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How to treat others! – 1 Timothy 5:1-16

How to treat others! – 1 Timothy 5:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 14, 2018

One hurdle a nonbeliever has to jump over is when “Christians” do not live like it. Paul had just gotten through writing Timothy to “Watch your life and doctrine closely” because he knew that a true faith results in a changed life. Believers are to act like Jesus. Remember believers are to be “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”. (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV) How we treat others speaks volumes about our faith.

Although Timothy was not to dwell on his youthfulness, he was to be mindful that he was still a young man; especially in dealing with folks who are older than himself, and also in his bearing towards young women. Paul begins with the treatment of older men and returns to it again later on. Between these two passages about men he gives directions for Timothy’s guidance respecting the women in his church, especially respecting widows. In this Paul teaches us how to treat others, let’s see how…

READ: 1 Timothy 5:1-16

Remember the lyrics to the Ghostbusters song? “If there’s something strange in you neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” Well if there is something strange in your local church, who you gonna call? Paul writes Timothy that…

I. The family of God is to take care of the family of God! (Vv. 1-6)

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.

1. One would think that with age comes wisdom but this is not necessarily true. We all have met older folks who have squandered their lives and made really ridiculous decisions and are suffering the consequences. Foolishness knows no age limit and this is why Timothy needed to act as to exemplify Jesus. Both those inside and outside of the church would be watching his life very closely. Paul tells him to “not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father” and he was to “treat younger men as brothers”. Timothy was part of the family of God and he was to treat other believers as family. So gentleness, kindness, and morality were to be his motives so that “younger women” were to be treated “as sisters, with absolute purity”. In a world that chewed up people and especially the weak, the orphaned, and the widowed Timothy as a believer was to “Give proper recognition to those widows who [were] really in need. But if a widow [had] children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” Family was to take care of family. Paul told Timothy, “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” Paul is writing about a person’s focus in life. In that day widows had very few options; either they had family who could care for them, they begged, or if they were young enough they became prostitutes. Note Paul’s emphasis is on their spirituality. Someone who focuses on her spiritual growth is to be commended while the one who focuses on only her own pleasure is spiritually “dead” without even knowing it already. The family of God is to take care of the family of God!

EXAMPLE: Over the years I have counseled folks who had to leave their church for varying reasons and in each case they experienced loss. Some would confess that it was worse than leaving family behind! What they forgot is the fact that this is exactly what it was! This is why Paul writes that “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV) A close knit family loves and cares for one another and so does a close knit church family. Paul let Timothy know that the family of God is to take care of the family of God!

We can forget that our faith is not just about ourselves. Others are watching our actions, our lives, and the way we treat one another. This is why Paul would teach Timothy that…

II. The family of God is to have an impact on their family and community! (Vv. 7-10)

Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

1. Paul’s whole focus was on how Timothy could be a positive influence on his church and community. He didn’t need to worry about his age but instead about how he would be an example to his flock! Therefore he was to “Give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame.” The world of Paul’s day was not family oriented in that it did not see the need to take care of widows and orphans. So when Paul wrote that “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever”, he was espousing a whole new concept. If one was changed by the power and presence of God then it had better affect their family life as well! The same is true for all believers. We are to take care of family. Paul continued by giving some practical advice in that “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” Evidently the early church began to keep a list of widows in order to help them out during difficult times. Paul knew younger widows had a greater chance to find employment or the ability to get help and he wanted the entire church to realize the benefit of being “faithful” in marriage and in one’s life. His emphasis then was encouraging older widowed women to not be involved with the things of the world like gossip, idleness, or being meddlesome or nosy. Instead they were to focus on their families, their church, and their neighborhood! For Paul being a believer was more than what happened after death, it was about how one lived their life here and now. Paul was encouraging Timothy to lead his church to understand that the family of God is to have an impact on their family and community!

EXAMPLE: We had a mean old grumpy neighbor who would yell at us if we cut the corner of his yard. One day we all deliberately ran across his yard and laughed at him when he came out to yell at us. We thought it was funny; little did we know my Dad had seen us. He came outside later on and called me and my friends over. “Boys”, he said, “in life you will either be seen as good men or bad, which do you want to be seen as?” We all agreed that we wanted to be known as “good men”. “Then go and apologize to Mr. Anderson for cutting across his yard and laughing at him.” Then without another word, my Dad turned and went back in the house. We knew what we had to do. Paul told Timothy that the family of God is to have an impact on their family and community!

We live in a day and age where most focus on themselves. As believers in a church we are more than a “village” we are the family of God. It can be difficult at times but we must take responsibility for one another and Paul taught Timothy that…

III. The family of God is to focus on one another! (Vv. 11-16)

As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

1. For Paul again it was a matter of focus. A believer should focus on the Lord and allow him to be displayed in every area of life. So Paul gives Timothy some practical advice: “As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list.” They probably could find a way to provide for themselves or they had children who could help. Paul sympathized and understood that younger women “when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry”. This was natural but these women needed to be aware of what they did after being widowed or they could “bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge”. I do not think Paul was referring to the widow’s list but rather to her pledge to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV) “Besides,” Paul explains they might “get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house” and if they did “not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busy-bodies, saying things they ought not to”! Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. Paul was aware that there had arisen some kind of problem in Timothy’s church where he needed help and evidently it was with younger women not conducting themselves properly. “So I counsel younger widows to marry”, Paul related, “to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” Paul not only wanted Timothy to spiritually succeed but he desired the entire church be successful as well but sadly “Some [had] in fact already turned away to follow Satan.” A lot of folks have misunderstood Paul’s words to Timothy thinking he was stating this was the only role for women but nothing could be further from the truth. Paul believed that both women and men who possessed the means were to take care of their families! This is why he finishes this section to Timothy by writing, “If any woman who is a believer has widows in her family, she should help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.” The family of God is to focus on one another!

EXAMPLE: I received a phone call one afternoon from a lady who was experiencing both verbal and psychological abuse from her husband. Her children were as well. She related her pastor and church had told her to stay with her husband. Needless to say she was beside herself. I told her to pack a few of her and her children’s things and get out of the house immediately. I told her that her husband had broken his vow to love, honor, and protect her. She needed to do whatever it took to protect not only herself but her children. A huge emotional and spiritual burden was lifted from her. Later she discovered her husband had begun to physically abuse her daughter. They came here for a time to be spiritually and emotionally healed. Now, years later, she is happily remarried, a grandmother, and her son is in Special Forces. Paul taught Timothy that the family of God is to focus on one another!

Conclusion:

The family of God is to take care of the family of God! The family of God is to have an impact on their family and community! The family of God is to focus on one another!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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A good servant of Jesus! — 1 Timothy 4:8-16

A good servant of Jesus! — 1 Timothy 4:8-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 7, 2018

People will spend money for gym memberships, take time to run every day, or make sure that they eat only certain things in specific amounts. What is interesting though is that these same folks who spend so much time and effort on some of these things do not spend the same amount of effort, time, or personal investment in their relationship with the Lord. Just as regular exercise for the body is good so is regular spiritual daily exercise with Jesus.

Paul knew that his mentorship with Timothy included his investment daily in spending time with the Lord. Paul had studied the Psalms and he knew the question David asked: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” and how David answered it: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.” (Psalms 24:3-5 NIV) What David could only know momentarily Paul had come to realize believers enjoyed permanently. However, in order to mature and grow in the Lord as a good servant one must also spend time with Jesus; so let’s discover what Paul writes Timothy concerning being a good servant of Jesus…

READ: 1 Timothy 4:8-16

When Jesus enters into someone’s life they are spiritually changed forever: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Do they still carry some of the old world’s habits? Yes, but that is why we are to walk daily with him who loved us, died for us, and rose again to prove he was able to change us! In fact total spirituality is not a momentary thing but takes a lifetime and this is why Paul told Timothy that…

I. A good servant of Jesus trains his entire life! (Vv. 8-10)

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

1. Paul understood that while “physical training is of some value… godliness has value for all things”. We live in an age whereby some people think that if they feel something then it makes it true for their lives and therefore valuable or worthy. This simply is not true. Worth does not come from how one feels but from the actual substantive effect it has. You cannot think about working out and experience the actual benefits of doing so. You have to actually do it! Saying you feel someone’s pain does not mean you actually are experiencing it. Training in godliness then has extreme value, “holding promise for both the present life and the life to come”! This is not a wishful thought or a hoping that it might come true, it is the actual result of living a godly life both here and now and in one’s eternal life to come! Above all Paul wanted Timothy to live well but even more to live his life for the Lord. Paul knew if Timothy did he would have an effective life and one worthy of God. Later on in this letter Paul would remind Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain”. (V. 6:6) In his life, Paul had come to realize that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. (Romans 8:28 NIV) So he writes Timothy that “This (then) is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance” in all believer’s lives. It was what Paul labored for and strove for his entire life! And it was the complete reason why Paul had “put [his] hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men… and especially of those who believe”! Paul understood that a good servant of Jesus trains his entire life!

EXAMPLE: Interestingly some of the most closed minded individuals can either be believers or atheists. In both hubris can interfere with one’s willingness to share the love of Christ and hubris can also interfere with one’s willingness to hear biblical truth. The world sees humility as another’s acceptance of their ideals and never ever disagreeing with them. If a Christian does then they are being conceited and disagreeable. Whereas a believer can plug their ears to the sinner’s plight and not have a broken heart. This is why Timothy needed to learn that a good servant of Jesus trains his entire life!

I decided a long time ago not to take a backseat in explaining what I believe about Jesus, the world, or my own personal philosophy of life. I looked at the life of Paul and realized he never did and then I realized neither did Jesus. However, if you decide to be bold in what you believe be forewarned you will be branded as being conceited. However, we discover Paul bluntly teaching Timothy that…

II. A good servant of Jesus controls their life! (Vv. 11-13)

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

1. In Paul’s day the individuals were considered “young” until you reached the age of wisdom which was around 30. This notion held true until about the 1960s. Interestingly research has shown that young adults often do not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions nor can they make logical decisions until they reach the age of 25! Insurance companies realize that this is why younger folks are more likely to be involved in more risky decisions than older adults. However, Paul wanted Timothy to not allow “anyone [to] look down on [him] because [he] was young”! Now least you think Timothy was an adolescent, he was not by today’s standard. He was probably in his late 20s to mid 30s. Yet his age was no excuse, as a Christian, he was to “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity”! Can you imagine asking, let alone demanding as Paul is actually doing here, today’s believer’s of any age to do the same thing? Notice Timothy was to “command and teach these things”! Timothy was not to feel good about his self; he was to live a life worthy of being called a believer! A life where he watched the words he used, the way he lived his life, his love life, his faith practice, and his ability to be above reproach! Paul would tell another young man, Titus, that a believer’s life “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12 NIV) Yet there are those who claim they love the Lord but would rather make excuses as to why they should do the things the world does instead! Is it possible to live the life Paul wrote about? Certainly it is. Paul told Timothy that until he arrived he was to “devote” himself “to public reading of Scripture” and “to preaching and to teaching” the word of God. The idea is gathering with those of like mind and spending time together learning and speaking the words of Jesus! A good servant of Jesus controls their life!

EXAMPLE: Easy believism is easy to believe when one places more importance on a sinner’s prayer than on a changed heart. Saying a mystical phrase does not necessarily make a person a believer and nor does trying to earn God’s love through doing good works. There will be an inner change that is caused by the presence and power the Holy Spirit that will influence one’s outward actions. Christians are not to try to be “good for goodness sake” and in fact a belief in God is not necessary to be a good person. And good people do not necessarily know God! I’ve known lots of good people who did not know God at all and were sometimes even proud of the fact! However, true Godliness (holiness) in life boils up from the inner change that has occurred from knowing and walking with Jesus. This is why Paul taught Timothy that a good servant of Jesus controls their life!

There is no easy way to have a vibrant life in the Lord without devotion. Devotion to speaking daily with the Lord, devotion to reading and understanding the Bible, and devotion in living one’s life for Jesus as his disciple. Paul just made this plain to Timothy and continues by telling him that…

III. A good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually! (Vv. 14-16)

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1. The problem with why folks do not mature in Jesus has nothing to do with time management but rather it is more to do with the will-management. What I mean is one’s willingness to take the needed time involved! We are an instantaneous society that seeks gratification immediately. Why do you think Twitter, Snap-Chat, texting, and other things that take less than a nanosecond of thought are so popular in our culture? Yet there is no such thing as an “instant” faith walk with Jesus! Paul retorts, “Do not neglect your gift”. Now contrary to those who want to in some way to mysticize this — this is not what Paul meant. Those around Timothy had seen his ability to handle the word of God and the gift of his service; this is why they set him aside to be a pastor. His ability was “given [him] through a prophetic (inspired) message when the body of elders (from his local church by the way) laid their hands on” Timothy. It wasn’t the laying on of hands that gave Timothy his “gift”; rather the laying on of hands was the recognition of his ability to be a pastor. Timothy did not all of sudden “receive” the Holy Jolt as some would have you believe. Paul is reminding a self-conscious young man of why he was a pastor in the first place. Others saw God in Jesus at work in him and they willingly set him aside for that reason and he should not neglect it! Timothy was to stop worrying about what others thought about his youth and instead “Be diligent in these matters”. In fact Timothy is encouraged and commanded to “give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress”! He was to “watch [his] life and doctrine closely.” You mean doctrine is actually IMPORTANT? YES! Timothy was to “persevere in them, because” Paul knew if he did he would “save both [himself] and [his] hearers”! Save them from eternal separation from God, save them from hell, save them from a sin-filled life! A good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually!

EXAMPLE: Some of the most critical people towards those in the ministry are usually either nominal believers or nonbelievers. I believe it is because they do not fully understand the holy things of God or they are embarrassed by their own actions and spiritual immaturity. Jesus warned his followers to “not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Why would Jesus say such a thing? He goes on to relate that “If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6 NIV) This is why I very rarely take any criticism seriously from a nominal or nonbeliever. Yet believers are to let their “light shine before all men” and we are to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe”! (Matthew 5:6 & Philippians 2:15 NIV) Paul knew that a good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually!

Conclusion:

A good servant of Jesus trains his entire life! A good servant of Jesus controls their life! A good servant of Jesus must be willing to mature spiritually!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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

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

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

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

READ: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EXAMPLE: The term love in our day and age is often used as the answer for every ill known to mankind. However, this is a false notion because it is based on the idea that if we simply express our love by doing good things then we will have world peace, enough food for everyone, and climate change. The problem is that the love the world displays is dependent upon how one feels instead of the intrinsic eternal attribute of God. The Apostle John understood this and wrote, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:8-10 NIV) Let everyone know that God’s love endures forever!

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

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

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

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

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

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

III. God’s love saves us! (Vv. 25-29)

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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

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

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

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

READ: Jeremiah 31:11-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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2nd Sunday of Advent – Peace! – Isaiah 52:6-10

2nd Sunday of Advent – Peace! – Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 10, 2017

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about the end of war or that everyone would find bliss. Interestingly, there are those in our day who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace he brings.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring peace to all mankind. He begins these verses by calling the nation of Israel to “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace he would bring when he came. Let’s discover this morning of the Second Advent, the peace of God!

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)

Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.

1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” (v.3) No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw His people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of the Lamb would! This is why the writer of Hebrews would state, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers his question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! They refused to listen and repent. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and his desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when happened! Isaiah is told by God, “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore, in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from him alone!

EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from him alone!

God made the first move when he came as a baby. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that…

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.

1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape and it seems as if no one is coming to their rescue. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they proclaim to those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the surrounding enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will there be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city, our occupied territory, and surrounded nation. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bringing good news that that he alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear him when he came. But whether they wanted to believe it or not he would come. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman; Nahum was a watchman, and various men in various ways prophesized announcing the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last “who was sent from God… He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given his watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)

Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, the embattled and surrounded Israelites were to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted his people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world his power and ability to bring salvation through his Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!

EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:

The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!

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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1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 3, 2017

In seminary we used to tease one another with a little ditty that went “My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield’s notes and Moody Press”. Of course this is a takeoff from the old hymn however it makes one think about what their hope is built upon. Christmas is based on hope and the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior, the Messiah, of the world! As believers, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also wait eagerly for the Second Advent when Jesus returns!

A large part of our lives center around anticipation. The enjoyment in many of life’s events is built on the fact that we have time to anticipate them. Whether it is Christmas, vacations, trips, or sporting events, all grow in value because of the hours we spend looking forward to them. Now imagine the anticipation of the salvation the hope of mankind coming to earth. That is what the first Sunday of Advent is all about, our expectation and hope! Let’s discover why…

READ: Isaiah 9:2-7

Salvation would not break forth until it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to Isaiah, “In that day… if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds.” (Isaiah 5:29-30 NIV) It is always darkest before the dawn and we discover that…

I. The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world! (Vv. 2-3)

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

1. We are often introduced to a myriad of end of the world scenarios, from fiery asteroids crashing into the earth to killer zombie viruses. Yet few in our day notice the spiritual darkness that has engulfed the world. It is the same spiritual darkness that was overwhelming Israel. Like the spread of darkness by the Dark Lord Sauron in The Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien. We find in the pages of Scripture that whenever mankind neglected their God, spiritual darkness spread. But now, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” The veil is torn in two! The darkness is pierced by the rising sun! Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings tells the embattled at Helms Deep, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East!” Noticed again that Isaiah prophesied, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”! John wrote, “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world!” (John 1:9 NIV) Jesus related, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21 NIV) Isaiah saw that the light of God would return to spiritually dark Israel, and in fact, “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” While those who loved God had been reduced to a remnant, they would be “enlarged” and their “joy” increased. They would rejoice again! The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!

EXAMPLE: As a child, I began to fear the darkness. Part of the problem was my brother Ed who loved to whisper frightening scenarios to me after we had crawled into bed. But it was also because I could not see what laid in wait in the darkness. Now isn’t it interesting that Scripture tells us that the ungodly love darkness “instead of light because their deeds” are evil. And, in fact, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” I loved to have a flashlight as a kid that I could turn on to make sure there was nothing out there that could harm me. Light does that. It exposes anything that tries to hide in either the darkness of sin or a darkened room! With great anticipation Isaiah longed for the first Advent when the hope of the Messiah would bring light into a darkened world!

David would cry, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalms 51:3 NIV) Mankind has always struggled with sin. Jesus reminded us, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NIV) But, now Isaiah tells us…

II. The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin! (Vv. 4-5)

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

1. No one could have believed for even one second that the weak, ineffective, and subservient Israelites would pose any kind of threat to the more powerful Midianites. Yet, God did just that and in fact did it through someone totally unexpected! The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian enslavement. Then, the whole of the great nation of Israel was redeemed, whereas now only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption! Isaiah compares it to the day when Gideon broke seven years domination of Midian over Israel. And, it would occur not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judges 7)! It was God “as in the day of Midian’s defeat” who “shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, (and) the rod of their oppressor.” He did it through the One whom he will send. This would be a supernatural work of God! So complete will be the act of God sending his Messiah to ease our burden of sin that, “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” We see that all the trappings of the oppressor are heaped into a pile and set on fire; and, as they blaze up, the freed slaves exult in their liberty. Even the blood-drenched cloaks have been stripped from the corpses; they are tossed on the heap, and, saturated as they are, they burn! So complete is the victory that even the weapons of the conquered are destroyed. Our conquering King has been manifested, that he might annihilate the powers by which evil holds us bound. His victory is utterly complete; by his power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

EXAMPLE: Today the Federal debt has become an enormous financial burden that many simply ignore. Each citizen’s share of this debt is horrendous. And it increases every day by $3 billion! It is a huge burden on us and future generations because it is an added tax to everything we buy and will affect how we live. Fewer college graduates will get jobs because there are fewer people retiring in order to survive, fewer companies hire because they have to pay off their share of taxes, and therefore goods and services increase for the same reasons. Incomes and retirement are reduced as taxes increase. It is a debt we can never pay that we had no say in what we owed! The sin debt of Israel and the entire world was enormous and could never be paid by all the sacrifices that could ever be made! Rejoice! By His power and might the hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

The promise of God would take an unexpected turn as his promises often do. This is why I often chuckle over those who think they have the return of Jesus all figured out, especially when Jesus remarked, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36 NIV) This is why it was so amazing when Isaiah prophesized thousands of years beforehand that…

III. The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

1. Here is a wonderful amazing truth: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The Savior of the world, the Messiah, would be born a babe and all of God’s government would be placed squarely on his tiny shoulders! Do you understand the significance of these words? Can you grasp their meaning for all mankind? God’s messengers would share with scruffy shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12 NIV) There it is, amazing isn’t it? But more than that, “he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace.” Four beautiful names describe him for us; He will be an exceptional teacher, the embodiment of our powerful God, reflecting His eternal nature, which brings the peace that surpasses all understanding! Now, Isaiah did not fully realize that Jesus would be the One who would fulfill all of this during his first advent, but it will come about that “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” God’s promise to David would come true! God would rule and reign through his Messiah! How and why would God do this wonderful thing? Isaiah says, “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” It would be done because God joyously chose to do it! How totally marvelous that the fulfillment of God’s promises is found in a tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling, lying in a manger! Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man is complete in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: Jesus related, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:48 NIV) “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 NIV) “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV) “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11 NIV) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25 NIV) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) The first Advent is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise that the hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:

The hope of the Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The hope of the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The hope of the Messiah will be born both God and man!

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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