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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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Praying! – Matthew 6:5-15

Praying! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 7, 2019

When asked what believers need to do the most the answer always is to “pray” and this is good advice. If one’s prayer life is nonexistent their relationship with God is basically nonexistent. As a new believer having been brought up in a faith that taught that prayer was by route, meaningless, and automatic to discover that it was actually speaking with God was amazing to me. It changed my life dramatically. Praying is the heart and life of a Christian’s faith walk with God.

In Luke’s gospel we learn that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ (Luke 11:1 NIV)” And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover the same prayer being offered by Jesus as part of his sermon. Jesus did not mean for his example to become a formula or a mantra we were to use until it became a mind-numbing chant. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about praying…

READ: Matthew 6:5-15

Jesus’ disciples would learn that prayer for Jesus was a personal thing and not something one did in order to appease an angry deity. Jesus often went off by himself to pray but here we find he includes simple teaching on the subject of praying. The first thing we discover is that…

I. Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber! (Vv. 5-8)

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

  1. An individual talking with God had become a real problem with the Hebrew people. From intimate conversations with God like that of Abraham, Moses, and David prayer had now developed into the ritualistic chanting of the Temple. Or worse an outward display for the unwashed crowds to display the Pharisees’ phony piety! So Jesus teaches that “when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” Instead of a personal conversation between a person and their God prayer had become a sham! Jesus says this kind of prayer is hypocritical! He goes on to lay it out for his listeners, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Jesus knew God desired a personal relationship with them! And like with their acts of personal giving they were to make their prayer personal as well: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” God does not need public displays because he knows the individual’s heart already. Prayer is an intimate conversation and Jesus knew that their “Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Talking with God is supposed to be give-and-take. Too many folks have never heard God’s voice because they’ve never taken the time to hear him speaking to them! We live in a fast paced society that wants instant results and have forgotten that a deep spiritual relationship is developed not rushed. God is not your personal servant waiting on the sidelines to answer your beck and call when you need him. Therefore Jesus tells them that “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” You cannot expect to know someone intimately if you never spend time with them. Sure God knows what we are going to pray before we pray it but he desires our full attention and he desires us, therefore, “Do not be like [these hypocrites], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” We come to know God and his will and ways when we spend time talking with him! Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber!

  EXAMPLE: We often do not know what God desires to communicate to us because we are so involved in just spewing words at him! I guess some think that God only listens when we pray hard and fast! The other day I was asked by an older gentleman who saw me with my granddaughter if she “talked a lot”. I told him she was sparse with her words but soon she probably would be a chatter box. He remarked that his daughter had been a “little chatter box” who just went on and on about everything. He remarked, “I loved every minute of it and now we have a great relationship where she calls me almost every day to tell me about how things are going.” This is what Jesus wanted his listeners to understand about prayer. Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber!

I discovered early on in my marriage relationship that I had better become a good listener to my wife. And I had better be willing to share my day with her as well. Give and take in our relationship is what has made our marriage strong. We spend time talking with each other daily. We discover here that…

II. Praying for Jesus was an intimate thing! (Vv. 9-11)

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.

  1. I have heard this prayer example of Jesus used as a model to pray, as a formula one uses to get to the heart of God, or as some kind of outline for all our prayer. While there may be some validity to some of these I believe Jesus was first and foremost trying to get his listeners to remember what prayer was about and so he bluntly tells them “This, then, is how you should pray”. He isn’t telling them to pray exactly what he prays nor is he giving them an ultimate guide formula to emulate but rather he is teaching them that their prayer should contain some thought. When we speak with friends or loved ones we usually ask them how they are doing or what’s new in their lives. Prayer, being a conversation with a loving God whom we are trying to know better, should be done in the same manner! We are speaking with the Creator of all things who is holy, loving, and far beyond our comprehension! While he loves us and cares for us God is not our “Buddy”, he is a holy God! So we should come before him by reminding ourselves of just who we are speaking to: “Our Father in heaven”! He is a Living God who exists and is not some dead manmade idol of wood, stone, or metal! Also remember Jesus is teaching them how to pray to God that at that time was before he had died on a cross, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven himself! Jesus is therefore teaching his fellow Hebrews how to reestablish their personal contact with a holy God that they had lost! They had forgotten what Job had known: “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. (Job 16:19 NIV)” We as believers now enjoy our advocate Jesus but we should always remember we are speaking with a holy God and “hallowed” is his “name”! At the core of our existence is to know and do the will of God. We do not seek God because we want things to go our way. How shallow is that kind of relationship? Instead we should be willing to pray to him “your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven”! Believe me Jesus understood that God’s will, would be done no matter what. This is why he would pray in the garden when he was facing the trial of his life, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42 NIV)” And yet we can also ask God for our daily needs for life: “Give us today our daily bread.” It shows our daily dependence on God’s care. It is here we discover that praying for Jesus was an intimate thing!

  EXAMPLE: I like mornings in our household during the week because my grandkids come over very early and I get to spend a few moments praying with them and getting them back to sleep. (Mom and Dad work and I get the privilege of being with them before school.) I spend time talking to Jesus with them about their day, their parents, and school. It is a special time. It isn’t hurried. It is kind of cozy in fact. Prayer for Jesus is supposed to be just like this because praying for Jesus was an intimate thing!

When I first learned to pray it was all by formula and in fact we used a prop so that our prayer would become something you could do unconsciously without any thought at all. This is not how Jesus viewed prayer. Yet it is how prayer had become in his day! We learn that…

III. Praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness! (Vv. 12-15)

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

  1. The entire reason Jesus came to earth was to fulfill God’s promise to mankind to redeem them back to his self. In order for that to be accomplished a debt had to be paid. We have a tendency to forget that sin exacts a heavy price because it is against the holy nature of God. God does not wink at our sin nor does he laugh at it or excuse it because he sees us as wayward kids. Sin is serious business for God so much so he came as Jesus to sacrifice himself for our sin. Now all of this to say that God sees sin as a debt and this is why he tells his audience that when we pray we have to be willing to ask God, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is an exacting thing because it requires forgiveness on our part which was something the Pharisees had a hard time with. They believed in an eye-for-an-eye payback, yet we have to forgive. Jesus also knew that being the weak creatures we all are we need all the strength we can get so he relates that when we pray we should ask God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus knew that God never leads us into evil and the wording suggests we are to ask for him to lead us to his strength. In fact as we look at this sentence knowing it is given to Hebrew listeners we discover that it contains hope because Jesus would indeed deliver us from not only the sting of death but Satan’s influence as well. And then Jesus reminds his listeners that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is a reminder of the fact we reap what we sow and we want to sow the things of God in our lives. It is not the idea of balancing the scales between being good and bad or doing good or bad but that we are accountable for our lives and whether or not they are lived for God or not! Again this would be a tough concept for his listeners and so they needed to be reminded of it. If one wants to draw close to God and speak intimately to him they cannot harbor animosity, anger, or hatred to one of those he came to die for! And we must never forget that praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!

  EXAMPLE: A special Scripture for me is 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)” Jesus desires that we “walk in the light” of his grace. I am not a perfect person and I often blow it. However prayer has become a time for me to declare my ungodliness honestly and openly before him. I have learned like John did that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NIV)” And we cannot “walk” with Jesus! Yet if we “confess our sins” he is more than willing to forgive us! John concludes by reminding his readers that “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:10 NIV)” I am overjoyed that praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!

Conclusion:

Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber! Praying for Jesus was an intimate thing! Praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!

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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Giving! – Matthew 6:1-4

Giving! – Matthew 6:1-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 31, 2019

We are not a giving society. Yes we give a lot to charity but the real reason we give may not be as altruistic as we want others to believe. God is not fooled. Giving comes from what is inside a person and can never be done out of guilt, coercion, or tax evasion! We often forget that if do not give for the right reasons we will suffer the consequences of our giving and is why Paul would write that we would do well to “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV)”

Giving like a lot of things in Jewish life had become a matter of course or regularity. Kind of a ho-hum thing that a person did because they wanted God to like them and the neighbors to think they hadn’t become pagans. Today folks wrestle with this as much as they do with the concepts of sin, judgment, and church attendance. Giving has become almost a dirty word within the local church that everyone knows they should do it let alone actually talk about it. It’s kind of like the crazy aunt. Let’s see what Jesus taught about giving and why…

READ: Matthew 6:1-4

“To give or not to give” is not a line out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet but rather an unconscious argument that goes on each week within the minds of many. Many are willing to give something but not actually tithe. The first thing we learn is that…

I. Giving flows from the heart of God! (Vv. 1-2)

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

  1. Jesus taught that what mattered most was what was inside of a person because it affected their outward attitude and actions. He now goes from instruction about the Pharisees’ teaching to their hypocritical deeds. Living a right life that was holy is totally different than just saying you do or by simply doing certain good deeds in order to be seen by others as a “good” person. This is why Jesus tells his audience, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them.” This was totally different than what the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law did in Jesus’ day. In fact it is not so different than what a lot of folks do every Sunday morning by showing up for worship on Easter or Christmas, going on a mission vacation, or feeding the homeless at Christmas! Why is this so important for Jesus? Jesus knew that it is easy to say you care or even to have short term acts of compassion but to live a life worthy of the Lord was a completely different matter. He knew that if we do our acts of kindness so that they can be seen and acknowledged by others they are worthless because “If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Wow, what a completely different emphasis! We are to live according to the Father’s character of grace to commend ourselves to God the Father who saw in secret, where the eye of man could not see! Jesus continued that “when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.” Our giving should come from the overflow of our heart that has found mercy and love in him who died for us. Paul would write that when we give out of that compassion that we “will be made rich in every way so that (we) can be generous on every occasion” and our “generosity will result in thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NIV)!” Giving flows from the heart of God!


  EXAMPLE: Brother MacMillan was one of the kindest and compassionate people I knew. He was not only a giving person he did it with grace and joy. I asked him why he had such a good attitude about giving and he responded by telling me, “I give the same way Jesus gave to us. To do otherwise would not give him the honor he deserves.” Brother “Mac”, as we all knew him, was correct and this is exactly what Jesus was trying to teach his followers with his sermon. It’s matter of attitude and what is truly inside of a person that shows what they really believe about God because it come out in their actions and attitudes. Giving flows from the heart of God!

Erroneously there are those who actually believe that church and worship is all about them. For these narrow-minded Sunday morning saints church is like a business. If it doesn’t give them more “bang” for their buck they are gone. The only problem is these are the very folks who do give the way they are supposed to because just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day they have forgotten that…

II. Giving is what believers are to be about! (Vv. 3-4)

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

  1. Giving is supposed to be from the overflow of grace we have received from the Lord. It is not to be forced or compelled. This is why giving is listed as one of the Spiritual gifts and the writer of Proverbs remarked that “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. (Proverbs 19:17 NIV)” So Jesus tells his listeners, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” Jesus is not teaching that you should give ignorantly or without some kind of discernment. Far too many give out of guilt like to those who beg for handouts with cardboard signs. Their gift is not really helping the person who is begging but usually supporting their addiction. Rather Jesus again is emphasizing a believer’s true intent when they give. Moses in Leviticus reminds us that “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Leviticus 27:30 NIV)” God asked that his people give a tenth of all they had to him. It was a sign that his people trusted him with their livelihood and their lives as well. Certainly we are not under Levitical law anymore but we are to love God completely and trust him with all we have. In fact we learn as believers all we have is God’s and we should honor him by freely giving back to his work what he has blessed us with! This is why we are to “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in (God’s) house.” We are to “Test (God) in this” to see if he “will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10 NIV)” It is one of the fundamental truths of the universe that “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38 NIV)” The truth is we should not be “deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)” If believers follow Jesus they will act like Jesus and give willingly and “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Giving is what believers are to be about!

  EXAMPLE: I am one that thinks the idea of “random acts of kindness” is kind of self-centered. It focuses on the individual and when they feel like doing something kind or not rather than truly being a lifestyle. Whether it is giving one’s time, talent, or treasure giving should be a way of life for the believer because Jesus gave himself for us! And if we are changed by his presence and empowered by his Spirit shouldn’t we therefore give like he did? Giving is what believers are to be about!

Conclusion:
Giving flows from the heart of God! Giving is what believers are to be about!

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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Lust and love! – Matthew 5:27-32

Lust and love! – Matthew 5:27-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 17, 2013

Our society as a whole often confuses lust and love. It has become more of a concern because we have begun to endorse and even encourage perverted lifestyles because we have blurred the lines between the two. Young children are often caught in the crosshairs of politically correct garbage rather than the truth. Some are undergoing chemical, physical, and emotional sex changes in order to sooth the ungodly consciences of adults. Sadly we will reap the consequences of such ungodly and perverted politically correctness.

Here in Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus meeting head on the age old ungodliness of sexuality. He confronts how people viewed marriage and sexual relationships. With the Internet and the rise of pornography addiction we need to look again at what Jesus taught about lust and love and why…

READ: Matthew 5:27-32

We must remind ourselves that here in the beatitudes Jesus deliberately used extreme examples in order to gain the crowd’s attention. He wanted them to be shocked to their senses in order for them to begin to think about their worldview and whether they actually lived for the Lord or not. We discover…

I. The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical! (Vv. 27-30)

You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

  1. There is more to one’s faith than just feeling good about one’s self. If all we needed to do was a few good things once in a while in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves Jesus did not have to come to earth, walk among us, cruelly suffer and die on a cross, and be raised from the dead! We could do Habitat for Humanity, join the Peace Corps, or mow the widow’s lawn next door. Marching for a cause may make you feel good and show the world you’re serious about something but the intent of your heart is what God truly looks at. It is this intent that gets most of us into trouble. This is exactly why Jesus focuses the crowd by reminding them that “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’” Jesus was referencing Exodus 20:14 where God gave the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” The Pharisees knew the commandments and meticulously followed them but they had totally missed the point, just as many believers do in our day! They were only concerned with the outward act. God is not as concerned with the outward act as he is concerned for the inner heart of a person. This is why James, Jesus’ brother would write: “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15 NIV)” Jesus goes on to relate, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Wow! We need to be aware of where our hearts (everything that makes us who we are) resides because the cure can be far worse than the cause: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Was Jesus advocating dismembering or disfiguring one’s body to resolve their sin condition? Nope, what he was doing was focusing on the enormity of the power of sin in one’s life! The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical!

  EXAMPLE: There’s an old story about a country doctor who gave his patient a total examination, he scratched his head in bewilderment, and asked, “Have you had this before?” When the patient answered, “Yes,” the doctor wrinkled his brow and said, “Well, you’ve got it again.” There’s nothing as frustrating as a problem that defies diagnosis. What a relief it is to find a skilled doctor who can say with confidence, “This is your problem and this treatment will help.” Jesus as the Great Physician has given us the cure for the ultimate disease! We discover there that the cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical and in Jesus we have the cure!

When we sin we often forget what it destroys relationships, our self-esteem, and our standing with a holy God! Lust can destroy our marriage as well. The ungodly view of marriage in Jesus’ day had left many women destitute simply because their ungodly husbands had treated them so horrendously. Here we discover…

II. Marriage is sacred! (Vv. 31-32)

It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

  1. Nothing in our society today has suffered as much as marriage. Contrary to what some would have you believe, divorce is not the same among believing Christians and the world. In Jesus’ day the view of women was completely ungodly. They were basically relegated to being the property of men. God had never intended the relationship between a husband and wife to be seen this way or to be practiced the way it was during the lifetime of Jesus. Believe me he is just as disgusted with how we view marriage. While we may not see women as property how both men and women have disdained the sacredness of marriage is disgusting. Jesus goes right to the heart of the issue during his day by relating, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’” Jesus was introducing his argument with a well known truth. Among the Jewish leaders were two schools of thought regarding divorce: 1) There were those who said it was permissible for a husband to divorce his wife for any reason at all like burning the soup or keeping a messy house, but the other group 2) said divorce was permissible only for a major offense. In Jesus’ response, the Lord strongly taught that marriage is viewed by God as a special relationship between a man and a woman and the Lord! Jesus was not giving us specific regulations to adhere to concerning marriage but rather he was teaching how horrible their view of their marriage vow was! Notice what he tells them: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Improperly trying to dispose of one’s wife was tacitly making her sin and that sin was just as horrendous! Again Jesus is trying to help people see that the intent of a person’s heart was extremely important to God. When we marry someone we are giving them our lives and it is similar to us giving our lives to God! When later asked by the nearsighted Pharisees if it was okay for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason, Jesus replied, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law… but at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will ‘become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. (Mark 10:5-9 NIV)” In fact when a man and a woman marry it is a sacred commitment and should not be disdained or handled improperly!

  EXAMPLE: There are those that think that by simply living together they can bypass the sacredness of marriage and ignore what God teaches us about this relationship. They are wrong because when they do they are committing adultery. And there is no reason for the couple to stay together or to be committed to being faithful. Interestingly it was recently disclosed that Ciara and Russell Wilson remained abstinent until after their wedding, and now the singer is opening up about the couple’s decision, explaining that it wasn’t easy. “That took a lot of prayer,” the 33-year-old admitted to InStyle in a recent interview. “It was hard. I can’t lie.” The star, who graced the fashion magazine’s April cover issue, had previously spoken about her and Wilson’s decision, noting that “you shouldn’t feel like you have to give your body away to get someone to like you.” God sees it as something special and when you give yourself away before being totally committed you will suffer the consequences of that decision. Jesus taught that marriage is sacred!

Conclusion:

The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical and that marriage is sacred!

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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Anger! – Matthew 5:21-26

Anger! – Matthew 5:21-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 10, 2019

Angry words can never be taken back. Society’s standard of foul and angry words has declined in recent years, but we don’t have to decline with it, we should think about how to honor God with our speech. We please the Lord with our tongue when we show discernment. Proverbs 10:19 reminds us that “He who restrains his lips is wise”. When we do speak, we are to filter the words that escape our lips: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23 NIV). Paul’s warns us to “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).

How can we keep our anger contained? How do we remain calm in a world that seems to be filled with hatred, evil, and ungodly behavior? Jesus in the Beatitudes sets an almost impossible situation where we are to speak right and think right all the time. Jesus did this to startle his listeners and to shock them into listening to what he was teaching about himself. And here he gives us some practical advice on what to do when we get angry with one another. Let’s discover what Jesus teaches…

READ: Matthew 5:21-26

A young lady remarked, “As I was reading the text message on my phone, my temperature started to rise and my blood began to boil. I was on the verge of shooting back a nasty answer when an inner voice told me to cool down and reply tomorrow. The next morning after a good night’s sleep, the issue that had upset me so greatly seemed so trivial.” In dealing with anger Jesus teaches us…

I. We can murder others with our angry words! (Vv. 21-22)

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.

     1. Jesus reminds the crowd and his disciples of the commandments of God. He relates, “You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’” “You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13 NIV)” Jesus was also commenting on some of the prevailing opinions among the Jewish leadership of his day to show that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was defective. Remember he had just related that if their righteousness did not exceed that of the Pharisees they would not see the kingdom of heaven. The people needed a better righteousness or they could not be saved. Jesus illustrates what he meant by that better righteous-ness by showing that the common opinions of the scribes were incorrect. This is why he immediately remarks, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Jesus is equating a person’s irrational anger to that being the same as murder! The Pharisees thought it perfectly okay and even righteous to be angered at the Romans or anyone who did not agree with them; this is how they could later justify murdering Jesus and using the Romans to do their dirty work! Jesus understood that irrational anger could lead a person to totally dismiss those one disliked and thereby “murder” them. He continues by reminding them that “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.” God views all human life as sacred and to dismiss someone by calling them a “fool” was the height of arrogance and yet the Pharisees did it all the time. “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” To God it demonstrates one’s intent and the sinfulness of their heart and was in danger of being condemned to hell, “Gehenna” meaning valley of Hinnom, the valley south of Jerusalem where fires consumed the city’s garbage. This became an apt name for the eternal punishment of the wicked. Jesus is reminding us that we can murder others with our angry words!

  EXAMPLE: On the playground is not uncommon for children to get into arguments. We may think it is childish and just part of growing up but words can be hurtful and especially name calling. When adults carelessly use ungodly references or names for others it is just as childish and ungodly. Regretfully, I must confess that I am often tempted to respond in anger more than I would like to admit. I constantly find myself having to put into practice familiar Bible truths, such as “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV). Thankfully, God has given us his Spirit who will assist us in our battle with our sin. Peter and Paul called it the “sanctifying work of the Spirit” (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2 NIV). We need to remember that we can murder others with our angry words!

Jesus could have just given his listeners an admonishment for their bad behavior and then let it go but he then gives them how they can resolve the issue of angry words used in haste. Jesus continued by teaching that…

II. We can be reconciled for our angry words! (Vv. 23-24)

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

  1. Jesus is not giving us a set of rules we have to put into effect in order to be forgiven by God. Sadly there are those who actually think that this is exactly what Jesus was doing but he is not. What Jesus begins to do is to teach us through example how we are to come before God when we do sin and how we are to treat one another when we act horrendously. The Pharisees were intent only on the external act in worship. They looked not at all to the internal state of the individual. If a man conformed to the external rites of religion, however much envy, and malice, and secret hatred he might have, they thought he was doing well. Jesus taught a different doctrine. It was of more consequence to have the heart right than to perform the outward act. How many of us have been dismissive of our parents, our children, siblings, neighbors, or fellow believers? How could anyone say they love God and yet harbor in their heart ill feelings toward another? We could never go to worship! Jesus puts it in a way everyone could fully understand. He related “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.” I must insert here that Jesus will later tell us what the two greatest commandments of God are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (and to)… Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)”! Here he is sharing how they could do this when they realize that they have offended another by their hateful words. If they realized it they were stop what they were doing, even if was going to worship God, and “First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” This would have been shocking behavior to the Pharisees who thought their worship was far more important than anything including people’s view of them! What Jesus is describing here is not the actual act we are to do but rather how we are to respond when we realize we have offended someone else with angry words. And in his example Jesus is teaching us that we can be reconciled for our angry words!

  EXAMPLE: “Now go and tell your brother that you are sorry” my father admonished me. My retort was, “What if he doesn’t care?” My dad reminded me that I had been given only one brother and that I would always be his brother no matter what. It did not matter how he responded but rather how I acted. And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover a wonderful picture of how we can readily approach God anytime we have sinned! It does not matter where we are we can come before him and be forgiven! Also if we say we love God but do not care about those we have offended then what does that truly say about our love of God? This is where the Pharisees failed but Jesus pointed to a new covenant of reconciliation between us and God and one another! We can be reconciled for our angry words!

Words mean things. If they didn’t then we would not use them to express ourselves. This is why Jesus knew that words said in anger can truly be hurtful and can literally “murder” another’s character. As believers we need to be careful of our words and anger. Jesus teaches us that…

III. Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment! (Vv. 25-26)

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

  1. The consequence of not being reconciled Jesus expresses in the language of courts. The adversary (the one you offended or perhaps God himself who becomes our adversary when we do not confess our sin) shall deliver us to the judge, and then to the executioner and he shall throw us into prison! If we are unwilling to be at peace with others how will God deal with us? God’s dealings with those that harbored these feelings towards those who would not be reconciled with their fellow believers results in the example of punishment inflicted by human courts! That is, he would hold us as violating the sixth commandment and would punish us accordingly. Murdering someone can occur when we willingly know we have sinned and refuse to confess our sin or be forgiven by others! We should therefore “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” It is like when I would call my brother a stinky name and I knew as soon as I did I had better say I was “sorry” and mean it or suffer the consequences! Jesus related if we did not immediately do what we know we are supposed to do in such a situation we could suffer the consequences: “Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.” Jesus is not suggesting that the believer will never be forgiven and thereby end up in hell for an eternity, because we know this to be patently false. What Jesus is teaching is the seriousness of our angry words and our ungodly actions! His disciples, his followers, were to act differently than even the pious Pharisees! God wanted us to be holy because he is holy and he knew this was totally impossible because we are ungodly in our attitudes and actions! It is only through the shed blood of Jesus we are made holy and can be seen as righteous! We could surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees in Jesus! Our ungodly anger will lead us to an eternity in prison: “I tell you the truth you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” We can never pay the debt we own without Jesus’ sacrifice! Unless we take care of it through our faith in Jesus our unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!

  EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes: “A friend told me about the time he was watching football on TV as his young daughter played nearby. Angered by his team’s bad play, he grabbed the closest thing and threw it down. His little girl’s favorite toy was shattered, along with her heart. My friend immediately embraced his daughter and apologized. He replaced the toy and thought all was well. But he didn’t know how much his fury had frightened his 4-year-old, and she didn’t know the depth of her pain. In time, however, forgiveness came. Years later he sent an identical toy to his daughter when she was expecting a baby. She posted a photo of the toy on Facebook with the words, ‘This gift has a very long story going back to my childhood. It wasn’t a happy story then, but it has a happy ending now! Redemption is a beautiful thing. Thanks, Grandpa!’” When we are the victim of anger, God asks us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (v.32). Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!

Restored relationships are not easy, but they are possible by the grace of God.

Conclusion:

We can murder others with our angry words! We can be reconciled for our angry words! Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!

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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Fulfilled! – Matthew 5:17-20

Fulfilled! – Matthew 5:17-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 3, 2019

We have all heard the phrase, “the letter of the law”. It means that the law must be followed exactly in how it is written and not simply interpreted however someone wants it to be or whenever they want it to be. It is the old argument over the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words of the law, but not necessarily the intent of those who wrote the law. The problem comes when one tries to interpret what those who wrote it intended because then it is often tainted by the one wanting to interpret it.

The Jewish spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day had done quite a number on the Law of Moses and often spent hours, days, months, and years interpreting what they thought God meant. We see this kind of spiritual legal dance in today’s Catholic Church or in mainline liberal denominations like Episcopalian, Lutherans, or Methodist. Most theologically conservative Baptist churches see the Bible as the individual’s guide to how God interacts with humanity and how we are to live. Jesus turned the Jewish world upside down in the following verses where he describes himself as the fulfillment of the law of God. Let’s learn today what he said and why…


READ: Matthew 5:17-20

If you were given a set of rules and regulations that guaranteed your safety, comfort, and eternity wouldn’t you want to follow those guidelines? Now what if everything you believed and followed was about to change? Here we find Jesus…

I. Accomplishing the plan of God! (Vv. 17-18)

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

  1. This part of Jesus’ sermon presents the heart of his message because it demonstrates Jesus’ relationship to the Law of God. Jesus was not merely presenting a rival system to the Law of Moses and the words of the Prophets but a true fulfillment of it. This is why he tells them, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” For centuries the Law of Moses had directed every aspect of the Jewish nation; how they viewed themselves within the rest of the world, how they saw their relationship with God, and what they were about as God’s chosen people. Isaiah related that “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8 NIV)” Now we hear Jesus reminding his listeners that God’s plan would be finished but perhaps not in the way they thought it would be. He had come into the world to complete the Law of God. Jesus bluntly tells them, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” When Jesus related “I tell you the truth” he uses the word “Amen”. It is a serious and formal pronouncement by Jesus. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that “Jesus’ fulfillment would extend to the smallest Hebrew letter, the “jot” (lit., yôd), and even to the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter, the “tittle.” In English a jot would correspond to the dot above the letter “i” (and look like an apostrophe), and a tittle would be seen in the difference between a “P” and an “R”. The small angled line that completes the “R” is like a tittle. These things are important because letters make up words and even a slight change in a letter might change the meaning of a word.” The tiniest and smallest part of the law would be utterly completely fulfilled by Jesus! This was God’s plan all along. Jesus reminds us that he is about accomplishing the plan of God!
  Example: Whenever Jesus uses the term “Law and the Prophets” he used a common term that meant the entire Word of God from Genesis to Malachi! We would simply say, “All of it”; like my father who came home one afternoon and asked my brother and I why we did not do “all of it” that my mother asked us to do. We knew he meant everything she had asked us to do during the day. There was no confusion on our part because we understood exactly what my father meant. The same was true for Jesus when he used the terminology he did. Jesus wanted his listeners to know he was about accomplishing the plan of God!

How in the world can human beings be good enough for another let alone heaven? We know that from the very first days of our lives we are selfish and rebellious lot. We learn to say the words “no” or “mine” almost before anything else and here we find Jesus…

II. Reminding everyone of their spiritual situation! (Vv. 19-20)

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 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.

  1. The Pharisees had become so completely immersed in the Law of Moses that they had become unworldly. What I mean is they became almost worthless to the rest of mankind. They were the closest Jewish representation of spiritual hermits there was at that time. A hermit is a person who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons. Hermits are a part of several sects of Christianity, and the concept is found in other religions as well. The Pharisees became shut off from the people and world around them, like hermits. And even though their goal was to draw closer to God by following their strict codes they had derived from the law, they had failed miserably. While they tithed even to the tenth of their spices and herbs found in their cupboards they neglected justice and the love of God. In fact Jesus later would bluntly tell them, “you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them (Luke 11:46 NIV)”! They weighted the people’s lives down with useless lists of what to do and what not to do. So when Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” they would immediately wonder who in the world could ever do that? No one was perfect not even the Pharisees let alone the common folk! Like Catholicism does now with mortal and venial sins the Pharisees had divided the law into greater and lesser offenses but Jesus related they were all important! Sin is sin and breaking God’s law whether it was deemed by man to be greater or lesser did not matter! The key was “whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven”! They would have instantly thought of the Pharisees, surely they were “good” enough to do so? Yet Jesus immediately related, “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.” Surpasses the Pharisees? Who could do that? In what he was teaching Jesus was reminding everyone of their spiritual situation!

  EXAMPLE: It is easy to forget that no matter what we think about ourselves what truly matters is what does God think? A good parent encourages and mentors their children and does not leave it up to others to do. Jesus wanted his disciples to be the best they could possibly be and to understand that God did indeed love them but they needed to understand their sinful condition kept them from his love. Jesus therefore took time in reminding everyone of their spiritual situation!

Conclusion:


Accomplishing the plan of God! Reminding everyone of their spiritual situation!

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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Salt and light – Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and light – Matthew 5:13-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 24, 2019

What would you consider the absolute necessities of life after food and water? For some it might be their cell phone, big screen TV, clothes or shoes. One of things that help put perspective on what you value in life is to do an extensive list of your top 50 priorities. It can show you in a very real way what you value in life and what you focus on or not.

In Jesus’ day a couple of absolute necessities were two things we often take for granted, salt and light. Salt was used for many things from seasoning, preservative, sterilization of wounds, and as currency. It was considered an absolute staple for everyday life. Light was a means of continuing to work later, see your way, keep warm and keep out the darkness of night and long winters. Jesus understood the dependence and importance folks of his day placed on these two things; let’s discover how he uses salt and light this morning…

READ: Matthew 5:13-16

According to the urban dictionary a person who is “salty” means they are being rude, upset, angry, or bitter all the time. However when fellow sailors use it with one another as in “stay salty” it means to have a salty layer on one’s person because of their constant exposure to the ocean and here we learn that…

I. Believers are to remain salty! (Vv. 13)

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

  1. It is an old adage or phrase we have heard and used for centuries but it was Jesus who first used it in the context he did when he addressed his disciples and the crowd. He tells them, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt was often mined from the ground or produced from an evaporation process from the ocean. The purer the salt the better it was and the more expensive it was. Pure salt was highly prized. While many today are trying to get as much salt out of their diet as they can, most people during Jesus’ day prized it for its preservative and seasoning powers. Jesus reminds his listeners that they are the common folks that make up most of the world. Just as salt was a common necessity so were they as far as God was concerned. He valued them for who they were. But he knew like everyone else of his day knew that “if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” The answer is that it could not. In fact the storage of salt was just as important for traders, businessmen, the Roman army (which used it as pay) and others. Huge salt cellars were often dug out of the side of mountains where moisture could not leech it away; but as good as they tried to store it some of it would leach away and leave behind the minerals that did not evaporate. The salt would become worthless. If they lost their “saltiness”, their godly flavor, they could not automatically be made salty again either. In fact salt was “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men”! Jesus was referring to the fact that leached out salt where it was mostly dirt or minerals were no longer good for seasoning or as a preservative. In fact, it could be dangerous and so this kind of worthless salt was thrown on the roads where it killed the invasive vegetation and was walked on by man and beast! If God’s people, lost their godliness, they could not be made godly again could they? This is the inference Jesus was making. Most would have agreed with Jesus’ assessment of salt and them. His disciples were to be the salt of the earth, seasoning the world with his gospel message! They were to be careful to not lose their saltiness, the message they would declare could not be allowed to be diluted or spiritually evaporated away! Jesus’ warning was clear, believers are to remain salty!

  EXAMPLE: Recently I watched a YouTube video by Destin of Smarter Everyday about making his brain relearn how to ride a backwards bicycle. He related that “truth is truth and knowledge does not equal understanding”. He is correct. We may think we know the truth or that we are knowledgeable because we are educated. Yet Jesus came to show us the truth and still people decide not to believe him. If folks did not believe Jesus they would not believe his disciples either. The truth is people often think they know better but in reality they don’t. Truth is truth no matter what one believes and we may think we know something but in reality not understand the truth at all. Jesus related, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32 NIV)” Here Jesus teaches us that believers are to remain salty!

Being able to illuminate one’s home was often considered an extravagance in Jesus’ day because oil or tallow was expensive. And the lights during this time were not that great but even in the darkest room a little light was a welcome thing. Here we discover that…

II. Believers are to enlighten the world around them! (Vv. 14-16)

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

  1. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples “You are the light of the world.” Notice Jesus does not say that all people are the light of the world, only his disciples or followers were. He was referring to the fact that the world at large is a sin-darkened place. Those who are in the world cannot spiritually see without the light of God in their lives and they would be the light of God. And just as “A city on a hill cannot be hidden” they could not hide the fact of who they were once they decided to follow Jesus. It is an offhanded reference to the Holy Spirit residing in someone who would trust him with their lives. Of course this would not be evident or available until after Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection: “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)” and this is why the Apostle Paul would write, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)” Jesus’ disciples however could not hide the fact of the Spirit of God living in them! So, just as a city on a hill could not be hidden “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” They were to share the light of God; his gospel with the world. People are attracted to the love of God that is found in Jesus. His compassion, gentleness, kindness, and ability to cross any social, racial, or economic barrier made him attractive to the crowds. As his disciples we are in a sense to be attractive as well: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Faith in Jesus without kindness, compassion, or gentleness displayed in one’s life is “dead” as James, Jesus’ brother, would later write. Believers are to enlighten the world around them!

  EXAMPLE: In Clark County we get our electricity from several different sources: wind, water, solar, and natural gas. With the invention of better lighting it has revolutionized homes and industry. People began to have free time, they could read, play games, study, or do extra work. We can now light our homes at a fraction of the cost compared to when I was a child. In fact we have so much light it can be seen from space! Interestingly the idea of light became synonymous with combating the darkness of sin and here we are told by Jesus that believers are to enlighten the world around them!

Conclusion:

Believers are to remain salty! Believers are to enlighten the world around them!

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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