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You produce what you grow! – Matthew 7:15-20

You produce what you grow! – Matthew 7:15-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 9, 2019

We have a garden that I plant every spring. We usually grow tomatoes and green beans. We keep it pretty simple. One year I planted a variety of tomato that we really liked but a different one grew instead. I went back to the place where I had bought the plant and the clerk said that we were not the first to complain but what evidently had happened was kids had switched the tags on the young plants thinking that it was funny. Needless to say, that although the tomatoes were okay, they were not what we expected.

People during Jesus’ day were dependent upon what they planted and there were a lot of factors that could be beneficial or detrimental to their future harvest. Weather, water, animals, and other things could influence the harvest. Jesus now uses familiar language about planting so that his listeners would fully understand what he meant about their spiritual growth as well. Let’s discover what Jesus taught concerning you produce what you grow…

READ: Matthew 7:15-20

God is in the business of growing things from plants to people. For people he grows us in him. Jesus related that in life you produce what you grow and in doing so…

I. Believers need to be aware of false prophets! (Vv. 15-16)

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

  1. I have found it interesting but as soon as God began to interact with his people there were those who immediately tried to horn in so-to-speak. A biblical prophet was God’s messenger and spokesperson, a representative of God before his people. The prophet delivered and interpreted God’s messages and on occasion, also interceded with God on behalf of the people. False prophets living in the surrounding nations performed similar roles, although with non-existent gods. The Israelites were warned time and time again not to intermingle with pagan nations and thus imitate or participate in their religious rituals. We also find numerous accounts in Scripture of false prophets originating from among God’s chosen people. Jesus knew therefore that after he had resurrected and gone back to heaven this would occur and so later on he tells his disciples, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. (Matthew 24:4-5 NIV)” In fact Jesus knew that there would be many false prophets who would come claiming to be the Messiah, but none of them were or are! So here we find Jesus telling the crowd, “Watch out for false prophets.” He knew there were those like the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers of the Law who were already trying to incite others into thinking that Jesus was false. So he goes on to tell them, “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Jesus was purposely relating to the fact that he had already publicly been called “The Lamb of God” by John the Baptist and many in the crowd would have known that. He confronted the false teaching that those who claimed to be the Messiah were not and those who claimed he was a false prophet were wrong! They could discover the truth for themselves because “By their fruit you will recognize them.” False prophets proclaim themselves as such in order to aggrandize themselves! The focus is not on the Lord but them! Anyone who would be willing to look closely at who Jesus was and what he did and why he did it would immediately recognize his authenticity! Jesus asks, “Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” And the answer is: “Of course not!” Therefore believers need to be aware of false prophets and not be fooled by those who claim to be the Messiah!

  EXAMPLE: False prophets or false beliefs always try to deceive their adherents into thinking they made a mistake to trust Jesus alone. I often call them the “yeah but” religions. They usually teach something like: “Yeah Jesus was a good man but he also taught….” It is faith alone in Jesus alone or it is meaningless! Jesus taught that he was God and if you followed him you followed God: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him. (John 3:36 NIV)” Believers need to be aware of false prophets!

In growing good things whether people or plants you have to have good stock. And Jesus continued to teach his listeners that you produce what you grow and so…

II. Believers need to know good fruit from bad! (Vv. 17-20)

Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

  1. I have a nice apple tree in my backyard that looks beautiful when it blooms but produces some of the worst worm-filled apples ever. This year I’m trying something different to see if I can get some good apples from it. If I owned an apple orchard I would not waste my time on it and would have cut it down a long time ago. Jesus knew that just like fruit trees there are those who claim one thing about being God’s spokesmen but only produced poor results. So he goes to say, “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” If their spiritual leaders continually produced poor results aren’t they poor spiritual leaders? The same could be said for many of our politicians today! They make all kinds of promises but few deliver and when one comes along and finally does do what he promised today’s media and those who want to remain in power vilify him just like the Pharisees did with Jesus! People who try to fool others are soon discovered for what they truly are but sadly far too often those they have influenced either become disillusioned or remain deceived! What’s the answer? Jesus teaches that just like a good farmer who sees that his tree is bearing bad fruit there might be only one answer: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” God will not remain being mocked by people’s false lies and teaching. There will come a day of recompense. And next week we will discuss this even further. John would write, “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:21-24 NIV)” False teachers and false prophets are rotten fly-infested fruit that live only to please themselves and fool the unsuspecting! Jesus taught that you produce what you grow and that believers need to know good fruit from bad!

  EXAMPLE: While we do not know who is saved or not we can however be fruit inspectors of those who claim to know Jesus. Recently I had someone who claimed to be a Christian say he believed there were “many ways to God”. I asked him if he truly believed what he just said because it was completely contradictory to what Jesus taught about being the only way, the only truth, and the only life and no one comes to God but by Jesus alone. He looked kind of confused so I patently explained to him that many are deceived into thinking that they are being “nice” about God by thinking that he allows many ways to him but he does not. Christians need to know good fruit from bad!

Conclusion:

Believers need to be aware of false prophets! Believers need to know good fruit from bad!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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 rule to end all rules! – Matthew 7:12-14

The rule to end all rules! – Matthew 7:12-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 2, 2019

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy they try to take back a special ring called the One Ring. It contained an inscription that read: “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them!” There are times when we all wish that life was simpler and long for one simple rule to guide us. The Hebrews had enslaved their people by interpreting over 600 volumes expanding on the Ten Commandments of God! President Obama on his last day in office signed into law over 30,000 pages of new laws! Is it any wonder we long for one rule to end all rules!

Jesus understood that his people and all people had been subjected to self-imposed rules that were heavy burdens for them to bear. He desired to simplify their lives. In this he gave all of us the rule to end all rules. Let’s discover what it means for us today…

READ: Matthew 7:12-14

In continuing on in his teaching concerning God giving good things to those he loves and how we should do the same Jesus teaches his disciples exactly why it is so important for them to get this one thing right in life. Jesus teaches us that the rule to end all rules is…

I. The sum total of everything we are to do with our lives! (v. 12)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

  1. An expert in the Jewish law asks Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV) And here Jesus tells his Jewish listeners “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you”! Herein is the foundational truth they were to live their lives by. However, the only way this could be achieved is through the love of God as expressed in Jesus! The world utterly fails when it tries on its own to do good things for others thinking that by doing so they are fulfilling what Jesus taught. Now how in the world could I say this, because of what Jesus goes on to teach them that namely “this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” The Hebrews found it difficult if not downright impossible for them to express love or compassion for anyone other than their fellow Jews. They had been the bane of and the doormat for the rest of the world for centuries; how could they do to others what they would have them do to them? Impossible! Yet it isn’t if one knows God first in the love and compassion of Jesus. The love of God had continually been expressed to the Israelites but they had not always remained true to him who loved them! His love and devotion, his love and sacrifice, and who they were to worship was summed up in the Law and the Prophets! The term “Law and the Prophets” meant the entire Word of God, what had been written, what had been revealed, and what now was being revealed to them through Jesus God’s only Son! Believe me no Israelite would have sacrificed his life for the life of a nonbeliever; that would’ve been like asking them to die for a Roman soldier! So we discover Jesus sharing with his listeners a new way to live: Jesus’ way. And it is here we discover the rule to end all rules in the sum total of everything we are to do with our lives!

  EXAMPLE: While we are young we think we have all kinds of time to do whatever we decide to do but then we grow older and realize that time goes by quicker than we first thought. I remember asking an older adult how they felt turning 70 and they responded, “I feel the same as when I was 20 but I can’t do the same things I could do when I was 20.” As we grow older we begin to understand that what we do with our lives even when we were younger has an impact on our lives as we grow older. The same is true for our spiritual existence as well. What we do not do or what we do has a huge impact on our lives for eternity. In describing the rule to end all rules Jesus shared that how we treat others is the sum total of everything we are to do with our lives!

There is a heresy that has gained a foothold within the Christian church that tacitly teaches that our worship experience is all that matters. Rather than a means to encourage the saved to go out and win the lost it’s more about how to discover happiness in one simple sermon. This goes against the very nature of the gospel message and Jesus’ rule to end all rules teaches us that…

II. We do not live as the world does! (Vv. 13-14)

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

  1. Jesus continued on with his new teaching of how they were to live and I am sure that many of his listeners that day were already thinking to themselves, “What you are teaching is impossible!” And it was if they were trying to live that way on their own. But Jesus begins to clarify what he meant by telling them that they had to enter into this new way of living differently than they had before. It was not the way the world took. In fact they had to “Enter through the narrow gate.” It was the idea of entering one at a time. No one could go with them and no one could do it for them, they had to walk through the gate all by themselves! Gates were often made narrow so that enemies who tried to force their way in could be easily stopped from doing so. However the world, the marketplace desires a wide way in; a broad way so-to-speak! It looks easy and it is easy to navigate however the outcome may not be what you expect: “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” While the world espouses an outwardly friendly “y’all come attitude”, such an attitude leads to total devastation! There are those who want Christians to “soften” their “harsh” attitude in thinking that there is only one way to God or that there is only one means of salvation, but if we do so we are leading people down the broad path of death! Jesus bluntly taught: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NIV)” Peter would declare, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 NIV)” Paul would write to those who would have you believe that what we place our faith in is simply made up or fairytales and nothing could be further from the truth! Paul wrote, “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, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:19-20 NIV)” The way of the world is broad and easy but the way we live for Jesus is narrower, not narrow-minded, but a whole lot harder than the easy do whatever you want whenever you want ungodly lifestyle of the world we live in! Jesus teaches us in the rule to end all rules that we do not live as the world does!

  EXAMPLE: A few years ago there was a term teens used when someone pretended to be a member of a group that they are not actually a member of. Poser. They were also called a “wannabe”. For example, by adopting the mode of dress, mannerisms, speech patterns, etc. of a specific group we are posers. There are a lot of Christian posers within the church and outside of the church; those who want to be seen as “Christian” because of their feelings or actions rather than their actual faith. People who pose as believers is nothing new and Jesus warned here that we do not live as the world does!


Conclusion:


The sum total of everything we are to do with our lives! We do not live as the world does!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Ask! – Matthew 7:7-11

Ask! – Matthew 7:7-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 19, 2019

Most parents want their children to have the best there is in life even if it means they sacrifice for themselves. Good parents do that, however, some parents can focus so much on getting their children everything that they fail their kids and make them into self-absorbed and selfish individuals. We live in a nation of abundance and even the poorest among us, including the homeless, live better than many in other nations. We have become a nation of receivers rather than givers. The problem is we have taught our children and society to ask for the wrong things in life.

We ask so much that we have become so self-absorbed that even our faith has morphed into a “what’s in it for me” attitude instead of one of humility and service. Jesus addresses the notion of asking. There is nothing wrong with asking as long as we know what we are supposed to ask for and how we are supposed to ask. Let’s discover what Jesus taught his listeners about asking…

READ: Matthew 7:7-11

When I go hiking there are several things I do that I never forget to do no matter what; this is because I have hiked in the woods and wilderness since I was a child and know if you are not prepared before you go you are preparing yourself for disaster. Jesus gives us the same kind of advice when we go to God in prayer. Jesus teaches us that…

I. We need to prepare when we go to him in prayer! (Vv. 7-8)

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

  1. Jesus gives his listeners a list of things to consider when they pray to the Lord. It isn’t a set of guidelines or rules that have to be followed; instead they are good truisms from the Lord. Jesus tells them three constant things to do: ask, seek, and knock. For Jesus it is a continual action of asking, seeking, and knocking – and not a onetime thing! Some have suggested that these three words represent want, loss, and earnestness. Perhaps they do but whatever they represent we know exactly what each of them mean for our lives when we come before the Lord in prayer. Jesus matter-of-factly told them “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” A lot of things have been taught about this simple statement of Jesus. One false premise is that one can ask in faith for whatever they want or desire and if they are truly faithful or sinless they will receive it. It’s part of the name-it-and-claim-it or word of faith movement. If you speak positively in faith you will receive what your faith has conceived in heaven. It has more in common with new age metaphysics than with biblical Christianity. Some have even suggested that “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe — the mind can achieve.” This is patently false simply on its face value. I do not know about you but my mind can conceive a lot of things that one could not humanly achieve ever! What Jesus meant was the simple truth that if you come before the Lord as his child you ask for his guidance, you seek his truth, and if you keep on knocking on his door instead of the world’s then you will receive wisdom from him! Jesus was referring to one’s preparation in this life for the next! How do I know this to be true? Look at how he answers his own advice: “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Our lives are a spiritual process that keeps maturing. We need to prepare when we go to him in prayer!

  EXAMPLE: Preparation for our faith walk with God means that we keep going to him for what we need. It is like when I was younger I learned from my Dad that there were simple questions one could ask in order to discover any truth in life: Be willing to ask who, what, when, where and why. It has held me in good stay but sadly too many folks think with their emotions rather than logic of asking, seeking, and knocking for the truth. We need to prepare when we go to him in prayer!

Until one becomes a parent one often does not realize just how much a good parent sacrifices for their children. Most parents desire that their children have a better life than they did but they can fail in this if they think it is all about giving their children everything they never had. Rather we need to help our children to be able to stand on their own in life. This is exactly what Jesus wanted for his listeners. Jesus teaches us that…

II. God desires to give us what we need in order to succeed! (Vv. 9-11)

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

  1. After Jesus cursed a fig tree because he did not find any fruit on it and it withered his disciples were perplexed and asked him how it could have withered so quickly. Jesus replied simply, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (Matthew 21:22 NIV)” Now Jesus did not mean this in the context that we should consider God as our own personal Genie, but rather God desired to meet our needs. James, Jesus’ brother would write that the reason we do not often see God working in our lives is that “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3 NIV)” Jesus here reminded his listeners of the simple truth that God loved them and did indeed desire to meet their needs. Religion in his day often taught that one had to appease God in order to get him or any god to listen. We find this in our day when folks try to bargain with God thinking that they can convince him to hear their request because they all of a sudden are asking him to solve their personal problem: “I promise to do this if you answer my prayer, if you exist at all.” Kind of shallow and pathetic isn’t it? Yet even Christians are guilty of this convoluted thinking. Jesus asked them to think first before asking God for something and reminds them, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” Of course no loving parent would do such a nasty thing to their child and neither does God to his children. The problem is we often do not commit ourselves to the first part we just discussed of asking, seeking, and knocking. We just immediately go to what we selfishly desire never even considering what God may desire for us in the first place! So Jesus bluntly reminds them that “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Asking is about seeking which has followed a lot of knocking on our part. God welcomes our prayer and urges us to consistently and continually keep on asking, keep on seeking, and to keep on knocking! After all our Father in heaven loves to give good gifts to those who ask him! God desires to give us what we need in order to succeed!

  EXAMPLE: There’s an old joke where a hurried tourist anxiously asks a New York policeman, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” and he smiles and responds, “Practice! Practice! Practice!” His answer of course in real life isn’t much help but does contain some truth. How do we get what we need in life to succeed as God desires? In a sense we practice by continually asking God, seeking his face, and knocking to find the answers he has for us! God desires to give us what we need in order to succeed!

Conclusion:

We need to prepare when we go to him in prayer! God desires to give us what we need in order to succeed!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Judging others! – Matthew 7:1-6

Judging others! – Matthew 7:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 12, 2019

One of the first justifications people will use to excuse or defend their poor choices in life or ungodly lifestyles are the verses we will look at this morning. I have found it interesting that while they never read the Bible, often neglect church, and have no clue who God truly is they can quote this passage almost verbatim. What they fail to realize is that it doesn’t expose Christians for “judging” them incorrectly but rather the hypocrisy of their choices and ignorance of Scripture.

The Pharisees were some of the most judgmental people in history. They were quick to judge the actions, spiritual behavior, and the cultures of others around them while neglecting their own spiritual ineptitude. They were the Muslims and Mormons of their day. While some believers can be seen as having the same judgmental attitude we need to fully understand what Jesus was teaching and why. Let’s take a fresh look at what Jesus taught about judging others…

READ: Matthew 7:1-6

My mother used to remind us that we may not fully understand why people do some of the things they do and that we needed to “walk a mile in their shoes” before we could. She meant that you should see what that person is going through to fully understand something about them. Basically you don’t know what I’m going through until you are me. This is patently false. Let’s see what Jesus taught…

I. We need to use a proper scale! (Vv. 1-2)

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

  1. There is in reality no such thing as blind justice. Juries and judges are influenced by evidence, arguments, examination of evidence, not to mention their own past histories and experiences. We do not live in a vacuum. Jesus fully understood this and he also understood how peopled lived, judged one another, and were judged. They lived under constant judgment by their rabbis, the temple priests, the Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin. Not to mention one another because one of the favorite local pastimes of the day was to talk about every little thing people did. It was these Pharisees who were now judging Jesus. He did not teach the same way they did and they resented it. Jesus taught that one’s righteousness, standing with God, was not dependent upon their acts but rather on how they loved God and one another. He was not teaching the kind of kingdom they anticipated or asking for the kind of uprightness they were exhibiting. So they rejected him. They had elevated themselves above the common crowd while Jesus easily mingled and fellowshipped with them. Jesus therefore warned them and the crowd against hypocritical judging: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Jesus meant the hypocritical judgmental attitude of the Pharisees and not the judgment of a person’s sinfulness. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If you judge someone hypocritically you will be judged by the same harsh nearsightedness you judged another with! Jesus was teaching we need to use a proper scale!

  EXAMPLE: Being able to have the correct weight or measurement when one went to the market was extremely important in Jesus’ day. There were no set standards of weights or measures during that time and people were often cheated. The Romans tried to set standards but even they were guilty of tilting the scales in order to gain an advantage and more money in their coffers. Jesus deliberately used terms his listeners could readily understand and being measured by an unfair advantage they understood. The same is just as true of our lives today and we need to use a proper scale as well when we judge someone else!

My Mom could slice and dice another person’s faults faster than a Veg-O-Matic. While she hated it if others looked at her life too closely she was often more than willing to inspect the lives of others and render her verdict. While we cannot judge someone’s eternal destiny we can look at someone’s lifestyle and deduce if they are saved or not, or if they are living in sin or not. However, before we do Jesus taught that…

II. We had better have 20/20 vision! (Vv. 3-4)

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

  1. Here we discover that indeed we can judge someone else’s life but we had better make sure ours was in focus first. Jesus was raised by a carpenter, which meant he knew how to use brick, mortar, wood, stone, and how to repair, build, or replace furniture or buildings. One of the worst things that can happen when you are working with wood is to get a piece of sawdust in your eye. Anyone who has ever experienced this understands immediately what Jesus was teaching here. You never rub your eye when you get dirt or sawdust in it because that can make it far worse and you could lose your eyesight! One of the first things to do is rinse it with clean water and to have someone else look into your eye to see if they can see the speck of sawdust. It is amazing how one miniscule piece of sawdust can create such irritation. This is why on the idea of judgment Jesus related, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Someone else’s small sin may be just a speck compared to the sinful prideful plank protruding from our eyeball! And this is exactly where the Pharisees were coming from! They could easily pick at the small slivers of sin they saw in other people but had a prodigious problem with the plank in their eye! Jesus therefore asks them, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” This certainly can be true for us as well. We dare not try to judge someone else’s sinful condition if we ourselves are walking in the same sin! However just as we want someone to immediately help us to remove the speck of sawdust irritating our eye we would do well in listening to someone who comes to us to help us see our own sin that is blinding us. Jesus is teaching us that when we judge someone else, we had better have 20/20 vision!

  EXAMPLE: “I can’t see a thing without my glasses!” my mother would often lament. And we would laugh at her because more often than not they were perched on top of her head hidden in her high red hair! She loved to read and I learned to read at an early age because of her. She was an avid reader but she did not always read things that were accurate. Like folks who think everything they read on the Internet is true, my Mom would read things like Fate Magazine, the National Enquirer, or Star Magazine and think that what they wrote was real. I remember her cautioning me one time when I showed her just how false one of their stories on the Bible was: “Don’t look for the speck in someone else’s eye without removing your own!” I reminded her that I had in fact not only read the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek but had to study its history, archeology, and context all the time. She was undeterred. Jesus taught that in judging someone else’s sin we had better have 20/20 vision!

My mother grew up extremely poor and never got over the fact. She never went past 7th grade in her education and often thought she knew more than others. While she was extremely well read, she never got over her past. She was however a very hard worker but often saw other people’s work ethic as slovenly or useless so consequently if it wasn’t done her way it was incorrect. Her advice wasn’t always asked for but she was more than willing to give it! Jesus teaches his listeners here that…

III. We should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth! (Vv. 5-6)

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

  1. Jesus immediately places the problem of spiritual nearsightedness where it belongs and he is also quick to label it for what it was: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus knew that it is easy to stand back and judge someone before one judged themselves. We all do it. Sadly my mother was often quick to place labels on others but hers were not insightful like Jesus’ were. They came from her childhood background and prejudice, which by the way is a word that comes from prejudging someone before knowing all the facts. Interestingly Jesus does in fact support the notion we can indeed judge some for their actions if they say they follow God, however, we must first do surgery on our own eyesight. We must be willing to examine our lives in the issue involved. Notice he did not say you had to be without sin or that any sin would disqualify you but rather the idea here is that you had better make sure you do not suffer from the very sin you are judging in someone else’s life! First remove your sin and then you can help your brother see clearer his own sin. And notice he uses the term “brother” meaning a fellow believer and not someone who does not know God. Yet Jesus continued by also giving his disciples a warning: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Jesus did not mean we were never to go and witness to the lost but rather we were not to give to those we know who disdain God the sacred truth so that they can further pervert it. The reason was obvious: “If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” We often forget that we have a sacred calling to share a sacred truth. The good news, the gospel message of mankind’s redemption! The wonderful truth is he has also given us the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) to help us know when, where, and to whom we are to share our faith! Jesus is teaching us that we should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

  EXAMPLE: My mother used to buy Lottery tickets all the time and she used to enter every sweepstakes and crackpot game she could. She was always “on the verge” of winning and of course she never did. Now she did not spend a ton of money on these schemes, only a few dollars once in a while. Yet she did it with regularity. Recently I heard a radio host ask a financial advisor what someone should do if they won the bazillion dollar jackpot. His first advice was, “Do not tell anyone.” He reasoned that you’d have every crackpot, scammer, and unknown relative show up with their hand out. Jesus understood that the gospel is the same because it is more valuable than any treasure. Therefore, he taught that we should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

Conclusion:

We need to use a proper scale! We had better have 20/20 vision! We should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Why worry? – Matthew 6:25-34

Why worry? – Matthew 6:25-34
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 5, 2019

We worry and fret about so many things in life: Clothes, money, family, relationships, how others see us, our schooling, jobs, and on and on and on it goes. My wife will tell you I am a grade “A” number one worrier. I know that I shouldn’t be but sometimes it just creeps up on me and takes over. I know it comes from when I was kid and our financial uncertainty and migrant home status growing up. God has done a lot in my life to help me to not worry so much.

The Hebrews of Jesus’ day had good reason to worry about a lot of things: daily food, housing, if their clothing wore out, and often finding daily work in order to pay the bills and feed their selves. Then there were the Romans, the pagan influence that surrounded them, and their own spiritual and governmental leadership which exacted harsh taxes and personal demands from them as well. Yet in the midst of this Jesus teaches his followers that they truly did not need to worry because God cared for them. Let discover what he taught and why…

READ: Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus had just gotten through teaching his listeners about where their hearts should truly reside and now he continues by telling them not to worry! Was he crazy? Most of the Jews at that time had nothing compared to what we have on our day and age. Jesus begins by teaching them…

I. Why worry when God sees your life as valuable! (Vv. 25-27)

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

  1. Jesus knew that those he was speaking to often experienced tough times. Each day brought about challenges many of us could not endure today. We expect a lot of things to be handed to us and to be recognized for our existence. When even the smallest thing goes wrong we often are thrown for a loop. Yet here in the midst of people who truly could be forgiven for wondering where their next meal would come from Jesus tells them “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” It was, yet, like the rest of us it was often hard for them to see life was. However the Creator of the universe is concerned about the smallest creatures: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” If these little feathery animals were a concern of almighty God, didn’t they matter more to him? And of course the answer is “Yes” because we matter to God, so much so he came as a man to walk among us! So Jesus asks a rhetorical question: “Are you not much more valuable than they?” They knew the answer just as we do. Jesus also knew that our worrying did not affect the outcome of our lives at all: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” We do not need to worry. It is good to know we do not have to be concerned so much; why worry when God sees your life as valuable!

  EXAMPLE: Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Why worry when God sees your life as valuable!

Life is sacred to the Lord and always has been yet us humans take it for granted especially now when we live longer and have healthier lives. The average lifespan during Jesus’ day was late 40s or early 50s if you were lucky. Jesus now reminds them…

II. Why worry when your faith can sustain you! (Vv. 28-30)

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Jesus furthers his argument against worry by telling his listeners, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” I used to have a reoccurring dream when I was younger that I forgot my locker combination and only once did I dream I forgot to get dressed for school and showed up naked for class! Needless to say it was embarrassing even in my dream! Clothes back during Jesus’ day were important for survival. Clothes were used as bedding, covering, protection, and modesty. And they were expensive. Today we take clothes for granted and throw out or give away literally tons of perfectly good garments each year! We then spend time going to new or used clothing stores to buy new clothes with holes in them or other people’s castoffs! Yet Jesus reminded his listeners that flowers of the field had nothing over them on the care and concern of the Lord. Solomon was never dressed as well as a lily or a blade of grass! So, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” And of course the immediate answer is “Yes!” In fact we today could probably get by with fewer clothes and a lot less shoes. I know that may sound like anathema to some of you but each of us probably has clothing or shoes we haven’t worn in years, if ever. Why then should you worry when your faith can sustain you!

  EXAMPLE: “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Why worry when your faith can sustain you!

Things are not important to the Lord and never have been. He sees creation with eyes that see his plan unfolding far into the future. Life is more than things which are here today and gone tomorrow. Nothing we own now will be important when we leave this life. I have learned that life therefore is a matter of perspective and Jesus teaches us…

III. Why worry when God gives us just what we need! (Vv. 31-34)

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  1. The tough question we should ask ourselves daily is, “Will I trust God with my life today?” I suspect that when we give our lives to Christ we have a tendency to think that since we have it is now God’s problem and not ours. Yet we forget that when we do we have given him the authority and care of our lives completely. However we often take them back at will whenever we think that God can’t handle it like he should. Recently I heard some talking head on TV telling his audience that he didn’t believe in God because he never got anything he ever prayed for; I thought to myself, “What a nincompoop. He knows nothing of how prayer works or who God truly is.” Sadly there are many believers who might be in the same leaky faith boat. Jesus bluntly tells the crowd, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” He plainly related that such shallow belief is paganistic at its core because “the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Again, God knows us and he knows what we need; we simply do not trust that he does! We are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to [us] as well.” My Dad used to tell my Mom that all her worrying “didn’t change a thing” it just made everyone else miserable and he was correct. Worrying doesn’t add one hair to our head and in fact takes them away due to stress! (Yes, I know I am bald! Remember I told you I can be a worry wart sometimes.) “Therefore,” Jesus softly admonishes his listeners, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Why worry when God gives us just what we need!

  EXAMPLE: Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Why worry when God gives us just what we need!

Conclusion:

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me. Civilla Martin was born in Nova Scotia in 1866. Her husband was an evangelist who traveled all over the United States. She accompanied him and they worked together on most of the musical arrangements that were sung.

In 1904 Civilla was visiting an ill, bedridden friend. Although discouraged and sick, her friend remembered that God, her Heavenly Father, was watching over each little sparrow and would certianly watch after her. Matthew 10:29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Mrs. Martin was a poet and thought this would be a perfect idea for a poem. She jotted down the idea and by the end of the day, had completed “His Eye is On The Sparrow”.

The entire poem was sent to a well-known composer of that day, Charles Gabriel.

Why worry when God sees your life as valuable! Why worry when your faith can sustain you! Why worry when God gives us just what we need!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Where is your heart? – Matthew 6:19-24

Where is your heart? – Matthew 6:19-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 28, 2019

When I was going to seminary one of things we were told to look at very closely was the reason why we wanted to be a pastor in the first place. And one of my instructors bluntly told us that if we could not confidently say we were called of God we should go do something else. He continued by relating that our calling was what would keep us grounded during tough or good times because it came from the Lord. Ministering was not a “job” but when it became one, and it would sometimes, we could rely on our calling from God to strengthen us. It would show us where our heart truly was.

Jesus wanted his listeners to understand that following God was more than following a set of rules. After Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead everything would change concerning an individual’s relationship with God. What became important was not past history or one’s heritage but rather if you could confidently say you trusted the Messiah with your life. It would be a matter of one’s heart, what made one truly a follower of Jesus would be their faith. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about one’s heart…

READ: Matthew 6:19-24

So many things that we think are important in life are not as vital as we think. In fact we could get along without a lot of things we have. Jesus taught that…

I. We need to be sure of where our heart resides! (Vv. 19-21)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  1. We use all kinds of equipment to measure the weather: Rain gauges, thermometers, wind gauges, and barometers to measure the barometric pressure. A multitude of computer models make predictions as to what might occur in the future concerning the weather. We are given spiritual equipment as well that measures our commitment to the Lord; he’s called the Holy Spirit. One such measurement the Spirit uses is how much importance we place on things in our life and if these “things” are more important than people or God. Jesus bluntly tells his audience, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Jesus knew that the Pharisees put a huge stock in personal wealth and prestige. Mankind had forgotten that this world is not all there is to life. Life is eternal and we will either spend it with God in his presence or separated from him forever. Storing up things that are here today and worthless tomorrow makes no sense in a life led by the Spirit. Now Jesus is not telling his disciples to not prepare for the future or that savings are bad. What Jesus is sharing is the fact of what is important for the disciple of Christ. Instead you should “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Jesus also is not referring to having more good deeds as compared to bad actions. Our lives are not weighed between the good and bad we do. It is a matter of the heart, of who you are as a believer. What is your focus in life? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Far too many are focused on their job, their income, their family, or having fun, fun, fun! If this is your focus in life that is where your heart will be and one has to remember that age will take away your good looks and your health; politicians will rob you of your hard earned money; and your education is only good for the time when you can use it. Your life is eternal and how you store things up that matter there now shows God where your heart is for eternity. Jesus taught that we need to be sure of where our heart resides!

  EXAMPLE: “Do you know where your children are?” was a question used as a public service announcement for parents on American television especially from the late 1960s through the late 1980s. One of the first adopters of the phrase was Mel Epstein, the Director of On-Air Promotions at New York’s WNEW-TV, who began using the phrase in 1967 in response to rising crime in the city. With how believers are not held accountable for their actions or attitudes and have begun to have the heretical notion that it doesn’t matter how they act or what they do outside of church perhaps we need to ask the question: “Do you know where your heart is?” Jesus taught his listeners that we need to be sure of where our heart resides!

What we focus on in life shows what we care about most. Jesus did not say we could never have fun, watch our health, or save for the future but rather if we do anything to the exclusion of living for God we are failing for eternity. It is a matter of who we trust and have faith in. Jesus taught that…

II. We need to be aware if our heart sees the light! (Vv. 22-23)

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

  1. There is a term that I find kind of irritating that a lot of the world uses when it is mystified by someone’s, especially a child’s, faith, kindness, compassion, wisdom or spirituality they often say that they are “an old soul”. What in the world does that even mean? That they are a piece of wore out old shoe leather with a hole in the bottom? Actually, the term comes from the feeling that someone is spiritually wiser than their actual age. It is tied up in Buddhist and Hindu idea of reincarnation or metempsychosis. Metempsychosis is a philosophical term referring to the transmigration of the soul after death into a human or animal. It does not occur and is a complete misunderstanding of the concept of the human soul. All of this to say that there are those who misconstrue what Jesus taught about being the light of the world. Jesus was not and is not the reincarnation of anyone. He is God. And being God he is totally holy without any sin. Light represented the holiness and purity of God for the Jew. If we place our faith and trust in the Messiah Jesus we will have the light of God in our lives! John reminds us that “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12 NIV), meaning the holiness of God! Jesus had just gotten through telling his followers that they were “the light of the world”, having the gospel message, and that they were to “let their light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14,16 NIV)” Our relationship with Jesus makes us the light of the world and when we allow the shadows and darkness of the world to rob us of his light we dim the light of him in our lives. Therefore what we focus on in life matters. Jesus reminds us that “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” When we place our faith and trust in Jesus we are given everything we need to live for him but we still make life choices on how we will live our lives. Believers cannot keep one foot in the world and then go to church on Sundays thinking that this is good enough. Jesus bluntly related that “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” We need to be aware if our heart sees the light!

  EXAMPLE: What we watch on TV, what we read in books or view on the Internet, and what movies we go to all influence how we relate to our world. This is why pornography has such an impact on people and men especially. Men are hands on and sight oriented. Jesus was teaching his listeners that what they fill their eyes with will influence their lives for God. There is an old children’s song that goes: “O be careful little eyes what you see. O be careful little eyes what you see. There’s a Father up above. And He’s looking down in love. So, be careful little eyes what you see.” We need to be aware if our heart sees the light!

The folk singer Bob Dylan wrote a song where he related that no matter who you are in life or where you live “you’re gonna have to serve somebody… it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”! He was reiterating what Jesus spoke about here in Matthew’s gospel. It all boils down to who you give your life’s allegiance to. Jesus taught that…

III. We need to know who our heart serves! (v. 24)

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

  1. The Old Testament prophets Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, and Ezekiel all warned the Israelites over and over that they would need to choose who they were going to serve. The words of Joshua to the Israelites still stand as a challenge for all generations when he admonished them: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)” While his challenge was to the Hebrews to throw away their false worship of manmade idols his warning is a reminder for believers today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. And after teaching about what their life focus should be Jesus admonishes his listeners by reminding them, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Actually Jesus uses the term “mammon” which comes from a Greek word. Similar root words exist in Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Chaldean and Syrian. All are translated “money, wealth, and material possessions.” Some think that it comes from the name of a Chaldean or Syrian God. Paul wrote that “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” And that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NIV)” Luke related that when Jesus taught what he did “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’ (Luke 16:14-15 NIV)” Jesus knew we need to know who our heart serves!

  EXAMPLE: Duke University there is a story about a fraternity hazing prank. A pledge was kidnapped from his dorm, took 30 miles out into the North Carolina woods wearing nothing but the Duke Blue Devil mascot outfit. He trudged through the night, calculating how long it would take him to walk back to campus. After an hour or so, he saw the lights and heard music and singing coming from an old country church in the midst of a revival meeting. He thought to himself, “Church people are good people. Surely someone will give me a ride back to Duke.” So he walked across the parking lot and in the front door wearing his Blue Devil costume. The preacher stopped his preaching and stared. Everyone else turned to look at what the preacher was looking at. Suddenly, the preacher dove out the window. The other folk began diving out windows too, until there was only one person left. She was too old and too frail to dive out the window, and the devil was standing between her and the church’s only door. She began to plead in a soft voice, “Mr. Devil, my husband, bless his heart, was a deacon in this church for almost 40 years, one of my sons is a missionary, and my daughter is married to a pastor, and I was president of the Women’s Missionary Society for 20 years, but I just want you to know—I’ve been on your side all along!” We need to know who our heart serves!

Conclusion:

We need to be sure of where our heart resides! We need to be aware if our heart sees the light! We need to know who our heart serves!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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Fasting! – Matthew 6:16-18

Fasting! – Matthew 6:16-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 14, 2019

There are some Christian disciplines that have gone by the wayside in our day and age. Of course becoming a hermit and forcing every bit of personal contact out of your life is not what Jesus meant when he said for us to “go into all the world”. And I confess I like zippers, buttons, and running water. However the disciplines of giving and prayer should be practiced. Today we are going to look at the discipline of fasting and why Jesus spoke about it.

I remember the first time I led a group of youth to fast. After the first four hours some of them were already going into fits about being hungry and that it was not such a good idea for them to do. We did it to focus on world hunger and our fast was only for 24 hours. You would have thought it was for 24 days! Let’s discover what Jesus taught about fasting…

READ: Matthew 6:16-18

We have to understand why Jesus mentioned fasting here and what it meant for the Hebrew people before we can make assertions as to whether we as believers should in fact fast. We live in a self-indulgent society where we hardly ever allow ourselves to go without anything and in Jesus’ day fasting was often a way to commemorate national disasters and they had over 21 different fasts! So Jesus tells his audience…

I. Be sure you are fasting for the right reasons! (v. 16)

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

  1. There are two major fast days and four minor fast days that are part of the Jewish year. The first major fast is Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Tisha B’Av is an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians and later Herod’s Temple by the Romans. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. It lasts nine days in all! Major fasts begin before sundown, when it is still light outside, and end after the next sundown, when it is dark outside and three stars can be seen in the sky. Major fasts are absolute. The faster may not eat food, drink, brush his teeth, comb his hair, or take a bath. Turns out there are 25 holidays and events throughout the year associated with a tradition of fasting! No food or drink is taken from dawn until nightfall. It doesn’t seem that Jesus fasted often. In fact, his critics condemned him for “eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19) instead of fasting. There is only one example in Scripture of Jesus fasting. It immediately followed Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13), which began his public ministry. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness in order to fast for forty days and nights. During that time of fasting, Jesus was repeatedly tempted by the devil. This testing time prepared him for the three-year ministry that would change the world. Jesus’ forty day fast is not an example for us to follow because it was strictly for Jesus to do as God directed him! Jesus therefore tells his listeners, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Fasting had become so common it had lost its sacredness to focus the individual on God! The Pharisees would often put on special make up or announce that they were fasting to show the crowds how pious they were! Like prayer and giving, fasting for Jesus was to be done for the right reasons!

  EXAMPLE: Today is when many churches will celebrate Palm Sunday in recognizing when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the crowds tossed their cloaks and palm branches on the ground to signify Jesus as the coming Messiah. Interestingly it was a time of the Passover celebrating when the Angel of Death passed over the Hebrew houses who had painted their doorposts and lintels with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.. What a great time to think about fasting to refocus oneself on Jesus! Perhaps you could do without certain things in your life that get in between you and your relationship with Jesus? Whatever you decide to do, be sure you are fasting for the right reasons!

Should believers fast in our day and age and if so what kind of fasting should we observe? These are great questions and deserve some consideration. However, if you decide to fast you not only should make sure you are doing it for the right reasons but Jesus also taught that we should…

II. Be sure we are fasting so that others do not notice! (Vv. 17-18)

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

  1. Fasting is deciding to go without or restrict oneself of certain things such as food, electronics, or outside things that would distract us from trying to focus ourselves on what God desires. The observance of Lent for some denominations helps them to focus on the time leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Most evangelicals, like Baptists, do not observe Lent because of the connotation of the person trying to earn favor with God by depriving themselves of certain things. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends before Easter. The purpose of Lent is to prepare the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. There is no sacrifice we can make that draws us any closer to God than Jesus! Can we fast or should we fast? Believers can fast but it isn’t something we do in order to gain spiritually. We can to focus ourselves on the Lord. If you are not already spending time daily with God, fasting may make you more irritable. And in fact when we decide to go without something in order to fast others should not be aware. Jesus remarked, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Fasting is to be between us and the Lord. I believe we would do well to fast not just food but perhaps television, electronics such as cell phones, video games, texting, and computers for a period of time in order to refocus ourselves on the Lord. We have far too many distractions in our day and age. There is some evidence that early Christians fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as on other occasions, and this is still practiced in Eastern Orthodoxy today but there is no scriptural suggestion we should do so. Be sure you are fasting so that others do not notice!

  EXAMPLE: A Summer Missionary we had years ago loved to read. So much so she often excluded family and friends in order to immerse herself in her books. She made the conscious decision to not read and instead spend that time in getting to know people around her better. She spent the next week having tea with friends, talking to her family, and introducing herself to new people. It was a life-changing “fast” for her! She ended up meeting her future husband and made closer ties to her family and friends. She decided not to let anyone know what she was doing but everyone who knew her saw the change and how it impacted her life! Jesus knew that fasting for the Hebrews had lost its true focus and so he related that should be sure they were fasting so that others do not notice!

Conclusion:
Be sure you are fasting for the right reasons! Be sure you are fasting so that others do not notice!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 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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