Tag Archives: mercy

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

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

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

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

READ: 1 Timothy 1:12-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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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!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God listens! — Psalm 40

God listens! — Psalm 40
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 6, 2017

“Are you listening to me?” was one of my mother’s favorite questions to ask me when I was younger. She wanted to make sure I understood what she had just told me to do; however there were times when as a young person I wished my parents would have listened to me as well. All young people go through this kind of stage in their life. In fact senior adults often express how younger folks do not always listen to them because they think they are too old, senile, or something. Isn’t it good to know then that the believer has someone who always listens to them no matter what age they are?

The Psalmist David knew and experienced God intimately. In our day and age there are a myriad of books, articles, and seminars that try to help Christians to experience God intimately. David gives us some good advice and examples as to just how God listens to those he loves. Let’s discover what he writes this morning…

READ: Psalm 40

Patience was not my strong suit as a young person, it was something that I had to learn and in fact I am still working on in my life! Yet we discover that those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength and soar like eagles; running and walking without growing tired. David related that…

I. God listens to those who wait! (Vv. 1-5)

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

1. If patience is a virtue, few of us have it. Yet David writes that he “waited patiently for the Lord”. The idea is one of being silent, listening, and waiting for God to respond no matter how long it takes. When David did this he discovered that “he turned to me and heard my cry”. Far too often we do not have the tenacity to wait patiently for anything in life and then we wonder why we do not experience God as we think we should. For David this was very real occurrence because when he waited on the Lord he sang that “he lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire” and then God “set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”! Have you ever felt in life you were bogged down by the filth of the world or the desperation of life? David did. But God listened to David and gave him a rock to stand on. God has given us Jesus the solid Rock that no earthly wind or rain can wash away! In fact God went further and “he put a new song in [David’s] mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”! When we are willing to wait on the Lord he gives us firm footing in life, a place to stand in a slimy mud-filled pit of a world. He gives us a new song to sing that influences those around us and “Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” because of our patience in waiting for God to speak! David would sing, “Blessed” happy “is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn to aside to false gods” like worldly wisdom, philosophies, or manmade concepts but instead to a listening God who loves and cares for him! David understands who has his life in the palm of his hand, who listens to his prayers, and who responds and so he sings, “Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” David learned as we need to as well that God listens to those who wait!

EXAMPLE: I learned a lot from my father about fishing. One of the first things he taught me was patience. If I sat quietly by the stream or by the lake and watched intently my bobber or the lure I was using I would be rewarded for my steadfastness. He would tell me about how to fish the swirls, behind the large rocks, and riffles in a stream. How to look for the concentric rings of fish as they surfaced for food and how to lay a lure or fly just right in the water so as not to scare the fish but to attract them to my hook. He taught me to keep my shadow from falling onto where I wanted to fish and to be silent. He taught me to listen to the flow of the water, the songs of the birds, and the quietness of the woods. He taught me patience. David teaches us that God listens to those who wait!

What we focus on in life says a lot about who we are. For the believer their focus must be on the Lord; we are to “seek fist” his “kingdom” and his “righteousness” and then we will know him better; Jesus’ words not mine. In fact we learn from David that…

II. God listens to those who desire him! (Vv. 6-10)

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.” I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

1. We live in a world of hustle and bustle. We think therefore that God wants us to “do something” for him instead of waiting on him. It is a matter of what we desire in life. Are we focusing on ourselves or on him? Too many in David’s day had begun to focus on what they could do for God instead of what God truly desired from them. David correctly understood this and sang, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire… burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” God did not need these offerings especially from those who were really focused on something else instead of him! And so curiously David sings, “But my ears you have pierced”. The meaning is twofold: First, slaves had their ears pierced with an awl by their owners to signify their slavery; David was referring to his willingness to be bound to God. Secondly, David felt that he only heard God when he was in a right relationship with him; when his ears were “pierced” so he could truly hear what God was saying to him! This is why David tells God, “Here I am, I have come”. He was ready, willing, and able to listen to God. Because David listened to God he knew God had a plan for his life. David came to hear what God had in store for his life and so he sings, “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.” One cannot hear God’s voice until they are ready to give themselves completely over to the Lord; to sacrifice themselves and become totally God’s. Then it becomes easy to “proclaim righteousness in the great assembly” because for those who know God understand he listens to them! David could not “seal” his “lips” nor could he “hide” God’s “righteousness in [his] heart” in who he was. God was fully a part of David’s life and not some secondary occurrence he was exposed to once in a while. David was not a nice guy who tried to love God, he was a guy who loved God and became the man God desired and so he spoke of God’s “faithfulness and salvation”. In fact, David never concealed God’s “love” and “truth from the great assembly”. David learned that God listens to those who desire him!

EXAMPLE: In an old country and western song by Tom T. Hall he relates the ungodly philosophy of a scrawny old cowboy who tells him that life is about “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money”. Sadly this is what many in the world truly think life is all about. They live life full throttle earning more money, living for the moment, and for the thrill instead of for the One who created them in the first place. God is either a far off concept or a curse word for them. They have never heard his voice because they have drowned it out with the desires of the world. Yet if they were willing to have their ears pierced so they could truly listen they would hear his voice calling them. David discovered that God listens to those who desire him!

Honesty is the best policy but many while they desire it from others do not practice it themselves. We live in a world of deceit and therefore we cynically expect politicians to lie to us, the media to distort the truth, and even family and friends to conceal hidden motives. David teaches us that…

III. God listens to those who are honest with him! (Vv. 11-17)

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me. May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!” Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.

1. We all want God when we want him. This is something I have learned in my 40-plus years of ministry and 32 years of pastoring: When things get bad, which they always do in life, we cry out to God whom we have not thought about before. As one old pastor said, “We get real about God when life gets real with us.” We find David being totally honest with God. He understood that God cannot hear those who come to him with false motives or pretenses. He desires all of us. So David sings, “Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.” More than anything David desired God but David knew he had sinned and so he confesses to the Lord, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” David is being straightforward in his prayer to God. He was suffering the consequences of his sinful life and so he cries to the One who can truly rescue him, “Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” David did not experience the grace of God we as believers now enjoy because of Jesus. God, the Holy Spirit, comes to seal us and stay with us forever but David did not have this intimacy of grace we now enjoy. So he asks for God’s protection: “May all who seek to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’ be appalled at their own shame.” In this we discover that we can be very real with the Lord in our conversation our prayer just as David was. David needed to be rescued from his predicament. From his sin and those who sought to do him evil and so he willingly turns to the One who listens. Yet David also desired that those who were willing to seek the Lord would “rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ‘The LORD be exalted!’” David wanted to be rescued but he also desired that those who sought to do him ill would know the Lord as he did. And finally David the King and commander sings, “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” God listens to those who are honest with him!

EXAMPLE: Recently I took a camping trip to Montana with my son-in-law and grandson. It was a blast. Not only did we see all kinds of wildlife but we swam in an ice-cold river, experienced nature, and cooked our food out-of-doors. Yet one of the things that I will always remember is going down to the river after dark and looking up at the night sky. Without the light pollution of the cities we could see the Milky Way in all of its glory. As I stood there looking up I experienced a moment of unsettlement. I realized just how miniscule I was compared to the universe God had made. Yet I wanted to shout for joy when I realized that this awesome God who created all of the stars and galaxies speaks to me intimately! I was humbled and confessed to him that I was unworthy of such love. We learn from David that God listens to those who are honest with him!

Conclusion:

God listens to those who wait! God listens to those who desire him! God listens to those who are honest with 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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The Man Who Went to the Mat! — John 5:1-15

The Man Who Went to the Mat! — John 5:1-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 14, 2014

To “go to the mat” may come from the Old English matte, from Late Latin matta “mat made of rushes”, probably from Punic or Phoenician matta (Hebrew mittah “bed, couch”). Meaning “tangled mass”. That of “piece of padded flooring used in gymnastics or wrestling” is attested from 1892; hence figurative phrase go to the mat “do battle”. The Latin word also is the source of German Matte, matze ; Dutch mat, Italian matta. French natte “mat, matting” is from Late Latin. Interestingly, it was also a phrase from chess in the Arabic that meant to checkmate someone.

When we go to the mat for someone it means we are willing to stand up and support that person. Paul writes about this wonderful truth by telling us, “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will…. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:27, 33-34 NIV)” We have Jesus who is willing to “go to the mat” for us! We see this wonderful truth displayed here in John’s gospel…

READ: John 5:1-16

We discover that…

I.  God goes to the mat for us where we are! (Vv. 1-5)

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed [–and they waited for the moving of the waters.] [From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.] One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

1. We are not told nor are we sure but “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.” It could have been the feast of Pentecost, as some think; or as others, the feast of tabernacles; or rather, the feast of the Passover. We do not know. However John describes that “there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda (house of mercy) and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.” Superstition is nothing new. It occurred before Jesus’ time and occurs right now as well. There are those who think that by breaking a mirror you give yourself seven years of bad luck. Some actually think that dead folks become angels, who are, according to the Bible, the created servants, heralds, and messengers of God who do not have any freewill at all! And, do not get me started on the veneration of dead folks, relics, or spiritual sites that people make homage or pilgrimages to. John explains, “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed [–and they waited for the moving of the waters.] [From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.]” John does not tell us that he believed an actual angel did this but there were those who thought so! And sadly things have not changed much in our day and age. What I see John trying to teach us is not so much about the superstition but rather that Jesus was willing to go where folks were who needed him! Jesus went to this pool of mercy not for healing hmself, but rather to display the power of God! We discover he had a divine meeting scheduled there because “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” For thirty-eight years he had suffered and could not walk, for thirty-eight years he had come to this pool to receive mercy and soon he would meet the one who was willing to go to the mat for him! God goes to the mat where we are!

EXAMPLE: I am so glad I did not have to journey to some far distant land in search of some esoteric truism in order to find my god within. It is truly sad when people actually think that we can make God into their own image. How delightful and wonderful to realize that the Bible contains all we need to know concerning God and it is not some veiled or hidden message that only certain chosen ones can decipher! What is even more fantastic is the realization that God is everywhere we are! Daniel related, “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. (Daniel 2:22 NIV)” Paul writes that it is “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. (Colossians 1:26 NIV)” And, God has told us to “be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)” God goes to the mat where we are!

We learn that…

II. We must be willing to pick up our mat! (Vv. 6-9a)

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

1. Since Jesus has entered into the history of the world as our redeemer, the grace of God has been applied to us and within his preordained plan he has given us the freewill to choose. While he knows, in his omniscience, who will or who will not choose to follow him, he gives us the choice! In that choosing, we must be willing to pick up our mat! This is why “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” It was the man’s choice. But more than this it was his choice to continue in his spiritual condition as well! Jesus desired to know if he was there simply to beg, garner sympathy, or to be truly healed. There are those who would rather use their condition in life to gain some convoluted advantage in order to benefit them in some manner. However, did this man truly “want to get well”? And here we discover that the man addresses Jesus in the same way as did the royal official whose son lay dying. He replies, “Sir,” meaning Lord or master, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” He simply and succinctly states his predicament to Jesus. When he is willing to see Jesus as Lord, as the Master of his life then and only then can he be cured. We know Jesus never healed all those who came to him nor did he cure all those he came into contact with. His main purpose was not to do away with human suffering but rather to elevate folks to a higher calling, the kingdom of God! As the old spiritual states, “This world is not our home; we’re just a passin’ through!” We should not get comfortable here in this life. And so here we see that the invalid had a choice to make; he could stay where he was and complain about not being able to get in the pool or he could trust Jesus and do what he asked, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!” Notice what occurs instantly when he decides to trust the Lord, “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” At some point we must be willing to pick up our mat!

EXAMPLE: The theme of a lot of game shows has not changed much; the contestant must decide what is the correct answer, the correct door, or the best prize to take. And if he chooses incorrectly, well, he loses! (Wah, wah, wah!) Trusting Jesus is not some game we play in life trying to guess which door to choose. God is not some game show host trying to get us to choose the correct door or to trick us into choosing the wrong one. Yet, sadly, there are those who actually think this way. Trusting God is absolutely knowing that he is with us and we can walk with him no matter where or which “door” we choose in life. When we trust God through faith in his Son, Jesus, we then must trust him as we walk with him. Therefore, we must be willing to pick up our mat!

We should not be surprised that…

III. Going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord! (Vv. 9b-16)

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, “Pick up your mat and walk.” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.

1. Whenever we find God at work, we often find Satan involved in trying gain a foothold as well. He often simply uses the resources already available to him. Things like our pride, arrogance, vanity, or selfishness. And here in John’s gospel we find Satan using God’s own day of rest because on “The day on which this took place was a Sabbath.” Can you hear the spooky music in the background? (Dun, dun, dun!) God intended there be a day of rest for his people to enjoy, worship, and give God glory for all that he had done in their lives during the previous week. However, the Jews had taken this noble and wonderful command of God and turned it into a duty, a requirement, and a means of trying to garner more favor from God. When God stated that his people were to keep the Sabbath Day holy and consider it a day of rest he never meant it to be a means whereby the Hebrews would sit around and concoct a myriad of methods in not breaking the rules! God just desired his people remember him on one day of the week and to rest from their usual labor! “And so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’” No it did not. It never did, what had occurred is that the Jews had convoluted God’s command into their own myopic rendition and requirement. So instead of focusing on what God had just miraculously done through his Messiah, they strained for the gnat, or in this case, the mat! The invalid is not concerned with their arguments; he is only excited that he was cured from 38 years of being an invalid! He replies, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’” John relates, “The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.” In fact Jesus was concerned for him and “Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’” Jesus knew the man and his family would become the focus of the Jews. And either the man was unconcerned or he did not want to get on their bad side, so he “went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” Jesus’ words begin to come true for himself and later the man as well, “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.” Going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord!

EXAMPLE: We live in a society where we think bad things should never happen to us. We tacitly believe that we should be destined for only a good and wonderful life free of any care, concern, or worry. This rather odd notion has crept into Christianity as well. God never promised us a life without harshness, evil, or ugly things happening. What he promised was to bless us through the trials and tribulations of life. No matter what occurs we can rest assured that God is with us. The Jews had so focused on their predicament they had lost touch with the reality of who God is and how he works. Instead of praising God for the man’s miraculous cure, they are angry and look to harm either the man or the one who cured him! John teaches us that going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord!

Conclusion:

God goes to the mat for us where we are! At some point we must be willing to pick up our mat! Going to the mat may mean going to battle for the Lord!

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 Incarnation! – John 1:14-18

The Incarnation! – John 1:14-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 14, 2014

Joan Rivers made no apologies for all the plastic surgeries she had over the years. Sometimes we can look in the mirror and not like what we see. When you look in the mirror what do you see? What do you think it would feel like to be a different person? Vernon Grounds writes that “You will never know. You may modify your body by exercise and diet. You may change your mind and your behavior. You may even resort to surgery. But you and I will forever be the unique individuals God created us to be. Regardless of how much we may try, we can’t actually experience what it is to be another person.” He continues by relating, “What was it like, then, for God to take on our human nature and live as a man who was despised and misunderstood on this fallen planet? He already knew exactly what sinful people go through. After all, He is all-knowing. Yet He voluntarily came… That’s what the incarnation is all about.”

Yet, how does a holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God actively enter into his creation that is now tainted by sin to become one of his own? It is hard for our mind to wrap itself around and this is exactly why God knew he was going to enter into our world the way he did, through his son Jesus. We have a habit of using words that some call “churchy.” Incarnation is such a word, but it means exactly what I just said. A holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God entered actively into his creation to cleanse it from its sin condition. John writes to us about the incarnation; let’s discover what John writes about it and what it means for our lives…

READ: John 1:14-18

How can human beings become the children of God? LDS falsely teach there was a pre-existence, or a pre-mortal life, in which human spirits were literal children of heavenly parents. Earth was created as a testing ground. The doctrine of eternal progression was succinctly summarized by LDS Church leader Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” This totally against biblical teaching; Scripture teaches us that there is one God, he created all things, and sin entered the world through mankind’s disobedience. However, God had a plan and John gives us that plan through…

I. The summation of the incarnation! (Vv. 14-15)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”
1. God’s plan was truly simple, magnificently beautiful, and wonderfully wise. John writes, “The Word became flesh.” This should cause any rational person to pause and ponder at the magnitude of what God did. The Messiah, the eternal Word became one of us! Flesh in the physical sense not in the sinful weak worldly ungodliness of human existence. He did not simply appear, nor did he come floating down on the wings of his angels; rather, he entered into existence by making his “dwelling among us.” He literally pitched his tent within our camp! John could testify to this fact because he had seen it for himself, “We have seen his glory!” John was an eyewitness to the Word becoming flesh. He walked with Jesus, he ate with him, and he slept near the same campfire as the Messiah! The messenger of God told Joseph, Jesus’ adopted papa to “not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins… ‘and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’ (Matthew 1:20-21, 23 NIV)” John was witness to “the glory of the One and Only” and would later write, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. (1 John 1:1 NIV)” Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace (mercy) and truth (the gospel).” John the Baptist also testified concerning who Jesus was by crying out in the wilderness, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” John the Baptist knew his place in the plan of God. He would state, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. (Mark 1:7 NIV)” Jesus would ask the crowds, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind… I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he… For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. (Matthew 11:7, 11, 13 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: I watched an old western the other day and in it they had to send out scouts to see where the enemy was. A scout was sent, at the risk of his own life, into enemy territory so he could get an idea of what the enemy was up to. John the Baptist’s entire life was one of being a scout in enemy territory. John was aware of not only who the enemy was but who he was scouting for. “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.”’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Luke 3:7-8 NIV)” He told the questioning crowds, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16 NIV)” John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the summation of the incarnation!

No one knew God before Jesus because he was unknowable. Paul would say, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him–to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 NIV)” John teaches us about…

II. The revelation of the incarnation! (Vv. 16-18)
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
1. John knew from what Jesus has done for all mankind that “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” Jesus is the source of God’s mercy and love and we will learn that he loved the world so much that he willingly sent his son for our salvation! What many do not understand is that the entire creation has received the grace of God, “one blessing after another”, because of Jesus, but those who receive him as Savior and Lord receive the ultimate grace of God, Jesus and an abundant life in him! Literally “grace in place of grace.” The Christian life is one that is continually blessed with the grace of God because of Christ! Paul would write that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV)” In fact it was God’s plan that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)” God pours his grace on us because of Jesus! Like Paul, John knew that what the old law of Moses could never do, Jesus did! “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The Law of Moses could only continually condemn folks because once the sacrifice was made by the human priest for sin, sinful man turns around and sins! This is why Paul would write, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NIV)” Only God could do this because only God is holy and all powerful to do so! Jesus, being God did it! John reminds us, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!
EXAMPLE: When a magician does a magic trick behind a curtain he often has someone throw back the curtain to reveal what has occurred. The curtain of God was torn away in the temple because of what Jesus did for all mankind. Because of Jesus we have free access behind the curtain! Viola, God has torn back the curtain through his Son Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins! We no longer live in the darkness because the light of God has revealed all the hidden spaces and shown us the way of salvation through the blood of Christ! John reminds us of the revelation of the incarnation!

Conclusion:

We have looked at the summation of the incarnation and the revelation of the incarnation, now what will you decide to do with this information?

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 Submissive Life! — James 4:6-10

The Submissive Life! — James 4:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 27, 2014

But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:6-10 NIV)

In God’s mercy, he extends to us more grace. Sometimes I wonder if we do not take advantage of the love of God in our lives. What I mean is that we can forget what the grace of God is all about. It is his unmerited love for us. We did not earn it, we could not buy it, nor could we be good enough for it. God freely gave it through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus. We still have the desires and lusts of our natural lives and our prayers are often the result of these desires that battle with in us. And, often they are not what God desires for our lives; however in his rich wonderful mercy he extends to us “more grace.” God sets himself against us when we lust after those ungodly worldly things that do us no good or that which is counterproductive to the kingdom purposes of God. He opposes it with every part of his being because he is holy and righteous. Herein is the wonderful beautiful truth of the gospel, he gives more grace not because we deserve it, demand it, but simply because we require it.  God gives us more grace because of what Jesus has done for us! Paul taught that, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)” We are taught that the gospel message is the message of God’s grace, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 NIV)”

However, we learn that “God opposes the proud,” those caught up in their own desires, “but gives grace to the humble;” those who have submitted themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. Humility is a lost characteristic in our day and age. We misunderstand its biblical definition and consider it a weakness to be avoided at all cost. Humility is not weakness nor is it meekness. It is the character quality that the Apostle Peter had to learn over and over again. In arrogance he jumps out of the boat, yet in his fearful pride he begins to sink beneath the waves. He took his eyes off the Lord. He proclaimed for all to hear that he would never deny Jesus, but he did three times and suffered the humiliation of his betrayal! Yet, in his magnificent grace Jesus extends his love and forgiveness to Peter the same amount of times he denied his Master and friend. Paul did the same thing in much of his life. Arrogantly he was educated in the Scriptures, was well-read, and even given a trust to persecute those he thought who were opposing God. The problem was, he never asked God what he thought about Paul’s prideful way of life. God in his grace took a spiritually blind man and blinded him physically in order to help him see clearly his sinful pride. We can get so caught up in our own lives that we think we only need God when we need him. We forget that at just the right time he pulled us to himself, extended his mercy to us, bought us with a horrendous price, and gave us eternity. He does not give us more grace so that we will squander it, misuse it, or ignore it. God does not give us more grace so we will have a great day. He gives us more grace when we humble ourselves, confess our sinful condition, and return to him. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NIV)” God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

And herein is a wonderful spiritual truth, while he opposes the proud, he gives grace to the humble. However humility is a hard choice to those who are used to getting their own way. We are reminded by James to “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” We do not like that word submit. But it is as necessary in the life of a believer as water is to the survival of a fish. Christians cannot exist in a sin driven world without it. “Why?” you might ask and the answer is simply because we so easily fall prey to the wicked condition; the “natural order” of the world around us. We forget our true nature as we swim in our fish bowl of life. We get used to the filth we have to survive in day after day and without the constant reminder of God’s presence in our lives, we begin to enjoy our surroundings. In fact, James reminds us that when we do we secretly invite Satan into our lives. Not for our eternal destruction but rather for our momentary gratification. He becomes our partner in pleasure, our cohort in crime, and the embarrassment of our existence. We get embarrassed because we know whose company we should be keeping instead. We get angered if our dirty little secret sinful condition is pointed out. We get prideful of the perversions we now enjoy and justify our actions and behaviors. “I need this!” I deserve this!” “This makes me happy!” and we cling to the filth we dig up as if it were the most precious treasure we have found. Yet here in our most pathetic condition there is hope, a lifeline thrown from the shore, a lanyard we can cling to. If we submit ourselves to God, resist the Devil, he will flee from us! He cannot stay where the presence of the Lord is. He cannot stand in the presence of a holy one of God bought with the precious price of God’s only Son’s blood! When the fellowship of the cross is tenaciously clung to, his usefulness in our lives is exposed for its worthless nature that it truly is. But old friendships die hard. They are not easily given up and forsaken. But they must be if we are to resist those who would drag us back into the depravity of the world. If we come near to God, he will come near to us, but we must resist the one who roars like a lion, is as sly as a snake, who seeks to devour our lives.

Again, Paul reminds us that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NIV)” There it is again, the wonderful grace of God. In his mercy he reminds us through James, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” It is the whisper of our heavenly father asking us to leave the muck of the pigpen, to put down the slop we are eating and are sustaining ourselves on, and come home to his warm abundant table. Come home to the warmth and friendship of the one who truly loves us and never seeks to destroy our lives. “Come home,” he calls. Yet, how do we do that when we know we are stained by the ungodliness we were once part of? How can we enter into the dining hall with its richness, the white table clothes, the abundant food, and the warmth of family and friends who are waiting for us? How can we enter in when we are so filthy with the world? We can because of God’s grace, his mercy, when we cry out to him from the depths of our condition. We are to admit and see our lives for what they truly have become. James writes, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Those who came to dinner in a Jewish household always prepared themselves first before enjoying the meal or good company. Like my Mama who always asked before we dared eat, “Did you wash your hands?” we are reminded to do the very same preparation. As sinners we cannot enter into the good company of the Lord without doing so. It is a reminder of our need to confess our sins, to “purify” our “hearts.” Our entire lives are to be given over to the Lord, our Master, anew. We were once bought by his blood but we allowed ourselves the false company of strangers, the dirt of the road, and soiled our souls. We who once said we loved the Lord ran into the arms of another lover. We lied. And when we do not readily confess our adultery we cannot restore our relationship. We have to confess our sins and purify our hearts, all that we are, and no longer be doubled-minded. In fact, James says we should “Grieve” mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” He is saying we should be totally devastated by our sinful condition, not making excuses for our ungodliness. Like those who would hire professional mourners to cry and wail over the dead, we are to “grieve, mourn, and wail” over our death to sin. After all “the wages of sin is death”, we are told by Paul. We should be distraught over our death to the Lord after he sacrificed so much to give us his grace.

James leaves us with the promise, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10 NIV)” His teaching is what the Psalmist tells us about the Lord God, “The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalms 147:6 NIV)” Those who are willing to leave their sinful pride behind, God will lift up and restore! The key is humility. If we debase ourselves before the Lord, he will indeed lift us up. Our way to soar is first of all found in falling down. Those who willingly give up their ungodliness, our God will dust them off and lift them up. There is a marked advantage to our humility — eventually it brings us honor! Jesus taught, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11 NIV)” Our problem is we do not like to give up our control. We think by humbling ourselves we lose part of ourselves, but nothing is further from the truth! This is why many young brides do not like the word “obey” in their marriage vows. They do not want to submit to anyone, thinking if they do they are less of a person. God, however, never asks us to be less than we are. In fact, he desires the very best there is for our lives! He desires us to be what he created us for, his kingdom purposes! This is why the Scriptures relate, “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12 NIV)” Paul boldly wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:18-19 NIV)” And that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV)” When we place our faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior and Lord we are no longer our own, we are bought with a huge price. When we arrogantly sin and pridefully continue in that sin rather than coming back to the one who saved us, we place ourselves above God himself and his purpose for our lives. We never have to sacrifice that which God desires for our lives. We are his alone and when we come back to him and humble ourselves before the Lord, he will lift us up!

Now, let me ask you, are you willing to live the submissive life and enjoy all that God has to offer you or will you take advantage of God’s grace and return to the pride of your 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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The Judged Life! — James 2:11-13

The Judged Life! — James 2:11-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 1, 2014

We do not like to be judged by others, but we are no matter if we like it or not. We can declare, “Don’t you dare judge me!” but folks immediately do, especially if we say such a thing because they immediately think we have something in our life to hide that we should be judged for! As a pastor I have heard folks whine, “Judge not least ye be judged!” thinking that by doing so they have scored a self-righteous advantage, yet failing because Jesus went on to declare, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2 NIV), meaning that if one truly judges by God’s standards and not their own self-righteousness, they can indeed weigh in balance a fellow believer’s ungodly life. That’s why you are to “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) In fact, Jesus and the rest of Scripture goes on to relate that believers will indeed be judged and held accountable to a higher standard than the world. We live a judged life and it is time for us to grow up and act like it.

Remember James just got through telling us, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” And now he continues his teaching by relating to us just what he means. James was well aware there would be some who would tend to dismiss their offense of prejudice as trivial. Kind of like some do when they think they can sin in other areas of life and God won’t care. They would hardly consider themselves as actual sinners and can justify their ungodly actions with some of the lamest excuses: I deserve this! Everyone else is doing it! It’s my life! God doesn’t care if I do this one thing! However, James went on to make it clear that any sin is no small thing that can be easily dismissed, and, whether we like it or not, as believers we live a judged life! Let’s find out what James teaches us this morning…

READ: James 2:11-13

Toddlers like to play the game Hide-and-Seek! They will put their hands in front of their eyes or place a favorite blanket over their heads, and declare, “You can’t see me!” Of course we can. Sadly, this is the very same thing some Christians do with God. They try to play a silly game of sinner’s hide-and-seek with the Lord and their lifestyle, thinking that if they just ignore their sin, God will to! James teaches us that in the judged life…

I. Any sin is sin and will be judged! (v. 11)

For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:11 NIV)

1. Not every sin is the same. Certainly the sin of unbelief will be judged harsher, especially when we know we should come to faith and yet reject it simply because we do not want to change our ungodly lifestyle! Jesus taught, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men (even believers), but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:30-31 NIV) Why? Because, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit (those who hear but refuse the Spirit’s voice) will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32 NIV) That is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, whose sacred work is to draw us to God and Christ! And we know that the sin of deliberately trying to get believers to sin carries a heavy judgment, Jesus related in fact that “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck!” (Mark 9:42 NIV) However, James understood that there are Christians who actually think they can get away with their sin and God will not judge it. They have forgotten that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 NIV) Paul admonished his readers, “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God–I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:34 NIV) John wrote, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” And, that “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:4, 6 NIV) This is why James related, “For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” (James 2:11 NIV) In other words, any sin is sin and will be judged by God!
EXAMPLE: When we had the Youth Car Wash a man drove in with an old battered pickup truck. It was a construction rig he used on his job and he saw we were doing a car wash, so he thought, “Why not?” The girls and I scrubbed as hard as we could and rinsed it real good trying to make sure we got as much of it as clean as we possibly could. However, no matter how hard we tried there were places on that pickup that just would not come clean. They were not dirty but rather they were where someone had spilled oil or gasoline on the paint and no matter how hard we scrubbed, the oil spot would still be evident. He chuckled when I remarked to him, “The past sins of your work have found you out.” That’s the way it is when we try to hide our sins or when we try to ignore them. We cannot wash them away ourselves or try to paint over them, only Jesus’ sacrifice cleanses us completely. If we sin, we must remember that any sin is sin and will be judged by God!

So, what’s the answer? If any sin is sin and will be judged by God, how do we escape being judged? Do we keep on sinning; hoping God will look the other way? Do we every day and every way try to get better and better? Do we use the same excuse the foolish fisherman did who was in a leaking boat, ignore the holes and water gushing in, but kept madly rowing for shore, yelling, “I’m paddling as hard as I can!”? James writes that the judged life realizes that…

II. If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord! (Vv. 12-13)

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. Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:12-13 NIV)

1. We do not like it when we are asked to do something we do not want to do, but this should not be the case for the Christian who loves the Lord and is asked to follow him! It should be a delight and joy because we know that God only has the best planned for our lives if we simply follow his lead! God told the prophet Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) We try so hard to outguess God when it comes to what he has in store for our lives, thinking that we know so much better than the one who created us in the first place! What utter arrogance! He has told us over and over, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways!” (Isaiah 55:8) and we forget that God continued by promising that if his people obeyed him and followed him that “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands!” (Isaiah 55:12 NIV) Wow! Now I do not know about you, but if God describes the promise of following him in this way, don’t you think it is worthwhile to do so? Perhaps you have forgotten that “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 2:4-5 NIV) James had not forgotten. This is why he reminds us to “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom”! However, we should not, as Paul reminds us, use our “freedom to indulge the sinful nature”! (Galatians 5:13) We should love God so much that our lives reflect whom we follow. We are to abide in Christ; follow him so much that we might escape the corruption of this world! (2 Peter 1:4) Peter would encourage that it is “For this very reason” we as Christians should “make every effort to add to (our) faith goodness… knowledge… self-control… perseverance… godliness… brotherly kindness; and… love.” Peter knew “if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV) Consistent obedience is required if spiritual maturity is to be attained! We are judged by God and “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” Yet, the wonderful truth is that God’s “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!
EXAMPLE: Books on leadership often appear on best-seller lists. Most of them tell how to become a powerful and effective leader. But Henri Nouwen’s book “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership” is written from a different perspective. The former university professor who spent many years serving in a community of developmentally disabled adults says: “The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?” There’s the real question that often goes unanswered. If we do not want others around us judging our faith; if we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!

Conclusion:

James teaches us very succinctly that any sin is sin and it will be judged! If we do not want to be judged as a sinner, we should follow the Lord!

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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