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God is our judge! – Psalm 50

God is our judge! – Psalm 50
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 27, 2017

“Man, are you gonna get it when we get home!” my brother yelled at me as we ran as fast as we could to the house. I had been roping and branding the dog (more about that in a bit) and he had caught me. And being the kind, law-abiding, and honest person that he was he threatened to “tell Mom.” Well, the race was on to see which one of us would get home first because we both knew that judgment day was coming and Mom was the judge.

Judgment is coming for the entire world but few give it even a moment of their time or thought. We discover here in the Psalms one written by Asaph a leading Levite musician who teaches us about God is our judge. Because God does not treat us as robots, slaves, or machines but rather he allows us to make our own decisions and to either be blessed or suffer the consequences of our choices. Let’s find out what it means that God is our judge for our world and us today.

READ: Psalm 50

“Come back here so I can give you what you deserve!” my mother declared as I stayed hidden under the porch with the dog. I knew what I deserved, the dog knew what I deserved, and certainly my father would shortly know what I deserved; but deserving something and receiving it are two different things. The Psalmist teaches us that…

I. Our judge will be God himself! (Vv. 1-6)

The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth. Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people: “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge. Selah

1. Asaph understands who God is and immediately calls him “The Mighty One, the Lord” (ale ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, the yehôvâh) and he knew that when he spoke you had better listen! Evidently he had either seen or heard from the Lord and wanted to share what he had experienced. So he related that God “speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.” God was entering his courtroom for judgment. God was in judgment over all creation even “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.” He has the right to judge because of who he is. And in fact while we may think we can do whatever we want when we want to Asaph reminds us that when “Our God comes” he “will not be silent” and like “a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.” Literally God consumes like a mighty wildfire everything because of his holiness! He alone “summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people” and proclaims: “Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” God of course is referring to the Israelites who willingly circumcised themselves and sacrificed their best in order to set themselves apart from all other nations for God alone. Our sacrifice was and is confirmed by Jesus’ own blood and sacrifice; therefore we are made his own with God in him! As Hebrews reminds us, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that our judge will be God himself!

EXAMPLE: As much as we in our human frailty want and sometimes demand retribution we fail to understand what true justice is all about. When I piped up and chirped that my brother indeed deserved “what was coming to him” my father bluntly reminded me that he was the “judge and jury” and not me. In fact he reminded me that he did not appreciate a tattletale. In our day and age there are those who think that they will be okay with God cause they are “good old boys” and harmless. They think God is some kind old dude who sits in heaven and winks at their playful sinful condition. Nothing could be further from the truth. The one who summons both heaven and earth and comes like a wildfire or stormy tempest to consume our sin will pass judgment on all of us. In fact, our judge will be God himself!

All I had done was play cowboys and Indians. I know this isn’t very politically correct but in my day and age that is what we did. And as part of the game I had to brand my livestock and the only livestock I had was our boxer dog Duke. So I used a pair of sheep shears and clipped a huge LH on his right hand flank. After my mother had seen what I had done, she chased me under the house. Now how was I to know she would take such an offense at the innocent play of a young child? Here in this Psalm we learn that…

II. As judge God will examine his people! (Vv. 7-15)

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

1. God now turns specifically to his own chosen people; namely Israel and now us! His words now apply to believers as filtered through Jesus’ sacrifice. Let’s discover what he says. “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God.” What? You mean he is gonna speak against his own? Yes, but notice he is not going to hold us accountable for trying our best to follow him, “I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.” God understands when we do our best to try and follow him. He desires that we strive to be like Jesus but knowing we live in a sin-fallen world God knows we will not be perfect until we see him face-to-face. And God reminds his listeners that “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” Just as he did not “need” the Israelites to sacrifice animals he knew they did it out of reverence and honor for him. We worship, pray, read his Word, and live for him in order to honor him because we follow him! Hey, if the Living God “were hungry” would he “not tell you, for the world is [his], and all that is in it.” Jesus told us the greatest commandments were to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV) This is truly what God desires and he asks, “Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” The answer was of course; “No”. So what does God require? “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” As judge God will examine his people!

EXAMPLE: I think I am like a lot of folks who do not necessarily like going to the doctor. It isn’t because I do not like my doctor per say because he is a very nice person, however, I do not care for what he does. He asks really personal questions about my habits, weight, height, medications, and then he gets really physical and pokes and prods me and makes me feel utterly uncomfortable when I have to “bare-it-all”! Nothing it seems is hidden from his prying eyes! Well if you hate the doctor just wait until you see Jesus face-to-face! Talk about a complete examination! The Psalmist reminds us that as our judge God will examine his people!

“You wicked little boy!” my mother hollered. “Look at what you did to the dog!” Of course it would have sounded a lot more threatening if she hadn’t been laughing so hard when she yelled it at me. “Just wait until your father gets home and sees what you have done!” There it was, my dad would see the evidence for himself and I was hung out to dry. Here in this Psalm we learn that…

III. As judge God will examine the wicked as well! (Vv. 16-23)

But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

1. God is not forgetful as some would hope or think and in fact the Psalmist writes that he now turns his attention to those who thought they would get away with their ungodly lifestyle: “But to the wicked, God says: ‘What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.’” You see there were folks in Asaph’s day who thought of God only in their own convoluted esoteric terms. You know like those in our day who declare “I believe in God!” but their lives are anything but godly. They literally leave God’s actual words behind them in the gutter where they tossed them. God is not mocked. He sees what our lives are truly like. “When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son.” Kind of sounds like the vulgar, illicit, and abhorrent things folks do nowadays. Paul would say that “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness”… and that “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 1:18, 32 NIV) There are those who think that because they do not see God or hear his rebuke of their ungodliness that he does not exist, but he warns them, “These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.” To all those noble folks who think that by mocking and laughing at God’s people they were forgotten for what they did God answers them by stating, “Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.” As judge God will examine the wicked as well!

EXAMPLE: I am reminded of when Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man and those who thought of themselves as godly but were in reality totally ungodly folks did not want to believe it. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, meaning the Messiah, and it was he who had healed the blind man whom they thought of as sinful because of his physical condition. Well then being very indignant “Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say, this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’” (John 9:40-41 NIV) Jesus is returning and like Peter told the crowd “God appointed (Jesus) as judge of the living and the dead”. (Acts 10:42 NIV) And one day they will have to give an account of their lives to him! (1 Peter 4:5) The Psalmist reminds us that as judge, God will examine the wicked as well!

Conclusion:

Our judge will be God himself! As judge God will examine his people! As judge God will examine the wicked as well!
—-
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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God brings joy! – Psalm 30

God brings joy! – Psalm 30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 13, 2017

George Weiss and Robert Thiele wrote the lyrics: “I see trees of green, red roses too; I see them bloom for me and you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world.” It’s a song everyone knows because it has been used over and over again in different movies. And it was made famous by the Jazz singer and musician Louis Armstrong in 1967. It goes on to say, “I see skies of blue and clouds of white; the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself what a wonderful world. The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do, they’re really saying I love you. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll never know. And I think to myself what a wonderful world. Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world.” The song hits home because it speaks of the wonder of the world, God’s creation, and the joy that it all brings.

While happiness is a momentary thing in life — more than a room without a roof or simply being the truth — joy is an inner quality of life. Far too often folks confuse joy with momentary happiness and when the clapping stops they then struggle to maintain their happiness. The Psalmist David sings to us what joy is and where it is found; let’s discover what he wrote about the fact that God brings joy…

READ: Psalm 30

What could be more joyous than dedicating a new building for the Lord? I remember years ago we decided to rededicate this old wooden building to God and we walked around it, prayed, and praised God for it. We did this because of what God had done through us as a church in paying off our loan. We learn from David that…

I. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! (Vv. 1-3)

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.

1. David immediately sings “I will exalt you, O LORD” meaning that he will lift up God’s name to anyone who would listen. Lifting up the name of the Lord should be a common practice for the child of God. I know I remember my parents and how they raised me, then should we not therefore remember our Heavenly Father and how he too has raised us up as well? In fact notice that David sings “for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me”! We far too often get comfortable in our walk with the Lord and begin to forget just what we were pulled out of and saved from. For too many it is more of a stroll with God like being pushed in a baby stroller because we never learn to actually walk with him but rather like spiritual infants we just lay back and try to enjoy the ride! But David remembers what God pulled him out of: “the depths” and from his “enemies”! Now you may not think you have very many enemies because for your way of thinking the word “enemy” denotes someone who seeks to destroy you like North Korea or something. But remember Peter wrote that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) and Jesus referred to the Devil as our “enemy” who sows seeds of weeds among the wheat. (Matthew 13:39) The world is full of the Enemy’s wisdom, wiles, and wit. He seeks to destroy you and to take away your joy in the Lord. Yet David knew where he could immediately turn to: “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” It is God alone who heals us through Jesus! In fact it is God in Jesus that “brought me up from the grave” and “spared me from going down into the pit”! Never forget that it is Jesus who brings true joy because of what he brought you out of! God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget being out on the jetty at Ilwaco, Washington as a young boy fishing with my brother-in-law. He warned us not to go out to the end of the jetty and to always keep our eyes on the ocean for “sneaker waves”. And of course being a ten-year-old boy I knew what I was doing and did not listen to a single word he said. I climbed out to the end of the jetty and neglected to watch the ocean. A huge wave washed over me engulfing me. I grabbed a hold of a boulder as I was being swept out to sea. I was completely frightened and then these hands reached down and dragged me out of the swirling waters and pulled me to safety. It was my brother-in-law. I never forgot from that day on to watch the ocean no matter how calm it looks because I never forgot what I was saved from. God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from!

When I am saddened by what life throws my way I know I can go to my sweet little wife and she will gently kick me in the pants and say, “Straighten up! It only lasts a moment!” She has a deft way of helping me to remember that while my happiness may be fleeting, God’s joy is lasting no matter what the circumstance. David reminds us that…

II. God brings joy that lasts! (Vv. 4-7)

Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

1. Whether it is a good root beer drinking song or a rousing traveling song sung at the top of everyone’s lungs in the car while traveling to some vacation destination it is always good to have others join in and sing with you. This is why singing in church, whether you can sing or not, is so important. It creates intimate spiritual fellowship with one another and with the Lord who you are there to worship. Over and over we are reminded in Scripture to “sing to the Lord”! This is why David tells his listeners to “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.” I am baffled when Christians do not sing to the Lord. Is life so horrible you do not have a song to sing to God? I sing to the Lord all the time. Ask my wife. It doesn’t have to be hymns or just Christian contemporary radio tunes because God is also pleased when you simply make music to him from the inner joy in your heart that overflows to him! Why would David want others to join him? Because he knew God’s “anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime”! And shouldn’t believers sing all the more loudly because we have the everlasting joy of Jesus? (You betcha by golly Mr. and Mrs. Saddiface.) In fact David gives us one of the most endearing stanzas in the entire Bible when he eloquently reminds us that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”! The sadness of sin’s darkness lasts only a short while but the enduring joy of the Lord comes at the break of a new day and lasts forever! WOW! David knew that in a world where anything could happen to anyone at anytime and living in a world of sifting sand that “When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken.’” He understood that God was his secure foundation, his rock of ages, and his steadfast mountain: “O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm”! As life went well David knew God was there but he also knew that when things went pickle barrel in life; when God “hid” his “face” and he “was dismayed” God was there as well. David could trust in God and he knew where his joy came from! God brings joy that lasts!

EXAMPLE: People love those dollar stores where supposedly everything within them only costs a dollar. When I was a kid they were known as the 88 Cent Store or the 99 Cent Store or Woolworth’s! Anyway these places are filled with all kinds of junk that only lasts for a little while because that is how it is made so you will come back and by more junk, right? Yet I can remember being a little kid and being given a quarter, which was a lot of money way back during the dinosaurs, and going into the store to buy something. I would take my time to make sure that what I bought was exactly what I wanted and that I could play with it for a while. I remember buying a wind-up car for ten cents that lasted only a day and it broke. I cried. As I wailed away my dad patted my shoulder and in his great fatherly wisdom said, “What do you expect? It was only a dime!?” I am so glad that David reminds us that God brings joy that lasts!

I have often reminded you that all the material things you now hold dear now will be sold at garage sales, given to the Salvation Army, tossed in the trash, or placed in someone else’s storage shed until they have to get rid of it. And here in this Psalm of David we are reminded that it isn’t things that bring us true joy but rather…

III. God brings joy when we remember him! (Vv. 8-12)

To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

1. All through this Psalm David’s focus is on the Lord and again he sings to remind us that “To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy”. It is only God who can give us mercy when we sin. It is because of his wonderful love that he came as Jesus that we could have eternal life in him. The Apostle Paul would later remind us that “we were by nature objects of wrath… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV) David in his honest singing to the Lord asks God, “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” David is asking honest questions that many have asked of God; basically “Why would you do this to me? How can I worship you through this hardship?” Like the rest of us while David knew God loved and cared for him, he sometimes struggled that God would punish him or would allow bad things happen to him. You know, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Eliphaz the Temanite in the Book of Job asked Job, “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him?” (Job 22:2 NIV) Of course he was making the case that God did not need anyone even Job and wanted Job to repent of any sin he might have forgotten. Yet we all ask this of God at some point in our lives. We forget that life is tainted by sin. All creation is. Bad things will happen to good people until we see Jesus face-to-face! Paul would ask, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” and then he would remind his readers that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Jesus! (Romans 8:31, 35 NIV) David knew this as well and this is why he also continued to sing, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.” David remembered that while we may waver in our faith God never wavers in his love for us and so he finishes his song by singing, “O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” God brings joy when we remember him!

EXAMPLE: Happiness is fleeting but real joy is learned in life. Joy can be hard work. Too many think that once they are married then everything will be sweet singing birdies and rose petal strewn paths. Anyone who has been married for more than a couple of years will tell you it is a lot of hard work, consistency, love and forgiveness. It is a lifetime commitment and not a momentary made for TV moment. I knew this startling fact for the first time when the sweet darling girl I married put her hands on her hips and demanded I begin to “use the clothes hamper instead of the floor” for my dirty clothes and that I should actually “rinse” my “dishes and put them in the sink” instead of “leaving them for” her “to pick up”. Then I learned that I could not “fix” her moods by simply doing something, I had to actually listen and let her work it out as I supported her. Was it tough for a bachelor to learn? Yep. And there were times when I wondered what I had gotten myself into just as she did as well. But the true joy of marriage took hold when I realized we were both in it for the long haul as partners, lovers, and friends. David teaches us this about God in this Psalm as well. Happiness is fleeting but God brings joy when we remember him!

Conclusion:
God brings joy when we remember what he saved us from! God brings joy that lasts! God brings joy when we remember him!
—-
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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Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33

Wives and husbands! – Ephesians 5:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 19, 2017

Interestingly there have been some articles recently that show that marriage is coming back into vogue. In fact, research has shown that married couples live from 5 to 10 years longer than singles do. Married couples are more financially, emotionally, and spiritually secure. And contrary to what you may have been told about divorce, recent studies show that evangelical Christian couples’ divorce rate is around 10% and nowhere near the regurgitated story of 50% like you often hear.

Contrary to what we may know about the Bible we are more often shown what not to do in marriage than what to do as we look at the lives of some of the biblical characters. This is because God deliberately gave us his words concerning his interaction with mankind with warts and all. However there are some great verses that do teach Godly concepts of how wives and husbands are to interact. Here in Ephesians Paul teaches us about the church and in doing so also instructs us about wives and husbands; let’s see what he teaches us…

READ: Ephesians 5:22-33

A happy and secure marriage begins and ends with what its focus is; if it isn’t focused solely on God first at its core it is misdirected. And within this relationship…

I. Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! (Vv. 22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

1. This has become one of the most talked about, misunderstood, or disdained pieces of Scripture there is within the Bible. Millennials hate it because it suggests they must be submissive and in a “me first” society this is an anathema! However when Paul wrote “Wives, submit to your husbands” he did not end his thought there but he continued by writing what he meant exactly: “as to the Lord”! All believers are to be in total submission to the Lord, period. The original Greek word for “submit” (hupotassō) means to be subordinate to, to be under obedience, or willingly submit oneself to another. It is a personal willful choice as in when one willingly submits their selves by faith to Jesus! Was Paul a misogynist, a narrow-minded bigot, or just plain old fashioned in his thinking? No way! In fact he was very progressive because he continues by sharing his reasoning: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Like Jesus who established the church through is willing sacrifice, husbands are to be respected or submitted to by their wives because of their willingness to make sure their wives are successful in marriage by their own sacrifice! It is done just “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Paul never meant this as a form of slavery or second class citizenship but rather as a godly union of a couple where the man should do his manly duty and be the wise, kind, and compassionate example like Jesus he should be so his wife can submit to him! Wives are to yield to their spouse!

EXAMPLE: Does this mean a woman should be a willing doormat to her husband? No way! God never endorses one sin over another. Paul is teaching relationship. Just as Jesus sacrificed everything for his church, his bride, husbands should be willing to sacrifice everything in their relationship with their wives so she can willingly submit to his displayed wisdom, kindness, and compassion! Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse!

Paul continued in discussing what he meant a married couple’s relationship should be like. Wives were to willingly submit to their husbands however…

II. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! (Vv. 25-28)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

1. Far too often folks have a tendency to ignore the fact that in the New Testament that when the word “love” is used it is most often translated from the Greek word agapaō, meaning “sacrificial love” and not the emotional kind of love the world at large wants to give it. This is the love Paul uses and is the same we find in verses like John 3:16 where we learn that God so sacrificially loved the world that he sent Jesus. So Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church”. So often we hear liberal Christians putting the emphasis on the emotional aspects of Jesus’ love; that he was kind, compassionate, and “loved” people while ignoring the action part of the word. Jesus showed, displayed, and proved his love by his actions and especially by his willingness to die for our sins! So husbands are to sacrificially love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”! It is a husband’s duty to love their wives by making sure she is exposed to and mentored in God’s Word the gospel message! To make sure his family, beginning with his wife, is in Jesus’ body his church! Why would this be so important? Paul knew that any family is centered in how the home is run and that always begins with the mother and wife. Husbands are to make sure his wife’s needs are met; especially her spiritual needs “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless”! So Paul writes that “In this same way”, just as Jesus sacrificed himself “husbands ought to (sacrificially) love their wives as their own bodies.” We want to make sure we are taken care of and so as husbands we are to make sure our wives are taken care of first because Paul understood that “He who (sacrificially) loves his wife loves himself.” Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a “me first” society that we have often lost what marriage is to be all about. It is not making sure your needs are met, rather it is an investment in a deep personal relationship that is to last a lifetime. Marriage is based on personal sacrifice and not emotional needs. Yes, certainly emotional needs are to be met within marriage but they cannot be until we are willing to do whatever it takes to have a successful marriage. Husbands are to be like Christ in leading in personal sacrifice with their wives. Husbands are to surrender to their spouses!

Paul understood what personal sacrifice meant because he had given up everything, including being able to have a family for the ministry of the gospel! So he understood what it meant to be totally committed and he understood that in marriage…

III. Both spouses must give their all! (Vv. 29-33)

After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1. Paul realized that both wives and husbands might have a problem with what he was trying to teach them. He also knew one of the first arguments would be that he was not married. How could he understand what it took? Yet Paul did and he wrote that “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body.” Jesus had come to seek and save the lost but he also left behind something so radical that it would change the world within a few hundred years; namely his body the church. And just as Jesus cared for and fed his church, as married couples we are to make sure each other is fed and cared for in every way: emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The church is to care for one another. So Paul was not just making a point about marriage but about the church body. The body of Christ is to sacrifice for one another just as Christ did for his church. Each member is now part of the whole because of what Jesus did “for we are members of his body”. Marriage is the same, we are no longer our own we become part of something bigger than ourselves and it is “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We spiritually, emotionally, and physically become something more than we are as ourselves as a church body and as a married couple! This is why Paul would continue by stating that “This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Jesus’ love for his church should be reflected in marriage by both husband and wife and so Paul finishes by writing, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Both spouses must give their all!

EXAMPLE: Just as there are many reasons for people joining a church there are many reasons why folks get married; some for personal fulfillment, some for personal gain, some for love, and some for utterly selfish reasons. And just as folks have forgotten how the church is sacred thing established by Jesus; marriage is sacred as well. It is not to be entered into lightly. It demands more than some individuals are willing to give but if they want to be successful in marriage they must learn and respond to the fact that both spouses must give their all!

Conclusion:

Wives are to willingly yield to their spouse! Husbands are to surrender to their spouses! Both spouses must give their all!
—-
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 Humble Life! — James 1:9-15

The Humble Life! — James 1:9-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 4, 2014 AM

I was just wondering about how we have sold our souls to the societal notion of Christianity. We no longer have a clue what it means to be humble before the Lord. At Age 32, Elizabeth Gilbert faced a life crisis of personal conscience – she did not want to be married anymore to her devoted husband or to have his children. Locking herself in the bathroom of her upscale home she began to pray over and over, “I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to have this baby.” A voice, her own, answers her and tells her to go back to bed. Thus, begins her own self-focused “spiritual” journey. She goes through a dreadful divorce, moves in with an uncaring lover, and begins a self-ingratiating spiritual quest. Her final theological epiphany ends the way it began, from hearing her own voice speaking to her she concludes her highest religious dogma and theology is “to honor the divinity that resides within me” and to worship at the feet of the God within. Gilbert wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love.” A hedonistic spiritual journey wrapped in cultural selfishness.

The old time country singer Mac Davis sang, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” This is where the likes of Gilbert self-worship leads. In our Christian culture today, sadly, we have sold our souls to the notion of desiring what our spirit wants for us in the moment. After all the heart wants what the heart wants! We have emotionalized our spirituality. Oprah Winfrey would say we need to know we are “creation’s son… creation’s daughter” and that we are “ultimately I am Spirit come from the greatest Spirit. I am Spirit!” Not much humility found there. However, James knew what it meant to find oneself, it meant to lose oneself in Jesus. We forget Jesus taught that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything in life follows after that. The book of James teaches us all about the humble life…

READ; James 1:9-15

We learned last time that if we lacked the wisdom we needed in life to live for God all we had to do was ask him! The problem comes when we do not ask or we ask inappropriately, seeking only to satisfy our selfishness instead of wanting to know the wisdom of God for our lives! We fall into the pit of thinking we need to experience God through feeling rather than reason. James knew that…

I. Godly humility understands the eternal view! (Vv. 9-12)
1. Pride can be found in the poor as well as the rich. The impoverished may be too proud to accept help when needed and the rich may ignore the plight of those in need! In fact, we may be so caught up in our own lives, whether rich or poor that we neglect what is truly important — eternity! Paul understood that what a person goes through today is not reflective of what God is doing or will do in their lives for eternity, he wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV) James reminds us that “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.” He does not mean we should be prideful of being poor, but rather we should realize our position before the Lord! There are those who would insist that God desires you to be rich, but in reality God does not care if you are rich or poor only his. The poor should grasp their high position in Christ, perhaps because they are unencumbered by wealth, while the “rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower!” Here today and gone tomorrow! The wealthy have a low position because their wealth, just as poverty, is meaningless as far as eternity is concerned! When James reiterates, “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” He knew this was just as true for the poor person! For James the deeper truth, the undeniable truth of life was eternity and that eternity for the believer meant, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him!” When Peter whined that they had “left everything” in order to follow Jesus, he responded by telling Peter, “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life!” (Matthew 19:29 NIV) This is what James was referring to, namely that Godly humility understands the eternal view!
EXAMPLE: We are no longer “Bound for the promised Land” of our forefathers. We do not have to “long to see it afar” because our land, that is fairer than day, is in the here and now. We live in a world where most of us have never experienced the hardship of trying to feed ourselves on a daily basis, going without heat, shelter, or clothing. It is foreign to us. James, however, was speaking to an audience that had to strive for daily sustenance and death from famine, disease, or war was around every corner. We have so insulated ourselves from the consequences of our lives that we give no thought to where we will purchase our groceries, the doctor we visit or simply the glass of water we drink from our tap. We have become a society that has become enamored with ourselves. Our faith practice as believers often reflects this common conceit. We are shocked when someone close to us dies or dozens of folks are slain in an instant. We light candles or place plastic flowers by the roadside. The words of Paul should startle us back to reality, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NIV) Paul, like James, understood that Godly humility understands the eternal view of things, do you?

Paul was so geared toward the eternal he would write, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV) I suspect many of us would not be as confident if we knew we would die tonight. Some of us still fear death because we know the life we are living now is not what God would desire. James continues his theme on humility. He knew that…

II. Godly humility understands the consequences of sin! (Vv. 13-15)
1. We often fail to place the proper perspective on our lives. We think we have an unlimited number of days to live; add to that the narcissistic notion that nothing bad should ever happen to us, and therefore when we do face hard times it can be total shock to us! We certainly cannot blame ourselves for the mess we face — it must be God’s fault! This faulty thinking is nothing new however because the Jews of James’ day thought that if you were going through persecution or tough times, it must be because of personal sin in your life. James confronts this head on by stating, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone!” James offered a sharp rebuke to those who find an easy excuse to blame God for their sinning. There is nothing in a good holy God to which evil can make an appeal. Jesus sympathized with the temptations we go through because he, in his willingness to walk this earth as a man, had “been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) James knew the truth that “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” It is our choice, our desire, our ungodliness that drags us away and not God! Like sexual relations that often result in pregnancy, “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” The results are not joyous in this instance but horrendous! “The biological imagery is vivid. The lust or desire conceives and from this conception sin is born… The grotesque child, sin, then matures and produces its own offspring, death. The steps are all too clear: unchecked lust yields sin, and unconfessed sin brings death.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) Just as the correct response to our trials or the bad things we go through can result in our growth to full spiritual maturity, so a wrong response to our willful lust will result in spiritual decay to abject spiritual poverty and ultimately to death itself! Paul wrote, “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:21-23 NIV) James knew Godly humility understands the consequences of sin!
EXAMPLE: A young couple moves into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life. Thus begins the 1968 American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967 novel Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. Now it is being made into an NBC miniseries. The plot, while being extremely farfetched, smacks of the truth of ill-conceived sin in the lives of Christians. We willingly sin, make excuses for our sin, and then when the consequences of our sin catches up to us we blame God! Many of today’s believers have so impregnated their lives with societal acceptance that they no longer can distinguish what is truly sinful. The Hebrews of James’ day had done this as well, they excused their excesses with the notion that God was blessing their lives and when the consequence snowballed into full-blown trials they blamed God! The ungodly spawn we produce are ungodly lifestyles that we think and claim are spiritual! We are dying spiritually from the Rose Mary’s Baby we have conceived! James would say, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” (v. 16) He knew Godly humility understands the consequences of sin!

Conclusion:

Humility understands the eternal view and humility understands the consequences of sin!

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

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
by Pastor Lee Hemen
May 2, 2014

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. (James 1:9-10 NIV)

I was just wondering about how we have sold our souls to the societal notion of Christianity. We no longer have a clue what it means to be humble before the Lord. At Age 32, Elizabeth Gilbert faced a life crisis of personal conscience – she did not want to be married anymore to her devoted husband or to have his children. Locking herself in the bathroom of her upscale home she began to pray over and over, “I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t want to live in this big house. I don’t want to have this baby.” A voice, her own, answers her and tells her to go back to bed. Thus, begins her own self-focused “spiritual” journey. She goes through a dreadful divorce, moves in with an uncaring lover, and begins a self-ingratiating spiritual quest. Her final theological epiphany ends the way it began, from hearing her own voice speaking to her she concludes her highest religious dogma and theology is “to honor the divinity that resides within me” and to worship at the feet of the God within. Gilbert wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love.” A hedonistic spiritual journey wrapped in cultural selfishness.

The old time country singer Mac Davis sang, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” This is where the likes of Gilbert self-worship leads. In our Christian culture today, sadly, we have sold our souls to the notion of desiring what our spirit wants for us in the moment. After all the heart wants what the heart wants! We have emotionalized our spirituality. Oprah Winfrey would say we need to know we are “creation’s son… creation’s daughter” and that we are “ultimately I am Spirit come from the greatest Spirit. I am Spirit!” Not much humility found there. However, James knew what it meant to find oneself, it meant to lose oneself in Jesus. We forget Jesus taught that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and everything in life follows after that. Perhaps we have lost what it means to live in humble circumstances, not poverty, but spiritual humility. Makes one wonder…

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20

Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 22, 2013 AM

There are certain dates in life that stand out more than others do. I remember my parents and grandparents talking about when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred and where they were and what they were doing. I remember the day the first American went into space and when we landed on the moon. I also remember when terrorists flew passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. However, on a brighter note, I also vividly remember the day I was married and the day we brought our daughter home. Is it any wonder then that as believers we should celebrate by remembering the day the love of God was fulfilled?

On this the fourth Sunday of Advent we should pause as Christians and remember together the day Jesus was born. Before we pass out the presents, drink the hot apple cider, or eat the first candy canes of Christmas perhaps we would do well to stop and remember why there is Christ in Christmas. It is the day the love of God was fulfilled! Let’s refresh our memories as we remind ourselves of the wonder of that day.

READ: Luke 2:1-20

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)
1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this as well. He remarks that, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior of the world’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” probably should be more correctly translated “before”, which it often is, Quirinius was governor which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was David’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. She was carrying the Messiah, and so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone, and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for His perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!
EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) Joe Stowell, for the Radio Bible Class, writes, “A quick look at history reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Centuries earlier, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. On the heels of his demise, the Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off and expanded the territory under the unifying influence of the culture and language of the Greeks. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries free of “passport” restrictions, and a unifying language. The providence of God had put all the pieces in place for the perfect time to send His Son. God’s timing is perfect in everything.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)
1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare His ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of His son. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of His Son. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger suddenly comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chose to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words His Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!
EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you’ve just got to hear! It makes no sense we’re sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

We finally learn that the love of God was fulfilled when…

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)
1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people’s chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” In the midst of this wonderful story is a simple truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!
EXAMPLE: Joe Stowell again for the Radio Bible Class writes, “I love the YouTube video of people in a food court of a mall, who in the midst of their ordinary lives were suddenly interrupted by someone who stood up and boldly began singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” To the surprise of everyone, another person got up and joined the chorus, and then another, and another. Soon the food court was resounding with the celebrative harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers.” He continues, “Every time I watch that video, it moves me to tears. It reminds me that bringing the glory of God into the ordinary situations of our world through the beautiful harmonies of Christlikeness is exactly what we are called to do. Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!

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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Let’s be fair about it! – James 2:1-13

Let’s be fair about it! – James 2:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 6, 2013 AM

I’ve noticed that even some four or five-year-olds have low self-esteem. Helping them build a healthy self-image as an important part of a parent’s task. It involves more than handing out stickers; it also involves nurturing them. All children need fair, impartial, and caring treatment to instill the self-confidence they need as they mature. Every child should be treated as a special gift of God.

Although we can treat some people as special, that does not mean we should do so at another’s expense. Favoritism results from using superficial means to evaluate others and making that evaluation the basis for how we treat them. Favoritism is being kind or courteous to some but not to all. It is showing mercy to and forgiving some but being unmerciful and unforgiving to others. Even Christians can fall into the trap of showing partiality in their families, workplaces, and churches. They are drawn to people with whom they identify easily and exclude people who are different or are considered unimportant or unattractive. James teaches us that this is simply evil, let’s discover why…

READ: James 2:1-13

James pulled no punches in emphasizing that partiality is totally unacceptable among believers. In fact, favoritism is a sin that brings judgment. James denounced favoritism in the church; we are to…

I. Ignore the externals! (James 2:1-4)
1. James counseled believers to stop practicing (“habitually exercising”) their faith in their current manner. He writes, “Don’t show favoritism.” The word favoritism expresses the idea of arbitrarily assigning more worth to some people than to others and extending preferential treatment to individuals deemed more worthy. James made it clear that obedience to Christ excludes partiality. “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in.” The phrase your meeting literally is “your synagogue” and indicated believers coming together for worship. As Jewish Christians, these believers would understand the term “synagogue” for their place of worship. James supposed that two visiting men entered this group of gathered Christians. James described their economic status. One man was wearing a gold ring and he was wearing fine clothes. Then a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. This man had only the clothes on his back. He had only one garment that bore the stains of daily use. James set the scene with starkly contrasting descriptions. The gathered believers’ response to these two men was immediately revealing. James asks, “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated”? Why are we tempted to show favoritism to certain people? What helps us to refuse to show partiality? James concluded his possible scenario with a rhetorical question to which he expected an answer of yes, “Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” To make such a blatant and shameful distinction based on appearances and economic status demonstrated that believers were practicing discrimination! Showing bias on the basis of outward appearances makes believers judges with evil thoughts. Instead of relating to one another as brothers in Christ, these believers created a division among themselves, believers are to ignore the externals!
EXAMPLE: We should always dress well and put our best foot forward for a job interview, however, believers are not to display discrimination based on eternals. Our culture shows blatant partiality to people who are attractive, talented, wealthy, powerful, successful, or socially prominent. Superstars abound in today’s culture. Great soccer players cause fans to riot in the bleachers. Popular musicians have fans who stand in line for hours for tickets. And Hollywood celebrities hire bodyguards to protect themselves from adoring stalkers. We easily can fall victim to favoring church members, potential church members, or even those who are not likely to be members on the basis of external trappings. We can treat people impartially only when we ignore any external differences between them, others, or ourselves. As Christians, we are to live according to a higher standard. We are to ignore the externals!

James goes on to indicate behavior that dishonors God’s people and that honors people who mistreat believers. He teaches us that we are to…

II. Honor all God’s people! (James 2:5-7)
I. James writes, “Listen,” because he wanted them to give careful attention to what he was about to say. He reminded them of what they already knew from their Jewish background: God champions the poor. While most Christians at this time were poor, God never exhibits favoritism. He responds positively to all people who turn to Him in faith, regardless of their financial status. James asks, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” James had in mind those who, while poor, were rightly related to God through Christ. James did not mean God selected the poor above anyone else; it is the idea of God’s initiative in extending grace to the poor as He did to all people. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said God had sent Him “to preach good news to the poor.” They were included in God’s redemptive purpose. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NIV) James’ reference to Jesus’ beatitude assured the poor they shared in God’s kingdom. Although these believers might have been materially destitute, they were spiritually wealthy. God honors the poor by extending His grace to them and exalting them. Evidently, these believers had dishonored a poor man. James writes, “But you have insulted the poor.” If he was a visitor, they did not know whether he was a Christian or an unbeliever. If He was a Christian, they had denied his equality with them in the faith. If he was an unbeliever, they had failed to exhibit God’s grace and love. James asks three rhetorical questions, “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?” They all demanded a “yes” answer. The assumption is that they had forgotten who had been persecuting them. Those they had thought highly of, because of their wealth, had used their wealth for persecution! The implication was clear, the rich were the ones who “slandered” or “spoke evil of” Jesus! These Christians were showing favoritism to people who constantly expressed their contempt for Christ! As believers, we are to honor all God’s people!
EXAMPLE: A Washington Post article reported that studies into the nature of prejudice found that almost everyone harbors biases, and these attitudes affect even those who actively resist them. A University of Kentucky psychologist says that much of our self-esteem comes from feeling better about ourselves than about others because of the group we belong to. Prejudice is not easy to overcome, even within the family of God. Christianity out of all the religions of the world is the great equalizer. No clan, no ethnicity, no social status, or educational background separates us from the love of God. Nor should they separate God’s people in loving one another! Because His people are important to Him, we are to honor them, not to ignore them or to give preferential treatment to people who abuse them. In fact, we are to look for ways to serve other believers. Also, we are to counter abuse of all people but especially mistreatment of Christians. We are to honor all of God’s people!

James strongly stated believers had only two options for treating others: loving them or sinning against them (vv. 8-13). Christians are to fulfill “the royal law”: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Therefore, we are to…

III. Extend God’s love! (James 2:8-13)
1. James tells them, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” The phrase the royal law meant the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV) We are to extend to all the same care and concern we have for ourselves. In contrast, believers who continually show favoritism “sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” They were missing Christ’s mark of God’s grace! We are to love God completely and others as ourselves! When we don’t, it convicts us as sinners! Then, James used a common Jewish teaching to demonstrate that disobedience is no light infraction. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” To be law-abiding, a person has to keep all the law; which is impossible. James’s point is that God’s people are to keep all His laws. James quoted the 7th and then the 6th Commandments. By associating partiality with adultery and murder, James stressed the seriousness of exhibiting favoritism. He did not mean the sin of partiality is the same as adultery and murder; however, to reject any of God’s commands is disobedience. James warned against failing to love others as God commanded and as Jesus affirmed. Believers are to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” All believers are to live in the understanding that in God’s final judgment, the gospel will be the standard by which we will be measured. We must remember, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7 NIV) James connected mercy with loving others and treating them fairly; he connected lack of mercy with showing favoritism. People who have received God’s mercy through Christ are to extend God’s love to others.
EXAMPLE: Charlie Brown, the comic strip character, identified with the underdog, probably because he always felt like one. In one scene he was building a birdhouse when the cynical Lucy came by. “I’m building it for sparrows,” Charlie told her. Lucy said, “For sparrows? Nobody builds birdhouses for sparrows.” “I do,” replied Charlie Brown. “I always stick up for the underbird.” If we do not treat people in ways that express love and mercy, we are committing sin. Believers need to stick up for the “underbird”! We show love and mercy by treating all other people fairly, refusing to show favoritism. We live in the tension of being measured by the gospel, which affirms every person’s worth.

Conclusion:
1. We can treat people impartially only when we ignore any external differences between them and others.
2. Because people who belong to God are important to Him, we are to honor them, not to ignore them or to give preferential treatment to people who abuse them.
3. If we do not treat people in ways that express love and mercy, we are committing sin.

This article is the copyrighted property of Lee Hemen and may not be edited or redistributed without his written permission.

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