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Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 5:1-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

We must emulate God’s love! We are to live in the light of God’s love! We are to make the most of God’s love!
—-
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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1st Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 27, 2016

Some families keep an advent calendar and countdown the days until Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior 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. How much we would lose if we were to wake up one day to the unexpected announcement: “Christmas in 10 minutes!” 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 prophesied thousands of years beforehand that…

III. 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 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 Messiah will be born both God and man, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:

The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The Messiah will be born both God and man!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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

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

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

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

READ: John 5:30-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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The witness! — John 1:6-13

The witness! — John 1:6-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 7, 2014

Testimony is built not only upon what people think they saw but also on the forensic, that is the physical tangible material evidence as well. Dennis Fisher writes in RBC about a young boy Yves Congar. He was just 10 years old when World War I began and the French town where he lived was invaded by the German army. His mother encouraged him to keep a diary, and what resulted was a clear description of a military occupation, complete with written narrative and colored sketches. His diary recorded a disaster from a child’s perspective. He was a personal witness to what occurred. His witness had such a deep effect on him that he felt called to share Christ with others.

The other day the news interviewed several people concerning a shooting and they soon discovered that while each one saw it occur, each person had a different perspective. In fact, each one brought into it their eyewitness testimony their own version of the events that took place! No wonder the police have such a difficult time trying to figure out what happened. The four gospels are such witnesses to an event that changed everyone’s life that were associated with what occurred; this why we get similar narratives, but each is from a different personal perspective of the person relating what they saw and heard. In these next few verses, John is trying to relate the witnesses involved and how each one bears testimony to what they saw concerning Jesus. Let’s see what John wrote…

READ: John 1:6-13

We find on the pages of history certain men who stand out simply because of what they did, their integrity, and the strength of their personal presence. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln or Jeremiah and Moses. Here we discover such a man from the pages of the gospel of John. We find…

I. The witness of John! (Vv. 6-8)
 

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
 

  1. The first witness John introduces to is John the Baptist. He writes that “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron who was barren, and Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. John, therefore was in line to be a priest of God himself. Luke tells us that both parents “were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. (Luke 1:6-7 NIV)” God sends an angel to tell Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would indeed give birth to a child and they were to name him John. In fact Zachariah was promised, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:14-17 NIV)” This is why John wrote, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” John the Baptist would have a specific task given him from birth! He would be the one written about by the prophet Isaiah “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’—a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:2-4 NIV)” John reminds us that “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” We find here the witness of John!
 

  EXAMPLE: John McCasland writes for the Radio Bible Class, “‘Movers and shakers’ are people climbing the ladder of influence and success. Luke 3 mentions seven prominent leaders who exercised control in the society of their time. Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar held the power of life and death over people in his far-flung empire. Pontius Pilate represented Rome as governor of Judea; while Herod, Philip, and Lysanias kept people in line at the regional level. Annas and Caiaphas served as high priests, taking their religious authority seriously. While these power brokers flexed their political muscles, ‘the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness’ (Luke 3:2 NIV). Who could seem less important than this obscure man living in the desert and listening for God’s voice? What could John the Baptist possibly accomplish by ‘preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’? (v.3). Yet multitudes came to John seeking truth, turning from their wrongs, and wondering if he could be the Messiah.” In fact, John would tell them, “one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16 NIV). “John’s life helps us understand what it means to be significant in God’s eyes.” We have the witness of John!

Sometimes when we come from a darkly lit place into a brightly lit one we can become blinded by the brightness of the light. Such was the case of the Light of God entering into the world. John next testifies concerning…

II. The witness of the Light! (Vv. 9-11)
 

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
 

  1. John the Baptist was not the Light; he was only a witness to the Light coming into the world. We find that when asked by others if he was the Messiah, he would answer “I am not.” (John 1:20) John was a witness sent ahead to tell us that the Light had come. This was “The true light that gives light to every man” who “was coming into the world.” Quakers misunderstand this text as do many heretical teachings, such as Theosophical Society, Unity, Unitarian, and Christian Science. They stress an inner light that they believe every human is supposed to have and discover. All you have to do is to let it shine through good things you do, this is totally wrong. The true light gives light to the truth of the gospel message. It does not mean universal salvation, general revelation, even or inner illumination. What John means is that Jesus, the Messiah, as the Light shines on everyone either in salvation or in enlightening him to his sin and coming judgment! God allows us to decide if we will follow Jesus or not. This is why John continued by relating, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” Those caught in sin’s dark sway often do not recognize the one who can save them. People’s love of themselves, their sinful condition, and the filth of their sin holds them in darkness. They can be blind to the light! Paul would say, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32 NIV)” Jesus would declare about himself, “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)” Sadly, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” Even the Hebrew people did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. John teaches us about the witness of the Light!
 

  EXAMPLE: We all know that one little candle can light up the darkest room. Jesus was and is such a light in a sin-darkened world. While all other religions say we have to better ourselves, appease or do something in order for the god or gods to even give us a nod. No matter how hard we try to become one with the whole, we can never fill the gap of our sin nature that exists. Jesus did not just teach good pithy platitudes, he told us exactly who he was and then proved it by dying on a cross and coming back to life. Jesus bluntly stated, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the witness of the Light!

We discover that the testimony of John concerning Jesus brings us to the point of his testimony. Jesus came so that he could produce spiritual progeny. John introduces us to…

III. The Children of the Witness! (Vv.12-13)

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
 

  1. Here is a wonderful beautiful truth that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”! Paul would rejoice that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus… Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Galatians 3:26; 4:6 NIV)” John would later declare, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)” Praise God there are some who do believe and because of their willingness to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the light, they become God’s children! Paul relates why this is such a wonderful thing, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 NIV)” Now, I do not know about you but I am kind of glad I am an heir, and inheritor of God! When we come to Christ we become “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” People are not naturally born children of God, although there are those who would try to convince you otherwise. They think that we all have some kind of god-stamp on us and all we have to do is discover it; this is wrongheaded. We know the Bible teaches us that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. However, we can become a child of God by receiving the gift of the new birth. Since we have done so, we are witnesses of the light. John would later write, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:10-12 NIV)” We who are born of God need to testify, witness, concerning our inheritance! Christians are children of the Witness!  
 

  EXAMPLE: If you met him you think he was just an ordinary guy. He quietly served in a church I attended years ago. He helped prepare the Lord’s Supper, he swept the church sidewalks in the fall, and mowed the church lawn in the summer. He spent time with others sharing his faith. I often heard him telling people at church in his quiet way how good the Lord was to him. During prayer meeting he didn’t talk much about himself but would ask us to pray for those he was sharing Jesus with. Folks knew that John the Baptist “never performed a miraculous sign. (John 10:41 NIV)” And this is a wonderful thing: God takes ordinary folks like you and me to be his witnesses! This ordinary man came as a witness of the Light because he was a child of God. Like this man we who believe are now children of the witness! With our actions and personal testimony, let’s point others to the Light!

Conclusion:

We discovered the witness of John! Jesus is the witness of the Light! Christians are children of the Witness!

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 Light! — John 1:1-5

The Light! — John 1:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 31, 2014

In the strictest sense this Gospel has no author named like Paul’s letters do. It is anonymous. In fact, none of the four Gospel authors identify themselves by name. There is a good reason for this, they are not meant to be private letters to specific churches or individuals, except perhaps Luke’s Gospel. Yet we discover that often the writer reveals himself through his writing and we discover that church history can often reveal who the authors were. Putting all of these facts together makes a good case for the author of the Fourth Gospel having been John, one of the sons of a fisherman named Zebedee.

The date for the writing of the Gospel of John was probably between 85 and 95 AD, however, there is good evidence that it could have been written as early as 45 and 65 AD before the destruction of the Temple. And, John himself tells us why he wrote his gospel, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 NIV)” Matthew’s gospel begins with a genealogy, Luke is dedicated to his friend Theophilus, Mark begins with the preaching of John the Baptist, but John’s gospel begins with Jesus the Light! Let’s discover why…

READ: John 1:1-5

John Wayne in the movie The Cowboys asks Jebediah Nightlinger, Rosco Lee Brown, about his bona fides as a cook and Nightlinger then remarks how he can cook and cook well by reciting his cooking credentials. A person’s bona fides serves to guarantee a person’s good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials. John begins his gospel in reciting Jesus’ bona fides as the Light. John writes that first of all…

I. The Light is God! (Vv. 1-2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

  1. John immediately establishes Jesus’ credentials, his bona fides, as being God by giving him a new moniker. John addresses Jesus as the Word, logos. It was a common Greek philosophical term which had become the rage of the day for even the religious leaders of the Jews. Like the Greeks, they loved to debate. So it was a common term in Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy as well and it was familiar to his readers. John’s usage becomes quite clear when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” The “logos”, Jesus, was with God in full fellowship in the very beginning of all things. But more than that, “the Word was God.” John states, “logos en Theos”, and so his meaning is very clear. The Light, Jesus, is God! He existed from the very beginning, he was and is in complete total fellowship with God, and the Light is God himself! Not “a god” as the heresies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Latter Day Saints teaches. John is clearly setting up the doctrine of the Trinity, whereby the Father, Son, and the Spirit are one; coequal in power, authority, and nature. This is very important because we discover Jesus teaching later, “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” and “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father. (John 16:28 NIV)” He also affirmed, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am! (John 8:58 NIV)” and finally, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:15 NIV)” When we look at Jesus, we see God Himself! (John 12:45) John begins by teaching, “He was with God in the beginning.” It is the divine nature of who Jesus is; that namely the Light is God!

  EXAMPLE: There is a whole lot of confusion in our world today concerning what it means to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Many readily say “I believe in God.” But what they mean by that usually means they believe in some kind of higher power than themselves. Jesus is more than just a wise holy man, he is more than a nice guy who taught great things, he is the Logos, the Word; God himself! If Jesus is not God then what he was sent to teach us about God and what he eventually did, die on a cross and come back to life, means nothing! In J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf explains why he has selected a small hobbit to fight the enemy. He says, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” As nice as that sounds, it was the Light who did that greatest act of kindness ever in order to pierce the darkness of sin! The Light for John is God!

The Light for John is God; he is foundational to all things ever taught to the Hebrew people. He is the hoped for Messiah, but he was much more. For John…

II. The Light is the Creator! (v. 3)

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

  1. Like bullets in a PowerPoint presentation Johns immediately establishes for his readers exactly who Jesus is. However, for John it was important that we understand what he meant that Jesus is God and that he was in the beginning of all things. “Through him all things were made” is a statement for the power and authority of Jesus as well. While the Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father, we discover that Jesus did not at some point in time come into existence or begin a relationship with the Father. From eternity past the Father and the Son have always existed together; both are God, not two Gods. Jesus is Creator God. This is why Paul would affirm, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV)” And he would reiterate that in fact Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)” This is why John would teach us that “without him nothing was made that has been made.” Why is this so important? Simply because there are those who would have you believe that everything came into being, BANG, on its own or that some pantheistic god holds everything together and we just have to tune into the vibe of it. Nothing could be further from the truth! We are not part of the amoebic whole nor were we some blob that finally crawled up on a beach somewhere and evolved into the image of our creator! The mere existence of Jesus disproves all of these false teachings! The Light is the Creator!

  EXAMPLE: The Bible teaches us that God spoke and everything came into being, some call this ex nihilo, meaning out of nothing something. Why is this important for us to know? Paul wrote the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV)” Here is a beautiful truth that while we were once just as Paul describes us, the new reality is that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)” The Light, for John, created all things proving he is indeed God, but he also created us in him! The Light is the Creator!

The reason I say this is because of what John writes next about the Light. John knew that Jesus was more than some unreachable deity; he was just like us without sin. However his whole life reflected who he was. For John…

III. The Light is life! (Vv. 4-5)

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

  1. Life is sacred and it is the most important benefit of who we are as sinful humanity. God granted and gave us life. God gave us Jesus the life of all mankind. We all understand that to lose a loved one is a tragedy and to lose someone we love without them knowing the love of God is truly heartbreaking! Yet what John writes gives us hope. In Jesus “was life, and life was the light of all men”! Jesus is the Creator and he is the source of all life, especially eternal life! We know “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:15-16 NIV)” Jesus would affirm, “I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6 NIV)” And, he would teach, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the Light of the world! He is the one who gives us eternal life and a hope in the darkness of sin and death! This world is full of evil, violence, and death. None of us can say how long we will live or when we will die, however, if we know the Light of the world to live is Christ and to die is gain! Jesus would lovingly tell his disciples, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46 NIV)” In Jesus we have wonderful hope in a sin-darkened world! “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” That which is sinful and ungodly does not recognize the light of life! Jesus came to rescue us from the darkness of spiritual ignorance, death, and the sin condition of our lives. Paul would ask, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)” Matthew would write that “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16 NIV)” John knew that Jesus the Light is life!

  EXAMPLE: When comedian Robin Williams recently committed suicide people were shocked, dismayed, and hurt. Yet we soon discovered his life was full of personal demons of self-doubt, drugs, and alcohol. While much of Hollywood embraces all things weird, odd, or strange what a difference it could have made if even one of Williams’ friends would have shared Christ with him. I have known others who suffered some of the very same doubts, used drugs and alcohol to try to sooth their darkened souls, but found hope, personal peace, and light in darkness because of Jesus Christ. Life is sacred and we only have one to live on this earth. God granted and gave us life in Jesus. For John, Jesus the Light is life!

Conclusion:

Jesus the Light is God, Jesus the Light is the Creator, and Jesus the Light is life!

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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Hebrews 10:1-10 – The shadow of the reality!

Hebrews 10:1-10 – The shadow of the reality!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 4, 2012 AM

“True! Nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed – not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.” Thus begins “The Tell-Tale Heart”, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1843. It is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. Ultimately, the narrator’s guilt manifests itself in an auditory hallucination: The narrator hears his victim’s heart still beating under the floorboards where he hid the body. Guilt can make us hear things, do things, or say and promise things we would not normally hear, say or do. Sin is like that. Guilt coupled with pride convinces us to remain in ungodly relationships, do things we know we should not do, or say things we should not utter.

Guilt coupled with pride can also make us continue to stick to old habits and beliefs that are utterly worthless or even harmful. This is what was occurring with the listeners of the sermon of Hebrews. The author was desperately trying to help them see that their pride and guilt was causing them to make poor choices concerning their faith in Jesus. Some were actually thinking about returning to their old way of doing things. Going back to the shadow of the Old Law could never save them or assuage their guilt. The old way was a mere shadow of the reality itself! Can this be true of us in our day and age? The answer is a resounding, “YES!” Let’s discover why and how we can avoid making the same mistake concerning the shadow of the reality!

READ: Hebrews 10:1-10

I enjoy going to Disneyland or Disneyworld. I confess I like theme parks and especially the rollercoasters, where the faster and more loop-the-loops the better! Yet I am amazed and somewhat saddened to see the amount of money spent because of parental guilt in these parks. And all of the experience is based on a false premise, namely that everything is make-believe. It is not real. While the requirements of the Old Testament Law were very real, they were actually only a foreshadowing of what was to come. Hebrews therefore teaches us about…

I.  A mere shadow! (Vv. 1-4)

“…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16 NIV)

1. “The law is only a shadow” that is a mere example or more exactly a foreshadowing in relation to the temporal good things of the spiritual and eternal good things of the Gospel to come. The good news is the “good things” that were coming because of Jesus Christ! We find that Colossians 2:17 tells us that in fact these “are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ!” More about that in a moment, however, the Old Law for “this reason” could “never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” An example cannot be as good as the real thing! This is why the author of Hebrews continues by asking, “If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?” Of course, the answer would be that certainly, they would have stopped, but they didn’t. So, if in fact they had stopped then “the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” Can you imagine realizing that the continuous sacrifices, which you had “repeated endlessly year after year”, actually testified to the Law’s inability to “perfect” its worshipers? What a bummer! We discover that instead “those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins!” Sin is actually a defiance of the eternal law, and these material sacrifices belong to a ceremonial law, which is far less acceptable to God than moral duties or eternal consequences. We know that sin is committed against God and is objective and without truly measurable limits. Therefore, it can never be atoned for by the blood of creatures but it leaves a stain on the mind and conscience, which blood can never reach! What the blood of these creatures could not do, the blood of Christ has done, and does continually. The Law was just a mere shadow.

EXAMPLE: When I was little, I was afraid of the dark. Of course, my brother did not help the issue because he delighted in hiding in the closet, jumping from behind closed doors, or even lying under my bed and waiting for me to come to bed. Our minds can play tricks on us and that is why theme parks and certain horror movies are so popular. Yet they are not real. They are mere shadows of what our minds have conceived. Convincing folks that some things are not valid can be tough. The sacrifices of the Old Law could not perfectly cleanse anyone. They were only meant as a reminder of the cost involved and as an example of what would prove to be so much better. The Law was a mere shadow of better things to come.

This is why the author spent so much time in his argument concerning the Old Testament Law and the New Testament Christ. He wanted his readers to be convinced of…

II. The reality! (Vv. 5-10)

“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:17 NIV)

1. “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.’” The author is using Psalm 40:6-8 where David writes, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” (Psalms 40:6-8 NIV) Jewish scholars believed this has always referred to the Messiah to come. Interestingly, the phrase “a body you prepared for me” is one Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew expression “you have dug ears for me.” It was a phrase used in preparing the body for burial. In the “body” which Jesus assumed in his coming, he could say that he had come to achieve what the Old-Covenant shadow sacrifices never achieved, the perfecting of New-Covenant worshipers, those who lived in the light and not the shadows! The reality was that Jesus could say, “Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.” Remember, it was not his will but God’s will that Jesus earnestly desired to do! Jesus’ last concern was that he not be dissuaded in any way from doing what he was called to do! We learn that, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10 NIV) By Jesus willingly doing what he did, he “sets aside the first to establish the second.” The author continues by reminding his readers that “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The Law was simply a shadow but Jesus was and is the light and life of all men. This is the reality!

EXAMPLE: As fun and as exciting as make-believe can be, reality is far better. That is, if you are prepared for it. We can become so enamored with the lives of others that we disdain our own existence or we live beyond our own means. I have seen parents try and make up for their lack of a childhood by overindulging their children. I have also watched as young couples have an inappropriate view of what their married life should be like. Then there are those who think that the world owes them a living. It is interesting to watch folks, as reality comes crashing into their lives. Just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz learned, “There is no place like home”, the believer needs to understand the reality of Jesus: That “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all!” That is the reality and not some shadow!

Conclusion:
A mere shadow or the reality, which do you prefer. I rather like reality myself.

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

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

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