Tag Archives: righteousness

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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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering what you thought about yourself. You know what I mean. Do you find yourself thinking, “I deserve this.” “I need this.” or “I want this.” Does the earthy advise of “you have to watch out for number one first.” or “If I do not love me first, who will?” ring too many bells? Are you your own best friend? If you say you love the one who created you, how do these pithy sayings fit into how you are supposed to live for him? Does your view of yourself constantly in conflict with seeking first his kingdom and virtue? Has your self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love taken a priority in your selfish life and erased your relationship with him? Perhaps if you loved him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength then you could place yourself behind in loving others. Being narcissistic isn’t how you are supposed to live for him. Are you more selfish or selfless? Makes one wonder…

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

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 28 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. 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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Receiving the Gospel – Galatians 2:15–3:9

Receiving the Gospel – Galatians 2:15–3:9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 28, 2013 AM

Recently, the Dali Lama was in Portland. He held a conference with adherents of various other religions. Many of the Buddhists who attended were in a posture of meditation. Many of individuals who were interviewed by local TV declared all religions are equally valid in helping people experience genuine life. How tragic that some people choose a dead leader’s teachings or an esoteric lama rather than a relationship with God through faith in a living Savior. How would you answer someone who insists all religions are equally valid?

Many people today contend truth is relative—what is true for one person may not be true for another. They say one religion is as good as another is; any religion is equally effective in showing the way to God and eternal life. Unfortunately, even some Christians accept this false philosophy and say the gospel is not necessarily true for others. They need to realize this idea contradicts the Great Commission and thus blunts missions and evangelism. More importantly, it denies the Christian gospel’s basic truth. The truth of the gospel, however, is not relative and shows the only way to God and eternal life.

READ: Galatians 2:15–3:9

In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul recounted his confronting Peter in Syrian Antioch. When Jerusalem believers came, Peter withdrew from table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Paul publicly renounced Peter’s action. In verses 15-16, Paul emphasized justification comes by grace through faith in Christ, not “by the works of the law”. Paul insists that we…

I. Believe (Gal. 2:15-16)

“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
(Galatians 2:15-16 NIV)

1. Paul had recounted his confrontation with Peter in Antioch in which Paul rebuked his fellow apostle for withdrawing from table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Now Paul reflects on that experience. What began as words directed to Peter, now moved to the emphasis as to what the Galatian Christians needed.  He uses the royal “we” to refer to the fact that he was a Jew by birth with access to God’s revelation. He had God’s law and once had tried to attain righteousness by keeping it. The term “Gentile sinners” has quotation marks to indicate Paul was quoting the Judaizers’ reference to non-Jews. Although Paul was Jewish, he understood that nobody is justified by the works of the law. Paul knew from experience that attempts to attain righteousness through keeping the law are futile. The word justified means “made right with God.” The phrase “observing the law” refers to keeping the Ten Commandments and the oral rules and regulations attached to them. Obeying the law does not produce a right relationship with God. Only faith in Jesus Christ makes people right with God. Faith is total trust in and commitment to Christ. Faith is the means, not the source, of salvation; it is openness to receive God’s great grace-gift. Paul’s then uses Jesus’ name and title to emphasize that Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior and God’s Messiah. Paul used the verb form of the noun rendered faith to stress that Jewish Christians (and all believers then and now) had been and are justified by faith in Christ! They could not be saved by works of the law, for keeping the law cannot justify anyone. The statement “because by observing the law no one will be justified,” probably represents an interpretive quote of Psalm 143:2. No one can do enough good works to earn a relationship with God. We have to believe in Jesus Christ to be justified!

EXAMPLE: Do some of you remember the “The ABCs of Salvation” we were taught during VBS? We receive salvation only by placing faith in Christ. Our understanding of this truth is crucial. Christians need to be clear about it so they can express it lovingly and kindly to unbelievers. Non-Christians need to hear this truth so they will not depend on false concepts of salvation.

Paul described his life before and after his conversion (vv. 17-21). His Christian life was totally different from his previous life because it was under Christ’s control. He tells the Galatians to…

II. Behave (Gal. 2:17-21)
“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 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. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:17-21 NIV)

1. This verse may reflect the criticism the men from Jerusalem leveled against Peter. Jewish Christians from Jerusalem viewed Peter’s action of eating with Gentile believers as forsaking the law and thus as committing sin. Paul then raised the question, “does that mean that Christ promotes sin?” Paul absolutely rejected such an idea. For Christ to promote sin would contradict His character. “Absolutely not” literally is “let it not be so,” or “may it not happen.” It has the sense of “God forbid!” To Paul, the real sin was legalism. Paul’s reference to rebuilding what was torn down expresses a return to legalism after leaving it. If he went back, it would prove he was a lawbreaker. Paul emphatically states, “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.” The phrase “through the law” likely refers to the law as the beginning point for Paul’s conversion. He came to recognize the futility of law keeping as a means of being made right with God. Paul died to the old way, the old law, on the Damascus road! It marked his complete break with legalism so he could live to God. His living to God involved following God’s will, living in such a way that honored Him, and no longer living for self. At conversion, Paul began to live under God’s direction. Paul described his conversion as his having been crucified with Christ. The tense of the Greek verb for crucified expresses an experience in the past, that continues in the present, and into the future! He was stressing identification with Christ. Mainly, Paul referred to his dying to the law and being freed to live for God. His experience involved dying to self—replacing self-rule with God’s will. “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” he completely identified with his Lord. Having died with Christ, Paul was raised to new life—resurrection life! Paul did “not set aside the grace of God,” as the false Judaizers claimed he did. In fact, “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Jesus’ death would be nothing more than a tragic, insignificant martyrdom. Instead of invalidating God’s grace as the Judaizers did, Paul proclaimed it as the only way to be saved. Paul not only believed in Jesus for salvation, he behaved in such a way as to promote it with every fiber of his being!

EXAMPLE: When we place our faith in Christ, He radically transforms our lives, giving us the inclination, guidance, and power to behave, as He wants. He lives in us and expresses Himself through us. Knowing He loved us and gave Himself for us should inspire us to demonstrate His character in our behavior.

Paul urged the Galatian believers to be consistent in their theology and ethics, quizzing them about how they experienced salvation when he first preached to them. He also asked about their letting someone deceive them and about the Spirit’s presence and work among them. Paul says…

III. Be Consistent (Gal. 3:1-5)
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-5 NIV)

1. Paul’s strong address, “You foolish Galatians,” expressed his dismay at their readiness to abandon the good news of grace. He incredulously asks, “Who has bewitched you?” The Judaizers had “put the evil eye” on believers, as sorcerers were thought to be able to do. The false teachers had bewitched the Galatian Christians. Yet, “Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified!” Paul bluntly reminds them. The Greek wording vividly portrayed means “to write (or ‘paint’) before the eyes” or “to post or placard.” Paul had presented the good news of Christ’s redemptive death graphically, as though he had posted a public notice in large letters. Paul asked, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” The Galatian believers definitely did not receive the Spirit by works of the law. No good work had earned them the Spirit. When they heard the gospel of grace and placed their faith in Christ, they received the Spirit. Now, they were being inconsistent in their faith! Were they that “foolish”? Evidently, they were! Could they attain their goal of righteousness by “human effort?” the answer was, “NO!” Turning to legalism to attain righteousness instead of relying on the Spirit’s presence and power made no sense to Paul. Had they “suffered so much for nothing?” Paul’s question likely focused on believers’ facing opposition because of their faith. Paul’s final question was designed to cause these Christians to reflect on their experience with the Spirit, whom they had received at conversion. They had not earned this immeasurable gift by works of the law. God had supplied the Spirit. The Spirit’s presence and work produced the miracles. The gift of the Spirit and God’s miraculous activity among them came by hearing with faith—hearing the gospel and placing faith in Christ. They needed to stop being so stupid and instead be more consistent in their faith!

EXAMPLE: When we receive salvation through faith, we also receive the Spirit who wants to lead us to consistency in our beliefs and actions and to move us toward maturity as believers. We need to be sensitive to His presence, and we need to cooperate by acting obediently to His prompting within us.

Paul also contrasted living under the law to living in faith. And finally, he emphasized the permanence of God’s promise to Abraham. Paul related that we can also…

IV. Be Blessed (Gal. 3:6-9)
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9 NIV)

1. What was faith? Was it that important for the believers to grasp this concept? Paul immediately referred to Abraham, the father of the faith, and quoted Genesis 15:6 to stress the truth that people are made right with God through faith. Abraham “believed God”—he trusted in and committed himself to God. As a result, his faith was entered in the positive side of the ledger as righteousness—a right standing with God. Before God gave the law and before Abraham was circumcised, he was made right with God through faith and not following the law! Paul emphasized that people who place faith in Christ are Abraham’s spiritual descendants: “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham!” Circumcision and works of the law have nothing to do with real righteousness and being Abraham’s true descendants. Faith has everything to do with both. We are Abraham’s children as well! Next, Paul personified the Scripture and quoted Genesis 12:3b, a reference the Judaizers likely qualified by insisting it carried the requirement of circumcision. Paul contended that God’s promise, “All nations will be blessed through you”, was a prophecy of good news to Abraham. The Lord would make the Gentiles right with Him in the same manner Abraham was made right: by faith. Thus, everyone who exercises faith as Abraham did shares the blessing he received: right relationship with God.

EXAMPLE: What does sharing Abraham’s blessing mean to you? How do you define faith?When we become Christians, we receive the blessing God promised Abraham and that countless multitudes have enjoyed. This blessing is available to non-Christians through faith in Christ. When believers talk with others about becoming Christians, we give them the opportunity to participate in fulfilling the Scriptures, to receive the blessing God promised Abraham’s descendants.

Conclusion:
1. We receive salvation when we believe by placing our faith in Christ.
2. When we place our faith in Christ, He radically transforms our lives, giving us the inclination, guidance, and power to behave, as He wants.
3. When we receive salvation through faith, we also receive the Spirit who wants to lead us to consistency in our beliefs and actions and to move us toward maturity as believers.
4. When we become Christians, we receive the blessing God promised Abraham and that countless multitudes have enjoyed.

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

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 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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Corruption: A path to nowhere! – Micah 3:1-12

Corruption: A path to nowhere! – Micah 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 23, 2013 AM

One of my assignments for a course in seminary was to observe different kinds of worship services. They do this in order for students to not only experience different kinds of worship, but to also see how not to do worship. In one instance, students went to a church that met in an old theater. The service began with upbeat music that lasted about 30 minutes. The pastor came out following the music and announced he had received a vision from the Lord that 20 people would give him $20 and those who did so would receive a special blessing. He asked everyone to close their eyes and told those who would give the $20 to raise their hands. He then pretended to count and announced falsely that 20 had raised their hands. He then made the same false claim for those who would give $10!

We live in a world where greedy people use unscrupulous methods to reap dishonest gain. Pretended good is often an effective cloak for evil. Christians should examine their motives at home, at work, at school and the church to make sure they do not exploit others. In Micah’s day, the leaders of Israel were guilty of using people to obtain power and wealth for themselves. They failed in their God-given responsibilities to promote justice and the welfare of the people who trusted them. Micah graphically teaches us about how corruption is a path to nowhere! Let’s discover what he says…

READ: Micah 3:1-12

Micah introduces a broad condemnation of the leadership of Israel (also referred to as “Jacob”). Micah rebuked the leaders for failing to do what they knew was right. They were aware of their responsibilities to provide for and protect the citizens of Israel. However, they ignored their duties and savaged the people like wild animals devouring their prey. Micah predicted they would suffer for their crimes. Micah teaches us that…

I. Corruption is moral cannibalism! (Vv.3:1-4)

1. Micah spoke prophetically against the corrupt leaders of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Jacob and Israel are used synonymously for both in this verse. God’s people had two basic categories of leaders in Micah’s day. The civil rulers were the king and those who served him as officials. The religious leaders included priests and prophets. Micah focused on the civil rulers in verses 1-4. God was to be the ultimate ruler; and the civil and religious authorities were to serve as He directed. This rule is called a theocracy. The leaders were to care for the people as shepherds do for a flock. The rulers were to lead the people to obey the laws both civil and God’s by godly example. These leaders were expected to “know justice”! Yet they hated good and loved evil! A godly king would appoint judges who would dispense justice impartially for all. These civil authorities however were ungodly and failed in their responsibilities. Their failure denied justice for the people and established a culture of corruption in the nation. (Sound familiar?) We live in a day whereby our court system is reinterpreting our Constitution to suit their own political agenda. The corrupt rulers of Israel reversed the moral code of God for their nation. They were supposed to pursue righteousness and avoid wickedness. Yet, like wild animals, they tore the skin off their victims and the flesh from their bones! The actions of the leaders were hypocritical and opposed to God’s will and His laws. The leaders were anything but shepherds of the flock. They were like wolves in sheep’s clothing! In very descriptive terms, Micah related that these cannibals “eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot!” When God’s final judgment came on them Micah warned, “Then they will cry out to the LORD, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done!” Corruption is moral cannibalism!

EXAMPLE: All believers function as moral leaven in a spiritually corrupt world. We set examples for others, our families, our classmates, or at our workplace. The question we must keep in front of us is what kind of example and influence are we. Does it measure up to the ethical standards God has revealed in His word? We see evidence in our day that some civil and political authorities have lost their moral compasses and no longer know the way of truth. They call evil good and good evil. People suffer in a nation that will not honor the Lord and the basic principles of righteousness. What can Christians do when justice is denied and civic rulers fail to lead wisely? First, we can speak out as Micah did about the ungodliness in society. Christians who speak out about the sanctity of human life, the value of the traditional family, and other moral issues follow a long tradition of courageous believers who stood up for truth in the past. Second, we can vote and be active in the process of choosing our leaders. We are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. We should use every opportunity to bring our biblical convictions to bear on the election and conduct of our leaders. Remember, Micah teaches us that corruption is moral cannibalism!

Micah condemned spiritually weak and corrupt prophets who failed to warn the people of the consequences of sin. He warned these disobedient prophets that they would not receive guidance from the Lord because of their rebellion. Their sins made impossible their receiving any revelation from the Lord. Micah contrasted his ministry with theirs, describing himself as a true prophet who spoke with the power of God’s Spirit. Micah reminds us that…

II. Corruption brings spiritual poverty! (Vv. 3:5-8)

1. Micah then turned his attention to the corrupt spiritual leaders of Israel. The prophets represented an office of spiritual leadership. True Old Testament prophets received revelation from the Lord and preached it to the rulers and the people. True prophets rebuked civil rulers when they personally failed to live moral lives. In Micah’s day, however, God identified the prophets as those “who lead my people astray.” They should have cared for the flock entrusted to them! Instead, they had become hirelings who would prophesy what the people wanted to hear. Micah related that, “if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him.” These ungodly men were motivated by greed and lacked integrity. Their work was not a ministry but a way to gain wealth and power. They lacked courage and were no longer guided by the truth. They became prophets for hire who would say anything for profit. Many years later, Paul warned Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 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.” (2 Timothy 4:2-3 NIV) Micah warned that spiritual darkness would be their punishment, “Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them.” The darkness would fall on them because they failed to warn the people to repent. It also represented the judgment that would come. In fact, “The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced.” Why? In shame, “They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God!” Judgment fell on the nation despite these leaders’ promises of safety and security. On that day, everyone would know just how corrupt these men were! Their false lies would amount to nothing! Corruption brings spiritual poverty!

EXAMPLE: Greed and materialism continue to shape the messages of many false religious leaders in our day. Many offer cures or guaranteed prosperity if contributors will give money to them. Some of these individuals align themselves with corrupt business or political leaders to defraud people through false offers of hope. Spiritual leaders today also need to be warned by the example of those in Micah’s day. The love of money offers many temptations that can corrupt a pure ministry. The fear of rejection can lead some to preach or teach only those principles that people want to hear. Avoiding sin and judgment is a way to be popular with sinners but not with God. The false prophets were the most popular religious leaders until judgment overcame the nation and the true prophets like Micah and Isaiah were revealed. We must always convey the truth without regard for the cost. There can be no permanent success when we suppress the truth of God’s Word. We must never forget that corruption brings spiritual poverty!

Micah condemns Israel’s political leaders for their injustice and bloodshed. These judges perverted justice by taking bribes. They exonerated the wicked and failed to protect the innocent. Micah condemned the spiritual leaders for condoning the sins of those paying them and for falsely promising safety from divine punishment. Micah warned of a devastating judgment that would destroy the nation.

III. Corruption demands accountability! (Vv.3:9-12)

1. Micah next summed up his condemnation of the corrupt leaders and identified the failures of civil and religious leaders. Those who abhor justice have no respect for God. God declares Himself to be an impartial Judge who is no respecter of persons (2 Chronicles 19:7). Justice is denied when bribes or partiality corrupt the process. God desires human judgments to reflect His fairness and equal treatment of all. Money, position, power, friendships, or other considerations must never be allowed to deny justice through punishing the innocent or releasing the wicked. Micah accused the leaders of perverting everything that is right. Sin is a perversion of something good. Lies are a perversion of truth. Adultery or same sex marriage is a perversion of traditional marriage. Betrayal is a perversion of loyalty. These officials had fallen down a slippery slope of personal ambition and everything they did was tainted by their sin. They despised “justice and distort all that is right” and had built “Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.” The leaders judged “for a bribe” and the spiritual leadership, the priests, taught the people “for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money”! WOW! The acceptance of a bribe in exchange for a political favor was prevalent in Micah’s day; nowadays we refer to it as political action! The disobedient priests and prophets had become so spiritually blinded to their own ungodliness they falsely professed loyalty to the Lord! They knew they were corrupt but wanted to continue their charade by displaying a false confidence by telling the people, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.” All is well, no problems here! Spiritual leaders are supposed to be like watchmen on the wall who would warn the people of impending judgment. Micah alone warned that, “because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets!” The people could not imagine such destruction. The majority of the civil and religious leaders told them God would never allow such to happen. They were wrong. The prophecy of Micah would occur and the fulfillment would be exactly as he described. Yet, we learn that corruption demands accountability!

EXAMPLE: Corruption continues to be a major problem in our world, demanding vigilance and oversight by authorities. When the government becomes complicit in the bribery, justice is not possible. Money and greed have historically been the cause of much of the corruption in the judicial and political system. After all, a million here and a million there adds up to real money when it becomes billions! A major source of misery around the world continues to be governments that allow or participate in a corrupt judicial or political system. Western democracies have sought to include checks and balances to eliminate bribes and maintain a fair judiciary and government. Even so, the temptation to subvert justice for financial gain is too much for some, and they cash in on it. The church and its members must be above reproach in seeking any financial gain. Those who proclaim God’s truth must be people of integrity who would be willing to risk financial loss rather than compromise the message. We are ultimately accountable to the Lord for our ministries, and we can be sure He will judge us impartially. Micah teaches us that corruption demands accountability!

Conclusion:
Remember, Micah teaches us that corruption is moral cannibalism! We must never forget that corruption brings spiritual poverty! Micah teaches us that corruption demands accountability!

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

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 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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Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!

Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 30, 2012 AM

What kind of heroes do we hold up to be emulated? Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. writes about the need for heroes: “My middle son, Marlon, complained to me just the other day that his generation is coming of age ‘in a world without heroes.’ . . . His words tugged at me. . . . Our children have learned to wait for the other shoe to drop, for ‘heroes’ to be unmasked and values betrayed.” A survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University shows that 60 percent of adults have no heroes. It’s an unhealthy trend, according to former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, author of the best-seller The Book of Virtues: “It is particularly important for young people to have heroes. This is a way to teach them by moral example, so that we can point to someone as an ideal.” I believe this is why true heroes, heroes of our faith can give us a renewed vigor to live for the Lord.

In a summary, the writer of Hebrews pointed out that people can still be living by faith when they die, even if by that time they have not received what was promised. By faith, the patriarchs and prophets saw the promises from afar but continued in their faith refusing to turn back to the old ways they had left. His listeners should also renounce any opportunity to go back to their ancestral religion. They should persist in longing for a better country promised by Jesus! A Christian’s faith should form their true worldview. The believer’s faith is what life is all about. Hebrews reminds of how those in the past expressed their faith. Let’s discover what that means for us this morning…

READ: Hebrews 11:17-40

Do you express your faith or do you acquiesce your faith? There are those who think that Christianity should evolve and that it should change its core values with the times. This flies in the face of not just tradition, but with actual biblical theology. The same is true for what constitutes faith. We learn that…

I. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

1. The lives of those the author describes were defined by their faith. We would know nothing of these individuals without faith defining their lives. Abraham could never have offered up his son unless he fully trusted God already! Moses’ parents had faith that God would take care of their infant son cast adrift into an Egyptian pyramid scheme. And God provided every step of the way of Moses’ life! From making him a basket case, to bringing him up in royal court, to having him run for his life because of stupid decisions, and then leading his people to the Promised Land! His life was defined by his faith! Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” We see the Israelite’s faith when they ran through the Red Sea, when Jericho’s walls caved, when “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Her life was totally entrusted to her newfound faith! Because of their faith they “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised… shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword,” their “weakness was turned to strength; and… became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground!” Can you imagine living your life in this way? Jesus reminds us that we often cannot do what he asks us to do “Because you have so little faith.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV) The reason that Christianity is not vibrant as it should be is because we do not find faith that moves mountains! Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

EXAMPLE: Why do you do what you do in life? What makes you get up every day to go to work, clean your home, or simply live your lives? For some it is their children, for others it is their job ethic or education, and still for some, it is because they have nothing better to do! It is laudable to have a goal-oriented life, but what happens when children move away or rebel, what occurs when your job closes down or you retire, what is left at the end of your life when you realize you have lived for nothing? Just as the bedraggled crayon-scrawled signs, rain-drenched candles, and plastic sun-faded flowers left at the makeshift roadside memorials, our lives are not long remembered either. However, go back, look at the great folks of faith, and notice how they are remembered. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.” What about Paul, Silas, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John or perhaps, the Wesley brothers, John Rogers, C. H. Spurgeon, D. L. Moody or Billy Graham? Maybe you remember Brother McMillan, Pastor Ward Lawrence, Dr. Bill Peters, or Jan Sander. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

There are those who say they live their faith, but when one takes a closer look at their lives, or especially their families, we find a whole other truth. One of the reasons we have the violence we do in our society today, is we have redefined what constitutes a family. When we look at these verses, we discover that…

II. Our families are to be managed by our faith!

1. While there are not always good examples of parenting in the Bible, we do discover godly examples of faithful parents who entrusted their children to the Lord. Abraham “who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son!” Why would he do such a thing? Was he nuts? NO! “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Can you imagine? God asks you to do the unthinkable, but you understand immediately that God has a plan and you must above all trust in God’s plan for your family. All the way up the mountain, searching for wood, answering his son’s incessant questions about the sacrifice, and even while he was plunging the blade into Isaac’s chest, Abraham trusted God! Isaac wasn’t the best dad either, but he knew his sons, by faith he “blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” And Jacob, the liar, even though his sons had sold his favorite, Joseph, into slavery because of their insane jealousy “when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons”, and by “faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Even “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” From birth to death these parents, while not the best, had enough sense to trust God with their families! We live in an age where daycare, schools, television, and video games raise many of our children. Single parent homes are becoming the new “normal” with multiple transient hookups. God’s wisdom reminds us to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) and fathers are not to “exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV) Our families are to be managed by our faith!

EXAMPLE: Neither Guns nor their availability make people kill one another. Sin does. I remember in High School, during hunting season; it wasn’t unusual for guys to drive to school with gun racks filled with shotguns or rifles. Often, my friends and I went shooting after Friday classes and we had pistols and ammo in the trunks of our vehicles. I even brought my .22 caliber revolver to shop class in order to make new pistol grips! I graduated from a large suburban school, but no one was ever threatened or harmed. The reason: It was unthinkable. Nowadays the moral and social fabric of our society is so corrupted; we no longer see sin as sin. Most school shootings and attacks since the mid 1990s confirm that the perpetrators were on some kind of antidepressant. i CDC data shows that one in 25 children ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. are on antidepressants. ii  Add to this the unmarried birth rate of 41%, where unmarried couples make up 12% of U.S. couples iii, and a divorce rate for first time marriage is 41%, for second marriages, it is 60%, and for third marriages, it is 73%, Houston, we have a problem! iv These statistics are important because research shows that children without a mom and a dad are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, and are twice as likely to drop out of school, commit criminal acts, and engage in premarital sex. I would say that it is time again for families to be managed by faith!

During Christmastime, or when a national tragedy strikes, we find all sorts of folks willing to do good things for others. I am glad we can come together, but this should be more than writing a pity saying on a cup of coffee. Sadly, far too many think that by simply doing good, makes one good, and nothing could be further from the truth. We discover by these verses found in Hebrews that…

III. We are made perfect by our faith!

1. If holiness were obtainable by simply doing good things, we would never have needed Jesus to die on a cross for us. This is why Hebrews remarks concerning Moses, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” It was “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Unknown to Moses at the time, was the mere fact that by his act of faith he was pointing to a better way, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! In conclusion, the writer pointed out that the great heroes of faith he had spoken of had not yet realized the result of their faith concerning the human soul in its relation to death, judgment, heaven, and hell. When we die, we are not eternally judged for the good we did in life, we are first weighed by what we believed in life! Paul, a Jew by birth, knew “that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV) Like the author of Hebrews, Paul would say, “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.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV) This proves that God had planned something far better for them and us. Paul would also write, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:20-22 NIV) You see, Hebrews reminds us that, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect!” We are made perfect by our faith!

EXAMPLE: When someone says she believes in God, does that make her a Christian? When someone says he believes in Jesus, does that make the person a Christian? The affirmation of faith was important in the ancient world. It showed the world what you trusted in, as James declared, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” (James 2:19 NIV) Of course, James also affirmed that his faith was shown by what he did after believing. Do you sometimes doubt your faith? I believe God knows our weakness and this is where faith comes in let me explain: One time Jesus saw a large crowd around some of his disciples and the teachers of the law arguing with them. A man had brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not. The man tells Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:16-24 NIV) The boy’s father didn’t claim that he had perfect faith, nor did he walk away in despair. He acknowledged his doubts (unbelief) at the same time that he passionately expressed his desire to believe! Therefore, our faith does not need to be perfect our faith makes us perfect!

Conclusion:
Our lives are to be defined by our faith! Our families are to be managed by our faith! We are made perfect by our faith!

i http://www.ssristories.com/index.php
ii  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/02/23/antidepressants-viewed-as-quick-fix/#ixzz2GJi0NgjB
iii http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/196 and http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-05-26-census-unmarried-couples_n.htm
iv http://www.divorcerate.org

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

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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering, what does marriage mean to you? Is it merely a license handed out by a governing authority or does it represent folks who love one another? I wonder how many folks could marry each other at the same time, if the state says it’s okay. Perhaps one who is sixty could love and marry another who is fourteen. If it were voted in by the simple-minded majority then wouldn’t it be okay for a loving father to marry his daughter or a great aunt her little nephew. Could someone clueless in Seattle marry a building or a favorite pet? Why even get married in the first place since you could live together in fornication by using each other for free sexual favors instead. I wonder when abuse is no longer abuse. Perhaps we need to redefine what is perverse or what might be sin so we can feel more comfortable with ourselves and no longer be embarrassed by our behavior. I betcha the One who created us and redeemed us to be his very own could tell us what he thinks about marriage, if we were truly listening. Makes one wonder…

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

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Just Wondering…

I was just wondering, what do you consider to be immoral? Is it something evil that someone does that grosses you out? Perhaps it is the thoughts we keep, the attitudes we secretly hide, and the dishonesty of our convictions? If you say you believe yet are willing to acquiesce your righteousness so you will be liked by others, perhaps that is immoral? How can you say you love him who is totally moral and yet rub elbows or keep company with those who are perverted in their lifestyle, thoughts, or actions? What does this say about your morality? Is it easily prostituted? Perhaps this is what makes something immoral? Makes one wonder…

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

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