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Persevere! – Jude 1:17-25

Persevere! – Jude 1:17-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 20, 2018

Recently a lesbian couple went on vacation with their six adopted children; the couple got drunk and drove off a California coastal highway into the Pacific Ocean at 90 miles an hour killing all of them. They left Minnesota when they claimed one of their children was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, and moved to Oregon, and finally Washington. Actually they fled Minnesota after bruises were discovered on a preschooler and the “mother” received a three-month suspended jail sentence and a year of probation. The Harts later moved to Oregon and began homeschooling their brood, but relocated to rural Woodland, Washington when Oregon began to suspect them of abuse. They fled their Woodland home after CPS workers tried to contact them about starving and neglecting their children.

The warning signs were all over the place concerning this couple but few responded fast enough to rescue innocent children. Sadly many of us face warnings every day we refuse to respond to. We have forgotten that every day following the ascension of Jesus we are living in the end times. Each day brings us closer to his return. We think that because it has been a long time that we do not need to persevere and remain strong in our faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s find out what Jude writes concerning how believers should persevere…

READ: Jude 1:17-25

Recently a centenarian, someone who lives to be 100 years old, was asked what he did to live so long. He quipped that he just faced “each day as it came and kept on keeping on!” As believers we learn that…

I. Jude warns us to persevere! (Vv. 17-19)

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

1. Jude begins with reminding his readers that they are his “beloved” or “dear friends”. All believers share a common bond in Jesus Christ. Jude then continues by relating the basics by reminding them that in order to keep on keeping on in their faith they needed to “remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus foretold.” The early church did not have the luxury of being able to read their Bible anytime they wanted. They were verbally taught and they had to remember what they were taught. Therefore the teachings of those who had actually walked with and who were taught by Jesus himself were extremely important to learn and know. Paul had warned Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations” (2 Timothy 4:3-5 NIV). In fact he had told Timothy to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV). Jude now reminds his readers that “They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’” We now live in those “times”! There is a concerted effort to not only weaken Christianity but to make it sound like another myth and “unscientific” and many young people have fallen for these ungodly heresies. Sadly there are even those who say they believe in Jesus but have reduced him to just a nice guy who taught good truths to live by. Jude direly warns that “These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” And that is the problem with the world today – it does not have the Spirit of God. Jude warns us to persevere!

EXAMPLE: Two little boys were fishing on the side of the road. They made a sign saying “The end is near! Turn around now before it’s too late!,” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that passed didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted, “Leave us alone you religious little nuts!” All of a sudden they heard a big splash. One turned to the other and asked, “Do you think we should just put up a sign that says: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” Sometimes warnings aren’t heeded simply because folks do not know the truth. In a world where many ignore the truth we as believers need to remain faithful and Jude warns us to persevere!

Warnings can go unheeded because folks simply do not believe the warning. In a world that seems to want to feel faith instead of know the truth of their faith it can become frustrating. Thankfully we discover that…

II. Jude tells us how to persevere! (Vv. 20-23)

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 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.

1. Again, Jude writes to his “dear friends” in order to encourage them to persevere. Knowing we should keep on keeping is one thing but it sure is helpful when we are told what we can do in order to persevere. Jude remarks that first of all we need to “build [ourselves] up in [our] most holy faith”. We can do this as we “pray in the Holy Spirit”. Now Jude is not endorsing speaking in tongues as some rather odd folks would have you believe but rather he is referencing the fact of our “most holy faith”. That faith comes when we trust Jesus as our Messiah and Lord. Salvation is found only in him alone. We pray in the Holy Spirit when we know Jesus. Secondly Jude writes “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Notice our perseverance is not a one and done kind of thing but rather it is a lifelong walk. We “keep” ourselves in Jesus by walking closely with him through our prayer, study of Scripture, and fellowshipping with other believers in worship, study, prayer and friendship. Paul wrote “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)” Lastly, Jude goes an extra step in that he writes that believers should “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.” Christians are not to be in bed with or develop affection for those who disdain Jesus. We are to be “merciful” to those who are weak in their faith and if we have to we should drag them out of the fire of hell they are attracted to! However we are to hate even the very clothing of those who are “corrupted” by the world of unbelief! Jude writes that believers should literally “show mercy mixed with fear” in other words disdain anything that teaches us anything other than Jesus is the only means of mankind’s salvation. Praise God that Jude tells us how to persevere!

EXAMPLE: I have had folks tell me “keep the faith” but what in the world does that mean? I know Jesus never leaves me nor forsakes me and that I am safe and secure in him, but how do I “keep the faith”? Keeping the faith is more than trying our hardest to be nice people. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ I am to walk daily with him. I am to trust him with my life. Paul would write, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)” I am grateful that Jude tells us how to persevere!

I have shared before about several men who had a huge impact on my spiritual life. Brother Mac was one such man. In his nineties he was still very active in serving the Lord. When he would say good-bye to his friends he would use these final verses of Jude. I was glad to call my friend and he often prayed Jude’s prayer to me. I have since learned that…

III. Jude prays for our perseverance! (Vv. 24-25)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy–to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

1. Jude was certain of his faith and who had saved him and this is why he closes his letter to his “dear friends” in the Lord by writing them “To him who is able to keep you from falling”. Jude absolutely knew that if you had trusted Jesus you were his forever! No one and nothing could cause you to “fall” out of his grasp. But even more than that the promise of Jesus was more than a here and now kind of thing it was a forever promise! Jesus keeps us from falling but he also will “present [us] before his glorious presence without fault and with glorious joy” in heaven! Jesus is happy to do it! He willingly gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins and so he is overjoyed to present us to himself in heaven! WOW! Paul understood what Jude is expressing here. He would declare, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)” The apostle John would write that “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)” Jude was totally blown away by this fact and it is why he continued: “to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!” What a wonderful thing to know that Jude prays for our perseverance!

EXAMPLE: James teaches us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16 NIV)” Prayer is never the last thing we can do nor the only thing we can do but it is the most powerful and precious thing we can do. As a pastor I could not do my job without your continued and consistent prayers for me. Your prayers provide me with strength, encouragement, and protection to preach the word and be the pastor I need to be. Paul would pray for those he cared about: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)” This is why I believe that Jude prays for our perseverance!

Conclusion:

Jude warns us to persevere! Jude tells us how to persevere! Jude prays for our perseverance!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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Pollution – Jude 1:1-16

Pollution – Jude 1:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2018

I always laugh when the media does a story on pollution and they show pictures of steam coming from “smoke” stacks. Few realize that there are very few real “smoke” stacks within the US and Canada and this is why the media has to use billows of steam in order to make you think it is smoke. It’s like when they would write dire warnings about radiation from nuclear power plants and they would show us pictures of the water cooling towers and the huge plumes of steam coming from them.

Is there pollution? Does it occur today? Absolutely! And there is also a spiritual pollution that is just as harmful that many do not realize has affected the way they think about the Bible, salvation, and even Jesus. Most of the New Testament writers had experienced spiritual pollution firsthand. Jude, Jesus’ brother, meets this contamination head on and dramatically reveals it for what it truly is. Let’s discover for ourselves what he wrote concerning pollution…
READ: Jude 1:1-16

Many in our day and age let others do their thinking for them. They are not good at discernment and rely on others to tell them truth when in fact these folks may not have their best interests in mind. As believers we must be willing to find the truth, especially when it concerns Jesus. Jude writes that…

I. Pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! (Vv. 1-4)

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

1. Jude introduces himself right away as “a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James”. He is not someone who speculates about Jesus because he declares he is a “servant” a “doulos” or bond slave. Someone who willing bound himself to the one he served and in this case for Jude it was Jesus. Jesus was his Master but also notice that he writes that he is the “brother of James”. There are three differing arguments as to who Jude was: 1) Jude the Apostle but he never mentions being one, 2) Jude an early leader in the Jerusalem church and one of two nominees to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus, but early church history and evidence does not support this, and finally 3) he was Jesus’ half brother which most historians support. He calls himself a “servant” because he had not always believed in Jesus. He now was writing “to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. He wanted them to know the “mercy, peace, and love” of Jesus as he now did “in abundance”. He wanted to write them about their shared faith but instead he “felt” that he “had to write and urge [them] to contend for the faith that was once for entrusted to the saints”! Jude was worried because “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago [had] secretly slipped in among” the believers! Like wolves in sheep’s clothing these ungodly men camouflaged themselves in the flock of Christ. They were “godless men” meaning they did not care about the Lord at all. Instead they wanted to “change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord”! Wow, things have not changed much have they? These guys wanted to add to or subtract from what Jesus taught and who he was! Sound familiar? In fact they wanted to do so, so they could excuse their immoral behavior! Jude knew that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

EXAMPLE: The word “contend” is an old-fashioned word that isn’t often used anymore. It means to fight for, stand up for, or stand firm for. The idea is someone who is willing to stand their ground for what they know to be true! Here is a good example: 71% of Americans identify themselves as “Christian” but 51% of those who identify themselves as “churchgoers” have never heard of the Great Commission! Many in our day consider themselves “spiritual” but not religious. The Barna Group writes that “The twin cultural trends of deinstitutionalization and individualism have, for many, moved spiritual practice away from the public rituals of institutional Christianity to the private experience of God within.” It is a faith based solely on feelings rather than actual facts. It can excuse the immorality of murdering babies in the womb, living together before marriage, and same sex marriage. Why has this occurred? Jude writes that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

Can there be consequences for not “contending” for our faith? Jude writes that there certainly can be and in fact the consequences can be dire. James in fact goes on to write that…

II. Pollution carries its own consequences! (Vv. 5-9)

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

1. What James was writing them wasn’t anything new but he wanted to remind them what their inaction could cost them if they were not willing to clean up their spiritual act so-to-speak. So, he writes, “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” Say what!? Remember the little incident with the bronze snake on a pole? And how those who made and worshipped Golden Calves died in the wilderness without ever seeing the land promised to them? “And the angels” Jude writes, “who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” You mean God holds even angelic being accountable? Yep! And “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” All of these “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”! Jude knew that “in the very same way” those who slithered into the church and corrupted the gospel that “these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings” just as the perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah did! Curiously Jude then cites a pseudepigraphical book, The Assumption of Moses, in showing that these false teachers had no respect for even heavenly beings: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” These folks had deliberately brought the gospel, Jesus, and who he was down to their level on purpose. They wanted to excuse their polluted spirituality but Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

EXAMPLE: Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Generation Z, those born between 1999 and 2015, is the first truly “post-Christian” generation and what they don’t believe is alarming. They do not assert any religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is more than double that of the US adult population. It appears that today’s youth struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God. More than one-third (37%) believes it’s not possible to know for sure if God is real. More than half of all Americans, both teens (58%) and adults (62%), agree with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life; there is no ‘one true religion.’” This is the result of believers not contending for their faith at home, in the classroom, at work, and in the market place. Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

Spiritual ignorance is at an all time high. People often place more credibility on what they feel than what is real. Believers spend too much time arguing over the gnat and the world has swallowed the camel. It’s time to stop arguing over biblical minutia and focus on what matters. Jude writes that…

III. The result of spiritual pollution stinks! (Vv. 10-16)

Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

1. Interestingly when people no longer have a spiritual core they distrust and even hate anything spiritual. Jude writes that “these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Cain killed his brother in jealousy, Balaam tried to get rich by selling his gift to the highest bidder, and Korah said that they could worship God anyway and anywhere they wanted! Jude writes very descriptively about these deceptive individuals: “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” Interestingly Jude quotes another pseudepigraphical book of Enoch where “the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” While Jude used books his audience would be familiar with he wasn’t endorsing them as holy or spiritual. He wanted his audience to realize that “These men [were] grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude knew that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

EXAMPLE: In partnership with Summit Ministries, Barna conducted a study among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism have influenced Christians’ beliefs. They found strong agreement with ideas to nonbiblical worldviews among practicing Christians. For instance 28% strongly agree that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of more than 27%. The New Spirituality worldview has also inched its way into Christian ethics; 32% strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” Almost 23% strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” And it was noted that younger believers were willing to embrace Marxism alongside their faith! These things are ungodly, unbiblical, and heretical. Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

Conclusion:

Jude reminds us that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence! Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 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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Pray for all people! — 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Pray for all people! — 1 Timothy 2:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 15, 2017

As I’ve mentioned before, prayer is our conversation with the Creator of the universe. However I often wonder not only what should I pray for but whom should I pray for as well. Now there are few of us who would not think it beneficial to pray for politicians but this is what I mean; we are faced with the conundrum of what we should pray! Now Jesus never suggested who we should or should not pray for but rather his encouragement was that we simply pray as often as we should.

Paul faced a lot of harassment for his faith. There were his old Jewish cronies who wanted to see him simply to shut up about his faith and then there were the kings, potentates, and pundits of his day that wanted him silenced as well. Yet Paul could not be quiet because he realized that the gospel message of Jesus was for all people everywhere. Paul however did not have the luxury of deciding who he should or shouldn’t pray for because he knew he was commanded to pray for all people. Let’s discover what he writes Timothy…

READ: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

A few months ago, a Regent graduate asked people to send her prayers for President Donald Trump and they poured in from all over the world, enough to fill a book titled “Prayers for the President.” With that in common, about five dozen of these prayer warriors felt it’d be a good idea to gather in Washington and actually meet each other in person and pray for the President. They called the event “Tea at Trump’s” which took place in the new Trump International Hotel. Paul teaches us that when we pray we are to…

I. Pray for potentates and politicians! (Vv. 1-4)

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

1. Because Paul knew believers could be easily swayed from following the truth by those they had looked up to in life and that there were those like “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom [he had] handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme”, he realized the importance of prayer. So he writes Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone”! Some have seen a difference between each of what Paul listed here and have tried to say that this is a inventory of examples of prayer. “Requests” are supplications or pleas, “prayers” is literally the “breath” of the petitioner to God, “intercession” is the entreaty of the one praying, and “thanksgiving” is the gratitude expressed by the one praying to God. Therefore the believer is to plead, cry out, intercede, and thank God “for kings and all those in authority”! Say, what? Everyone means everyone including those who are our national leaders. The Christian, Paul writes, is to pray for those in charge “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”! So is Paul asking Timothy to remember to pray for those in charge so we might enjoy their non-interference in our lives or is he asking Timothy to pray for them that the nation we live in would enjoy peace and quiet? Both work for me. Who wants any politician, whether a king or an elected official prying into one’s affairs? However our attitude about praying for those over us reflects in our spiritual condition as well: “in all godliness and holiness”! But shouldn’t believers desire that those in charge do a good job of leading? Yes but more than that, Paul wanted all people to come to a knowledge of Jesus and he writes that “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” When we pray we are to pray for potentates and politicians!

EXAMPLE: When asked to pray during a local veterans meeting for their Congressmen one old gentleman stood up, leaned on his cane, and prayed, “Lord, give us strength, compassion, and patience but especially with those in Congress. Let them stop being such nincompoops who go on TV spouting all kinds of nonsense and promises they will never keep until you just want to smack them across the head with a bag full of quarters – which by the way is change I can believe in!” I’m not sure this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote what he did to Timothy that when we pray we are to pray for potentates and politicians!

When a lady who was a known prayer warrior was asked if it was hard for her to pray for people she did not necessarily like, she responded, “I just remember what the Apostle Paul wrote the Roman church: ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’” (Romans 12:12 NIV) Paul teaches us that when we pray we are to…

II. Pray for the wayward of the world! (Vv. 5-7)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle–I am telling the truth, I am not lying–and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

1. Now one might ask “Why should we pray for those who ruin our lives, enslave us through governmental regulation, and generally make our lives miserable?” — meaning of course politicians. Yet our prayers are to be made for “everyone” including and especially for those who rule over us! Whether you voted for an Obama or a Trump you should be in prayer for both! They need Jesus too! But we must never lose sight of what our message is, namely that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men”! Peter told the crowd in Jerusalem the undeniable truth that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV) Not Buddha, Mohammed, or Joseph Smith can save any man, only Jesus can save, because Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all men”! The “testimony” of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was “given in its proper time”. Paul would marvel that “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NIV) Even politicians! Paul would remind Timothy that “for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle”. Paul was not like those who wanted to lure or lie to new believers in order to confuse them about their faith but in fact he was “telling the truth” and he was “not lying” to them like others had done. Paul was “a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles” and to all people! Paul teaches us that when we pray we are to pray for the wayward of the world!

EXAMPLE: There are few folks who absolutely knew what they wanted to be when growing up. For those who did it has always kind of mystified me. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized God was calling me into the ministry. If you would have asked me when I was younger I did not have a clue what I wanted to be and I tried several different things. The reason I mention this is that the world at large often does not realize its need for a Savior. While many may profess some kind of belief in God, few can relate to you what that means. This is why we are told to go into all the world teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus. It is also why Paul related to Timothy that when we pray we are to pray for the wayward of the world!

Conclusion:

Pray for potentates and politicians! Pray for the wayward of the world!

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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United! – Acts 2:42-47

United! – Acts 2:42-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 11, 2017

Unity, what does it mean to be unified? I know as a military unit you have to work together to achieve the same objective in order to win the battle. As a company you have to be on the same page as to what your objectives, projections, and costs are. And if you are a church the Scriptures teach us that we are to be united as well in order to achieve the kingdom of God here on earth until Jesus returns, but what does that mean and what does it look like?

In our day and age few churches teach about unity except as a spiritual concept or construct but few believers understand or know what it means for the body of Christ, his church, to be unified. In the book of Acts, which is the early history of the first century church we discover that they were united in purpose. Let’s find out what that means for us today…

READ: Acts 2:42-47

If a group wants to achieve anything worthwhile the members have to be on the same page and working together. When they don’t they are dysfunctional, however, in the Book of Acts we discover that…

I. The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! (Vv. 42-43)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

1. Dedication comes in many forms; some make their dedication into a ritual. They do the same things every day in the same way in order to achieve a specific goal. Whether it is running a certain distance, losing weight, or reading through the Bible folks who are successful in achieving their goals have a certain amount of dedication and the early church was no different. However, notice what they were dedicated to: First, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”. There was no New Testament written yet and so they devoted themselves or steadfastly continued in what they had learned about the gospel message and the teachings of Jesus. The gospel became their basic manual and teaching for how they were to conduct themselves and live their lives as Christians. Paul and other apostles began to write commentary in the form of personal letters in how to achieve this. They also continued in “the fellowship” of the church. This means they were members of a local church and made sure to keep themselves in fellowship. The word is the Greek koinonia which refers to a communal attitude and intimate working together. This is possible because believers share the Holy Spirit. Their devotion to learning, being discipled, and to their church was a conscious decision. It demanded personal sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure! Secondly they devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. Now some suggest that this means eating together rather than observing the Lord’s Supper regularly, but I am more inclined that Luke meant it as further evidence of their devotion to fellowshipping with one another in a spiritual capacity. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper and common prayer does unite a church body and we discover that because of their willingness to focus on spiritual learning and furthering their spiritual connection to one another that “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Much of the modern church has lost its awe of the wonder of God in its midst because we think church should be about promoting us and not our common relationship with the Lord. Here in Acts we discover that the early church was dedicated to their spirituality!

EXAMPLE: She and her children wept when they found out they had to move out of the area. They wept because they were leaving a church family they loved. Being a part of something because it fulfills a check off list for your kids, your personal experience, or the jazzy music is not the same as becoming part of a local body that becomes your spiritual family. When you worship, serve, pray and are discipled together you form mutual spiritual bonds that are strong or even stronger than your physical family. Because we share the same Spirit we call one another brother or sister. The early church understood this and was dedicated to their spirituality!

Families come together as they build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Churches are like families and they too are to build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness; this is done according to the Book of Acts as well. We discover that…

II. The early church was willing to share with one another! (Vv. 44-45)

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

1. Notice that Luke tells us that within the Jerusalem Church “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” In the original Greek it literally states that “all that believed” were together. This is important because it tells us that the first requirement of being part of the church was to be a member. In order to be a member certain criteria had to be met: 1) Members had to be a believers meaning that you had to have placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and you had to have followed through in baptism; complete immersion. The word used in the Bible for church is the Greek word ekklesia, meaning a group of called out (ek – a primary preposition from which the action proceeds, like example) or specifically elected people (klesia a derivative of kaleō – where we get call from) who are called out to do a specific task. In this case the spreading of the good news. Christ does his work through his called out folks in the local church. The church is Jesus’ called out body in the world. As Paul would state, “we are members of his body”. (Ephesians 5:30 NIV) It is through the local church that our time, our talent, and our treasure are best utilized for the furthering of God’s Kingdom! The church knows that “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:29 NIV) We know that “the collection for God’s people” should be done “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income”. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NIV) And Paul again reminds us that our time, talent, and treasure are to be measured out generously: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV) We find that the early church had this spiritual concept down pat and had implemented it in the real world by “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” True believers have a generous spirit because Jesus gave to us generously and was willing to sacrifice for those he never met! The early church was willing to share with one another!

EXAMPLE: This is not communism, which some vainly try to equate it with. It is not the government taking everything from the populace and then doling it out as it sees fit. Rather this is a communal sharing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the lives of Jesus’ body the church by its active members. They were not compelled to do this but did it willingly out of the abundance of their own hearts. The early church was willing to share with one another!

We are often told that “Good things happen to those who do good things.” The Scriptures teach us continually that one reaps what they sow in this life so if a church stays united we learn that…

III. The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth! (Vv. 46-47)

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

1. The outcome of a church fellowship staying close and being united was evident. We discover that the result for the early church was that “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” This would be like our church meeting every day down in front of the county court house praying, worshipping, and singing hymns together! Every day the early church in Jerusalem went up to the temple, at the time of prayer! Wow, can you imagine what kind of witness this was for the early church to the rest of Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin. Later the early Christians would be forced out of their local synagogues and the temple because so many of the Hebrew people were being converted to Christianity. We also learn that in places like Ephesus “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” instead. (Acts 19:8-9 NIV) In fact, because so many people were converting to Christianity in the area of Asia Minor it affected the sales of silver idols and so “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.” (Acts 19:23 NIV) The fact is that when believers are unified and doing what they are supposed to do they influence their communities, neighborhoods, and nations! We find that the church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” This is being the salt and light, the holy leaven in a sinful world. The outcome of such unified living is that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” If the church stays united there will be physical and spiritual growth!

EXAMPLE: Some churches depend on programs, music, a really good show to bring in the people, but this is in a way false advertising. When the music, program, or show changes the audience leaves. They are not invited to become part of the family of God, the body of Christ. Instead they were brought into a concert hall atmosphere whereby if the entertainment is not to their liking they will leave and go to the next “spiritual” venue down the road. Yes you can grow a crowd and call it a church, but a true body of believers is made up of those who have commonality in Spirit, relationship, and discipleship of the gospel. We discover that the early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!

Conclusion:

The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! The early church was willing to share with one another! The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!
—-
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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Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15

Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 4, 2017
I have learned a lot by being a people watcher and listener. When I was younger it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut; I know it seems hard to believe but it is true! So, over the years I have made it a goal to really focus on how people pray and what they pray and in doing so I have noticed several things. First, a lot of folks misunderstand what prayer is and secondly, interestingly, they copy others in how they pray. Now that I have made you conscious and uncomfortable of how you should pray in front of me, I believe we need to learn what prayer is all about.
Prayer for the Hebrew during Jesus’ day was much by rote. They were kind of “Catholic” in a sense in that they all got together and recited similar prayers all together at the same time. They were not as dreadful as some religions and their overly mind-numbing chanted prayers that begin to sound like so much background white noise than actual prayer. Jesus’ disciples noticed how Jesus intimately prayed and they wanted to learn more. In the midst of Jesus’ landmark sermon on the mount he introduces a lesson in how to pray; let’s discover what he has to say about prayer…
READ: Matthew 6:5-15
Luke tells us that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” (Luke 11:1 NIV) Here in Matthew is the fuller rendition of what Jesus taught them. We learn that…
I. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! (Vv. 5-8)
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
  1. For Jesus there was never any doubt that his followers would not pray regularly and so he tells them, “And when you pray”. Prayer should be just like our taking a breath, something we do not even thinking about it but we do it anyway. Not like some robot reciting the same catch phrases, wording, or mantra but rather it should be something we naturally do! Notice he warned that when we pray we are not to “be like the hypocrites” who loved fine sounding words. Jesus said that “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” They loved the sound of their own voices but more than that they loved the attention they got from others! Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of his or her own voice? Jesus bluntly told them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” However, when the believer speaks to God it is to be one-on-one and personal. It is your conversation with the Creator of the universe and so Jesus quietly tells them, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Now did he mean we should never pray publically? Nope. What Jesus is telling us is that our prayer is not for the ears of others but a conversation between two individuals: us and God! We are not to think about what others think; we are to focus on the one to whom we are conversing. The Pharisees had turned prayer into an act to be seen by men to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive monologues. Jesus taught, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Like the wind rattling through the trees or the sound of rushing water their prayers were meaningless. So Jesus warns us, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
  EXAMPLE: In the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast there is a crude, rude bully named Gaston. He likes himself and the sound of his own voice. Can you imagine telling the person you love just how much you love them in meaningless phrases at the top of your lungs in a crowded public place? While we may think it kind of romantic the first time it would soon get old, embarrassing, and meaningless if you did it all the time. Prayer is not all about you; it is your conversation with the Lord. It is individual and to be special. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
As Baptists we often forget to whom we are praying and while it is a conversation with God we must never forget to whom we are speaking to. We learn that…
II. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! (Vv. 9-11)
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”
  1. Notice how Jesus taught that our prayer should focus on the one we are praying to. He begins by teaching, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven”. He understood that prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven” and not to some manmade idol, statue, or effigy. God is our father not in that we are biologically related as some heresies teach but rather he is the one who made us, loves us, and sent himself to save us! Like children with loving parents, we depend on him for everything in life! Jesus continued by teaching our conversation with our Father in heaven should also remember his distinctiveness: “hallowed be your name”. God is to be revered and honored because he is God! He is holy, just, loving, all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. God should be honored in our prayer to remind us to whom we are praying. Our prayer is not to be all about us and in fact we are to pray that God’s purpose and plan for creation should be fulfilled: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom will be established whether we think it will or not. Jesus fulfilled the coming of God’s purpose and no matter what the rest of the world believes, God’s purpose and plan “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our prayers should fit within the framework, purpose and plan of God which is to “seek and save what was lost”! (Luke 19:10 NIV) Far too often we think our purpose and plans are more important than God’s and that the only reason Jesus came was to give us a better life. I hate to burst your bubble but he did not. He came to give us life in him! We are to be dependent on God alone therefore we are to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Food was a daily focus for folks of Jesus’ day; not like today where we have refrigeration, grocery stores every four blocks, and availability to all kinds of food within hands reach. We can even get it pre prepared and sent to our homes over our cell phones! Earning enough money and being able to go to the market or being able to grow your own food for the day was a concern. Jesus was teaching that we are to be more dependent on God than we realize. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
  EXAMPLE: Don’t you just hate it when you have to go to some business or family function and you are greeted by folks who have a pasted on smile, nod and mouth they are glad to see you but are really looking for someone more important to greet than you? You know what I mean; before they are done with you they have already dismissed you and moved along. Now suppose you treated your significant other, your spouse, or the person you were dating this way? How long would your relationship last? And yet this is how we often pray. We go through the motions wanting to get through it in order to do the next chore we have to do. Prayer is not to be a check off list of regurgitated phrases. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
Our conversation with God is to be more than about ourselves; it is a reflection of our attitude and our relationship with the Lord. We learn that…
III. Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition! (Vv. 12-15)
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  1. To truly have a conversation with someone there has to be give and take with both of you listening and sharing. And in this sharing you must be sincere and focused just like when you pray. Our prayer is a reflection of who we are. If we cannot honestly converse with our Creator, Savior, and friend how do we expect our prayers to be answered? Prayer, our conversation with our Father God, should be open and honest. It should begin with us reflecting on our relationship with others and with him! Jesus taught we are to ask him to “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” These are not debts we can repay or owe to God but rather are so called, because on account of them we owe satisfaction to the justice of God. Jesus paid our debt of sin fully, but we must acknowledge the payment daily for the sins we commit. If we cannot forgive others their sin against us how in the world can we expect God to forgive us? Our prayer should acknowledge our inability to make satisfaction for the debt we owe due to our sin and that only God can forgive and fully pay the debt! We are to humbly ask for forgiveness as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. If we are willing and wanting that the Creator should forgive us we should be as mere humans more than able and ready to forgive fellow sinners. God is to be our guide in life. He is the one we are to follow and so it is quite correct to ask him to “lead us not into temptation”. The idea is not that God would deliberately tempt us or take us where we might be tempted but rather it is asking him to always clearly show us the right path to follow and “deliver us from the evil one”. The idea is we are to ask that we not be led astray by the world or Satan but that we instead would be drawn to God’s wonderful presence! Jesus explains that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Jesus knew the Jews were a people very subject to revenge; an eye for an eye. Believers are not to be this way. Jesus is teaching about personal fellowship. One cannot walk with God and be unwilling to forgive others. Paul said it best, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
  EXAMPLE: Jesus knew he was about to do something so marvelous that it would boggle the minds of those around him. Because of what he would do their relationship with God would change forever. He would pay the price for their sins and the sins of the entire human race past, present, and future! When Jesus did this prayer no longer was a means by which one would come begging before God but it would reflect the relationship the believer now enjoys with his Father in heaven. Paul wrote that we have “received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” And that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16 NIV)  Again Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
Conclusion:
Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
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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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Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20

Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 30, 2017

Armor All is a line of car care products manufactured by American company Armored AutoGroup of Danbury, Connecticut, United States. Its sprays, gels, liquids and wipes are specifically designed to clean, shine, and protect most interior and exterior automobile surfaces. It is now owned by Spectrum Brands which is a diversified company that makes weed killer, batteries, and pet products. On the Armor All logo is a Viking dressed in his armor to portray the protective properties of the product.

The believer has been given spiritual protection by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul listed what he believed the protection of God consisted of and his list is not to be either comprehensive or all there is to the protection one has under God’s grace. Paul’s desire was not to give Christians a check off list to follow or adhere to but rather to show them that we are in the midst of a battle and that we have been given a gracious gift to go into combat. As believers we have the Armor All of God; let’s see what Paul meant…

READ: Ephesians 6:10-20

Paul is coming to a close in his letter to the Ephesian Church and his desire was that they remain true to the gospel and faithful to Jesus and so he writes them about…

I. The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! (Vv. 10-12)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

1. It is important to notice what Paul wrote here. He writes them to “Finally be strong”. Paul knew that the main battle people face is a spiritual one. Not everyone understands this or notices it because most just get up each day and do the same things over and over. Now certainly there are those who face psychological or physical handicaps but the point here is that we can become so focused on us that we forget about our spirituality. Many have and therefore do not give it a thought. It makes their lives a greater struggle than they realize. However, Paul reminds us that one can be strong “in the Lord and his mighty power”! God has given us what we need for our spiritual challenge! He reminds believers to “Put on the full armor of God”. Not just part of the armor but all of it. Again, Paul is not making a list so you can check it twice each day but rather he is reminding his readers that they face a foe far greater than they realize. We put on this armor “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”, literally his wiles or methods. His scheme is to get people from focusing on the spiritual aspect of their lives and to focus on themselves instead. Paul understood that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The world does not understand the war being waged and that it is dying and decaying right before our eyes and many are blinded by the blight. We forget that everything in the universe and everyone in the world whose focus is not Jesus as Lord are spiritually blinded and doing battle against him! Remember Paul began his letter by writing that “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.”(Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV) Paul is reminding us of the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

EXAMPLE: When soldiers are sent into battle they are reminded to remember their training and to stay focused on the task ahead. Each Roman soldier of Paul’s day was trained to fend off ten enemies. They knew they could depend on their training and their armor to give them the advantage against their enemies. Christians are not to stand against the sin and evil of the world in their own strength but rather in the full armor of God! The reason is simple: we face a foe that is far stronger then we are and who will use every method he has to trick us into focusing on ourselves instead of God. We are to armor up and face the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

Paul understood that in a sin-driven world it would be hard for believers to go out and live lives that were diametrically opposed to the ungodliness of the society they lived in. So he writes them to remember that…

II. Believers have everything they need to do battle! (Vv. 13-15)

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

1. Remember the old Superman motto that he was for “truth, justice, and the American way”? Of course if you were to repeat this in a college classroom today you might be lynched for being way too xenophobic, racist, and misogynist. Yet here in Paul’s encouragement we discover him declaring “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace”! Since our battle is a spiritual one Paul relates we are to “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Paul was not necessarily speaking of a particular day of evil but rather when evil on any given day challenges our lives in Christ. When this occurs we will be able to stand our ground in Jesus! Notice how many times he tells us to “stand”. He does not call us to attack but to stand firm because when all else fails in our lives we need to be able take our stand in Jesus alone! So how in the world does one stand in Jesus? Paul writes we are to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Look at the progression Paul does here in his writing about this armor: Again it is “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace.” He is referring to the truth of salvation in Jesus alone, the righteousness that comes because of it, and gospel of peace Jesus preached between man and God because of him. We are to gird ourselves therefore in the truth of Jesus, dress ourselves in the righteousness that comes from believing in him, and walk in the readiness daily that comes from the gospel of peace we know in Jesus! Paul is teaching his readers about the confidence they can have no matter what the ungodly sin-fallen world throws our way! We can stand confidently and calmly as we go into the world no matter what occurs in our life because we have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and we are ready to stand with our feet fitted firmly in the gospel! Paul knew that believers have everything they need to do battle!

EXAMPLE: One of things I learned early in life was that if my parents told me to “stay right there and don’t move”, I was to stay right there and not move! I later learned that if I was lost in the wild I was to remain put so that anyone who was searching for me could easily find me. Most people die in the wilderness when they are not prepared, go alone, or do not remain where they said they would be. However, we sometimes can focus so much on the what the meaning of the equipment meant that Paul listed that we forget the core truth Paul was making here; namely that we are to remain firm in Jesus. We are to stay put because we know that believers have everything they need to do battle!
Paul continues in his list of grace gifts and concludes with those that are the basics of Christianity. And in doing so Paul reminds us that…

III. The battle all believers confront is a daily business! (Vv. 16-20)

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

1. Interestingly Paul ends his teaching with what occurs in the life of a Christian when they first believe. Here’s what I mean: Paul shares about faith, salvation, the word of God, and then prayer. So he writes that “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” A soldier’s shield was often made of wood overlaid with linen and leather. And it was often soaked in water before battle in order to smother any flaming arrows. The one thing that protects the Christian is their faith and Paul knew it was like a shield. When a person’s faith is strong in the Lord it can snuff out any smoldering ember the enemy tries to use in igniting sin in our lives. Paul then encourages his readers to place “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” together. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8 NIV) the Christian’s hope is certain and secure and we know that the Word of God is “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) These things are not to be done necessarily in order or as a one-two-three kind of thing but rather Paul’s wording here suggests a constant and continual action. And the spiritual glue, so-to-speak, that we can hang our armor on is prayer. So Paul tells his readers: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Again this is a constant and so “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Prayer is the believer’s conversation, petition, and praise to God himself! Paul was acutely aware of this and so asks, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Paul probably imprisoned for his faith and so he knew quite well what it meant to be strong in the Lord. We are to armor all because Paul knew that the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

EXAMPLE: There have been several movies called “Death Takes a Holiday.” While the Bible describes a messenger of death sent from God in several places, the Bible does not teach there is a specific being in charge of death. And while it is pure fantasy to think that death might take a vacation at some point, evil never does. The Bible does teach that all of creation is in a fallen state. It is all tainted by sin and therefore in a state of death, dying, and decay. My Mom would say that “Evil never sleeps.” I am not sure if she was referring to us boys or what but I do know she was correct. More than ever Christians need to armor all because the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

Conclusion:

The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! Believers have everything they need to do battle! The battle all believers confront is a daily business!
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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 kingdom strikes back! – Ephesians 1:15-23

The kingdom strikes back! – Ephesians 1:15-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 8, 2017

Kingdoms come and kingdoms go and the idea of colonialism is nothing new. We find it in the kingdoms of the Vikings, Celts, Saxons, Incas, Aztecs, Sioux, Shoshone, Egyptians, Zulus, Ethiopians, Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Babylonians, Muslims, Russians, Mongols, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Great Britain, and the United States. Any group of people, tribe, city state, or nation has always wanted to exert their influence on others whether they like it or not. It is part and parcel of our fallen human nature and Israel was no different.

However, what all of these “kingdoms” forget is that the only kingdom that truly matters is the Kingdom of God. It has no boarders, boundaries, or political persuasion. It is founded in the very nature of God and those who are willing to enter into his kingdom become his children. And Paul’s message is one of where God’s kingdom has been established and citizenship brings about beautiful wondrous things. Paul teaches us that the kingdom strikes back; let’s discover what this means for mankind today.

READ: Ephesians 1:15-23

The Ephesians, like many believers, were suffering from not fully understanding what their citizenship in God’s kingdom meant for their lives and future. Paul related that…

I. Kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer! (Vv. 15-17)

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

1. Because God predestined us for salvation since the creation of all things, lavished us with all wonderful things in him, and has sealed us with his presence Paul continues by writing the Ephesians that “For this reason” he continued to remember them in his prayers, his conversations with God! For Paul it was a natural thing to do and he relates that “ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Paul kept talking to God about them in order that they would become all that God desired! Paul now prayed that his readers might know God personally and intimately. He writes that he kept “asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give (them) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that (they) may know him (God in Jesus) better.” Wisdom? Revelation? Yes! So that we know God better! Jesus taught by his example the importance of prayer, of conversing with God regularly. Luke related that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV) We are to pray for our enemies, those who persecute us, curse us, mistreat us, and for one another because “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16 NIV) From the time that Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray to the encouragement of Paul and others for believers to pray we discover that kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer!

EXAMPLE: Prayers had been reserved for those who could enter into the presence of God, priests, or those who were chosen to do so. Prayers were often by route; mindless repetitions and the recitations of formulas. But now because of what God had done through Jesus and by his permanent presence in his children, they now enjoy a moment by moment intimate conversation with him! Paul teaches us that Kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer!

Far too many Christians walk around as spiritual weaklings constantly wondering if God truly loves them, cares for them, or if in fact if he is involved in their lives at all! Paul teaches us that…

II. Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance! (Vv. 18-21)

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

1. Paul continued by telling his readers that “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”. This is an interesting phrase by Paul because when he writes “the eyes of your heart” he means their entire being might know and be “enlightened” and it is a continuation of his preceding statement! Paul was continually asking God for them to have Spiritual wisdom, revelation, and that they would be completely enlightened! Why? Because Paul understood that new believers need to fully understand the presence and power of God in their lives. He continued by writing that they “may know the hope to which he has called you”! This is not some I wish I may I wish I might kind of hope against hope concept or feeling but rather a certainty and total assurance of the presence of Jesus! In fact it understands “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” And Paul knew exactly where this force came from and writes “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”! What has not set into the minds of some believers is the fact that we have all the power of the resurrection and on that final day Jesus will turn to us as his own and declare, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34 NIV) The reason this is so powerful and so incredibly awesome of an inheritance is because Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance!

EXAMPLE: Why do people think they deserve some things? And why do people fight over things they did not earn or even care about until they think someone else may end up with it? Some of the stupidest things have caused some of the worst actions in people. There’s an old joke about two friends who meet at lunch and one is all sad. His friend asks why he is so sad. He relates that his uncle died and left him $40,000! Then the following week his aunt dies and leaves him $250,000! And then last week his grandmother dies and leaves him $500,000! Incredulous his friend wonders why he is so sad and he remarks, “This week… I got nothing!” Paul related that our hope is not in earthly things; instead, Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance!

Paul finishes this section with two powerful verses.

III. Kingdom kids have a powerful king! (Vv. 22-23)

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

1. God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe” is displayed for us in Jesus’ resurrection and when he ascended to heaven to sit in authority. This spiritually dynamic force is given to those who believe and sealed in us by the same power in the Holy Spirit! God is the creator of all things, predestined all things, and knows all things. And this is why Jesus is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given” by men! And so Paul declares that “God placed all things under his feet”. Jesus therefore has total authority because of who he is and what he did for us! He gave it to himself and “appointed (himself) to be head over everything for the church”! The word for church means those who are specifically called for a purpose united in him! Jesus is the church’s king. He earned the right to rule over it by his selfless act. His church “which is his body” is to be doing his work and will in the world he died for. It is built upon the truth that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) and it is upon this truth Jesus built his body the church! Paul would tell the Corinthians that this church his “body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12) Believers are part of God’s kingdom, his church, his body and as Kingdom kids we have a powerful king!

EXAMPLE: The old playground threat of “My Dad is bigger than your Dad!” can carry with it nowadays the intent of violence and the child who says it can be expelled from school. While bullying should not be tolerated sometimes parents need to allow their children to work things out. Not every childish taunt is bullying it is just being childish. Sometimes we want to protect our children so much it can be detrimental to their maturity and how they handle life’s difficulties. However in a world where there is so much hatred, violence, and uncertainty it is good to know and understand that Kingdom kids have a powerful king!

Conclusion:

Kingdom kids enjoy the power of prayer! Kingdom kids have a grand inheritance! Kingdom kids have a powerful king!
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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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