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Honoring God’s servants! — 1 Timothy 5:17-25

Honoring God’s servants! — 1 Timothy 5:17-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 21, 2018

Recently the news has had several truly horrendous examples of pastors gone bad both of which either had or are pastoring mega churches. One had sexual relations with underage girls and the other deliberately misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars of church money and was caught smuggling hundreds of illegal pounds of marijuana in his car. These examples are by no means how the vast majority of pastors humbly serve in their ministries but these ungodly few leave a bad influence and taste with those inside and outside the church. Part of the problem is when too much power is given to an individual who is supposed to be a servant of the Lord and not a sovereign.

Paul understood that how a pastor follows through in his ministry reflects on the entire body of Christ. The same is true in how the body of Christ honors their pastors. While respect is earned, honor is to be given to those who serve. For whatever reason Timothy’s congregation needed a lesson in honoring God’s servants, let’s see what Paul told Timothy…
READ: 1 Timothy 5:17-25

Just as love begins at home, shouldn’t the love of God begin within the church? In fact, we learn from Paul that…

I. Honoring God’s servant begins at church! (Vv. 17-21)

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

1. The “elders” Paul mentions here are not just those who are older but rather those men who held specific positions within the local church itself. Many therefore believe that Paul is probably referring to pastors here. So he writes Timothy to remember that “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” These men were actively involved with the oversight of the affairs of the congregation and they had to serve “well” – literally with honesty, morality, and integrity. Their work involved both “preaching and teaching” which is not just speaking the words of the Lord but also being able to handle correctly the instruction of his word as well. It is paramount that the pastor who is leading a church not only intimately know the word of God but be well trained himself in the ability to speak ans teach it! But part of the “double honor” Paul was referring to here is making sure these men were compensated well for their labor. Why? “For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’” Paul had learned from the Old Testament about making sure a pastor was taken care of and he had written “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:14 NIV) and Paul got this from Jesus who related that “the worker deserves his wages”. (Luke 10:7 NIV) Paul also knew that the pastor could become an easy target for those who were disgruntled and he wanted them treated in the same way anyone would be: “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” Jesus had taught that if a brother in Christ sinned against the church then “take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses”, (Matthew 18:16 NIV) however those leaders, “who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” Honoring God’s servant begins at church!

EXAMPLE: On Lifeway.com Michael D. Miller writes that “God asks the church today, ‘Where is My honor?’ Where is God’s honor in the conflicts over power in the church? Where is God’s honor when a church and its ministers cannot work together? Where is God’s honor when we don’t give Him our best? God asks, ‘Where is My honor?’ when there are broken relationships in the church. The church has forgotten what God called us to be Jesus prayed, ‘I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me’ (John 17:23). Jesus’ prayer for the church today is that it will demonstrate the glory of God by unity of purpose and spirit. Church conflicts don’t honor God. Individual disobedience in our Christian lives dishonors God. When we do not treat the ministers God has given the church with honor, how can we say we honor God? The giving of honor is practiced in the context of relationships. It is demonstrated through submission and obedience to those who are called to places of authority and responsibility. Honor for God is the basis of all honor. Obedience to God is coupled to the honor we give to God. When God asks the church, ‘Where is My honor?’ – what is your answer?” Honoring God’s servant begins at church!

Sadly people remember the bad thing that occurs rather than the good that happens most of the time. And if they have one bad experience at church or read about a bad acting pastor, this is the one example they remember concerning the church and its pastor. This is why Paul would teach that…

II. The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor! (Vv. 21-25)

I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.

1. What Paul was writing Timothy was not to be dismissed because Paul viewed it as extremely essential. So he writes “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels” — God and his messengers were witnesses! Paul knew that people could exert pressure on a new pastor especially someone they thought of as being too young and easily swayed to do what they wanted done instead of what God desired to do through him or the church. So Timothy was “to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.” I know in the past I have been saddened by how believers can sometimes be petty or childish. This should not occur and especially within the body of Christ. In fact Paul continued by telling Timothy two things: 1) “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands,” and 2) “do not share in the sins of others.” Timothy was not to give honor to someone who did not deserve it nor was he to give them a position in the church they had not shown they were worthy of. Remember when the church sets someone aside to do the work of the Lord the church comes together to “lay hands” on them in recognition of their ability to serve Jesus. He wasn’t to be too quick in doing so. Also Timothy wasn’t to share in the sins of others but instead he was to “keep [himself] pure.” It is a second reminder by Paul. Paul would tell the leaders in the church in Asia as he said goodbye to them, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28 NIV) Paul reminded Timothy he was to keep watch of himself as well and that “The sins of some men are obvious; reaching the place of judgment ahead of them” and sadly “the sins of others trail behind them” leaving in their wake spiritual destruction. However, Paul continues by reminding Timothy that “In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden.” The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor!

EXAMPLE: One of the most honored men of God is Billy Graham. One of the many reasons is his integrity as a man of God. Throughout his entire life he has maintained his integrity by keeping himself pure. He rarely got involved in things he shouldn’t and only took stands on such things as politics when he saw it as absolutely necessary. He saw a greater need to reach the masses and knew he could not if he got too politically involved. In fact Graham would write that “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. What our young people want to see in their elders is integrity, honesty, truthfulness, and faith. What they hate most of all is hypocrisy and phoniness. That is why it is important for us to go to church, to read the Bible, and to say grace at the table. Let them see us doing what we would like them to do.” The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor!

Conclusion:

Honoring God’s servant begins at church! The servant of God needs to be worthy of honor!

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 deacon! — 1Timothy 3:8-13

A deacon! — 1Timothy 3:8-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 12, 2012

Often all you hear about, read about, or see in the movies and TV is a gross characterization of evangelical church leadership. In fact so much so that there is a societal mythos that is completely false concerning Christian leadership in evangelical churches; especially concerning deacons. The truth is there are literally tens of thousands of pastors and hundreds of thousands of deacons who serve in evangelical churches all across America and worldwide with grace and compassion as the servants of Jesus they are called to be.

Paul is writing to his young friend in the ministry Timothy on how a church is supposed to function and how congregations were to choose their leadership. Were Paul’s suggestions supposed to be the absolute law for all time and all churches everywhere concerning how a local church chooses its leadership? No, I do not believe so, however, since his writing is Spirit-inspired we as believers would do well to give it the weight it deserves and see it as extremely important guidelines in choosing a church’s local leadership. Let’s see what Paul writes concerning a deacon…

READ: 1Timothy 3:8-13

I believe if churches truly followed Paul’s suggestions to Timothy in choosing their leadership we would have fewer problems within churches. The problem is that pastors and deacons have been given authority they were never supposed to have and are often seen as a hierarchy rather than the chosen servants they are supposed to be. In fact Paul writes Timothy that…

I. Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling! (Vv. 8-9)

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

1. You would think that if Paul held the standards for a church’s pastor in high regard that he would do so for other leadership within the church and we discover he does. He immediately refers to his assessment for pastors by writing Timothy that “Deacons, likewise, are to be men of respect”. He is telling Timothy that in the exact same way Deacons are to be like their pastors in that they should also be “men worthy of respect”. Remember, respect is earned not automatically given. The idea is one of honest and deep devotion to the Lord. There should be no question as to where his spiritual allegiance lies. The deacon should be “sincere” not double-tongued, saying one thing and meaning another. Deacons have to be straight-shooters and therefore “sincere”. A leader cannot be sincere or worthy of respect if they are influenced by outside stimulates so they should “not indulge in much wine”. In our day and age there is a segment of the Christian church that is rebelling against past teaching that wasn’t necessarily biblical but not necessarily wrong either. One of these is the willingness of millennials and others to justify drinking alcohol. Churches for centuries never taught against drinking alcohol such as wine and the Bible does not teach against it. It was during America’s prohibition when many evangelical churches adopted a strict no alcohol policy because alcoholism was so rampant. People have forgotten that it was the American voter who demanded Prohibition in the first place. Alcoholism was a national problem. Personally I believe this is a good standard since so much grief comes from alcohol. And Paul did write, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV) This is the idea Paul was writing concerning pastors and deacons imbibing. However the deacon should not be consumed with worldly wealth “pursuing dishonest gain” either. Paul summarizes this section by stating that deacons “must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” This should be the man of God’s focus in life, not booze or dishonest gain. Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling!

EXAMPLE: In the past there were those who did not think that being called to a ministry by the Lord was necessary, that instead it was simply an office conveyed or passed on by the church to certain people whom they thought of as deserving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being called to be a deacon in a church by God is an awesome and noble task. Churches are to be very careful in whom they set aside for deacons because these will be the men who will serve you as literally God’s waiters. Therefore deacons are to be men worthy of their calling!

Deacons are not to rule their churches nor are they to be seen as mini-pastors. They are to be the called out servants of the church that the church can depend upon to minister to its particular needs. The Book of Acts gives us an example of some men who were chosen by the Jerusalem church to literally “wait on tables” in taking care of the needs of widows in the church. (Acts 6:1-7) “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.” (Acts 6:5 NIV) Paul writes Timothy that…

II. Deacons should be weighed in the balance! (v. 10)

They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

1. Deacons are not deacons for life as some churches teach just as pastors are not pastor for life. It is not some worldly rank conferred by the church. A deacon should be a man of God who is called by God to serve his church. We realize then that deacons are called out men of God for a specific local church to serve that church. Therefore these men “must first be tested”. Literally Paul meant these men who are being considered should be proven by their actions, attitudes, and lifestyles. Their lives should be an open book and they should be ready, willing, and able to have their lives examined by the church they are gonna serve. Sadly there are always examples of deacons who were poor examples, authoritarians or self-indulgent men who focused on themselves and the personal power they gained from their title of being a “deacon”. Yet there are many more deacons, as I shared before, who serve graciously and with great humility, honoring Jesus with their lives and service. The writer of Hebrews reminds us to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7 NIV) And this is what Paul was trying to teach Timothy, namely that a church’s local leadership should be made up of men who the world, new believers, and the church would want to emulate. Therefore, “if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” As we look at those who want to serve us in our church we should remember that deacons should be weighed in the balance!

EXAMPLE: King Belshazzar is one of those tragic figures of biblical history. The Bible relates that he “gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them.” And that “he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them… As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall… The king watched the hand as it wrote.” (Daniel 5:1-5 NIV) He called for Daniel to interpret the writing and was told “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27 NIV) Paul knew if men are called to serve him as deacons, they should be weighed in the balance!

Leadership in the local church will be the example the local community sees as leading the church. How they equate the men who serve says a lot about the church itself. The title “deacon” is the
Anglicized form of the Greek word diakonos, meaning a “runner,” “messenger,” or “servant” and like pastors must also be men of quality, even though their function in the congregation is significantly different. Paul writes Timothy that…

III. Deacons should be good family men! (Vv. 11-13)

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

1. Continuing in his directions to Timothy Paul writes “In the same way” referring to the guidelines he had just laid out for pastors. In the same way deacons, if they are married, should have wives who “are to be women worthy of respect” as well. Some believe this to be a pronouncement that deacons should be married and this is possible under the way the original language is constructed. His wife is worthy of respect because she is honorable, honest, and not one of those “malicious talkers but temperate (meaning even keeled) and trustworthy in everything”. In fact I believe that the wife has a lot to offer in her support, insight, and encouragement to her husband who is a deacon. A wife that makes poor choices or is a gossip can be a huge detriment to their husband who desires to serve the church. Deacons and their wives must be able to keep things to their selves and not spread rumors or gossip. And again, like with a pastor Paul relates that “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.” A person’s spiritual skills begin in one’s home and how they are respected and honored by their own family reveals a lot about a man’s ability to serve his church. Paul knew that “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” Paul reminds us that deacons should be good family men!

EXAMPLE: Early in ministry I was exposed to a deacon whose family was well let’s just say not the best example in the world. I caught his son on top of the roof of the church yelling at and making improper finger salutes to passing cars one Sunday morning. The deacon’s response was to yell at his wife and his son in public and humiliate both of them. Needless to say he was not the best example of a deacon. Paul tells Timothy that deacons should be good family men!

Conclusion:

Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling! Deacons should be weighed in the balance! Deacons should be good family men!

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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Slaves and masters! – Ephesians 6:5-9

Slaves and masters! – Ephesians 6:5-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 2, 2017

There are times when employees may feel they are slaves or just a cog in one big giant machine only good for what they can turn out for the “man” but to equate our boredom or nasty bosses to actual slavery is a bit much. Real slavery is no laughing matter and it still exists in many countries of the world today; most notably within those that are predominately Muslim or socialist. While slavery was the predominate thinking for much of the world’s history Christianity has played a huge role in ending this horrendous system of slaves and masters.

Jesus taught that God views all people equal and while Paul and others addressed slaves and masters they knew that God so loved the whole world and that Jesus came to save all mankind. Within those nations who were influenced by Christianity the ungodly system of slavery would eventually be done away with. We can find the seeds to its destruction in how Paul addresses the attitudes of slaves and masters here in Ephesians. Let’s take a look at what Paul wrote and how it should affect our lives today…

READ: Ephesians 6:5-9

So should people view Paul’s statements here in Ephesians as an endorsement of slavery? Absolutely not! Instead we can discover that what mattered most to Paul was how one conducted themselves as a believer. And here in this truth Christians can find that…

I. No matter their position in life believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ! (Vv. 5-6)

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.

1. Slaves in Paul’s day had a harsh existence. They were property considered a thing that could be bought, sold, or destroyed at a whim. Yes, some slaves who served well could become part of a family and in fact receive the same rights and privileges as their masters if the master decided to give them their family’s name. In fact some slaves rose in rank and advantage even higher in society than their own masters! Yet we must look at the deeper truth Paul was trying to give his readers here. We must remember that both slave and master would hear his words. And so Paul began by telling them, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart”. He knew that slavery was harsh but he also knew that people could serve outwardly yet harbor hatred toward those who are over them. So again he mentions “respect” (literally trembling) and “fear” and “sincerity (single-mindedness) of heart”. We forget in our day and age because we put a deeper emphasis on personal fulfillment rather than being called by God. Paul wrote the Roman church that “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son… And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30 NIV) This is why Paul told slaves to obey their masters “just as you would obey Christ”. Paul was not endorsing slavery but rather teaching new believers how live their faith in difficult circumstances. They were to “Obey” their masters “not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” This is a good truth for all Christians because no matter what their position in life is believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ!

EXAMPLE: When my father had to leave for weeks and sometimes months in order to earn a living for our family he would remind us kids, “Mind your mother just as if I were here while I am gone.” We knew that no matter whether he was home or away we had to be obedient to our Mom just as if he were home. Slaves in Paul’s day could have seen their newfound faith and freedom in Christ as an excuse to be disobedient to either their believing or non-believing masters. But Paul reminds them that no matter their position in life believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ!

Some folks see their job as something they have to do in order to pay the bills but this attitude can make your work drudgery for you. The same is true when one is saved by faith and called to serve the Lord. We can begin to see our service as drudgery; however Paul reminds us that…

II. No matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically! (Vv. 7-8)

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

1. Enthusiastically is a word that comes from several Greek words that literally mean “in God’s essence” and was originally used by the Greeks to describe manifestations of divine possession but was later used to describe the believer’s life in Christ. Paul writes that new believers were to “serve wholeheartedly” literally from their very beings that now had been changed by their faith in Jesus! In his letter to the Colossian church Paul would remind them to put off any evil in their lives by remembering to put “off your old self with its practices” and instead “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:8-10) And remember he had just taught them that “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) The reason for Paul was obvious because when the believer served their masters, bosses, parents or others this way it was as “if you were serving the Lord”! It is easy to go through the motions of just doing your job or your chores but when one does this it is only because they do it as if they were serving “men” and not Jesus. For the believer serving Jesus should never be a chore. The Christian’s attitude should be changed because of their faith in Jesus. We are to live our lives by a different set of values and attitudes because “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) And we know “that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” Paul is not enforcing a “works” mentality but rather reminding them that our final reward is different than what the world gives. The world rewards us by our status but God sees us as his new creation. No matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically!

EXAMPLE: One of the best pieces of advice my father imparted to me in the last days of his life had to do with how I did my work whether it was at school, home, or a job earning money. He related that I would probably do a lot of different things in life just as he had but in all those jobs he learned that if one wants to be successful in life you have to have the right attitude. He related, “Go to work, do your best, do more than what is expected of you, be honest and trustworthy and don’t get involved in gossip.” A believer’s motivation in life is not to be money, prestige, power, or position. Paul would say that no matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically!

We see that Paul’s view on how Christian slaves were to conduct themselves was radical. It was radical because of the change that occurred in the life of a believer when God comes to reside in them through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore those in charge who were saved were to be radically different as well. We discover that…

III. Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way! (v. 9)

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

1. Equality between sexes, races, or ages is not found in baseless reparations, false apologies, or in making idiotic excuses. You cannot force someone to not be racist, xenophobic, or chauvinistic. Sure you can legislate, make laws, and try to teach social justice but that will never change the inner person who is evil in nature. Paul intrinsically understood this because he had experienced it himself. In fact he had been an evil “enforcer” for his mentors to try and stamp out the early Christian faith. In the Book of Acts we learn that while the followers of Jesus were preaching and teaching others about the love of God expressed in Jesus, Paul “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NIV) However Paul was changed “As he neared Damascus on his journey” when “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” (Acts 9:3) Paul would later say that Jesus “appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:8) and he would confess “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10 NIV) Just as Paul had been changed he now says, “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way” as they had been treated by God. They were placed in charge for a reason just as they had come to faith for a reason and so they were told “Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” Jesus saw both slave and master as the same. Paul would write, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV) Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way!

EXAMPLE: Atheism is the antithesis of faith. We see its outcome in socialism and communism where mankind is exemplified and faith in God is disdained. Hundreds of millions have been murdered by the atheistic movements found in the Nazism of Germany, the communism of the Soviet Union, China, North Korean, Cambodia, Vietnam, Venezuela, Cuba, and other nations. Atheists believe morality is derived from the social norm but if the social norm is already inwardly and utterly corrupt and evil then your morality will be corrupted as well. This is why many in our day think that society needs to change its moral core from one influenced by faith in God to one based on faith in mankind. We see its outcome. Morality is in a constant state of flux and depends upon how one feels about their self in the moment. Paul says believers are to be influenced by the change that God has done in their very beings; their souls. Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way!

Conclusion:

No matter their position in life believers are to consider themselves as servants of Christ! No matter our position in life Christians are to serve enthusiastically! Christians in charge are not to be prejudice in any way!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Rich Life! – James 5:1-6

The Rich Life! – James 5:1-6
By pastor Lee Hemen
August 10, 2014

In the movie Little Orphan Annie the bad guys sing a song called “Easy Street.” They sing about a pie-in-the-sky place they think only rich folks enjoy. They blame all of their hard times on their not getting rich quick and how the wealthy keep them from doing so. Social Democrats have used class envy since the Great Depression. However, this is nothing new. There are several false theologies regarding distribution of wealth that are rampant in today’s world. One comes from the days of Jesus and James whereby folks incorrectly thought that if you were well off, then you were being blessed by God. This false doctrine still exists in the teachings on so-called Christian television. They teach that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to their ministries will always increase one’s material wealth and health. It has been called health and wealth, name-it-and-claim-it, blab it and grab it, or positive confession. Based on false interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, they teach that the Bible is both a spiritual and material contract between God and man. If we have enough of the right kind of faith in God, he will deliver on his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor. Robert Tilton, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Hagin, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyers and Paula White are just a few of the false heretics that promote this kind of ungodly theology.

Then there are those within some denominations, such as Unity, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, and Disciples of Christ that teach Liberation Theology. Most churches and denominations that belong to the National Council of Churches support Liberation Theology. It is also seen as a political movement that began in the Roman Catholic Church in South America in the 1950s. It is a theology which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ as liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions. It has been described as, “an interpretation of Christian faith through the poor’s suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor”. It promotes open borders, illegal immigration, and redistribution of a nation’s wealth through political or forceful means. Detractors have called it Christianized Marxism, which it often is. It secularizes the teachings of Christ and deems him as a liberator for the poor and downtrodden. Liberation theologians specifically target the disparities between rich and poor in the existing social and economic, political and corporate structures. They believe that Jesus’ gospel taught the redistribution of property and wealth. Nothing could be further from the truth. On August 4th the Vatican announced it was lifting its 29 year old ban on several radical priests who promoted and taught Liberation Theology. Pope Francis himself is a Liberation theologian and proponent.

Then there is also Black Liberation Theology which seeks to liberate people of color from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation and views Christianity as a theology of liberation. It views people of color as an “oppressed community” and the Gospel as a means to social, economic and political liberation. According to James Hal Cone, one of its founders, if God is not just, if God does not desire justice, then God needs to be done away with. Liberation from a false god who privileges whites, and the realization of an alternative and true God who desires the empowerment of the oppressed through self-definition, self-affirmation, and self-determination is the core of Black Liberation Theology. Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago is the church most frequently cited by Cone and others as the best example of a church formally founded on the vision of Black Liberation Theology. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, President Obama’s pastor for decades, who married him and Michelle and baptized his daughters has preached racism and anti-Americanism in his sermons, articles, and statements, and finally under public scrutiny caused then-Senator Barack Obama to distance himself from his former pastor. Sadly, to the detriment of our Nation, and the alienation of diverse groups, much of its theological teachings have found their way into recent public policy.

Why do I bring these examples up for your consideration today? Simply because many over the centuries have misused the passage of Scripture from James we will consider today. James wanted his readers to live the rich life in Christ not as a means of material, political, or social liberation but of personal stewardship. Let’s discover what James wrote and why.

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. (James 5:1-6 NIV)”

If we just focus on these verses of James we will come away with a convoluted view of what he was trying to teach his readers. It is well known that Martin Luther had problems with this book. He called it a “right strawy epistle.” But it is only “strawy” to the degree it is tough in its teaching. Like Jesus’ teaching on the mount, there are enough needles in this haystack to prick the conscience of every dull, defeated, and decadent Christian in the world. Here is a “right stirring epistle” designed to exhort and encourage, to challenge and convict, to rebuke and revive, to describe practical holiness and drive believers toward the goal of a faith that works. James is severely ethical and refreshingly practical. Lest we forget, the purpose of James is to exhort the early believers to Christian maturity and holiness of life. This letter deals more with the practice of the Christian faith than with its precepts. James told his readers how to achieve spiritual maturity through a confident stand, compassionate service, careful speech, contrite submission, and concerned sharing. He dealt with every area of a Christian’s life: in what he is, in what he does, in what he says, in what he feels, and in what he has. This is the rich life for James.

Notice that the first three verses here describe what has occurred to all of their ill-conceived schemes and hording of their wealth: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. (James 5:1-3 NIV)”

James bluntly rebukes his readers by saying, “Now listen, you rich people!” Instead of rejoicing at how intelligent or practical they had been they should “weep and wail because of the misery” that was about to happen to them! They had spent their entire lives plotting how to get rich and stay rich but their “wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten” their fine clothes! James knew that no matter how hard one tries to take it with them, they cannot do so. And for the believer in Christ to not use what he has been blessed with in life for the glory of God, was a sin for James. James is not preaching some redistribution of a person’s possessions, but rather the good stewardship Christians are supposed to practice in life! A person’s wealth is not good to them after they are dead, only the pagans believed that! We are not only to reap what we have sown in life; we are to sow what we have reaped as well! We are to share the goodness of God that we enjoy with fellow believers around us. Christians are to take care of one another. A holy life is marked by a servant’s heart. There is a reason why Jesus taught, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)” True liberation in life does not come from the redistribution of another’s wealth but from our own liberation in Christ whereby our hearts are changed! When our wealth has rotted, our clothes have been eaten by insects, and our gold and silver wasted and corroded what good are they? James warns, “Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.” Like Paul, James knew we should be careful how we build our lives in Christ. Paul would warn, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV)” James would warn his readers, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” James is implicitly asking them, “What in the world are you doing with your wealth now to further the kingdom of God?” Jesus, in the Apostle John’s vision in Revelation, remarked to the church at Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. (Revelation 3:15-18 NIV)” Now, let me ask you, “Are you living the rich life God desires of you?”

James continued his warning by relating, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you. (James 5:4-6 NIV)”

We forget that our sins will find us out. We will have to give an account of all that God has blessed us with in this life and how we used it to further for his kingdom or not. Proverbs reminds us, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow’– when you now have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27-28 NIV)” the neighbor here was fellow Hebrews, for us it would be our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, lest we forget, Jesus reminded an expert in the law, after he correctly answered that we are to love God completely and our neighbor as ourselves that our neighbor is the one whom God lays in our daily path that could use our assistance. It is the parable of the Good Samaritan where a man is robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch. Both a priest and a Levite passed him by after seeing him. But the Samaritan, an outcast himself from Jewish society, saw him and took pity on him. Took him to an inn and paid for his recovery. Jesus asks the expert in the law, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Now, let me ask you “Have the cries of your neighbors reached the ears of the Lord Almighty?” Rich living, liberation in a believer’s life begins when we willingly use what God has given us to invest in the lives of others who do not know him!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 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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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…

By Pastor Lee Hemen’

July 19, 2014

 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33 NIV) For we know that our old self was crucified with him… (Romans 6:6 NIV) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds… (Ephesians 4:22-23 NIV) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace… (1 Peter 4:10 NIV) The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11 NIV)

 

What is up with all the “selfies” people take? What does this say about us? We go to different places and then stick a cell phone in our own faces, snap an intimate shot of our facial imperfections and nose hair to share with thousands of others. We cannot even see what is behind us because the whole focus of the picture is us! I am not speaking to the world here but to believers who say they love Jesus and want to live for him. Could this modern-day electronic digital affliction be problematic of what we have allowed society to implant in us? Perhaps this is true. If we take the snapshot selfishness into our church membership, our relationship with Christ, or our spiritual growth what we will end up with is a lot of the focus being on us instead of the big picture – namely God’s kingdom. Couldn’t we take one picture of our nose hairs and simply lie to others about where we are in our selfies? Are we so focused on ourselves that we do not serve, we do not seek ways to grow God’s kingdom, or we have become static in our spirituality? Perhaps we need to take the cell phone out of our faces and take a snapshot of our lives in Christ instead. Would we like the hairs and imperfects we would see there? If so, then what will you do about taking so many selfies instead of sacrificially serving the Savior? Makes one wonder…

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The Holy Life! — James 1:22-27

The Holy Life! — James 1:22-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 18, 2014

Some believe that global warming is the biggest threat to the world today. In fact, many of the major news organizations came out on Monday saying that the Antarctic is losing its ice sheet and “there is nothing we can do about it!” Yet, according to the National Snow and Ice Data, Antarctic ice is growing at a rapid pace never seen before. Some thought, in the 1970’s, that the greatest risk we faced was global cooling! Some thought we would all starve to death by the 1990’s and yet there are more crops being grown than ever in the history of mankind. Every year brings dire warnings of MERS, SARS, AIDS, the Nile Virus or some other disease that is going to wipe us off the face of the earth. Yet, as I look at mankind and especially the life of Christians today, I believe that the greatest global threat we face is ungodliness seen as a normal part of the Christian faith.

The holy life is no longer seen as hip or something one should embrace in their faith walk. Some actually think that because they have once placed their faith and trust in Jesus, they are now as holy as they need to be. They have their lifeguard Jesus and do not need to worry about how they are drowning in their sin. Nothing could be further from the truth! Hebrews reminds us to “Make every effort to… be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV) And, Peter would admonish, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV) What then is the holy life? James relates some simple concepts that can help us to understand the holy life better, let’s discover what he teaches…
READ: James 1:22-27

He did not care what he had done, he did not care he had hurt others, and he did not care that he had to serve hard time for it as well. Thinking he could get better treatment, he began to serve in the chapel and it was there he discovered his imprisonment was not just physical, it was spiritual. While incarcerated, he found freedom in Christ. James teaches us that…

I. The Holy life responds to God’s Word! (Vv.22-24)
1. Herein is a primary problem of Christianity today; people do not do what the word of God says. It was present in James’ day as well. What is truly astonishing about this is that this is one of the first New Testament letters written concerning the Christian faith. Yet, we find James very bluntly telling his readers, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The wording here means to delude oneself or to deliberately fool oneself into thinking something that was simply not true! His fellow believers were not doing what they had just heard they were supposed to do in order to live holy lives! Like delusional dolts, they listened to the fine sounding words of the gospel, left their wonderful worship and their study of God’s Word and immediately forgot what they were just taught! Can you imagine such a thing? Many of the moral and ethical problems we face in our day are not the fault of politicians, the world or satanic influence; rather, they distill down to individual believers not doing what the Word of God says! We have thousands of churches full of folks listening to fine sounding sermons doing nothing with what they hear! We suffer from spiritual dementia! We can still walk, talk, and feed ourselves but we no longer recognize what holiness is supposed to look like. We have become blinded by the selfish faith we put on everyday rather than living a sacrificial life God desires! James declared, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” We are very religious, but spiritually worthless. Jesus disgustingly told the self-centered religious folks of his day, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24 NIV) Following Jesus is more than a simple confession. Isaiah said that a person like James describes “feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” (Isaiah 44:20 NIV) Too many Christians excuse their ungodly lifestyles and hold onto its filth rather than holiness. Paul wrote, “Do 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) Far too many live in spiritual dementia! James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!
EXAMPLE: Jesus rebuked those in his day who thought of themselves as holy but did not respond to the Word of God before their very eyes by telling them, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart (meaning the person’s totality) the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV) Well, guess what? Out of the overflow of one’s life, the totality of what a person is in Christ flows one’s holiness or not. James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!

She wanted more in life. She had thought of herself as a “good person” and thought she loved the Lord, but there was something missing and she knew it. A harmful relationship soon ended and she had to confront the fact that she was not living her life as God desired her to. She had compromised her faith and what she believed in a hope that this would bring her happiness by excusing her ex-boyfriend’s ungodly life. She opened the Bible and as she studied it and began to apply what she read to her daily walk and she knew she had to live her faith out loud. James teaches us that…

II. The Holy life lives their religion! (Vv. 25-27)

1. The simple unvarnished truth is that Christians need to begin to live a godly lifestyle! James knew that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward!” (Psalms 19:7-11 NIV) The answer to the ills of the world is the Word of God! The answer for weak-willed believers is to follow their Lord and be holy! James wrote, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom (the Word of God found in the gospel), and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” Again, Paul would remind us, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV) Love here is sacrificial action, holy living! John wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16 NIV) Holy living demands sacrifice and we do not like to sacrifice anything! We want the sacrifice of Christ; we want others to sacrifice for us; but we balk at giving anything of ourselves away at all! However, holy living also recognizes the delusion! It confesses the sin of selfishness! John would teach succinctly, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 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 1:6, 8-10 NIV) James continues, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” Whether it is your mouth, your habits, or the way you live, James is telling us we need to live lives of holiness, not just fool ourselves and say we are holy. In fact he goes on to teach, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Holiness has an outcome. It is more than concerned for others, it acts! Holy living is more than feeling good about oneself; it keeps itself from being polluted by the world! James knew that the holy life lives their religion!
EXAMPLE: Paul was harsh and much of today’s politically correct world does not like what he wrote concerning holy living, but what he taught is true. He wrote, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ‘Everything is permissible for me’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’–but I will not be mastered by anything… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-12, 19-20 NIV) James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

Conclusion:
James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word and James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 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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