Tag Archives: salvation

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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Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!

Malachi 3:7-12 – Being obedient!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2018

At the turn of the century a young salesman approached a farmer and excitedly told him about a great new book he was selling. It had all the information needed to run a profitable farm: when to plant and harvest, how to predict the weather and care for livestock—everything that would make the farmer a success. The farmer patiently listened and then replied, “Young man, I know everything that’s in your book. My problem is doing it.” We may read our Bible, know how we are to live as Christians, yet find the hard part is to do what it tells us, why is that? It is a matter of obedience.

Why is it so hard for folks to do what they know they should do? Paul wrote that he would “not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God.” (Romans 15:18 NIV) Malachi begins with a blanket condemnation of Israel’s disobedience to God’s decrees throughout her history. Let’s discover this morning why Malachi saw obedience to God as so important for God’s people as we discover what being obedient means…

READ: Malachi 3:7-12

Why will one child graciously share while another display an Ebenezer Scrooge-like attitude? The other day at Play Group one young mother vainly tried to get her youngster to share. Instead he decided to defiantly declare that the toy was, “Mine!” His self-centered attitude was kind of like the Israelites of Malachi’s day, what had been graciously given by God they saw as “Mine!” It was a…

I. Disobedient attitude of not trusting God! (Vv. 7-8)

“Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ ‘Will a man rob God?’ Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.”

1. Physical things can get in the way of our spiritual trust! God reminds the Israelites of their stubborn attitude: “Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.” From the sandy shores of the Red Sea to the wild wadis of the wilderness the Israelites had whined, griped, and complained. If Israel would just return to him in faithful obedience, then he would respond: “Return to me, and I will return to you”. This promise was based on the covenant God made with Israel. When God promises to watch over our lives he follows through because he does “not change”. The Israelites smirk, “How are we to return?” They knew their problem was they were not trusting God! Only a person who willingly confesses their sin can repent, but Israel pretended to be unaware of her disobedience. They falsely believed “If God truly loved me he would do this for me.” Just as God will not work in the life of someone who deliberately sins, he will not work in the life of someone who deliberately distrusts him. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).” The people’s distrust developed into stealing from God! Stealing from someone was bad enough, but only a fool would try to rob God. Israel robbed God in their “In tithes and offerings.” The quality of their sacrifices was poor and they deliberately brought “blind animals for sacrifice”! The tithe was to be a tenth of all their crops, livestock, or goods. Offerings however were to be above and beyond the required tithe. This was the real sacrifice, not the tithe! The tithe was expected and displayed obedient trust, while the offering displayed sacrifice! Jesus related, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV) The Israelites displayed the disobedient attitude of not trusting God!

EXAMPLE: Every four years we enter into a period of accusation, condemnation, and self-acclamation known as election process. Pundits and politicians proclaim the political piety of their primary politician. Attack ads that focus on the other guy’s shortcomings are common place. No matter what we say concerning negative campaigning, showing your opponent lacks character garners votes. We are saddened when the people we trust prove untrustworthy. It is sadder still when they try to justify their wrongful actions just like Israel did. How about you, dear child of the Lord? Do you trust God with what you have or have you robbed God?

It is curious that many of those who do not believe in God want the government to become the god-like entity that controls every area of their lives instead. It is because of the average American’s sinful aversion to live for the Lord that our nation has reaped what it has sown. A nation that gives God its leftovers should not expect great things from the Lord. In fact, Malachi goes on to relate for us…

II. The result of what disobedience brings! (v. 9)

You are under a curse–the whole nation of you–because you are robbing me.

1. The sowing of obedience is the only way of reaping God’s blessing! When Gods’ people do not do the will of God, then the nation they live in suffers the consequences! The Israelites are bluntly told, “You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.” Since the temple was God’s house, failure to support its ministry was considered equal to personally robbing God! Sadly, many Christians today wrongly believe that our nation’s problems are due to non-believers. This is not the case. It is because Christians do not trust God as they should and it is displayed by their willingness to rob God of their tithes and offerings. Jesus speaks to this issue of a believer’s disobedience. Jesus reminded his listeners that God will eventually come and judge. He asked, “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” And of course the answer is, “Yes.” Jesus continues to ask, “Will [God] keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7 NIV) This teaching of Jesus follows his discourse on a persistent widow who continually bugged a judge asking him over and over for justice. If we continually come to God asking for justice, yet are disobedient, will he not judge us? When Jesus comes again dear child of God, will he find faith and trust in his children? Here we discover the result of what disobedience brings!

EXAMPLE: What would you do if your child lies to you? I remember when I lied to my father about where I had gone for the afternoon. I went to play in a field where I was not allowed to go. When he found out, he grounded me. We did not have TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets, or mp3 players in our rooms. Instead, my father made me take all of my toys and books and place them in a box on the back porch. Grounded meant grounded. I could not go play with the other kids, nor could I enjoy my room. I spent my time cleaning, dusting, and polishing the floor. After a few days, I had the cleanest room in Wenatchee! I learned a powerful lesson: disobedience always brings its own curse. The same is true for God’s people. Dear child of the Lord, what is your disobedience bringing you? Malachi teaches us the result of what disobedience brings!

For the Israelites it brought about God’s curse. When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks. God requires the obedience of his followers. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). And he challenged, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).This is why Malachi reminds us that…

III. God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! (Vv. 10-12)

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

1. Obedience to God is an expression of our love for God! The promise made here is a reaffirmation of God’s word to the Israelites. God states in Deuteronomy 28:1 that if they “fully obey the Lord… and carefully follow all his commands… God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” He challenges the Israelites to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” What the people of Israel were experiencing was a disobedience-curse relationship specified by God. Since the Word of God is sure, his promise would be carried out. In fact, Israel could attest to the truth that she was experiencing certain aspects of the curse because of her unwillingness to tithe! What about your life in God? Are you in disobedience to Him concerning your tithes and offerings? Notice also that this is the only place where His people are specifically asked to “test” God. He is challenging Israel to bring their whole faith into action and to trust his promises, by brining the “whole tithe into the storehouse.” By doing this, God would “pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Far too often we live by sight and not by faith. Here God tells us to test our faith and live by it. Faith is never found in what we see. It is found in how we trust God and sometimes that requires uncertainty. Malachi teaches us that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

EXAMPLE: I will never forget the answer that Ward Lawrence gave folks who asked him about his certain death. Dying from a very painful form of cancer, it was certain that he would not live much longer. They wondered what it was like or if he had any fear. He replied, “I only know the words of Job: ‘I know that my Redeemerlives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.’” (Job 19:25-27 NIV) If you are trying to live your faith by sight, you will live a shallow weak faith. It will always be a mere shadow of what it could be. Dear child of God, he desires so much more for your life. As Paul would transliterate from Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV) God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him!

Conclusion:

We learned about a disobedient attitude of not trusting God, the result of what disobedience brings, and that God’s answer to disobedience is to trust him! Bring all your trust to his storehouse and test him in this and see if he will not pour out so much blessing you will not have room for it. In fact, it will most likely overflow into the lives of others around you. That’s the way God works.

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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Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 — We have a risen Lord!

Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 — We have a risen Lord!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 1, 2018 AM

The message of Easter is the resurrection of Jesus as an event that means much more than a historical fact. His victory over death brings peace and comfort to all who have trusted in him as Lord and Savior. Further, Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for the believers’ resurrection and living with him forever. Therefore, this is the beautiful truth of Easter: We have a risen Lord!

After Jesus’ death, Joseph buried His body hastily in a nearby tomb. A large stone rolled in front of the entrance was meant to keep out marauders and wild animals as well as Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 27:62-66). All day Saturday Jesus’ followers grieved, but they could do nothing. The Fourth Commandment prohibited work, including preparations for burial, on the Sabbath. Finally, Sunday morning dawned, the first day of the week and some of the women who had followed Jesus went to visit his grave. They could not have imagined what they were about to experience. Their initial response was fright, but soon they realized that Jesus had risen! Let’s rediscover this truth again…

READ: Luke 24:1-8; 36-48

The inspired writers of the New Testament who declared the resurrection of Jesus never actually described the sequence of events inside the tomb. Nobody saw Jesus’ dead body when God miraculously transformed him. No human eye observed Jesus coming out of the tomb. What the Gospels and the Epistles record, instead, are two amazing facts: Jesus’ tomb was empty and he appeared alive to his followers. The only possible conclusion was that he had been resurrected and because of this we know for certain…

I. Jesus is alive! (Luke 24:1-8)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.

1. We find that “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.” Afterwards, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Jesus’ body was gone. And “While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.” Next, however, they heard unexpected words. The news they received began the process of taking them from despair to hope and faith. And the words they heard were from a very unlikely source. They were asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” They did not find the body they were looking for. Instead they saw two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning, an obvious reference to angelic beings. These men reminded them of the words Jesus had spoken about His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 9:31; Luke 18:31-34). If they could not find what they were looking for, why were they looking for it there? The fact was, “He is not here; he has risen!” They had forgotten what Jesus had told them while still in Galilee, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” It was only after they realized what had occurred they “remembered his words”! We have a risen Lord! Jesus is alive!

EXAMPLE: When a teenager named Poh Fang learned about Jesus’ love for her and received him as her Savior, her parents weren’t sure about the merits of Christianity. So they sent her older sister with her to church to keep an eye on her. But something happened that they didn’t expect. The powerful Word of God penetrated the heart of the older sister, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior as well. Think back to the time you first realized Jesus is truly alive. Consider today that proclaiming the good news to lost people must include the truth that Jesus arose from the dead, for there is no good news without Jesus’ resurrection. How can you help others know that Jesus is alive?

Luke writes that the women told their experiences to the disciples, who thought they were spouting nonsense. Later that day, two of Jesus’ followers were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Jesus appears beside them with his identity concealed and engages them in conversation. When at last they realized he was Jesus, they rush back to Jerusalem. They discover that rumors about the resurrection were spreading like wildfire. In the turmoil that follows we find that…

II. Jesus provides peace! (Luke 24:36-48)

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

1. We now find the disciples still discussing what occurred when without warning Jesus himself stands among them! That they were “startled and frightened” was because they still hadn’t grasped the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That night, Jesus helps them understand this new reality. Jesus immediately tells them, “Peace to you!” The first gift of the Lord Jesus was peace. The Jewish greeting now had a much fuller significance. Christ’s followers had been in terrible turmoil, seeing their Lord tortured and crucified. But now even in the midst of this they could have “peace”. He asks, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” And then reassures them, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” He provides proof by showing “them his hands and feet” and asking for something to eat and then eating with them. Jesus showed his followers all the facts written… in the Old Testament about the Messiah in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. In doing this, he “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Namely, that “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” They could find peace in this because they were “witnesses of these things!” They experienced every bit of the prophecies being fulfilled! In His presence, in his fulfillment, and in his resurrection Jesus provides peace!

EXAMPLE: Today around the world millions of Christians will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. They will meet in cathedrals, storefronts, and homes. Some will meet openly with thousands of other believers. Others will meet secretly with a handful of fellow Christians for fear of persecution. All will be there affirming the good news that Jesus offers his followers peace in troubling circumstances, just as on that first Easter. We have a risen Lord and because of this Jesus provides us peace!

Conclusion:

We have a risen Lord! Jesus’ resurrection is established by the empty tomb and by His appearances. The risen Christ provides peace in the midst of troubling circumstances. Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Scriptures.

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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The expression of God’s love! – John 3:16-21

The expression of God’s love! – John 3:16-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 4, 2018

How do you express your love? Since February is the month when we celebrate love because of Valentine’s Day I thought it would be good for us to pause and reflect on what love truly means for the believer. And being able to express, know, and understand what love is supposed to be is extremely important. Far too many carry false notions and understanding of what love is all about therefore it is important for Christians to be able to help others truly know the expression of God’s love.

When I first meant my wife she was my best friend’s kid-sister who took perverse joy in teasing us. Being the “mature” High School freshman I was I was not impressed by a 13 year old Junior Higher. Now for 42 years I am very impressed and interested in my best friend’s kid sister. Of course it took a lot of time, effort, and commitment for me to express just how much I care about her. It still does and I still do! God did the same thing for us and his plan took thousands of years to express fully. Let’s take a look at the expression of God’s love…

READ: John 3:16-21

Valentine’s Day originally was celebrated to honor one of several martyred “saints”. One for marrying Roman soldiers against the Emperor’s will and another who imprisoned for his faith wrote his final letter to his wife and signed it, “From your Valentine”. The oldest known valentine in existence is a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. In this popular passage from John…

I. We see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself! (Vv. 16-18)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

1. The message contained within these verses is so profound and simple that it mystifies the spiritually blind and confounds the spiritually ignorant. Yet in a world that hungers for real love there is no greater expression of it than what we discover here in John’s Gospel. In the past the mythological creations of mankind were vain attempts to try to explain the angry world around us. We saw the wrath of gods in the weather, we experienced the inhumanity of mankind, and the march of death and tried to make sense of it all. It is only here in Scripture where we discover the profound truth that God does indeed exist, he created all things, has a plan in progress and that “God is love.” And here we discover that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”! He did not bring forth a child like himself, he came himself as a child, grew to be a man, was tempted in every way we are, remained pure, and willingly died for us for the simple reason “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”! This is the key to knowing and experiencing God’s love for one’s self – you must believe in him! If you do you will never “perish but have eternal life”. That’s a pretty special love gift! In fact we cannot be forced, coerced, or pushed into belief. The choice is ours because “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” God’s final judgment will come later when he returns to gather his children to himself. Jesus, God in human flesh, related that “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” We condemn or free ourselves by the choice we make. What a marvelous thing to discover in this love message from God that we see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself!

EXAMPLE: “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” is a line from a wartime speech made by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 20, 1940. I have to laugh because when I hear this I am reminded of my friend Andy from 1st grade. He was in “love” with a little blond girl in our classroom. I thought he was bonkers and in a sense he was. I found him one day out on the playground in tears. When I asked him what happened he related that he had offered the girl his cookies from his lunch. He wasn’t sad because she refused them he was dismayed because she had actually taken and eaten them! Andy now understood what sacrifice meant. We see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself!

The only time I truly like total darkness is when I want to go to sleep or when I want to see the stars. Sadly it is tough to see the stars clearly because of all the ambient light that shines into the night sky. There are those who try to proclaim another truth than the one Jesus did and the only way to see the difference is by shinning the full truth of the gospel against its darkness. John related that…

II. We see the expression of God’s love by its illumination! (Vv. 19-21)

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

1. Recently I watched a diatribe by a young atheist on YouTube who vainly tried to refute the life of Jesus. She not only distorted historical facts but did not know the historicity and evidence of biblical facts. It was laughable. As we learned before, no one forces anyone to believe. That’s why it is called “faith”. However, Jesus taught that there are consequences both good and bad for making one’s own choice concerning God. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” The sad but utter truth is that evil does not like exposure. Whether it is a political cause or a religious sect, neither wants folks to look to closely at the real truth hidden behind the veil of lies. Fanatical religions and myopic socialism has murdered hundreds of millions. Jesus’ teachings are the only truth that demands and asks one to take as close a personal look as possible. However be forewarned if you are trying to hide something, you will be exposed for what you are: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John later on in life would write, “We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (1 John 4:13-15 NIV)” This is why atheists rail against Jesus and false religions try to hide the truth. Jesus taught “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32 NIV)” There is no fear of faith or of God for those who are willing to trust Jesus with their lives because “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” How wondrous to know that we see the expression of God’s love by its illumination!

EXAMPLE: I remember reading the Bible before I came to Christ; I barely understood any of it. After accepting him as my savior and Lord my ignorance changed and I could not read it enough. It made sense and it fit! Kind of like when I first began my relationship with my wife. I had dated several girls and when I dated her things began to change. But the change wasn’t complete until I married her. I no longer see her as my “girlfriend” but rather as my wife and believe me that is a whole lot deeper relationship emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The same is true when we come to Christ. Before it’s only head knowledge, shallow, and kind of boring but after experiencing the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we see the expression of God’s love by its illumination!

Conclusion:

We see the expression of God’s love in how he gave us himself! We see the expression of God’s love by its illumination!

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

A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 31, 2017

Someone once joked that “Every time I find the meaning of life, they change it!” What motivates you in life? This is a good question to ask oneself when facing a new year because it helps us to perhaps rethink what our lives are about, where we are headed, or what we think of as important. For some it is financial gain, for others it is greater education, and still there are those who think that finding themselves is the most important thing in life. But what if none of these were as important as knowing the truth; the truth concerning yourself, the world, history, and what the meaning of life is truly about. Perhaps in this New Year your life needs to begin again.

There’s the old joke about a man who wanted to know the meaning of life so he journeys to India, climbs a high mountain, and meets with a guru sitting outside of his hut. He asks him, “What is the meaning of life?” The guru responds, “Mushrooms.” The man spends the next 20 years eating mushrooms, growing mushrooms, and even talking to mushrooms but he finds nothing. He goes back to India, climbs the same mountain and tells the same guru, “The meaning of life is NOT mushrooms!” The guru intently looks at the man and responds, “Well, then it must be turnips!” Paul knew that if you want meaning in life you had to have a new life and he teaches about what that means here in these verses. Let’s discover how a New Year begins with a new life…

READ: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

This has been called the “me generation” but one writer states that it more accurately should be called the “Me, me, me generation”. The gospel message that Paul proclaimed is the antithesis of this selfishness and we learn that…

I. A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! (Vv. 14-16)

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

1. Paul was a motivated man. He had lived his life motivated but he had not always lived his life for his Messiah. Something had happened to Paul that changed his life forever and made it brand new and now the life he led obligated him to tell others about the change that had occurred. There were those who thought that Paul was out of his mind, but if he was it was for a reason: He had lost everything for the sake of God (Philippians 5:14-15) and if he was in his right mind it was for them (v. 13) and so he tells his readers that “Christ’s love compels us”! Why does this truth compel Paul to share Jesus? It was God’s desire “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”! (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV) Paul now knew that it was Jesus “who gave himself as a ransom for all men”. (1 Timothy 2:6 NIV) He therefore continues by telling them that it is “because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” We either die in our sin or we die to ourselves “And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” We are not our own, we were bought at a price and so we are to honor God with all that we are! (1 Corinthians 6:18b-19) So Paul bluntly writes that “from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Paul had been one of them who did not know what life was about and thought of Jesus as just another man but he no longer did and this truth compelled him to tell them the truth! A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!

EXAMPLE: Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist, thinks “that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid”. However, on the contrary, when we look at the world at large we discover that it is things like socialism, communism, and liberalism that has made more people dependent, angry, and self-centered. And history proves Hitchens wrong. Care for the masses, the elderly, the disenfranchised, and the handicapped all began with Christianity. Why? Simply because of what Christianity is all about: We are called to love God completely and others as ourselves. Paul would write “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!

This is the season of returns. We take back those things that do not fit, we do not need, or that we do not want. Often we do not get back what was originally paid for the present we are returning. For whatever reason it no longer has any redeeming value; therefore isn’t it great to know that…

II. A new life begins when we are reconciled! (Vv. 17-19)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

1. For Paul the truth of his life was self-evident: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” that which mankind has hoped for, longed for, and sometimes even wished for has come true in Jesus Christ! No one was more able to testify to this wondrous transformation than the one who had once persecuted Christians. Paul would dramatically write the Galatians churches, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) This is why Paul could write that “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”. It wasn’t Paul’s idea; it wasn’t the world’s intent or a governmental decree; and it did not come from a seminar. Christ, his Messiah, gave Paul this ministry. And the reason he did is because “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” This word “reconcile” is a wonderful word. It means that God exchanged himself for us! He willingly paid the penalty for our sins. This is why “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! (Romans 8:1 NIV) We know that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV) In fact “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”. (Colossians 1:21-22 NIV) Paul was “committed to… the message of reconciliation”! A new life begins when we are reconciled!

EXAMPLE: Recently I have been trying to get new life insurance. Believe me when I tell you it is like going through Dante’s levels of hell. People who say they will return your call do not and then there are the people who blandly remind you that it may take several weeks (months) to get a refund when it only took the company nanoseconds to charge your credit card — like I said “Dante’s levels of hell.” Then if you are over the age of 60 you’re toast as far as the insurance industry is concerned. I have therefore decided that I am going to focus on what God has done and will do instead. I have the best life insurer already. Isn’t it great to know that a new life begins when we are reconciled!

Has there ever been a time in your life that you wished you could have a “do over”? Replay a game, re-say some words, or redo a job you messed up. Perhaps there is a relationship you would want to reestablish? Making things right is what Jesus is all about. And Paul reminds us that…

III. A new life begins when we are made right with God! (Vv. 20-21)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1. Paul’s life had changed. He had a new title and a new job description: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Paul had experienced a redo in his life! God had given him a new life and a new task. He was now God’s own representative to the message of Jesus! In his life Paul would literally become “an ambassador in chains” for God. He would suffer persecution for his faith and for his tenacity to proclaim the truth of the gospel message. His new life compelled him to do so. And so with a heartfelt plea Paul writes to the Corinthians “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Just as he had been reconciled and given a new life the Corinthians could experience it for their own selves as well. Nothing they had ever done in life could stand in the way of the cleansing power of Jesus to change them forever! Nothing could because Paul understood and was certain that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Stop for a moment and let these words sink into your very soul. When we place our faith and trust in Jesus we become the righteousness of God! How is this possible? Hebrews reminds us that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” and it is only Jesus “who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:25-26 NIV) WOW! Paul understood well that a new life begins when we are made right with God!

EXAMPLE: The youngster felt horrible. He had allowed a simple popup fly ball to go over his head and land behind him. It cost his team the game. He sat in the outfield with his head in his hands. Unbeknown to him his entire team quietly came out and sat around him. They placed their hands on him, lightly swatted his head with their hats, and begin to remind him of what a great friend and player he truly was. After all it was only a game and there would be others. In that moment those players showed the rest of us the very nature of God. They made their fellow teammate realize his worth to them. It did not matter that he had blown the play or the game because he was worth so much more than that. Just when we think we have blown it in life Jesus shows us just how much we are worth to him. Isn’t it good to know that a new life begins when we are made right with God!

Conclusion:

A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! A new life begins when we are reconciled! A new life begins when we are made right with God!

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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4th Sunday of Advent – Love! – Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29

4th Sunday of Advent – Love! – Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 24, 2017

Love is more than a feeling or a Hallmark® moment. Love is the most revealing and intimate attitude and action a person can choose to do. Love comes from the inner core of who we are. The Apostle Paul defined love by relating that “Love is patient…kind…does not envy…does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, [and] it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, [and] always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV) Of course he meant this as defined by Jesus who is the very definition and nature of love.

Here in the Psalms the writer paused to share with his readers what God meant to the Jewish nation and its people. Jeremiah the Prophet had reminded them that, “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’“ (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV) Psalms 118 is a Hallel psalm, a collection of songs sung at the great festivals of Israel such as Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles and other holy days. At Passover Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal and 115-118 after it. Today, on this 4th Sunday of Advent we look again at what love truly is…

READ: Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29

Some have become cynical concerning love and it is because too many misunderstand what true love is all about. It is not the emotional rollercoaster ride of a Victorian novel or the shallow sexual connotation found in TV or movies. Instead I find it refreshing to discover that…

I. God’s love endures forever! (Vv. 1-4)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.”

1. Immediately the Psalmist declares, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!” In what way is God so good that we could possibly give thanks to him? He knew something that some have forgotten, that God’s “love endures forever”! This is a bold statement by the writer but one he knew about personally. David, the writer of these verses had experienced the love of God even though he had not been vey trustworthy, loyal, or righteous before the Lord himself. However, David steps it up a notch by relating God’s love is not momentary, it continues on and on. It is long lasting and endures. It is not like the fickle nature of human emotion so many of us have experienced; temporary, brief, fleeting and contingent upon how we feel or how others treat us. This is a reoccurring theme for David and Scripture. We find this notion in Psalms 103:17; Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; and Psalms 136:1 as well as 1 Chronicles 16:34! God told Jeremiah the same thing (33:11) and that in fact Jeremiah reminded the Israelites that “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’“ (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV) This is why he writes, “Let Israel say” and “Let the house of Aaron say”. And now in Jesus we find this love of God expressed for all to see and know! Paul would marvel, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:4-8 NIV) Now “Let those who fear the LORD say” because of Jesus, God’s love endures forever!

EXAMPLE: The term love in our day and age is often used as the answer for every ill known to mankind. However, this is a false notion because it is based on the idea that if we simply express our love by doing good things then we will have world peace, enough food for everyone, and climate change. The problem is that the love the world displays is dependent upon how one feels instead of the intrinsic eternal attribute of God. The Apostle John understood this and wrote, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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 4:8-10 NIV) Let everyone know that God’s love endures forever!

The love of God as shown through the sacrifice of Jesus displayed for the world what real love is all about. Yet it did more than that because God’s love finished his creative redemptive work; this is why we discover from these verses that…

II. God’s love completes all things! (Vv. 22-24)

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

1. Jesus told the parable of a landowner who planted a vineyard. He rented it to some farmers and went on a journey and when it came time to collect the harvest, he sent his servants. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.” He sent another group of servants and the same thing occurred and finally the landowner sends his son, thinking “They will respect my son.” However they plot to kill him and take his inheritance for themselves and that is what they did. The whole sordid tale is about Israel and how it treated God’s prophets and finally his only Son. Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:42-44 NIV) Jesus quoted this verse from Psalms. Jesus is the capstone that Israel rejected. The capstone was the final stone laid in place to hold together the entire structure of the roof or archway. John would write that “we know and rely on the love God has for us.” Why, because “God is love.” John knew that “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete (or is finished) among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment”. (1 John 4:16-17 NIV) Jesus’ love completed and finished the plan of God! This is why Jesus proclaimed as he died on the cross, “It is finished!” Complete is the final capstone of God’s grand design! And just as it was “marvelous” in the eyes of David, it is truly wonderful for our eyes to behold! “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” What David could only long for we now know for certainty; God’s love completes all things!

EXAMPLE: Over the years I have heard couples say that they were incomplete without the other person and often they did not realize it until after they had met and then had to be apart. I came to this startling realization when I had to be away from Denise for the first time. I can tell you I was gald to be home again! I missed her tremendously. This has not changed and recently when I went to Montana I called her daily. God designed our most intimate relationship this way on purpose; it reflects, in a way, the relationship we are to experience with God. After we come to know Jesus as Savior we begin to understand that we were incomplete without Jesus in our lives. Interestingly as we look into Scripture we discover that God’s plan was deliberately designed this way. In fact, we discover that God’s love completes all things!

How wonderful to know that the love of God is not transitory and that it completes all things that exist. God’s love was to rescue us from sin; not just the affects but the consequences as well. His love restores our relationship with him! Here in this Psalm we learn that…

III. God’s love saves us! (Vv. 25-29)

O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

1. David immediately cries out, “O Lord, save us!” and then follows this cry with O Lord, grant us success!” He desired the salvation of his people from their enemies and success in battle against them, however, God had already planned something far more than a rescue or victory in battle — he intended to save those who trusted him eternally and have them triumph over death itself! David turns from asking God to praising him for the answer he already had in store for his people. So he declares, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” It is the same cry that was proclaimed at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem by “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’“ (Matthew 21:9 NIV) “Hosanna” is from the Hebrew meaning “Save (us), we pray!” It comes from verse 25 here in this Psalm and the crowds may have put down palm branches because of the prophecy of this Psalm concerning the Messiah. “From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” Later, the Jews would wave their hands in the air as they recited this Psalm to signify their waving palm boughs as they praised God. When the Messiah came God’s light would shine on his people. It is therefore significant that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem they did not just wave their hands but also took up palm branches and laid their cloaks in his path. They honored him as Messiah! David’s final two verses signify how much he loved and honored God for the promise of the coming Messiah, “You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalms 118:28-29 NIV) David understood what we need to learn this day of Advent that God’s love saves us!

EXAMPLE: God’s love and compassion would no longer be fleeting; it would last forever. It would no longer depend upon how mankind followed his commands but rather would squarely rest on the promise of salvation through Jesus’ atonement. What rules and regulations could never do, the love of God displayed through Jesus’ willing sacrifice did for us! Paul would write, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NIV) This is the promise of Advent, this is the fact that God’s love saves us!

Conclusion:

God’s love endures forever! God’s love completes all things! God’s love saves us!

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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3rd Sunday of Advent – Joy! – Jeremiah 31:11-13

3rd Sunday of Advent – Joy! – Jeremiah 31:11-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 17, 2017

Joy for a lot of people depends upon their physical state instead of their state of mind; they want to be happy all of the time through material things and this is impossible. We can never achieve the convoluted ideal of a perpetual happy nirvana in life. Trying to say to one’s self over and over that every day in every way I am getting better and better does not make one joyful, especially when others remind you just how incompetent you might be. Joy comes from inner peace and contentment which can only truly be found in Jesus Christ. The reason is obvious; his joy is not just internal it is eternal and cannot be taken away by outside circumstances.

When the Messiah was promised by the prophets of God people began to realize that his coming would mark a new era not just in the way things were done here on earth, but his coming would affect all of creation. There would be the joy of the Lord in the midst of his people and it would not depend upon government, finances, personal relationships, or world peace; it would come from and be given by God. Let’s discover this day of Advent what that joy means for us today…

READ: Jeremiah 31:11-13

Jesus is not some trinket or talisman we can place on our dashboard or hearth for personal security. He is not some entity we mutter incoherent meandering prayers to either; he is the coming of God to the world that brings us eternal life and in doing so we also discover that…

I. The joy of Advent brings God’s protection! (v. 11)

For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

1. In our day and age and because of where we live we may not fully understand what it means to be delivered. Jeremiah is not referring to a UPS package at Christmas here. The Israelites had experienced hundreds of years of bondage to other nations and now were experiencing that same bondage from their own leaders! And added to this was the threat of war with a very aggressive and violent nation, Babylon. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that “Jeremiah was the premier prophet of Judah during the dark days leading to her destruction. Though the light of other prophets, such as Habakkuk and Zephaniah, flickered in Judah at that time Jeremiah was the blazing torch who, along with Ezekiel in Babylon, exposed the darkness of Judah’s sin with the piercing brightness of God’s Word. He was a weeping prophet to a wayward people.” Not everyone in Israel was willing to hear Jeremiah’s words and in fact he was oppressed by his own people and leaders for telling them the truth! However, as negative as Jeremiah’s words were to their ears he was also giving them the promise of God’s joy. He tells them, “For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.” Even though God’s people had fallen into sin they had hope and they would find ultimate joy in him again. In fact, God would deliver them and redeem them from their enemies. Not just the Babylonians, who would be used by God to punish his people but eternally from those who would seek to do them eternal harm. Their joy would be more than a momentary morning sunrise; it would last forever and God’s powerful hand would protect them! The joy of Advent brings God’s protection!

EXAMPLE: After Jesus had sent out 72 of his disciples to heal the sick and proclaim the good news of his coming, they returned full of pride at their actions, he warned them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:18-20 NIV) Far too often we treat our relationship with Jesus as a magic pendant to ward off the evil of the world or as a means to try and garner God’s guardianship as some mystical warrior to do battle with Satan for us. This is spiritual hogwash. When we have Jesus we have the full armor of God. His coming to earth, dying on the cross and rising again insures our spiritual security. We do not need to be frightened or insecure in this world. The joy of Advent brings God’s protection!

We are safe and secure in Jesus, but there are those who experience the distress and sadness of the world around them. Jesus reminded his followers that in this world we would always have trouble, but we were to rejoice because he had overcome the world! (John 16:33) In fact we learn that…

II. The joy of Advent does away with sorrow! (v. 12)

They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord — the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.

1. In an arid climate the one thing that matters most is water. With the amounts of rainfall we have been receiving lately here in the Northwest it can be hard to understand this concept but in Israel, where the ocean clouds sweep easily across the mostly flatland and low mountains ranges, mere foothills compared to the Cascades or Rockies, rain meant a lot. It brought bigger and better harvests; grass for herds which meant more lambs being born. And all of this was important to a society where food was a daily concern. There was no refrigeration and few ways to keep food stocks fresh for more than a day. Daily shopping for food was the normal way of life. Therefore anything that brought about abundance in harvest or flocks was seen as a time of rejoicing. People could eat well, be healthier, and have more children. This is why Jeremiah proclaimed earlier, “He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.” (v.10) The rains would come in abundance when the Messiah came. “They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord — the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.” However, the promise of living water was for the coming of the Holy Spirit to the children of God. Joel would say, “In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD’s house and will water the valley of acacias.”(Joel 3:18 NIV) And John writes in Revelations, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17 NIV) This is why the coming of the Messiah was seen as a time of abundance and thereby rejoicing!  The joy of Advent does away with sorrow!

EXAMPLE: One thing I have learned in life is that each sunrise brings a new day. Now knowing that and understanding what it means are two different things. Each we are given is a new day to live for the Lord. Think of it this way as the new light of day is dawning: It’s a new day and help has already arrived to live this day brand new! In the midst of our deepest sorrow and suffering, help has already arrived. He has already come and is already waiting for us in Jesus. In this we know that the joy of Advent does away with sorrow!

I did not understand it when I was younger but now I truly do. What I mean is that old adage that life is what you make of it. Our life is not dependent upon what others do for us; it is fulfilled in how we live it for others and God. And the life we live in Jesus is the happiest, easy, relaxed, and contented calm there is. In fact…

III. The joy of Advent brings lasting comfort! (v. 13)

Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

1. When the Messiah comes things would change not only for Israel but for all people everywhere. The Messiah would be a priestly king, godly and regal, wise and wonderful. Jesus would later quote Isaiah when he stood up in the synagogue and related, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.” (Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18 NIV) Jesus was letting the Jews know that the words of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and all the Prophets had come true; the Messiah had come! The advent of God had arrived! John would declare, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV) The Apostle Paul would also state concerning Jesus and the eternal security he gives those who trust in him, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV) Wolford would write that “One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that the grace of God is most keenly experienced not in the best but in what seem to be the worst of times.” And it is in these times whether the worst or the best we find the comfort of God through Jesus. Jeremiah could only dream and envision such a thing. To him and his people it would be a time of joy and everlasting comfort when the Messiah came. He was correct; the joy of Advent brings lasting comfort!

EXAMPLE: I have an old easy chair that is very comfortable. In fact at the end of the day you can often find me there reading a book, watching TV, or simply sleeping. It is filled with the memories of cuddling little boys and baby girls, the unwrapping of Christmas or birthday gifts, special and ordinary occasions, and the sorrows and joys of life. It fits me. It is comfortable. Yet it does not compare to the knowledge of knowing Jesus and security and utter comfort he brings in life. How can Jesus do this? Paul would marvel, “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV) Jesus brings the comfort of God because he gives us the eternal promise of God that because he lives we too will live always. The joy of Advent brings lasting comfort!

Conclusion:

The joy of Advent brings God’s protection! The joy of Advent does away with sorrow! The joy of Advent brings lasting comfort!

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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