told the woman that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” It is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

Conclusion:
We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting, we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady, and it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

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

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The Lamb of God! — John 1:29-34

The Lamb of God! — John 1:29-34
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 5, 2014

I remember some of the names my mother had for me. Some were rather embarrassing, and no I am not going to share those with you! We all have nicknames or pet names others have given us that we would rather not share with anyone. Yet there are some names we are proud to let others know we have. Names like father, mother, grandfather or grandmother, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, son or daughter. These names are ones we often carry with pride and enjoy when we are called by them.

John the Baptist not only testified about the Messiah to come, but he also gave him one of the most endearing and fascinating names ever. It is a name that people have used, found comfort in, and wondered at for thousands of years. Here in John’s gospel we see him writing about John the Baptist and his ministry down by the Jordan River and it was there while he was doing his baptizing that John the Baptist shares with others the wonderful name of the Messiah to come: The Lamb of God! Let’s discover what this means for our lives this morning…

READ: John 1:29-34

I have to laugh when I hear folks argue about who Jesus was or is because there is so much historical evidence pointing to exactly who he is. John writes that…

I. The Lamb of God is Jesus! (Vv. 29-31)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:29-31 NIV)

1. While John was baptizing down on the Jordan River near a small town named Bethany, Jesus, his cousin comes down to the river. We discover that the very “next day John saw Jesus coming toward him.” Perhaps they had grown up together and had seen one another, after all Mary did journey to her Aunt’s house to share her pregnancy predicament with Aunt Elizabeth. We know that after Mary discovers her pregnancy that “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zachariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39 NIV)” So, it does not seem too farfetched to think that these young men had known one another, after all they were cousins! But now John sees Jesus not as his pesky cousin he grew up with but in an entirely new light. (I know cousins can be pesky because when I was three years old, I met my cousin Steven for the first time, and I bit him on the arm! He was five and had been bugging me.) But whatever the case, we discover Jesus is seen by John differently. John now looks towards Jesus and proclaims, “Look (behold), the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Some think this was probably after Jesus had been baptized by John, spent time in the wilderness, and was tempted by Satan and so was changed and charged with his mission. John no longer saw Jesus as his cousin but rather as the one God-ordained, God-gifted sacrificial offering that took the place of the Pascal lamb and the sacrifice it represented! Jesus is the one who “takes away the sin of the world!” He could because he is the one John had already spoke about where he said, “A man comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” Jesus can take the sins of the world away because he is God, and was before John, surpassed him, and everything else! But why did John say, I myself did not know Him? While they were cousins, sometimes family cannot see you for who you truly are! I believe John did not know that Jesus was the coming Messiah until he was revealed to John by the Father. John however knew Jesus was the “reason [John] came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel” as the good news, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
EXAMPLE: M. R. DeHaan writes for the Radio Bible Class, “A tourist who had visited a church in Norway said that he was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower. He learned that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To remember that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell. John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Peter said that the full weight of our sins fell upon Jesus (1 Pet. 2:24). And the apostle Paul explained, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We all have fallen in sin, but on the cross Jesus took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. He now offers eternal life to all who personally put their faith in Him (Jn. 3:1-16). Have you been saved by the Lamb?” The Lamb of God is Jesus!

Few of us have someone important go to the mat for us or give us a personal reference. Here in John’s gospel we discover that…

II. The Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit! (Vv. 32-34)

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34 NIV)

I. What John the Baptist had to say about Jesus probably did not carry to much weight with the crowds in his day and age; we have the advantage of hindsight. But here we discover John “saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on” Jesus. John’s Gospel does not say the Spirit appeared like a dove at Jesus’ baptism, however it is inferred and we know from the other gospel accounts that it did indeed occur. However, the invisible Spirit came from heaven and manifested himself in the form of a dove and John saw the Spirit as a dove remain on Jesus. Isaiah foretold that with the Messiah to come that, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD–and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2-3 NIV)” Interestingly, we see that John “would not have known him, except that the one who sent [him] to baptize with water told [him]” that “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” So in these few words of John the Baptist we discover that he indeed heard his calling directly from God and that he followed what God told him to do. And what John is telling us is the fact that he would not have recognized that Jesus was the Messiah without God’s direction! God would show John exactly who the Messiah was and do it with a pronouncement that only God could make, that of the Holy Spirit resting on him when he asks to be baptized! The other gospels relate that, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:16-17 NIV)” For John the Baptist this was proof enough and he would declare, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God!” John teaches us that that the Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!
EXAMPLE: God proved his love for by sending his son Jesus and he testified to the fact by the display of his Spirit resting on him at his baptism. Randy Kilgore writes, “When Hans Egede went to Greenland as a missionary in 1721, he didn’t know the Inuit language. His temperament was often overbearing, and he struggled to be kind to the people. In 1733, a smallpox epidemic swept through Greenland, wiping out almost two-thirds of the Inuit people—and claiming Egede’s wife as well. This shared suffering melted Egede’s harsh demeanor, and he began to tirelessly labor to care for the people physically and spiritually. Because his life now better represented the stories he told them of God’s love, the Inuits could at last grasp His desire to love them too. Even in suffering, their hearts turned to God. Perhaps you are like the Inuits in this story, and you are unable to see God in the people around you. Or perhaps you are like Hans Egede, who struggled to express love in a way that taught people about God. Knowing we are weak and needy people, God showed us what love is like. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins (John 3:16). That’s how much God loves you and me.” John teaches us that that the Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!

Conclusion:

The Lamb of God is Jesus! The Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!

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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Follow the Spirit! – Galatians 5:16-26

Follow the Spirit! – Galatians 5:16-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 25, 2013 AM

I like some of the new features of smart phones, especially the ability to use them as a GPS whether you are walking around town or driving to a destination. However, one has to be careful not to completely trust in the directions they give, because they still can lead you down someone’s driveway or to none existent places. Kind of like the car commercial a few years ago where the guy was following the vocal directions from his in-dash GPS and it tells him, “Turn left…” he immediately does and runs into a building, a then as the dust and debris settles the robotic voice continues, “…in 500 feet.” Not all guidance is necessarily good guidance.

Christians have access to the best possible guidance as they exercise their freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, many believers sometimes confuse Christian freedom with the liberty do anything they want, and then garner God’s forgiveness. They do not know—or they do not care—that they are free but only to follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Not surprisingly, they may become experts in several or more of what Paul called “works of the flesh”. They follow their own lusts, not the Spirit. They show little evidence in life of the fruit of the Spirit. God wants His people to avoid all works of the flesh and to focus on developing all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. For this reason, He wants them to follow the Spirit’s leadership. Let’s see what Paul teaches us this morning as we learn to follow the Spirit…

READ: Galatians 5:16-26

Believers face the constant temptation to follow culture’s permissive influences. Many are the voices urging self-indulgence and insisting, “anything goes” and “if it feels good, do it.” We need to hear the Spirit’s voice giving spiritual, moral, and ethical direction. Paul gives us the antidote to poisonous behavior: following the Spirit’s leadership. He contrasts the Spirit to the flesh and highlights the conflict between them. He reminds us to…

I. Walk by the Spirit! (Vv. 16-18)

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18 NIV)

1. Paul quickly states, “So I say, live by the Spirit” and the reasoning is obvious to him because when you do, “you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” We forget that when we come to Christ, He saves us for eternity but not out of infernal bad habits. This is why Jesus would warn his followers to, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5 NIV) The words literally translated are, “keep on walking.” As a believer walks through life, he should depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit for guidance and power. But the Spirit does not operate automatically in a believer’s heart. He waits to be relied on or trusted in guidance. The believer must learn to hear and heed the Spirit’s voice because when they do, they “will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Too many believers constantly fight within themselves daily whom they will follow and then wonder why God is not more active in their lives. He cannot be and will not be if you continually decide to follow that which is contrary to His nature! “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” Point in fact, “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Never forget, dear child of God, every Christian is a walking civil war. Flesh and Spirit are in perpetual conflict; they are diametrically opposed to each other and vie for dominance in believers’ lives. This is where your guilt comes in, you follow the lusts of your sinful nature, the Spirit within you knows you should not be doing what you are doing, and you then sense the guilt. It is unrelenting warfare for control of believers’ lives! The Spirit strives to prevent believers from giving in to evil; the flesh tries to thwart the Spirit’s work. However, Paul reminds us, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law!” Trying to be “good enough” in order to assuage your guilty conscience places you back under a life of trying to live under the law, rules and regulations instead of the freedom of the Spirit. The answer: Walk by the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: What temptations arising from your lower nature do you face? How does the Spirit help you overcome them? Paul maintained strongly that only following the Spirit’s guidance could enable people to overcome evil and experience the freedom of grace. The inner struggle between believers’ old nature and the Spirit would continue, but following the Spirit’s leading—walking with Him—would empower them to be victorious. We are to let the Spirit guide our living. We must cooperate with Him. Each day presents temptations and challenges. The warfare between our old natures and the Spirit continues. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting and to rely on His power to help us overcome persistent pulls to evil. Through His power we can avoid doing what displeases God. We are to walk by the Spirit!

Paul goes on to present a catalog of “the works of the flesh” so these believers could be forewarned. He repeated what he had told them when he was with them: People with lifestyles marked by works of the flesh are not part of God’s kingdom. He warns us to…

II. Avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit! (Vv. 19-21)

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV)

1. Paul tells us bluntly, that, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious!” Paul listed what the flesh produces by naming three sexual sins: immorality, impurity, and debauchery! The first was a general word for illicit sexual activity—sexual intercourse before and outside marriage. The word can mean “fornication” or “prostitution” and often is translated “adultery.” How sad in our day and age where folks think they can skirt God’s grace and the hurt of divorce by having sex outside of marriage! Paul says it is impossible! The second word “impurity” refers to material dirt, defilement, moral filth or lewdness! It is the aspect of not caring what you do publicly or privately; literally, dirty thoughts and lifestyle! Much of the Internet today produces this kind of behavior through pornography, sexting, or openly flaunting sexual activity in public. Jesus severely warned, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:21-23 NIV) Paul had also warned, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10b-11 NIV) Far too many play a dangerous game with the grace of God thinking that what they think or do has no consequence on their spiritual lives, Paul warns otherwise! In fact, it can lead to all kinds of ungodly activity: “idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like!” Dear child of God, do you constantly struggle with any or all of these? Perhaps you have forgotten, as the Galatians had, that a life lived this way leads to guilt and a weak faith. In fact, Paul suspected that those who constantly battled with these things may not have truly committed themselves fully to Christ, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Does your daily thoughts and life depict your faith? If we are to follow the Spirit, we should avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: With what attitudes of the old nature do you need the Spirit’s help to overcome? The world today encourages, exemplifies, and instructs us to daily indulge our sinful nature. It goes so far as to barrage us with the notion that if we do not, we are out of step, living in the past, or phobic. That we may suffer from some kind of psychological disorder because the rest of the world says anything goes anywhere anytime! However, if we let the Spirit guide our living, we will avoid doing what displeases God. We will model sexual purity for a perverted society in which moral guidelines are being erased swiftly. The Spirit will enable us to bear witness concerning authentic religion, will help us avoid destructive attitudes, and will help us reject consumption of drugs or alcohol in order to have a “good time.” If we are to follow the Spirit, we should avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit!

Finally, Paul teaches us that the Spirit’s activity in Christians produces a cluster of virtues that gives explicit evidence believers belong to Christ. Paul exhorts believers to “follow the Spirit” and then gives us three examples of what following Him calls for. He teaches that believers will…

III. Display the fruit of the Spirit! (Vv. 22-26)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV)

1. Paul doesn’t leave us in spiritual despair but reminds us what, “the fruit of the Spirit” is. The word fruit refers to virtues only the Spirit can cultivate and bring to full growth in believers’ lives. Human nature apart from God can only perform works; only the Spirit can produce fruit. Note that the word fruit is singular. Genuine believers exhibit a cluster of virtues characteristic of living in the Spirit. The first is love. Paul chose the word “agape” because it does not carry the primary element of emotion or affection. Agape is God’s kind of self-sacrificing love: determined good will that acts for others’ best interests. “Joy” differs markedly from happiness. Happiness depends on favorable circumstances. Joy is a deep celebration of relationship with God no matter what the circumstances are. The gladness of being held securely in God’s grace empowers believers to face life’s challenges. “Peace” is much more than absence of conflict. The word has the idea of wholeness and well-being under God’s rule that issues in spiritual calmness in the face of difficulties. “Patience” means “longsuffering.” It conveys a slowness to become angry. We would say it is the capacity to “put up with a lot.” “Kindness” is gentleness, thoughtfulness, and consideration in dealing with others. It is not sentimentality. It has the sense of being agreeable, obliging, or pleasant. “Goodness” is “moral excellence,” but it is much more. The word carries the idea of active generosity and compassion toward others—of doing more than justice requires. We might define goodness as kindness in action. “Faithfulness” is honesty or loyalty in relationships with others. It is the quality of reliability; people can count on believers. “Gentleness” conveys the sense of strength under control. It was used of animals that people tamed and disciplined to carry riders or pull loads. The Spirit enables Christians to exercise disciplined strength in relating to others. “Self-control” is mastery over emotions, especially over sensual desires. It is the spiritual strength to discipline self, to impose self-restraint. Self-discipline issues in moral purity. “Against such things, there is no law!” In fact, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” And Paul ends his instruction by reminding us that, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” We are to follow the Spirit, not our emotions or the world’s desires because when we do, we will display the fruit of the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: Which virtues in the cluster of the fruit of the Spirit are most evident in your life? Which are underdeveloped? What will you do to allow the Spirit to produce a more complete harvest? If we let the Spirit guide how we live, we will exhibit characteristics that please God. The fruit of the Spirit will be evident in our inner spiritual lives, in our interactions with others, and in our conduct. We not only will avoid works of the flesh, but we also will advance toward the goal of spiritual maturity, which leads to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!” In following the Spirit, we will display the fruit of the Spirit!

Conclusion:

We have learned from Paul what it means to follow the Spirit in our lives. We are to walk by the Spirit, avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit, and to display the fruit of the Spirit!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 28 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering, what does a tattoo do for you? Have you gotten the one tat that matters most in eternity? The tattoo of the one whose Spirit seals the deal. What about body piercings? Has your soul been pierced and your bones to their marrow by him who was mutilated and murdered for you? Before you mangle your flesh for life perhaps you need to humiliate your flesh for eternity first. Whether you cut your skin or mark you body does not matter for eternity, it may however matter when your ears continue to grow and your skin begins to flab, but what does matter most is the stamp of him who loves you. Makes one wonder…

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Acts 1:1-14 – We have a mission!

Acts 1:1-14 – We have a mission!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2012 AM

Do you remember that old TV program “Mission Impossible” and later they made several movies with Tom Cruise? How serious do you think Christians are today in carrying out the Great Commission? Do you think it is “Mission Impossible”? For some it is second nature to reach the world, yet for others they never give it a second’s thought. Why is that? I believe perhaps that some of us have lost sight of the mission Jesus commanded His followers to take up. In every Gospel and the Book of Acts we find Jesus challenging His followers to take up His mission to reach the world.

Luke, the author of the Book of Acts and the Gospel took very seriously Jesus’ call to mission. Many Bible students believe the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts made up two parts of a single literary project. Both were written to his friend Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In the opening verses of Acts, Luke summarized his first narrative as a way of reviewing his first work and introducing the second. Luke’s Gospel is all about what Jesus began to do and teach and Acts is about what Jesus continued to carry out through His followers. Jesus commanded His followers to continue His work by being on mission as His witnesses throughout the world. Let’s discover how and perhaps regain our own desire to be about Jesus’ mission. After all, we have a mission…

READ: Acts 1:1-14

Bible students observe that Luke evidently used this teaching of Jesus to outline his book. Acts 1-7 describes the early church in Jerusalem; Acts 8-9 tells about Christians in Judea and Samaria; and Acts 10-28 relates the spread of the gospel as far as the capital city of Rome. After all we are reminded that this is all about…

I. Jesus’ Mission! (Acts 1:1-3)
1. Being on mission for the Lord is more than showing up on Sunday mornings! — Leeferism
1) Luke’s brief review highlights the essential ingredients of Jesus’ earthly mission, that is, the period from His birth in Bethlehem until His ascent to heaven. Jesus’ deeds and teachings were carefully preserved. As part of His mission, He had chosen 12 men to be His apostles to represent Him and to continue His teachings. The main reason Jesus came to earth, however, was not to perform miracles or to teach truths. He came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Luke knew that Jesus suffered and died on the cross as the satisfaction for sin. God then raised Him from the dead. The tomb was empty. Further, He also presented Himself alive to His apostles. Luke called Jesus’ resurrection appearances “convincing proofs.” Not one of the witnesses doubted that Jesus was raised from the dead to new life. Only a resurrected Lord could truly save from sin. Acts relates that Jesus’ resurrection appearances lasted for “over a period of forty days”. Jesus taught about how the Scriptures had spoken of Him (Luke 24:27). In addition, He taught further about “the kingdom of God.” This had been a central topic of His teaching ministry (4:43). The kingdom of God through Jesus, the Messiah-King, is the opposite of the kingdom of this world of sin and death. During those 40 days, the King taught His followers more about His kingdom. Jesus was about to commission them to take the message of the kingdom and invite others to become kingdom citizens. Later on, the Apostle Paul expressed the importance of the kingdom this way: “[God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). This was Jesus’ mission! Praise God that Jesus perfectly accomplished His mission!
EXAMPLE: Today, believers need to know what Jesus did and taught about the kingdom of God so they can understand their own mission as being witnesses for Him. Suppose you have a neighbor who grew up somewhere where the Christian gospel is largely unknown, then one day your neighbor casually comments, “I have just learned that the Easter season began as a way for you Christians to remember the life and mission of Jesus. Would you mind writing out for me a simple paragraph summarizing what He accomplished and why He did so?” How would you respond? What would you add that Luke omitted or what would you omit that Luke included? Consider writing such a paragraph and sharing it with someone you know that does not know Jesus as Savior and Lord this week. Perhaps you could begin by telling them about Jesus’ mission!

Jesus summarized the Christian mission to the world with one simple phrase: “Be my witnesses.” In a court of law, a witness is someone who has seen or experienced something and then tells others the truth about it. In Christianity, a witness is someone who has experienced Jesus Christ through the gospel and then tells others about Him. But the witness must be communicated. In court, witnesses must speak what they have experienced; they can’t just be observed. Although it’s important for Christ’s followers to model exemplary lives, He has asked that they speak on His behalf. Notice, too, that this responsibility wasn’t limited. All His followers were included. We are reminded that it is…

II. Our Mission! (Acts 1:4-8)
1. Our mission isn’t to be about us, our mission is to be about Jesus! — Leeferism
1) Jesus gave His disciples a commission that showed His great concern—that the gospel witness would spread all over the world! Along the way, He provided important information concerning the work of the Spirit in energizing this task. Peter promised that God would give “the gift of the Holy Spirit” to all who repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38). Second, Paul wrote that Christians “however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9) In other words, being baptized with the Spirit is another way of looking at what happens at Christian conversion: the Spirit of God is given in such a way that the Spirit now lives in the believer as a permanent gift. This wonderful gift enables and empowers the witness of believers to the world. The birth of the church as a spiritual entity on Pentecost was marked by the gift of the Spirit (like breath given to a newborn infant) to enable God’s people to live and grow and fulfill their mission. As the church continues to grow, its continuing life depends on that same gift of the Spirit all believers enjoy that began that day at Pentecost. Notice Jesus was neither distracted nor concerned about the final fulfillment of His second coming, like so many are. Instead, the disciples were to “wait for the gift” God had promised! So when they foolishly asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He bluntly replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” There it is, our mission as His disciples is to be His witnesses beginning in our community and then going into the world! It is our mission to witness about Jesus!
EXAMPLE: It is not in the best interest of Jesus’ followers to know dates and time lines for Bible prophecy. Christian history is littered with examples of misguided persons who focused on dates and the end-time schedule. Such people have lost sight of the main thing, which Jesus declared in verse 8. As someone who used to be extremely interested in biblical prophecy, I’ve personally had to guard against being consumed with figuring out whether all the signs were pointing to Jesus’ immediate return. As a young adult, I heard a number of preachers claim that Jesus’ return couldn’t be later than 1988. In fact, one said there were 88 reasons why! Guess what? He was wrong! Then there was another round of such preaching when Y2K, the year 2000, rolled around. This was a mistake because the new millennia actually began in 2001, not 2000. Therefore we must guard against both date-setting and having an unhealthy interest in “the signs of the times” as important for Christ’s mission. One paraphrase I heard for verse 7 included the following: “It’s none of your business to know ahead of time when the end-time scenario will unfold – be my witnesses!” That’s our mission!

The pattern of beginning in Jerusalem, moving out to Judea and Samaria, and finally spreading to the ends of the earth has inspired churches, mission agencies, and individuals. The Lord expects us to be involved in local missions, regional missions, and international missions. Many congregations have structured their mission activities and budgets to include all three. Therefore, we are reminded that we need to be…

III. Preparing for the Mission! (Acts 1:9-14)
1. Our hearts will not care if our hearts aren’t prepared! — Leeferism
1) Jesus’ ascension may be thought of as a visual aid to His followers to let them know they would not be seeing Him again. “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” The cloud symbolized the presence of God. A few days later, Peter preached that Jesus had been “exalted to the right hand of God” from whom He received “the promised Holy Spirit,” which He “poured out” (2:33). The disciples waited around, gazing into heaven. I can relate! Yet just as they were asked, “Why do you stand looking to the sky?” so today some believers need encouragement to stop standing around waiting and to get busy preparing for their mission as witnesses! Their questioners were angels, who appeared to be men in white clothes. The angels confirmed that “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.” visibly, bodily, and with the clouds of glory! In the meantime, the disciples were to be busy with preparing themselves for His commission. Sure, the fact of the end-times, including Christ’s return, was affirmed, but the date was unimportant. Why? We find that after Jesus ascended, His followers “returned to Jerusalem”. The group included the Eleven, that is, the original twelve apostles designated by Jesus, minus Judas Iscariot. The group also included some women disciples, as well as His mother Mary, and Jesus’ own brothers. The most important observation for us, however, is that all these were continually united in prayer. While they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they prayed. They were preparing to fulfill their mission as witnesses for Christ. No less important today is the role of unity, prayer, and preparation for the mission Jesus has given us!
EXAMPLE: What does it take to prepare a field for planting? You have to determine what to plant, when to plant it, and how to plant it. Then you have to begin a process of tilling the field, getting water to the crop, getting rid of any trees, large rocks or obstructions. Then there is the weeding, continued watering, and keeping your crop free from insects and other pests. There is a lot of work involved, just as there is a lot of preparation for doing Jesus’ mission. What should we do as a church to prepare?
We need to think about identifying our “Jerusalem.” What witness activities have we done and could we do? Perhaps taking food to a local shelter, collecting useable clothes for a women’s or children’s shelter, or making special treats for the drug abuse program that meets in our church? Perhaps some of us could learn Spanish together in order to better reach Hispanics moving into our area? Would you be willing to sponsor a neighborhood Bible study in your home or apartment? Could your Bible study class plan such an opportunity for local witness? We need to prepare ourselves for mission!

Conclusion:
Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost, our mission is to do the same, and we are to be preparing for the mission task He gave us! Are you willing?

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Great Awakening – Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32

The Great Awakening – Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
Oct 30, 2011 AM

Today, we will finish our study on prayer by putting into practice what we have learned from God through his Word. Everything we’ve focused on has been in preparation for this evening, when we will gather as one body of believers to pray for the dreams and plans God has for us as a church in the coming weeks, months, and years ahead. Why is this important? It is important because never before has there been a time when our nation and world is in greater need of a Savior. It is a time set apart time for personal and corporate prayer, crying out to God in repentance and fresh surrender for all his purposes and power to break forth upon our church, our city, and our country.

Since 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has depicted on its cover what is called the Doomsday Clock. This clock registers how close the world is to nuclear apocalypse by the proximity of the minute hand to midnight. These nuclear scientists weigh both positive and negative factors in the world and make their determination about how close we are to ruin. However, far more ominous than any human danger is the unspeakably awesome wrath of God. The prophet Joel shocked the nation of Israel when he ordered the blowing of the trumpet, which is akin to turning on an air raid siren. At that sound, everyone dropped what they were doing to gather for war. Yet, what enemy was bearing down on them? What army threatened them? Once they gather Joel explains who is breathing down their necks and it is not some unforeseen enemy, it is God himself! Doomsday is at hand! The same could be true for our day and age as well! What needs to occur? I believe a great awakening within the church itself. Let’s discover what that means…

READ: Romans 1:18; Joel 2:1-2, 11-13, 15-18, 28-32

Christianity today has lost its focus in finding out what God desires, and rather centers on how we can manipulate God so we can feel better about ourselves. God is not fooled by our selfish duplicity. Romans 1:18 tells us that God’s wrath is against all godlessness and unrighteousness. What is the wrath of God? The word describes a settled and abiding disposition against something. Just as God always loves, he also always hates sin. What if all that we are experiencing in our society or in our own lives is the result of reaping what we have sown, that we are experiencing God’s wrath because of our sin? A great awakening needs to occur and the prophet Joel tells us…

I. That awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to! Joel 2:1-2

1. Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand… (Joel 2:1 NIV)
1) An alarm is only an alarm if it is recognized as such. A few years ago on the Oregon coast, they ran tsunami warnings complete with horns and sirens. Few folks heeded them because few had ever heard the horns before and many of them did not work! I believe the same is true for the spiritual alarm that needs to be sounded in our day and age. Many have never heard it and many pulpits are broken in declaring it! It is time for the church to sound the alarm and make Christians aware of what it means. I am not talking about the end times, but the judgment that is occurring. Interestingly, this section of Joel is spoken to the priests, whose business it was to blow the trumpets for calling solemn assemblies to meet in the temple. It gave notice of approaching danger, of enemies, or in this case of judgment. How do we sound the alarm in our day and age? We sound it by reminding God’s people about God’s wrath, “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalms 2:11-12 NIV) Christians can become spiritually arrogant in their relationship with Jesus thinking they will escape by God’s grace. Ultimately yes, but not in what they reap for their lives now. Believers can and will suffer the wrath of God when they ignore his grace. We are reminded that, “God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day!” And that the person “who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made!” (Psalms 7:11, 15 NIV) Paul reminds us to “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 5:6 NIV) It is time to sound an alarm! To blow the trumpet in Zion! Awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to!

Paul made it very plain to those of the first century church that when believers try and hide their sin, God’s wrath will come on them. In fact, he admonished them to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:2-6 NIV) This tells us…

II. That awakening occurs when we return to God! Joel 2:11-13

1. “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”(Joel 2:12 NIV)
1) Repentance is a harsh word for our day and age. We love to “feel” sorry for the things we do, and we want others to forgive us when we do them, even if we never ask for forgiveness, but this simply is not biblical. Repentance means we recognize the sin we are in, stop doing it, openly and honestly confess it, turn from it completely, and turn to God totally! In Romans Paul asks those who thought of themselves as enjoying God’s favor no matter what they did in life a very pointed question, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” (Romans 2:3-4 NIV) Paul knew that “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) For real repentance, God demands complete and utter brokenness, Godly sorrow. Otherwise, we “show contempt for the riches of his kindness.” What we fail to realize is that God’s wrath is coming and we will know the full force of it unless we repent of our sin and return to God! This is why Joel called the people to return to God with “all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” We are to literally, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:13 NIV) Tearing one’s garment meant they were publicly displaying their sorrow, but God is not interested in outward show of feelings! He desires us to repent of our sin and turn back to him! True awakening occurs when we return to God!

Americans love to manufacture things, including spirituality. If we cannot gain God’s attention the way we desire, then we will mount an ad campaign and publicly pronounce that God is indeed in what we desired all along. Sadly, we get what we pay for or as the Bible teaches, we reap what we have sown. Simon, a first century sorcerer turned believer, wanted to buy the spiritual presence of God. He was sincere, but sincerely wrong. Peter tells him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.” (Acts 8:20-22 NIV) This shows us…

III. That awakening occurs when God’s people get serious! Joel 2:15-18

1. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:16 NIV)
1) While your eternal relationship can be found immediately in the Lord, your daily reliance in him is not. What do I mean? Salvation is instantaneous, but abiding in Jesus takes effort. Holiness demands personal sacrifice. Paul would say it is a moment-by-moment occurrence, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) You cannot find it once a week in worship on Sunday. This is why, I believe, much of what is done in churches today is to manufacture a sensation of holiness rather than true holiness! Joel saw with God’s perspective that his angelic army was marching toward the gates of Jerusalem. No power on earth could stop it. God’s wrath was coming. Joel realizes what most believers today are blatantly ignorant of, that God demands his people get serious about him! What is being done in many churches today is a convoluted spiritualized version of blind man’s bluff. We are spiritually blinded people trying desperately to bluff God into thinking we are holy! It is time for us to “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, [and] call a sacred assembly!” The early church had folks caught up in trying to manufacture spirituality as well. So much so, they begin to see certain spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, as more important than others. Paul met this heresy head on by asking, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:7-8 NIV) The answer is, “No one.” They had forgotten their spiritual gift was not for their pleasure, but to declare the gospel clearly! It is serious business. Perhaps we have forgotten just how serious. Paul would remind us, “For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:13-14 NIV) It is time for God’s people to get earnest. Spiritual awakening will occur only when God’s people get serious!

As your pastor and spiritual leader, I am calling our church to a sacred assembly. Tonight, we will spend time in seeking God’s face for our lives and the life of the church. We have dreamed dreams and set aside some things we believe God is calling us to do, but these will not happen until we get serious about our walk with the Lord. This will be a service that will call each of us to “fast” in some area of our life that God asks us to in order for us to see him more clearly. James’ advice is good for us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) We “do what it says” by listening to what God says to us through it! When this happens, we know…

IV. That God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs! Joel 2:28-32

1. And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. (Joel 2:28 NIV)
1) Perhaps Christians have forgotten that we are to be spiritual children first before we can be the physical adults God desires. Jesus perplexed Nicodemus by telling him, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6 NIV) We are to be spiritually reborn in order to live as God wishes. In fact, we know that whoever believes in Jesus, “streams of living water [the Holy Spirit] will flow from within” them! (John 7:38-39 NIV) This is why Paul would write, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:13-14 NIV) When God awakens his people to do his will he always uses his power through them! Paul gives us a good clue as to why this is so important for us to comprehend. He writes the Corinthian church, “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5 NIV) Notice that Paul’s emphasis was on his “weakness and fear.” He knew he could not do what God desired unless he was willing to be emptied of himself and to be used of God. He wanted his message to rest squarely on God’s power! God tells Joel, “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.” (Joel 2:27 NIV) When we get out of the way by getting right with the Lord, God’s Spirit will be poured out and awakening will occur!

Conclusion:
What if this was the time for God’s great awakening and we were not ready for him to use us? What if we as a church, and as individuals, allowed ourselves to get in the way of the Lord and not be a part of his great awakening? We have learned this morning that awakening occurs when an alarm is sounded and listened to, awakening occurs when we return to God, awakening occurs when God’s people get serious, and God’s Spirit will be poured out when awakening occurs!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 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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