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Resurrection! – John 20:1-9

Resurrection! – John 20:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 16, 2017

We are at a spiritual crossroads in history. We live in a day and age whereby folks do not use critical thinking but rely on their instinct or passion. This is dangerous because we are then motivated to think that what we feel is more important than facts. Or worse, that we can distinguish what is right or wrong in life simply by how it feels to us. From personal relationships, what we believe in, or to whom we vote for is a matter of feelings and not what we truly know. We end up hurt and confused when our emotions have steered us in the wrong direction.

The resurrection is not a matter of emotion or personal feelings. It is a historical physical fact. This is why later when Mary is crying by the empty tomb and the angel rebukes her by reminding her of the facts, “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.'” (Luke 24:5-7 NIV) And later here in John the angel bluntly reminds Mary to stop relying on her emotions by asking her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (v. 13) As believers or seekers we must come to the realization of the fact of the resurrection because if we do not we are still standing outside of an empty tomb that has no effect on our lives. Therefore this morning let’s look anew at the resurrection.

READ: John 20:1-9

When people die and you put them in their graves, contrary to any TV fiction, they do not get up and walk around! The dead stay dead! Except in the truth of the resurrection! In light of what occurred we must first ask…

I. Why is the tomb empty?! (Vv. 1-2)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

1. Now there are some pretty nifty sleight of hand arguments concerning which Mary was where at what time. However, I believe we have to take each one as they were written realizing that the authors were remembering the event as it was told to them or as they saw it for themselves. John relates what he remembers that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” It was early Sunday morning, probably right before the sun rose and the sky was still dark but the dawn of the new day could be seen. We discover that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb first. We know from other accounts that she was with other women who wanted to finish the burial preparation of Jesus’ body. Her gratitude and devotion to Jesus came from her deliverance from bondage to Satan. She had been an observer at the cross and now was one of the first folks at the empty tomb. She saw Jesus die and evidently knew where he was buried; now the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance! Mary does the first thing she could think of, “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'” Mary knew the tomb was empty but did not realize why and could only think of the logical answer, someone had taken Jesus’ body! Why is the tomb empty?

EXAMPLE: Go into any grocery store and Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or WinCo and you would find aisles of Easter eggs, cards, candy, baskets, bunnies, chicks, Peeps, and chocolate this or that. Yet you would not find the one thing that is most important part to all of Easter: the empty tomb! Easter is not found in bunnies, eggs, baskets, or Peeps. It is discovered in the fact that several thousand years ago folks found the tomb where Jesus’ dead body was laid empty. It therefore begs the question for us every Easter, “Why is the tomb empty?” Paul knew full well that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead”! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 NIV) The tomb is empty!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but when you’re in the thick of it one’s vision can become very myopic indeed. As the facts of the empty tomb just keep coming and what is revealed makes one wonder…

II. Where is the body? (Vv. 3-7)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

1. Whether Peter is bewildered or he simply suspects what has happened is not at first clear, but he does the one thing most of us would do, “Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.” Peter and John “Both were running.” Both understood the importance of the news Mary had brought them and as they head to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid to rest, the younger John, “the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” Being younger perhaps John was fearful of defilement of entering a tomb or perhaps he was afraid of what he may or may not find inside. John therefore, “bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.” Whatever the reason, “Simon Peter, who was behind him,” and being older and more impulsive “arrived and went into the tomb” while the hesitant John waited outside in bewilderment. Peter also “saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.” In fact we know this is an eyewitness account because of the detail described by John. Peter saw exactly how the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was lain aside and how neatly “The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.” The burial cloths were there but the fact remained, where is the body?

EXAMPLE: Where is the body? It was a natural question to ask. The Radio Bible Class relates, “No element in the Easter story is more troubling to unbelievers than the report that the followers of Jesus found the tomb empty that Sunday morning. Some simply deny it, saying that the women and others went to the wrong tomb. Others think that Jesus was not quite dead when He was buried, and somehow He revived and got out of the tomb—even though the Roman soldiers had declared Him dead (John 19:33), an eyewitness saw blood and water flow from the pierced body (v.34), and His body had been wrapped tightly with strips of linen containing 100 pounds of spices (v.39). In the first century, even Christ’s enemies agreed that He had died and the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). Jesus rose from the grave in a real body, and that means everything to us. When a Christian friend or loved one dies, we can be confident that we will meet again. The body may turn to dust, but God will not forget it. It will be transformed into a body perfectly designed for heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). This is not wishful thinking. It is an expectation based on solid evidence.” Where is the body? Happily it was not there!

Courage is often found in the strangest of circumstances. Here we discover John found his and…

III. Believed! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

1. John in succinct fashion relates how he had gotten to the tomb first but was either too fearful or awestruck to go inside. What he had seen from the outside of the tomb was curious and so he just had to go in as well. “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside.” What he saw inside of that tomb changed his life forever. John had run to the tomb out of curiosity, concern, or fear that someone had stolen Jesus’ body. John had run to the tomb merely as a disciple of an itinerant rabbi, but came away a true follower of Jesus. Believing there was a Jesus and believing in Jesus are two different things. John had loved Jesus’ teaching, he had loved and followed Jesus the man, but now he had to believe in Jesus the Messiah. And not just in a Messianic-type person but in the actual resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! The Living God! The first born! The King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus was no longer just a good teacher; he was John’s Master and Savior. However, John’s personal notation tells us that both he and Peter “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” But now they did! They believed!

EXAMPLE: When the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion drew to a close, it seemed that the most wonderful of all lives had come to an end. For a few brief years, Christ had astounded the crowds and His followers with the wisdom of His teaching and the wonder of His miracles. But Jesus chose not to save Himself from the cross, and now His life was over. It seemed that nothing more could be expected of Him. Hope returned, however, on that first resurrection morning. A painting by Eugene Burnand portrays Peter and John running to the tomb. Shortly after dawn, Mary Magdalene had told them that she and her friends had found the tomb empty. In Burnand’s painting, the faces of Peter and John show contending emotions of anguish and relief, of sorrow and surprise, of despair and wonder as they race toward the tomb. Their gaze is eagerly fixed forward, turning the viewer’s attention to the sepulcher. What did they find? An empty tomb—the Savior was alive! Christ still lives. But many of us go from day to day as if He were still in the grave. How much better to look beyond the empty tomb to the One who can fill our lives with the power of His resurrection!  (RBC, Living With Expectation, March 27, 2004) They believed!

Conclusion:

Why is the tomb empty? Where is the body? They believed!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The crucifixion foretold! — Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31

The crucifixion foretold! — Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 9, 2017

What was the most memorable event in your life? What historical event do you remember more than anything else in your life; the one moment in time that will always impact you that you will always remember? Several thousand years ago something occurred that so impacted the lives of those who witnessed it that they had to write down exactly what they had witnessed and how it impacted them. It was the crucifixion of an itinerant teacher known as Yeshua Ben Yoseph; Jesus son of Joseph.

Many churches around the world will celebrate Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by crowds of people proclaiming him the messiah. Jesus would die within a few short days on a cross, crucified by the Romans because of the lust for power by Jewish leadership. However did you know that this event was predicted nearly a thousand years earlier by King David? Jesus’ crucifixion was foretold, let’s discover what David wrote and how it impacts our lives today…

Psalm 22: 1-3, 6-8; 14-19; 27-31

In his life David was not perfect and in fact had sinned against the Lord with Bathsheba. I believe that perhaps this Psalm reflects how God was dealing with his sin. In our deepest trials God can often speak his clearest and in this moment I believe…

I. God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah! (Vv. 1-3, 6-8)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

1. During King David’s time if one sinned they suffered the consequences of their sin and one of them was that God would remove his presence from them immediately. So we find David, a man after God’s heart, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” because this is the way he felt! When we sin as believers God’s grace is sufficient and we never lose his presence! Yet we discover David did and not only felt “forsaken” but realized just how far removed God was because of his sin. He therefore asks in dismay, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.” He has been in distress evidently for days and nights but God had not answered. The salvation David desired was not eternal but rather from his present condition! Yet David understood that God was “enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” God was in control. Here in David’s words is eerily reflected what Jesus may have gone through as he was hanging on the cross. As David goes through his distress he begins to recognize, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” He understands just how far he has sunken in his sin. And in fact he sees that “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’” David, apparently feeling forsaken by God and ridiculed by his enemies, was confident that God would not fully abandon him. I believe that God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah!

EXAMPLE: David’s confidence came from his past experience and we learn that he knew God from his mother’s “womb”; that God had made him “trust in you even at my mother’s breast” (v. 9); and that “From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Interestingly we know that Jesus was God before, during, and after his birth. And Mark’s Gospel reminds us that “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!’” (Mark 15:29-31 NIV) I believe God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah!

There is nothing worse than the feeling of helplessness when one is accused of something, you want to make it right, and yet those who falsely accuse you will not listen. David knew his sin was wrong and he desired to confess it and…

II. In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah! (Vv. 14-19)

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.

1. David’s despair brought him to the point where he felt as if he were “poured out like water” and he cries that “all my bones are out of joint.” Perhaps in his anguish God allow this forefather of Jesus to see his descendant’s death. David had been promised by God that “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13, 16 NIV) But also within God’s promise to David there are words of punishment for mankind’s sins: “I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Samuel 7:14-15 NIV) The Messiah, David’s descendant Jesus would suffer for mankind. And like David when he cries out “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me” so would Jesus’. In fact as David continues in his anguish his words are used by the Lord to show the kind of death Jesus would die: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.” And just as the Pharisees, Romans, and the dregs of Jerusalem surrounded Jesus as he hung on the cross David remarkably prophesies, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” Just as the Gospels share that Jesus’ legs were not broken by his captors and how the Roman squad assigned to crucify him gambled over his clothes David whimpers, “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” And yet again in the poetic words of Jesus’ ancestor we hear the sweet melody of hope: “But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me.” Luke reminds us that “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” (Luke 23:46 NIV) How amazing to know that the words of David are remarkably fulfilled in the death of Jesus. In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah longed for what David sang about; namely the Messiah who would come to rescue his people. Isaiah declared the Messiah would be “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” And that “He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death” and “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering”. However, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities… because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:5, 9-12 NIV) And like with Isaiah in David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah!

Could David have understood the entire impact that his words would have? I do not believe so and yet this makes it even more remarkable. Yes he knew God’s promise and he knew God always fulfilled his promises, but David could not have completely understood how God’s promise would be fulfilled and how his own words of despair would bring such hope. And so finally we discover that…

III. David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah! (Vv. 27-31)

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.

1. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was greeted by palm branch waving crowds two thousand years ago no one but him actually understood what would occur. Jesus’ birth, life, and death were foretold by God because it was about him and how he would redeem mankind. David’s poetic prophecy reinforces what God had planned all along. And now we hear David as he declares, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.” Some think that David was declaring that future generations would worship God because they remembered how David was rescued; I do not think so. I believe that when God’s people truly give themselves over to the Lord’s will and confess their sin as David did here and as God works in the lives of those he uses for his purposes as David was he gives them special insight into his predetermined will. God through his Holy Spirit is giving David these words and insight: “All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him– those who cannot keep themselves alive.” Only the Messiah Jesus can do that! And now they will know it to be true because “Posterity will serve him (the future Messiah); future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn– for he has done it.” I am reminded of the words God spoke to Moses concerning his promise, “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.” (Exodus 34:10 NIV) David began his poem with words of his own personal despair but now that has turned to worldwide rejoicing! As God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10 NIV) David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!

EXAMPLE: Again on that Palm Sunday so long ago the crowds had no full idea as to who Jesus was exactly, for if they did they would have done even more! The plan of God that began with the words of a messenger of God telling a young frightened virgin she would give birth to the Messiah was coming to fruition. Each plodding step that the donkey took brought the Messiah, the Lamb of God, God himself closer to his predetermined sacrifice. While the process would be horrifying, the outcome would be marvelous. David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!

Conclusion:

God used David’s predicament to predict the suffering of his Messiah! In David’s words we find the prophetic picture of the suffering Messiah! David’s words end with a wonderful promise concerning the suffering Messiah!
—-
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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Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21

Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 12, 2017

In 1993 there was a movie based on the life of the singer Tina Turner that used the title of her hit song “What’s Love Got to do With It”. The song deals with the confusion a person has between physical and emotional love. For her it is only a “second hand emotion” that is “a sweet old fashioned notion”. People have confused emotional love and sexual lust for centuries.

Biblical love has been misinterpreted for generations as well. In fact there are those in our day and age who think that while God is love and that he so loved the world then he loves everyone equally the same. I hate to burst your politically correct bubbles but this is simply not true. When John taught that since God loved us then we should live in his love he did not mean some emotional state or an acceptance of ungodly sin. God’s love is sacrificial and we are to walk in that kind of love.

READ: Ephesians 5:1-21

God sacrificially loved us so much that he came as Jesus to die for our sinful condition. Because of our willingness to accept his sacrificial love we must be willing to live in the same kind of sacrificial love ourselves.

I. We must emulate God’s love! (Vv. 1-7)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

1. We live in a world where there is a complete misconception concerning what the love of God is all about. If you have believed in Christ you will be changed by his sacrificial love for you, period. If that change is not displayed in your life, then there is something drastically wrong. Paul bluntly writes, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love”. Sacrifice is to be part and parcel of the believer’s life as God’s children. In fact Christians are to live such sacrificially focused lives “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”! We are to set aside the ungodly sinful desires we had before because “among” God’s children “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” In a society where every song, every movie, TV show, commercial, and way of life is saturated with an ungodly and unhealthy view of what real love is this can seem impossible! But a child of God is spiritually changed and that change should affect every aspect of their life. And as God’s holy people there should not be any “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”! Paul understood that there should be a change; he had experienced it for himself! This is why he continues that “of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” When someone tries to fool you into thinking he or she is saved when in fact they are not they are dishonest, dirty, and or grasping self-indulgent narcissists and they have no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”!  When one claims the sacrifice of Jesus they are being deceptive and their words mean nothing and God’s wrath remains on them because of their disobedience. Paul says, “Therefore, do not be partners with them.” We must emulate God’s love!

EXAMPLE: I can tell when my granddaughter needs her diaper changed. She can smile, giggle, and make like there is no need but just one whiff and you know she needs to be changed. And like a dirty diaper on a baby you can tell by the smell if a person is truly saved or not by the way they live their lives for the Lord. When we allow the ungodly world to dictate to us what the love of God is we become partners with the world, instead we are to be “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” just like Jesus. We must emulate God’s love!

When we live in God’s love we are changed from our sinful condition and brought into a new life. Therefore Paul writes that…

II. We are to live in the light of God’s love! (Vv. 8-14)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

1. Just because we come to faith in Christ does not mean we are instantly changed in our attitudes or actions. Old habits die hard but die they must. We may ask, “Why?” Paul explains that it is simply because “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Light has always been seen as a means to disclose what lurks in the dark corners; including in a person’s life! When the light of the Holy Spirit shines in the sin-darkened life of the individual all of our ungodliness is exposed. God’s children are to “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)”! But more than that we are to “find out what pleases the Lord”! Paul would ask the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV) Christians are to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather (as God’s children we are to) expose them” for what they truly are. We have forgotten that “it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” Yet we watch it, read about it, talk about it, and sing about it all the time! Rather than being disgusted with people’s ungodly behavior we make their filthy lives into mainstream media hits! Is it any wonder that while the world has accepted wholeheartedly ungodly lifestyles and behavior that they hate anyone who lives for God? Paul explains it is because “everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.” The Christian church has become dazed and mesmerized by the perversion of the world. Paul writes, “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” We are to live in the light of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: My mother could not believe what we had been up to, however, she could smell it and see for herself. She demanded, “You tell me right now what you were doing today!” We had been having cow chip fights. Cow chips are cow manure that has been hardened by the heat of the sun and you can throw them like Frisbees. Some were still kind of soft in the center, thus the smell and such. She vehemently told us, “That is disgusting! Why would you do such a thing? You boys are to never ever do that again, do you hear me?” I wonder how God views people who claim Christ but are willing to accept the ungodliness of the world. While believers are called not to participate in the filthy sin of a degenerate world, we are not to judge it; that duty is reserved for God alone. However, we are not to encourage or participate in the filth either! We are to live in the light of God’s love!

We have discovered that the love of God is more than an emotional state of being. His love is active and sacrificial. Paul continued to teach then that…

III. We are to make the most of God’s love! (Vv. 15-21)

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

1. The world is no longer wise in what it accepts and does. Wisdom does not come from accepting anyone or anything that feels good or looks good. Wisdom weighs the final result and works toward the best possible outcome. This is why Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” We have forgotten that we live in “evil” days. Paul was not fooled by the things of the world, he knew that every day is evil until the Lord returns, so he continued by writing “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Sadly it seems as if fewer Christians try to understand what the Lord’s will is. He desires that we be his body in the world sharing the good news of Jesus! Instead we focus on what makes us happy for the moment. Paul knew this would happen when we forget about how we are to live in love! He tells them, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” “Debauchery” is an old fashioned word that means utter depravity and the corruption of personal norms of decency and morality. Our world sees booze and drugs as a means to get high in order to have a moment of happiness. However, “Instead, (we are to) be filled with the Spirit.” When we are filled with the Spirit it will be evident in our lives and we will “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” The idea is where the focus of our life is to be; either on the ungodly world or the holy things of God. Spirit-filled folks will “Sing and make music in (their) heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In fact our lives will be lived in how we “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We are to make the most of God’s love!

EXAMPLE: The complete acceptance of getting drunk or using pot has now infested the Christian church to its utter shame and disgrace. We make excuses in how we should be just like the world in our drunkenness or our pot usage. The shear immature impudence expressed is not just disheartening it is mindboggling in its audacity. Just because everyone is doing it, it makes us feel better for a time, or that we all did it at one time is no excuse. We all have sinned so does that mean we should continue to do so? God forbid! Believers are to try to mature in their faith. We are called to be holy; Christians are to be like Christ! We are to make the most of God’s love!

Conclusion:

We must emulate God’s love! We are to live in the light of God’s love! We are to make the most of God’s love!
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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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Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16

Unity in the body! – Ephesians 4:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 26, 2017

I have found it humorous that over the past few decades there has been a humanistic mantra repeated over and over that was expressed best by a felon and addict, “Can’t we all just get along?” There are those that honestly think that all we have to do is be agreeable and then everyone will be pleasant with one another. Of course if you disagree with them then you are a bigoted, hurtful, homophobe.

We have heard the mindless chant of the unruly crowd of “No justice no peace!” But the truth is the reality that without the Prince of Peace there is never any peace! Unity does not come from being more agreeable with one another nor by repeating that all we need is love. The sin-corrupted world does not care and the spiritually weak believer has forgotten that without the presence and power of God there can never be peace or love. Paul addresses this issue here in Ephesians by relating that it is only through the body of Christ, his church, where we find unity; let’s discover what he teaches us about unity in the body…

READ: Ephesians 4:1-16

Recently I received a phone call by a group that wanted to sell our church a “Netflix-style discipleship” program on how to reach millennials. I honestly believe that the reason the world has so much problem with the Christian church today is not because of Christ but because they see so much of the world in the church! Paul reminds the believer of their…

I. Conduct in the church! (Vv. 1-6)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1. Paul reminds his readers of his condition that “As a prisoner for the Lord” then they should “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” This was Paul’s urgent message to them that they would live (walk) in a sin-soaked world a “life worthy” of the gospel they were called to! This should not be a surprise to any believer but rather the goal of every Christian! Paul is not telling us how to earn part of our salvation because Jesus did it all, however, in a world that is completely fallen how in the world do we live a life that is worthy; especially in the body of Christ the church? Paul reminds us that since we have been redeemed by the grace of God we are to also take part in the life we now have in him! We are to be like Jesus! So Paul reminds us of how he lived in reminding us how we are to live as well! It begins with how one thinks about themselves, we are to “Be completely humble” in our thinking; not arrogant or prideful. And we are to be “gentle” which carries the notion of a sweet and kind attitude. He tells us to “be patient” with each other by “bearing with one another in love.” This is a message for believers in how to treat other believers! Today’s Christian has forgotten that we are part of the body of Christ; his church. So we are to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The church and its members are to reflect Jesus! Paul teaches us that “there is one body” the church and “one Spirit” in which all members, all Christians share because we were all “called to one hope when (we) were called”! In fact, least we should forget there is only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church!

EXAMPLE: There is an old saying that states, “Be careful how you live your life; there is not a lot of room on a tombstone”, meaning that there is not much room to write about one’s life on your tombstone. Usually you only see a small pity statement, the birth date and the date of the person’s death so you had better be careful how you live in between those dates! My Dad would remind us that “How one lives their life says a lot about who they are.” How do you live your life as a Christian? How do you treat your fellow believers? Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church!

Our personal conduct as believers as we display it to the world around us is extremely important. But in a world that does everything it possibly can to influence us how do we keep ourselves pure? How do we hold out the word of truth to this darkened world? This is why also Paul reminds us of our…

II. Preservation in the world! (Vv. 7-10)

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

1. As Paul reminded his readers of what their conduct should be in the church he continued by relating that we are able to do so because “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” There are those who think that they do not need the forgiveness of God and then there are others who think that God could never forgive them, but Paul reminds us that it is God who gives to each of us just the right amount of his grace. And part of that grace is the gifts he readily gives us. It is according to the measure we need: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:6 NIV) He would write the Corinthian church that God gives his gifts “just as he determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) Paul also explains that “This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” Paul uses Psalm 68:18 that he changed from the second to the third person, and changed the direction of the gifts from having received them from men to the giving of gifts to men. However the Hebrew can and has been translated just as Paul intended. “The essence of the psalm is that a military victor has the right to give gifts to those who are identified with him. Christ, having captivated sinful people by redeeming them, is the Victor and gives them as gifts to the church.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Paul then explains why he said what he did: “What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” Jesus did just that! Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world!

EXAMPLE: I grew up in a family that depended a lot on what we could grow, hunt or fish. My mother would spend weeks and months canning all kinds of food from berries, fruits, vegetables, pickles, cabbage to all kinds of meat. She would make jams, jellies, and preserves. Later, after I was married I tried my hand at smoking fish and jerking different meats. These things are not new and some of the means to preserve food have been around for centuries. This was true for Paul’s day as well and is why he understood the necessity of good preservation. He knew this was true for our spiritual lives in Jesus also and so Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world!

The wonderful truth of the gospel narrative is the fact that we are not alone. Every Christian has an advocate, defender, and guide in God through the Spirit and Jesus! However, Jesus also provided us his body the church to do his work and will in the world. And it is here where we can find encouragement, strength, and spiritual mentorship. In Ephesians Paul reminds us about God’s…

III. Contribution! (Vv. 11-16)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

1. Paul then goes into some of the gifts God has given us. God as Jesus, because he ascended and descended, showed and proved who he was and that he is more than able to give us his grace gifts. After all he fills the whole universe. So Paul tells us that “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers”. Far too many focus on the gifts of God rather than why they were given in the first place. His gifts were given “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”, literally, this purpose is “for the perfecting or equipping as in mending” or “preparing” fishing nets. There is a definite progression here. Paul begins with those who were called out — the apostles, then those who preach the gospel – the prophets and evangelists, and then finally those who were called to be pastors and teachers within the church itself. The gifts are not as important as to why they were given in the first place: “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” The early church needed these gifts to mature in their faith just as we do today. Today’s church is less prepared than perhaps Paul’s Ephesians simply because we have forgotten the importance of personal discipleship. These gifts are given so that “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” We have forgotten that the world is corrupted however if believers use the gifts God has given them then “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” The church today has become spiritually stunted and we have forgotten “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!

EXAMPLE: We live in such a dependent society that we have been duped into thinking that others should take care of us. Now I am not talking about those who need assistance because of personal handicaps or unforeseen hardships. Our society has become so dependent that it sees that government only exists to take care of them from the womb to the tomb. Businesses are seen only as a means to create work and churches have become handout stations. So much so that people no longer join to serve God’s kingdom but rather to see what the church can provide for them. How wonderful to learn that God has provided for his church! Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!

Conclusion:

Paul teaches us about the believer’s conduct in the church! Paul reminds us of our preservation in the world! Paul reminds us about God’s contribution!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13

The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 5, 2017

The books and televisions programs of Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and others are fantastic mystery series. I love a good mystery. Trying to figure out who done it, how they did it, and why is great fun for me. I also like a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies and books as well because of the suspense. Yep, there is nothing like a good mystery; except where God is concerned.

There are many in our day and age and in the past who have tried to lie to mankind and declare only they know the secret or hidden mysteries of God. That all others except themselves need a special book, specific revelation, seer stones, a guide, or advanced teacher to tell us the hidden mysteries of God. Therefore isn’t great to know that the mystery of God has now been revealed through his Son, Jesus? There is nothing hidden, tucked away, or kept from those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus. And here in his letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us all about the mystery revealed!

READ: Ephesians 3:1-13

You can never truly know anyone; even one’s spouse can surprise you once in a while which can be a good thing. The great thing about the gospel message is that it reveals Jesus for who he truly is and Paul knew this to be true as well. He knew that…

I. The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! (Vv. 1-5)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.

1. Things can be confusing when you do not understand them whether it is some new fangled electronic gadget or something that is theological. In these situations it is often good to have someone who knows the ins and outs, kind of like a mentor, teacher, or guide. Paul understood this, not the electronic gadget part but the theological nuances that would have utterly confused both his Jewish converts but in particular the non-Hebrew gentiles. And so he begins to share with his readers from his own personal experience, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”. He considered himself a prisoner, which he probably was in Rome, of Jesus not just in a criminal sense but also as one called out as a volunteer to be willingly held captive by Jesus. He was held captive not for himself but for their sake! Paul saw his life’s calling as the “administration” as a personal stewardship or trust “of God’s grace”. God had given him this “household task” and “surely” they had “heard about” it! Paul had been made an apostle, messenger, to the Gentiles by Jesus. This grace was the “the mystery made known to (Paul) by revelation, as (he had) already written (them) briefly.” The mystery was that God would come in human form, be born of a virgin, grow to be a man and willingly give his life as a sacrifice for our sins! Also do not forget that Paul at one time did not understand this mystery and in fact had held the cloaks of those who willingly stoned to death one of Jesus’ followers. Only later when he was given instructions by the chief priests to go to Damascus to persecute more of Jesus’ followers did God intervene and call Paul to be his disciple to the Gentiles. And so Paul now tells the Ephesians that “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

EXAMPLE: The mystery of the ages is not difficult to understand; the problem is we as believers often make it harder than it is. It is kind of like the old joke about the Rabbi and the Priest who were by the side of a country road holding a sign that read: “The End is Near! Turn around 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 nuts!” All of a sudden they heard the screeching of brakes and a big splash. The Rabbi turned to the Priest and asked, “Do you think we should have written: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” I am so glad that the mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

The good news, the Gospel message is the mystery revealed. But what exactly does this mystery do and how does it do it? Oh that is a spectacular and most wonderful thing! Paul writes that…

II. He was entrusted to preach this mystery! (Vv. 6-9)

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

1. Paul continued by getting right to the heart of the mystery. He relates that “This mystery is that through the gospel”. What is through the gospel? What is this good news? Namely that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel” of all the promises of God! All believers no matter where they come from or their background become the chosen people of God! In fact we are “members together of one body” which is the church, the called out ones by Jesus that form his “body” in the world! Therefore we are all “sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”! This promise is more than joint heirs of God’s promise to his people it also gives eternal life and the presence and power of God to all who believe! Part of Jesus’ final prayer was when he asked God the Father, “My prayer is not for them alone (meaning his disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21 NIV) Paul came to understand what this oneness meant as he explains that “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” God had imparted this mystery to him on the road to Damascus and thereby he became its servant! Now his readers could have wondered why in the world God would do such a thing to someone like Paul. Yet he knew his past and writes that “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Paul had been entrusted to preach this mystery! And like Paul we also are “to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things”. He had written his friend Timothy that he was 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) From the Four Gospel narratives to the Book of Revelation we are entrusted to preach this mystery!

EXAMPLE: It is sad but there have always existed charlatans who would use the gospel for their own purposes; from Ananias and Sapphira to the likes of Peter Popoff there are those motivated to use the mystery of the gospel for their personal greed and power. Remember Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” He knew a “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.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV) We are entrusted to preach this mystery!

Jesus had ascended back to his heavenly realm and left his body the church to fulfill the preaching of the gospel mystery. For Paul it was important that his readers understand that…

III. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery! (Vv. 10-13)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

1. Paul bluntly relates that Jesus’ “intent was that now, through the church (Jesus’ body made up of his called out members), the manifold wisdom of God should be made known”. It is our job to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Jesus had) commanded”! (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Paul writes that this was part and parcel of God’s plan all along, that this “wisdom… should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”. God made this mystery known to all of the heavenly realm when he came as Jesus and when he died on the cross for our sins “according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord”! If that isn’t a mystery I don’t know what is! The Greek adjective “manifold” (polypoikilos) referred to the beauty of an embroidered pattern or the variety of colors in flowers. God redeemed all the “colorful flowers” of the world; all the patterns of races, colors, and creeds to himself through faith in him! This mystery brought Hebrew and gentile together into one body the church! “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Through faith in Jesus we have the right of freedom, the “courage, boldness” to confidently approach God’s throne! Hebrews reminds us that “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV) This is why Paul writes the Ephesians, “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” He was asking the body of Christ to pray for him a fellow believer! He knew he could because Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

EXAMPLE: There are those in our day and age who think that the church is a show you come to once in a while in order to feel good about yourself and God. There are others who believe it is a repository where we are to dispense our good deeds to the unwashed world. Or there are those who think that the church is an organization one belongs to in order to gain entrance into certain segments of society or culture. None of these are correct. The church is the body of Christ in the world made up of many members where each does its part for God’s plan that he has for them in the world in order that his message, the gospel, is shared. In this process we come together for worship of him, encouragement of one another, and mentoring to be sent out into the world with his message. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

Conclusion:

The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! We are entrusted to preach this mystery! Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!
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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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One in Christ! – Ephesians 2:11-22

One in Christ! – Ephesians 2:11-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 29, 2017

There are those who think sin-centered humans can become colorblind by either making it illegal to be racist or by simply changing one’s mind; nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the only way one can become totally colorblind is through Jesus Christ. Paul wrote the church in Galatia that after one accepts Jesus they are changed and one becomes “clothed… with Christ” and because of this “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27, 28 NIV)

Since all believers became one with each other, human distinctions lose their significance. Paul cut across these national, racial, and geographical distinctions and stated that they do not exist in the body of Christ so far as spiritual privilege and position are concerned. And because of this we as his followers are not to be like the rest of the world, we are to be racially blind as well. We are now one in Christ; let’s discover what this means for our lives…

READ: Ephesians 2:11-22

History tells us that some Jewish men prayed, “I thank God that you have not made me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” Jesus did away with such spiritual blindness. Paul teaches us…

I. We are one in Christ through his blood! (Vv. 11-13)

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)–remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

1. Sometimes we have to remember what we were before we came to Jesus in order to understand where we stand now. Paul bluntly writes the Ephesians: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’.” Paul was reminding his readers what they were once, non-Jews, and what they were now – grafted into Judaism; kind of like when people forget that no matter whom you are and what part of the country one comes from if you were born here in the USA or have pledged your allegiance to this great nation we are all Americans first and foremost. Perhaps this is something far too many citizens have forgotten. In Jesus we are not white, black, yellow, brown, male or female first – we are first and foremost believers bonded together in him! We are one in the Spirit! Paul also wanted them to “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Paul presents exactly how the Jews spiritually and often physically saw everyone and anyone else that were not them. However, Paul relates “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” While Jesus’ blood is “precious” in that he died for our sins, Jesus’ actual physical blood is not the key but rather what it represents in that Jesus who is God died for us! Blood, whether it is from a lamb sacrificed for sins or the Messiah who died for our sins the blood that was shed for our sins represents life. Life to God is precious and sacred no matter if it is the unborn or an elderly adult. Yet, Paul wrote that “God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Romans 3:25 NIV) Jesus gave his life; shed his blood, for us while we were sinners! This is the key to our kinship. We are one in Christ through his blood!

EXAMPLE: A little boy got extremely agitated when he got a small cut on his knee. He came running into the house crying at the top of his lungs, “Momma! Momma! Momma, look at my knee!” When his mother finally calmed the little guy down she asked him why he was so upset over a small cut. He sniffed, “My blood was leaking out of me!” Just as blood was important to this little boy it is important for us all. We are one in Christ through his blood!

There are those who incorrectly think that everyone everywhere enjoys being a child of God, this is simply wrong. However, Paul teaches us that…

II. We are one in Christ through the peace he made! (Vv. 14-18)

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

1. Paul begins to teach his readers what Jesus’ sacrifice meant for the separation all sinners have from God himself because of our ungodly nature and tells us that “For he himself is our peace”. The fact is Jesus brought us peace with God! How did he do this? Jesus took the old covenant and made it new; he took both Jews and non-Jews and “made the two one”. Jesus did this as he “made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” that existed between God and man; between Jew and non-Jew or Covenant people and non-covenant people! Some have thought Paul is referring to the wall in the Jerusalem temple that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the Court of the Jews. Or that it was the curtain that separated the people from the Holy Place in the temple. Others have suggested it meant the “fence” around the Law taught by some Rabbis. But all of these views are invalid because Paul is speaking of the spiritual separation that existed and not a physical barrier! Jesus did this “by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations”! And point in fact Paul explains that Jesus’ “purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” Therefore, there no longer exists an “us” and “them” in God’s kingdom. No one people have a spiritual superiority over the other! Yes, there exists the believer and the non-believer but after faith in God’s Messiah we are all made new and we all enjoy the same standing in him as believers! We know that the next verse (v.17) begins with “and” in the Greek. It is a continuation of Paul’s thought that Jesus is our peace because “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” So those who did not have the Jewish covenant are now grafted into it and made citizens of God’s kingdom with full rights and privileges of his chosen people because “through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” We are one in Christ through the peace he made!

EXAMPLE: On the playground there wasn’t a day that did not go by that one of us had to separate two combatants. Usually we separated them first and then made them explain to us what was going on, each in their own words. If there were witnesses we would get their input as well. It was not always easy getting to the truth. However our goal was always to try and calm the situation down and then in the end to have the offending parties shake hands and make some sort of peace. We all were at one time at war with a holy God but now we are one in Christ through the peace he made!

What often frustrates me about trying to have a logical conversation in our day and age is almost impossible. You cannot disagree with anyone. Far too many emote instead of using rational thought; they have no base. Paul teaches us that…

III. We are one in Christ because he is our foundation! (Vv. 19-22)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

1. Paul begins this last section by relating, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household”. This is extremely important and teaches us that we are now God’s people when we place our faith and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord! This is why Peter would also teach that Christians “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV) Paul explained that this new relationship is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief Cornerstone.” Peter knew believers “come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him” and that we “also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4, 5 NIV) The cornerstone of Jesus’ church is built on himself and it is “In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” We are “God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV) This “holy temple” is all who have believed In Jesus and Paul continues that “in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Paul would ask his fellow Christians, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV) We are one in Christ because he is our foundation!

EXAMPLE: Whether it is the family or a building a good foundation is extremely important. In the past few decades a lot of cities have had to update buildings in order for them to be able to withstand an earthquake. It is interesting to note that there are now studies that show that intact families with a mother and father have children that are more stable in life. Paul understood that God did the exact same thing for his kingdom, his church family. God knew we would be spiritually stronger because of Jesus. We are one in Christ because he is our foundation!

Conclusion:

We are one in Christ through his blood! We are one in Christ through the peace he made! We are one in Christ because he is our foundation!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 2:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

1. Paul gives his readers a final explanation of the wonderful truth that “it is by grace you have been saved”. This is a revolutionary truth that no other religion in the world teaches or offers. The grace of God is what the salvation of God is all about. It is the intrinsic testimony of the entire Bible. It is why Jesus came and it completely explains “the incomparable riches of his grace”, of God’s unmerited favor. And this grace is “through faith”. Scripture reminds us that “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Faith therefore is not something we can feel, do or earn, and it is not a “work.”  We in no way merit salvation; faith is only the means by which one accepts God’s free gift of salvation! When we finally and willingly admit there is nothing we can do that God has already done for us! Paul also relates that “this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” God’s gift is freely given by him alone and we can never earn it, pay for it, or be nice enough to get it. We cannot earn enough “brownie points” to get into the good graces of God let alone his kingdom. There are no heavenly scales whereby the good things we do outweigh the bad things we do. We are sinners by nature and by choice. This is why Paul would write the Roman church: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24 NIV) The payment to get in has already been done by Jesus through his sacrifice for us on a cruel cross! Nothing good resides in us at all so how in the world could ungodly people do anything good enough that would remotely be worthwhile to a holy God? And this is the point Paul is making because he understood that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The good deeds we do come from our faith and this promise gives us the gift of God!

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

Conclusion:

The promise reminds us of our condition! The promise gives us a new life! The promise gives us the gift of God!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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