Tag Archives: new life

New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32

New life! – Ephesians 4:17-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 5, 2017

There are times in everyone’s life that they wish they had a do over. You know a new start in life. There are those who wait for others to make their life better and there are those who decide to make their lives better and they do. However, as much as one tries to make things better in reality you are the same person except with window dressing.

There is a way to make your life new both inside and out and it is guaranteed to do so. Twelve men were going about their daily lives when they were approached by a man who said he could change their lives forever if they were willing to follow him. While they all said they would only eleven were willing to completely give their lives to him and in doing so they found a new life. Paul now makes the same argument to the church at Ephesus; let’s discover what he teaches us about this new life.

READ: Ephesians 4:17-32

At one time Paul was one of the most up and coming young men in his nation’s ruling class both spiritually and intellectually known as the Sanhedrin. Paul would write his experience by writing the church at Galatia, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Galatians 1:14 NIV) But then God set him apart and called him by his grace. Paul writes the Ephesians that they were to…

I. Remember their new lives! (Vv. 17-20)

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.

1. This new life for Paul was not some esoteric concept. There are those today who think that by simply being good they are totally good inside and out. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is why Paul wrote, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” Paul was not being racist in his remarks rather he was referencing how all of us are “gentiles” or futile in our thinking until we come to Christ by faith! Paul understood that everyone is “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” We are all sinners by nature and by choice! Just as non-Jews, Gentiles, did not understand God and lived in spiritually sin-dark lives, all of us are until we also come to Christ! In fact we are separated from the life of God because of our spiritual ignorance and the ungodly world’s hardening of our hearts! We are to remember our new lives! Lest we forget good people do not know God and good people do not inherit all that God has for them; goodness does not get one into heaven! Even acts of “goodness” come from a sinful heart that exists in a sin-fallen world. We may think we are good enough for God to love us but in fact we have “lost all sensitivity” we might have toward God and have “given (ourselves) over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more!” When we fail to realize the ungodliness of even the “good” things of the world we fail to understand why God humbled himself and came as Jesus to die on a cross for us. We must truly understand what Paul teaches, namely that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12 NIV) He reminds his readers therefore “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.” We are to remember our new lives!

EXAMPLE: Even though my father has been dead for almost 50 years, there are times I can still hear him and sometimes when I walk into a room if there are certain smells it is as if he was right there. Of course I know he isn’t but our minds help us to remember these kinds of things in this way. Today at the end of worship we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It does not impart any special dispensation, extra forgiveness, or grace. In it we discover anew the sacrifice of Jesus for us so that we might live for him. In observing the Lord’s Supper it helps us to remember our new lives!

Living a new life in Jesus begins with our trusting him by faith and then we are to daily decide to live for him. In doing so we are to…

II. Put off the old life and put on the new life! (Vv. 21-25)

Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

1. Paul continued by reminding his readers that “Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” Their hearts were no longer darkened, their lives were now made new in Jesus! They had heard, they had been taught, and now they fully realized the truth that is in Jesus! Only those who intimately know Christ can understand what Paul is writing here. We come to faith in Jesus and are spiritually changed. We were taught this and understand this but now “with regard to your former way of life” we are “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires”. Anything or anyone that keeps us from living the lives we are to in Jesus we are to get rid of in our lives! Paul was not being uncaring here; he knew that this could be awfully hard for new believers to do. But he was trying to encourage them in any way he could as individuals and as a church to live for Jesus! Jude would write, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23 NIV) Therefore we are “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It is a conscious decision on our part! To put it into terms we can understand: If we live for Jesus we become more like Jesus! If we try to stay comfortable in the ungodly world we will never attain to what God truly desires for our lives in Jesus so Paul writes, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Again Paul is speaking to the church, to believers. If we want a church, a life, a second chance that truly works we have to make the decision to put off the old life and put on the new life!

EXAMPLE: This past Wednesday is known as “Ash Wednesday” by millions of believers all over the world. However, many fail in their spiritual thinking concerning what this means and if it is worthwhile for them to do. Living for Jesus is more than doing an act of contrition one day a year. An ashen cross pasted on one’s forehead can remind us of Jesus’ humility and how we are to live, but it is meaningless unless one has given their life to Christ in the first place. Then we are to put off the old life and put on the new life!

Getting rid of old habits can be hard unless we propagate new ones that are beneficial to our new way of life. It is more than repeating the mantra of “Everyday in every way I am getting better and better.” It is a conscious decision on our part to live this new life. Paul related that…

III. We are not to sin in our new life! (Vv. 26-32)

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

1. Paul gets real here in his letter to the Ephesians in sharing with them exactly how they were to live for Jesus. He bluntly writes, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Anger is one of the most destructive forces in a person’s life. It is easy to respond in anger, just look at all the protests, riots, and anger being expressed by those who think they deserve something or are being deprived in some way. When we respond in anger we give ungodly thoughts and actions a foothold in our lives. We allow satanic influences to gain territory. We thwart such ungodliness when we respond in God’s love right away. Paul continued that “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” A crook, whether it is the government or the individual is one who steals from others what they did not earn with their own hands. Instead we are to share as believers with those within the church who are in need. We are to show that the love of God lives in us even to the things we participate including what we say; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In fact we are not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” We can “grieve” God who dwells within each believer when we do not walk in Christ. We walk in Jesus when we “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” And when we are “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”, we are living as Jesus did. This is what we are called to and how we are to live; we are not to sin in our new life!

EXAMPLE: God knew we could never be perfect and never sin. This is why he gave us himself in Jesus and empowered us through his presence of the Holy Spirit. However, like a good parent that reminds their kids when they are leaving the house to be as good as they can be until they get home, God reminds us to live good lives in him until he returns again. We are not to sin in our new life!

Conclusion:

We are to remember our new lives! Put off the old life and put on the new life! We are not to sin in our new life!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The return of the promise! – Ephesians 2:1-10

The return of the promise! – Ephesians 2:1-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 22, 2017

A promise is simply empty words if it isn’t kept. This is why my Father would remind us to “Never make a promise you cannot keep.” He understood that a promise is only as good as the one who keeps it. A man is only as good as his word.

Throughout Scripture we discover that God makes promises to his people and that he always keeps his promises. If he did not then we could not trust him to be who he is: always holy, always loving, always truthful, always faithful and so on. So we know that when he makes a promise, he keeps his word. Jesus promised eternal life and salvation to anyone who believed in him. Paul teaches the Ephesians just what this promise means for them and future generations. Many thought that God had left them but he had not; his promise had returned, had been fulfilled! Let’s discover what this means…

READ: Ephesians 2:1-10

We forget our condition as it concerns ourselves and God. God is holy and we are not. Paul relates…

I. The promise reminds us of our condition! (Vv. 1-3)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

1. Paul now gets down to the nitty-gritty. Like a parent who patiently desires their child listen to what they are about to say he retorts, “As for you”! He wanted them to pay attention to what he was going to teach them. He reminds them that “you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. In fact, they were dead to God just as all of us are! When we speak of death we mean the absence of communication or physical contact with the living. Lest we forget we must understand the truth that anyone who is dead spiritually has no communication with God; they are separated and disconnected from God! We are therefore the living dead; alive in the world but dead in our transgressions and sins “in which (we) used to live when (we) followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air”. We either follow God’s ways or the ways of this world that is dying and under a different rule! Now Paul was not giving the Devil any power or authority that he does not have. He is a created being and in fact does not rule anything. This world, this “kosmos” in the Greek that God created is an ungodly fallen system and therefore is a “satanically” organized system that hates and opposes all that is godly. This is why Jesus taught, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19 NIV) In this vein the Apostle John would write that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19 NIV) and because of this Paul would write that “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) He is “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” And “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.” We all lived according to the world and its desires and corruption! Therefore, “Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” The promise reminds us of our condition!

EXAMPLE: Politicians promise us a lot of things but few follow through. It has always amazed me why some vote over and over for the same person or political party expecting people to follow through on their promises but they still have crime ridden neighborhoods, poor schools and education, deteriorating infrastructure, higher taxes and unemployment. Perhaps it would do us well to remember we are voting for people just like us who are sinners by nature and by choice. This is why Paul reminds that the promise reminds us of our condition!

The wrath of God remains on anyone who does not come to Jesus because simply by his nature, which is holy, he cannot abide ungodliness in any form. However, Paul reminds us that…

II. The promise gives us a new life! (Vv. 4-7)

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. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

1. Paul knew immediately what God did for us and why: “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”. While God hates sin he loves us because he is “rich in mercy”, his “loyal love” (hesed)! We were and are objects of God’s wrath, yet because of his “great love for us” we are “made alive with Christ even when we were dead”! Why? Why would God who is holy, righteous, and just do such a thing? Pauls says simply “it is by grace you have been saved.” Double wow! The only way a spiritually dead zombie can talk to, communicate with, or walk in fellowship with is to be made completely whole and therefore be made alive again! And it is only “God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17 NIV) God’s freely given grace, unearned and unmerited favor, makes us alive in him through Jesus! How is this possible? Paul explains that the promise of God is fully enjoyed because “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”! We are no longer dead and dying earthlings relegated to the dust of the earth but we are the living breathing citizens of heaven! This kindness, this grace, this mercy of God was given to us so that we might live as his children in this dying world. We are his ambassadors, citizens of heaven, living here in this realm of the dead and dying “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” The promise gives us a new life!

EXAMPLE: Growing up in a family that did not have a lot, in fact we were poor. At one time we were even homeless for a while. We therefore grew up often buying used things like furniture, appliances, clothing and such. Getting something new was a treat. After realizing that I was indeed a sinner by nature and by choice and that God loved me so much that he sent his Son Jesus to die for me on a cruel cross to give me a new life, it changed me completely! Like the Prodigal Son I was lost but then I was found! Paul understood this as well and teaches us that the promise gives us a new life!

Gaining a new life in Jesus is an unimaginable gift. And this is what makes the world pause and wonder at the sheer magnitude of the gift God gives us. This is why Paul teaches us about…

III. The promise gives us the gift of God! (Vv. 8-10)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

1. Paul gives his readers a final explanation of the wonderful truth that “it is by grace you have been saved”. This is a revolutionary truth that no other religion in the world teaches or offers. The grace of God is what the salvation of God is all about. It is the intrinsic testimony of the entire Bible. It is why Jesus came and it completely explains “the incomparable riches of his grace”, of God’s unmerited favor. And this grace is “through faith”. Scripture reminds us that “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Faith therefore is not something we can feel, do or earn, and it is not a “work.”  We in no way merit salvation; faith is only the means by which one accepts God’s free gift of salvation! When we finally and willingly admit there is nothing we can do that God has already done for us! Paul also relates that “this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” God’s gift is freely given by him alone and we can never earn it, pay for it, or be nice enough to get it. We cannot earn enough “brownie points” to get into the good graces of God let alone his kingdom. There are no heavenly scales whereby the good things we do outweigh the bad things we do. We are sinners by nature and by choice. This is why Paul would write the Roman church: “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) The payment to get in has already been done by Jesus through his sacrifice for us on a cruel cross! Nothing good resides in us at all so how in the world could ungodly people do anything good enough that would remotely be worthwhile to a holy God? And this is the point Paul is making because he understood that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The good deeds we do come from our faith and this promise gives us the gift of God!

EXAMPLE: We have a creator who loves us and has given us all things in his Son. The promise gives us the gift of God! This is why Paul would write the Roman church: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NIV) And we will later read how he wrote the Ephesians that he desired that they would be able “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”. (Ephesians 3:18) This promise gives us the gift of God!

Conclusion:

The promise reminds us of our condition! The promise gives us a new life! The promise gives us the gift of God!
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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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Accept God’s Free Offer! – Isaiah 55:1-13

Accept God’s Free Offer! – Isaiah 55:1-13
By pastor Lee Hemen
March 30, 2014 AM

How many churches offer Sunday School as a means of baby-sitting to over-worked parents so they can be safely separated without guilt from their children for an hour or so? How many adults think that the thirty-minute sermon on Sunday is all they need in studying the Bible, depending on the emotional high they get from the worship service? They fail to understand they are missing an important part of the Christian life–relating to other believers, building unity and fellowship of the local church! Too many settle for a cheap grace experience rather than mature growth. Why would anyone invest so little in their spiritual life when God wants to give them so much more?”

God declared He would restore Israel creating a righteous nation that would grow in number, territory, and faith. God would protect His people rather than punish them. God freely invited Israel to seek and know Him. He alone could provide the forgiveness, love, and restoration Israel needed. God’s salvation would extend even to all outcasts, such as eunuchs and foreigners, if they also obeyed God and followed Him. Those who returned to God would find peace and forgiveness. Despite God’s offer, some in Israel continued in their sinful ways, disobeying God in every way imaginable. Isaiah explains why we need to accept God’s free offer…

READ: Isaiah 55:1-13

The words of God are not like WinCo or Wal-Mart; you cannot gain your understanding of them on the cheap. Isaiah teaches us that accepting God’s free offer is the…

I. Best Value! (Isaiah 55:1-5)

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” (Isaiah 55:1-5 NIV)

1. To call Israel to turn to God and find life, Isaiah employed the image of a street vendor selling wares in the open market. Street vendors, including vendors who sold water, were a typical part of daily life. They would be the Home Shopping Network or telemarketers of today. In every case, the individual attempts to make their product something you can’t live without. In contrast, God offers an essential necessity of life. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Just as humans can survive only a few days without water, so humans cannot live a true life without God! Isaiah emphasized the urgency by using the imperative verbs “come, buy, and eat.” Israel badly needed what God could supply, and Israel would never find a better value! God offered it “without cost”. Israel could not buy what it needed because God offered it as a gift. Christians recognize who paid the purchase price; Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin; and as a result gave us forgiveness and new life! Unfortunately when offered the best as a gift from God, many willingly settled for less. They chose what failed to satisfy and nourish them rather than what would bring them abundant life. God pleaded with the Israelites to pay attention and come to Him. “Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” Just as Israel could only experience true life by repenting and living in a right relationship with God, we can find life only through faith in Jesus Christ. “See”, Isaiah relates, God had made a “covenant” with David, promising to establish his throne forever. If the people would turn to God and follow Him, Israel would glorify God in a greater way than David. David was “a witness to the peoples” by creating a strong, united Israel. God’s empowered David to defeat Israel’s enemies and establish a kingdom. Investing in the best, Israel would find itself witnessing to those it did “not know”. The nations would listen to Israel’s witness, see its splendor, and come seeking God’s truth. Accepting God’s free offer found in His word was the best value for Israel just as it is for our lives!
EXAMPLE: By His power, God would save and restore His people. Israel’s restoration would be a witness to the nations of God’s reality as one true God. God first offered His spiritual nourishment to Israel, but He extended His offer to all the people of the world. God continues to offer what we most need, abundant life through His Son Jesus Christ. God offers us salvation. All we need do is accept His free gift. What can be a better value or investment for our lives? How has God’s gift of abundant life been the best value in your life? Accepting God’s free offer is the best value for our lives!

Rather than used things, we all like new things. We learn that accepting God’s free offer leads to a…

II. Brand-New Life! (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)

1. Isaiah urged the Israelites to seek God. Seek sometimes refers to going to a place to worship God, but Isaiah knew his people needed to do more than simply participate in the temple worship. The Israelites needed to seek God continually as Lord of their life. They needed to repent of their sin, learn about God’s character, and follow God’s guidance for living. They needed to “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” Isaiah’s call to seek God while He may be found emphasized Israel’s necessity to act quickly. Was the prophet implying that at times God does not want to be found? Even more serious, was he implying that at times God cannot be found? The answer of course is no to both questions; as long as one is alive, God may be found. Interestingly, Scripture reminds us that it is God who does the finding! However, Isaiah was announcing a time of grace, the perfect time to hear God’s call and respond. He was emphasizing the importance of taking action immediately. Then, God does something interesting; He called all to Him, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Wicked individuals disobey God, which leads to rebellious actions against God and others. Such people resist God and His invitation to develop a relationship with Him. As long as the wicked rejected God, they cut themselves off from an abundant life; yet, even the wicked could be “freely” pardoned! Isaiah reminded the Israelites that repentance led to God’s incredible compassion and forgiveness, not to God’s righteous anger and judgment. Accepting God’s free offer leads to a brand-new life!
EXAMPLE: New and abundant life can be found only in God. It is not found in momentary things, relationships, or in cheap grace. God calls us to develop a relationship with Him not so He can increase our guilt and punishment but so He can provide us with brand new life! Remember, Jesus reminds us that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV) What have been the most wonderful aspects of the new life you have received through Christ? Accepting God’s free offer leads to a brand-new life!

We often forget that God has a plan for each of our lives, we often fail to realize His potential in it. We discover that in accepting God’s free offer, He has a…

III. Blessed Purpose! (Isaiah 55:8-11)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:8-11 NIV)

1. This perhaps is one of the most important verses in the Bible for people to understand and learn. Isaiah emphasized the vast difference between God and humans. God thinks on a scale completely different from humans, planning and accomplishing what is beyond our wildest imagination. We have learned much about our world, science, and medicine; but we cannot ever comprehend all of God’s infinite wisdom and knowledge. Just as He reminded the Israelites, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways!” we need to understand this fact as well. God’s ways or behaviors differ drastically from ours. We might look at human sin and declare forgiveness an utter impossibility, but God created and enacted a plan to provide forgiveness to all who come to Him in faith. We likely would have declared God’s covenant with Israel null and void due to Israel’s continual disobedience, but God kept His promises to Abraham and his descendants. God’s ways show us how far we are from God and His standards for life. Rather than simply marveling at or ignoring God’s ways, we need to seek to know God on a deeper and more mature level and to live by His standards. In fact, God reminds us that, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” As high as the farthest reaches of the universe are, God’s ways are beyond our complete understanding. We cannot begin to imagine the greatness of God! Isaiah’s words provide us a helpful perspective. We cannot cross the chasm separating us from God and command Him to do our bidding. Instead, God has crossed the chasm in Christ and invited us to live for Him! Rain comprised a crucial natural resource in ancient Israel. If the rains fell and watered the crops, the people would have food that year and seed to plant for the next year’s crop. If the rains failed to come, the crops would wither and die, creating famine. Just as rain sustains physical life on earth, so God’s Word sustains spiritual life. God’s Word calls people to repent so they might experience forgiveness, abundant life, and a right relationship with their Creator. God’s Word then sustains this life by providing guidance, comfort, and help. He reminds us that “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it!” In accepting God’s free offer, we discover a blessed purpose!
EXAMPLE: God’s Word always has proven reliable. What God declares, He will accomplish. The invitation to Israel to seek God and find life rested on His unchanging nature and love for His people. God’s invitation to us to enjoy an abundant life in Him rests on the same basis. When we seek God, His Word accomplishes its blessed purpose of providing us new life. What has God’s Word accomplished in your life? In accepting God’s free offer, we discover a blessed purpose!

And, finally, we discover perhaps the best part of accepting the free offer of God: It brings…

VI. Bountiful Joy! (Isaiah 55:12-13)

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. Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers, the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” (Isaiah 55:12-13 NIV)

1. The Old Testament uses the verb “go out” to refer to Israel’s exiles’ returning to Judah from Babylon. It conjures a powerful picture, but Isaiah had in mind more than freedom from an enemy and a return home! Isaiah envisioned his people moving into a new, deeper, more faithful relationship with God. As slaves and captives joyfully left the places where they had suffered, so Israel would move joyfully into the future with God. They would, “go out in joy and be led forth in peace”! God would peacefully guide His people into a wonderful new life. Even the “the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands!” Wow! What a beautiful picture! Israel’s turning to God would make all of creation rejoice! Sin affects not only our relationships with God and others but also all creation (Rom. 8:19-21). God’s work with His people creates a rippling effect through all nations and all creation, multiplying joy. The people of Israel knew all too well how thorn bush and brier could overtake an abandoned field. Their conquest resulted in the neglect of fields as these enemy armies took Israelites into exile. Thorns and briers choked fields that once had produced good crops. Replacing the thorn bush and briers with pine and myrtle indicated the land had become productive once more, just as He does in the life of the repentant sinner. Although Isaiah believed God would bring the exiles home from Babylon, the prophet referred to a new spiritual fruitfulness among his people. Seeking and obeying God would result in Israel’s being a witness to all the world. God’s work through Israel would make a name for God by revealing His nature to all people. This would be entirely for “the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.” Transforming Israel and creation completed the promise trilogy of God in Isaiah 54-55. First, God pledged His everlasting love to Israel (Isa. 54:8). Second, God promised to establish an everlasting covenant with all Israel like that with David (55:3). Finally, God declared He would transform His creation, acting in love and faithfulness to create an everlasting sign of His nature. What a wonderful thing to know that in accepting God’s free offer results in bountiful joy!
EXAMPLE: Isaiah perfectly described the joy filling those who accept God’s free offer of abundant life. A continuing, maturing relationship with God creates a deep, abiding joy that can celebrate even in times of difficulty. God invites all to seek Him, to be transformed by His love, and to experience the joy only He can provide. How has God brought deep abiding joy to your life, not the temporary happiness we often try to replace it with? Scripture reminds us that God sings and whistles for those He loves from the ends of the earth! What a wonderful thing to know that in accepting God’s free offer results in bountiful joy!

Conclusion:
1. Accepting God’s free offer found in His word was the best value for Israel just as it is for our lives!
2. Accepting God’s free offer leads to a brand-new life!
3. In accepting God’s free offer, we discover a blessed purpose!
4. What a wonderful thing to know that in accepting God’s free offer results in bountiful joy!

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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Am I a rebel? – Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20

Am I a rebel? – Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 5, 2014 AM

I have always wondered why the opposite sex has found those who are rebellious fascinating. Perhaps it has to do with the what I call the “Eve Gene.” There are those who are attracted to rebellion, thinking that in it they will find some kind of freedom. As a teenager, I found it downright humorous when many of my contemporaries wanted to be different yet often followed the same fads, dressed the same, and did many of the same things everyone else did! Kind of like tattoos and body piercings are today! Those who desired to be different soon were the same as everyone else! We may desire to think of ourselves as rebels without a cause when in fact we are just being disobedient.

God’s people are never to desire to be part of the crowd. In fact, we find that we are to be in the world but not of the world! When a child of the King desires to appear or appease themselves at the sake of their life in Christ, they are not just being a rebel; they are in full-blown rebellion against the Lord! The beginning of Isaiah relates God’s lawsuit against His people for breaking their covenantal contract with Him. God, through Isaiah, brought an indictment against Israel for her breach of contract, but also offered His forgiveness if they were willing to stop their rebellion, repent of their sin, and return to Him. As we study this section of Scripture, we should ask, “Am I a rebel?”

READ: Isaiah 1:2-5, 11-20

My mom often told me, “Young man, you didn’t hear a single word I said to you!” In helping to raise an active 4-year-old grandson, I now understand exactly what she meant. Isaiah relates that…

I. We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! (Vv. 2-5)
1. As in a courtroom, God brings His case against those in rebellion by asking all of creation, both the heavens and the earth, to hear and bear witness to the charges He is bringing against them! He had “reared” them like His “children and brought them up, but they (had) rebelled against” Him! God had taken them from the land of the Chaldeans, watched over them in Egypt, brought them out of their slavery, continually rescued them and yet they blatantly refused to follow Him as He asked them to! God always views those He rescues and nurtures as His children. Yet, unlike brute animals like the ox or donkey, who know their master and feeding trough, God’s rebellious children deliberately do not know and do not understand! It is like a child who, when caught red-handed doing wrong, arrogantly says, “It’s not my fault!” Israel, like anyone who says they follow God but deliberately rebel against Him, is a “sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers,” and “children given to corruption!” Therefore, be careful thinking we live a nation under God when we allow the murder of the unborn innocent, promote pornography, and cater to the corruption of what the meaning of family and marriage truly are! We are anything but one nation under God! But again, look at who had ignored the Lord in their disobedience. He was not speaking to the ungodly world at large, but to His own children! They were the ones who had “forsaken the LORD; they were the ones who had “spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him!” Like a willful child who refuses to listen to a parent who has lovingly sacrificed everything for them, God’s people arrogantly turned away from Him! Curiously, Isaiah asks two interesting questions, “Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion?” Just like someone who persists in going back into a destructive relationship, or as Proverbs reminds us, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11 NIV) God’s rebellious folks had “wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (v.6)! Why would they want to be beaten some more? Why would they persist in going back to sin? Yet they did! Like criminals who continually go back to a life of crime, or children who delight in going against their parents, we rebel against God when we refuse to listen!
EXAMPLE: My mother would vehemently tell us, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times!” Now did she really tell us that many times or was it the fact that in her frustration to get her message across Mom felt she had told us a “thousand times” — probably the latter. Now I understand why my father would often ask us to repeat what we had just been told. This is where God was in His exasperation with His children. Kind of as God does with us, even now when we do not listen to His voice as we should. Maybe we have forgotten that God can love us and still be exasperated with our actions. That was where He was with the nation of Israel. Are you in rebellion against the Lord? We rebel against God when we refuse to listen!

Perhaps we gain a greater understanding of Jesus’ words when He related, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37 NIV) However, it was not that His children had poor hearing; they thought they were okay in their relationship with God! After all, they did all the right things. We discover that…

II. We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! (Vv. 11-14)
1. Do not think that evangelicals, including Baptists, do not have religious rituals we protect. In fact, we often forsake old ones for new ones! The Israelites were great at keeping their rituals. Yet, God asks, “The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” They thought that by the sheer number of animals being slaughtered could make up for their ungodliness! It is like those who erroneously think that if their worship is grander, bigger, or louder it is more pleasing to God! Neither bigger buildings nor louder bands can bring one closer to the grace of God! It does not make up for spiritual shallowness. God tells them, “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” He was sick to death of their spiritual hypocrisy! Samuel asked Saul “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV) In fact, God is not impressed with numbers either. This is why He tells them, “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts?” Crowds thundered into the temple to offer hundreds of thousands of sacrifices, but God was not impressed! To Him, they were like a mindless mob going through the motions. He angrily tells them, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” I wonder if what transpires in some churches today is detestable to God. He tells them, “Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” Their worship was detestable, evil, unbearable, and weary and hated by Him! They were literally despised and burdensome because they were carried out hypocritically, with sinful hearts! Wow! They needed to sacrifice themselves! Do not think dear child of Jesus that you are immune, because this is exactly why Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!
EXAMPLE: We live in a self-centered society whereby we think our prayers, our worship, and our churches are all about us. We leave a church when we no longer get anything out of it. We judge fellow believers or leaders by what they do or not do for us! And we attend and give when it is convenient to our lifestyle! Can you find personal sacrifice in any of this? Prayers, worship, and our church membership is to be God-centered and sacrificial! Paul wrote, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) Seriously, do you think God is pleased with our worship of Him when He sees no change in our life? We can pray for others to be changed, for our church to be changed, or for more change in the offering plate but until we are willing to be changed ourselves, God will never be interested in our worship! Revival begins with God’s people! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things!

I have heard folks use prayer as an excuse as to why they treat others with contempt. “Pastor, I have really committed this to prayer…” and then the next words out of their mouths prove that their prayers were simply meaningless words uttered to justify their actions. What they fail to hear is that change begins at home. In fact, throughout Scripture we learn that…

III. We rebel against God when we refuse to repent! (Vv. 15-20)
1. Jesus told the crowds to be careful not to follow in the false footsteps of the Pharisees, “They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers.” He related that, “Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40 NIV) God told Isaiah to relate to the Israelites, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.” Can you imagine God hiding His eyes and not listening to your prayers? Now I know God does not truly have eyes and ears, because He is Spirit, however, He does see us and does hear every word we speak (Matthew 12:36)! God simply would refuse to hear their many words! Like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons, God would only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” Why would this occur? Their hands were full of the blood of their own people whom they were willing to sacrifice instead of themselves! The answer to their spiritual predicament was to “wash and make yourselves clean”! They were to seek God’s forgiveness and take their “evil deeds out of (God’s) sight!” The only way this was possible was if they were willing to “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” In other words, they were to repent of their sins and actually take care of God’s people! Now isn’t it interesting that we are encouraged to pray and do our deeds secretly (Matthew 6:1-8). Hebrews tells us, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) God’s people are to encourage one another! God then gently says, “Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” There’s the key, repentance! In fact, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” How could Isaiah, the Israelites, or believers today be sure this was true? “For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!
EXAMPLE: When we were caught, doing something wrong, my Mother would tell us, “I’ll make you sorry that you were ever born,” while my Dad would say, “Being sorry isn’t good enough.” God teaches us that simply being sorry is not good enough either, He reminds us that “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15 NIV) David, when he was caught in his sin he knew God demanded more than being sorry, he related, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) Peter declared, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord!” (Acts 3:19 NIV) We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!

Conclusion:

We rebel against God when we refuse to listen! We rebel against God when we sacrifice the wrong things! We rebel against God when we refuse to repent!

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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A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 29, 2013 AM

Have you ever been around folks who know what they are doing is wrong yet they try to justify themselves with lame spiritual answers? You know what I mean, with answers like, “I think it is God’s will.” “I think this is best.” “I think God is leading.” Notice the common denominator? Like I said, lame. King Saul was confronted by Samuel after he did what he, thought was best and yet he knew better. (1 Samuel 15:12-16) God had given him a tremendous victory, but Saul thought he knew better than God did, even after God had specifically told him what he was to do; and what he was not to do. God in giving His people His will for their lives is never ever blurry in the details. He does not make His people guess. Nor does He allow spiritually fuzzy logic. Saul’s pathetic answer is basically the same lame answer folks give today when they know what they are doing is ungodly but they want to justify themselves.

Paul would write, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad… What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11 NIV) In this New Year, why not realize that God desires sacrifice more in your life than your personal comfort. He desires you follow Him even when it is personally difficult for you to do so and that may mean staying right where you are. Change has never occurred by catering to your personal desires, it is brought about by lives lived sacrificially for the Lord. A new year begins with a new life! Let’s discover how…

READ: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

What compels you in life? What truly gets your buttons pushed to do what you are supposed to do in life? As we come to a New Year let’s discover what should compel us. As a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…

I. Christ’s love compels us to make changes! (Vv. 14-16)

1. Few of us would deliberately want to be seen as foolish in the eyes of others, yet Paul, in order to show his sincerity was willing to do just that! He would write, “I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.” (2 Corinthians 11:16-17 NIV) Here is what compelled Paul, “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” He was willing to appear crazy or foolish for those he loved in the Lord! But not the worldly ungodly foolishness, instead he would be crazy for Christ’s sake and theirs! Why would Paul be so willing to do such a thing? He writes, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died!” And here is the core of the truth of what Paul was trying to teach his fellow believers, namely, he was willing to do whatever it took in order that they would know Jesus more! If Jesus was willing to die on the cross for our sins, shouldn’t Paul be willing to appear just as foolish? How about you? Are you willing? Paul knew and fully understood what it meant to live for Christ! He knew that Jesus “died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again!” Christians do not live for themselves! If they do, they are selfish, self-centered, and worthless to the kingdom of God! Paul would write, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me!” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) This is what compelled Paul! “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Paul had once breathed death threats to those who lived for Jesus, but now he no longer viewed life in that way, instead he was compelled to live for Jesus! As a new year begins with a new life, Christ’s love compels us to make changes! In this coming new year are you willing to live foolishly for Him?
EXAMPLE: David Crowder sings a song written by Matt Redman called “Undignified.” It goes something like this: ” I will dance I will sing to be mad for my king; nothing lord is hindering the passion in my soul! I will dance I will sing to be mad for my king; nothing lord is hindering the passion in my soul! And I’ll become even more undignified than this; some would say its foolishness but I’ll become even more undignified than this; some would say its foolishness!” It is a reference to David who danced and sang before the Lord in what some viewed as an undignified way. Paul wrote, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-30 NIV) In this new year will you live foolishly for Him?

With every New Year, people make resolutions. Studies have shown that most of these resolutions last usually only for a few weeks at best. However, just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…

II. If we are in Christ, we are a new creation! (Vv. 17-19)
1. “No one was more able to reflect on that transformation than Paul who switched from a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ!” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) It is useless for someone to say they believe in Jesus, yet be unchanged in life. A genuine Christian is a new creature; his old state has changed! He was once a child of Satan, he is now a child of God; he was once was dead in his sin, he now abides in Christ! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Yet many of us live our lives as if we never have been changed! Paul declared, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Sounds like much of the world and sadly like many believers. “I warn you,” Paul wrote, “as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul knew that Christians should have nothing to do with anything that even hints at these kinds of ungodly actions. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Paul knew that “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:19-24 NIV) Yet too many believers flirt with ungodliness. They jump ship rather than stay the course, they fade instead of shine, and they enjoy making excuses for their ungodly actions! He would state, ” All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.” And God did it for a reason, not just to make us feel better about ourselves; in fact, God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation!” Paul understood that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” But even more importantly, Paul reminds us that it is God Himself who “has committed to us the message of reconciliation!” That is what believers are to be about! We are to live like Christ and do the ministry God has given us as new creations in Him! Just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation!

EXAMPLE: A fresh start, a new beginning, or a do over is what many long for in life. Isn’t it therefore wonderful to know that God has done just that for us in Christ? Les Lamborn of RBC writes about Chris Simpson, “Chris Simpson’s life used to be consumed by hate. After he and his wife lost their first child, he was confused and angry. He directed that anger toward various ethnic groups and covered his body with hate-filled tattoos. After listening to his son mimic his hatred, though, Simpson knew he needed to change. He watched a Christian movie about courage and began attending church. One month later he was baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ. Simpson is now a new person and is leaving the hate behind him, which includes the painful and expensive process of having his tattoos removed.” He continues by stating, ” The apostle Paul knew something about this kind of deep transformation. He hated Jesus and persecuted His followers… Christ made Paul a new person. The old order of sin, death, and selfishness was gone and a new beginning, a new covenant, a new perspective and way of living had come. Following Jesus is not turning over a new leaf; it is beginning a new life under a new Master.” Are you going to live your new life in the same old way or will you use it for the ministry the God has already given you? Just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation!

Far too often we as believers forget we are representatives of Jesus. As His representative it is important for us to live lives that are like Him. Therefore, as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…

III. We are now Christ’s ambassadors! (Vv. 20-21)

1. We execute the function of ambassadors in Christ’s stead. He came from the Father to mankind on this important embassy. Paul realized that Jesus has left the world, and appointed us in His place! “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Do you understand the importance of Paul’s words? An ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another to represent that power. In other words, an ambassador is Christ in His stead when He cannot be there Himself! (Not that we are gods, or little messiahs, but that we are His ambassadors; His representatives here on earth until He comes again!) Christ while on earth represented the person of God the Father; His apostles and their successors represent the person of Christ. Christ declared the will of the Father to mankind; the apostles, His disciples, and future believers to proclaim the good news to the world! We are ambassadors for Christ. Therefore, someone who does not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord cannot ever represent God or His gospel! They are false ambassadors, false representatives trying to pass themselves off as the real deal. This is why Paul admonishes, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” How can a representative of the Living God, in Christ, live a life that is ungodly? They cannot because they are not! How can someone say they love Jesus but dump on His body, His church? They are the dead limbs who have lopped themselves off the living branches. This was not a suggestion by Paul, nor was it simply something Jesus’ followers could decide for themselves to do or not do. When you come to Christ, you are one of His ambassadors! The reason was obvious for Paul, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God!” Therefore, as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that we are now Christ’s ambassadors!
EXAMPLE: In the movie the Wizard of Oz, the Wizard tells the Tin Woodsman, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The Wizard of Oz may be a good movie, but it’s not a reliable source of how to live one’s life for the Lord. God said something quite different. According to Him, the greatest commandment is to love—to love Him first and then others (Mark 12:29-31). Scripture says nothing about expecting to be loved in return. In fact, Jesus stated the opposite in His most famous sermon: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV) When it comes to love, the important thing we need to know is this: Christians are to be His love ambassadors. God’s intent is that the people who receive His love will become the conduit of His love to others. The apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV) Therefore, remember that as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that we are now Christ’s ambassadors!

Conclusion:
A new year begins with a new life! Paul writes that Christ’s love compels us to make changes, that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation, and that we are now Christ’s ambassadors!

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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Today’s Thoughts, Song of Solomon 2:10-13

by Pastor Lee Hemen
April 24, 2008

My lover spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)

It is that time of year again in the northern hemisphere when the earth turns itself towards the warmth of the sun’s rays and spring comes again to a cold and dreary landscape. The writer Solomon wrote of two lovers who sang love songs to one another and here we find them talking to one another about the passing of winter. It is a beautiful scene. It reminds me of our relationship with our Lord. Why? Well, He spoke lover’s language to us as well. Oh, yes dear one He did!

Jesus whispers to us His beloved, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) The word “remain,” which is “abide” in the KJV is a lover’s term. It means to walk with as side-by-side like lovers do as they walk beside one another. Jesus desires that we walk with Him in the love of God: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9)

In fact, Jesus tells us how to do just that: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12)

We know that we remain in Jesus as we love one another and as we love God. It will be evident in the lives of those who love God completely and others as themselves.

Just as the warmth returns in the spring, the love of God is evident in the life of His own who love Him and love others. His blossom of love is an active verb. It means to sacrificially follow the Lord and sacrificially love those around us as we live for Him in this wintery world. We bring the warmth of the Holy Spirit and the new life of the gospel message to the cold fallow ground around us as we proclaim its message of new life.

Here in the Northwest winter’s grip has been hard but even now the crocus, tulip, and daffodils are pointing their blooms heavenward. Birds are building their nests and the trees are forming their buds and blossoms as well. Spring has returned! Can you feel it in your soul today? Oh, I pray so. If not let the warmth of the gospel message invigorate your weary winter-stained soul and return to Him today. Listen. He is whispering to you, “I am the vine, you are the branches… Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

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