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The righteous person! – Psalm 1

The righteous person! – Psalm 1
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 18, 2017

Many base their entire lives on their feelings. Emotionalism will get one into trouble if it isn’t tempered by rationality. The one thing my Dad taught me was to rationally think things through, whether it was fixing something, doing a job, or my school work. Sadly, much of the church today is influenced irrationality. Colleges, the media, and politicians have all sold their souls on the altar of selfish emotionalism. Morality is often dictated by how it makes someone feel so personal sin is regarded in the same way. The Psalmist teaches us that the righteous person does not live their life this way.

The Christian is to live their life by their faith in Jesus and his teachings not their feelings or how we think he might have felt. Feeling good or bad about something does not make it righteous. Believers are to live holy lives. Our foundation is not in people, feelings, or what makes us happy for the moment. Holiness is found in walking with God; let’s discover what the Psalmist teaches about the righteous person…

READ: Psalm 1

Society’s attitude about contentment has changed a lot in the past several thousand years or so since this Psalm was written, however, the basic have not changed much. We still want food and water, shelter and safety. Yet there is more to life and the believer is taught that…

I. The righteous person finds satisfaction in God! (Vv. 1-2)

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

1. Right away the writer of this Psalm establishes how the righteous person is to live their lives: “Blessed” or happy “is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Notice the progression. First we find our happiness not in people, places, or things; the believer finds all they need in God alone! So much so they will “not walk in the counsel of the wicked”. In other words they would never give any credence to ungodly notions that are counter to the Word of God. The wicked world’s advice has nothing of value the righteous person should consider. The righteous person also will not “stand in the way of sinners”. The meaning does not mean that they would block a sinner’s way but rather it means the righteous person will not stand with those who like to sin or who live in sin! In fact ungodliness would be abhorrent to them. And finally the righteous person does not “sit in the seat of mockers”. Jude says that these kinds of scoffers or scorners “are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4 NIV) Each expression becomes more intense and signifies a progression from a casual influence of ungodly people to complete collusion with them in their scorn against God and his righteous people! Rather the righteous person’s “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night”! Instead of joining in or trying to be liked by the ungodly world the righteous person finds their inner and outer joy in God’s ways and in fact thinks about and meditates on it as he walks with his Lord moment by moment! Jesus taught that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21 NIV) The righteous person finds satisfaction in God!

EXAMPLE: When we are younger we wanted to please those who were in charge of us like parents, coaches, or teachers. We found satisfaction in achieving goals and gaining the approval of those I mentioned. One of the harshest things for young people to hear is if those they hold in high esteem are disappointed in them. I still remember when my father told me he was disappointed in me after I had promised to work in the yard for my mom but went and played instead. The Psalmist wrote that the righteous person finds satisfaction in God!

In order to live a life that is full and truly free one must have a good foundation in which to base their life on. Like a strong tree that can weather any storm…

II. The righteous person has deep roots of faith! (Vv. 3-4)

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

1. Paul wrote that the believer’s “faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5 NIV); that “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23 NIV); and the writer of Hebrews reminds us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV) Why is this truth important to understand? Simply because we have either forgotten what faith is or we do not practice it as we should! Faith is not some kind of wishful thinking or hoping. Faith is based on a certainty, biblical truth and spiritual foundation. The writer of this Psalm understood this and wrote that the person with faith “is like a tree planted by streams of water”. The idea conveyed is one of being firmly rooted in a place whereby the person receives their spiritual sustenance from the living flow of God alone! The Hebrews rightly knew that a flowing stream was healthier to drink from in that day than stagnant pools of standing water. In fact the writer noted that a deeply rooted fruit tree would yield “its fruit in season”. This was also important to them because a tree that produced good healthy fruit was important for daily survival; one could dry its fruit for future use as well. I am reminded of when Jesus went to a certain fig tree wanting to find fruit and found that it had none so he cursed it and it never bore fruit again! (Matthew 21:19) The well watered tree “whose leaf never withers” is blessed and produces in season what it is supposed to just as those who remain in the living stream of God. In fact “Whatever he does prospers.” Yet, we learn: “Not so the wicked!” Those who are easily influenced by the ungodly world wither in their faith and blow away at the latest politically correct notion. “They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” They soon leave their church, their Christian friends, and blow away like dried up spiritually worthless husks! However, the righteous person has deep roots of faith!

EXAMPLE: We live in a society that seeks to find deep happiness in the moment. This is impossible no matter how many Hallmark made for TV movies we watch. Life is more than pithy sayings found on greeting cards or Facebook re-postings. Interestingly recent statistics show that more and more couples are opting for marriage rather than living together. Many have discovered that a lasting relationship begins with trust which begins when you are willing to say “I do” without reservation and mean it. Even though my father was critically ill we kids knew he loved my mother more than anything. The righteous person has deep roots of faith!

Some go through life as if it were some kind of personal game not thinking or caring there are consequences for their actions. There is an outcome in life in making either good choices or bad ones and the Psalmist finishes his thoughts by relating that…

III. The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord! (Vv. 5-6)

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

1. The prophet Job would ask, “Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger? How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale?” (Job 21:17-18 NIV) The answer to Job’s question was every time unless they repent of their sin and walk with God. John the Baptist warned that the Messiah (Jesus) would baptize believers “with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12 NIV) Jesus also explained that the kingdom of heaven was like a net full of fish where the good ones were separated from the bad and that “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-50 NIV) Jesus taught over and over there were serious consequences for rejecting him as the Messiah. In fact Jesus would declare, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18 NIV) The Psalmist wrote, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” The righteous person will be rewarded. Jesus taught that one day the Lord will stand in front of all mankind and only some will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness… For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:23, 29 NIV) Jesus knew the reciprocity, the relationship, between God and mankind. “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!

EXAMPLE: The other day it poured rain and as I looked out our living room window I noticed that three squirrels and quite few different birds found refuge during the downpour. The maple tree in our front yard works as a great natural canopy protecting whatever is under it from the hot sun or spring rains. My father’s arms felt the same way when I was little. When things got bad he would put his hand on my shoulder or wrap his arms around me and I would feel safe. The Psalmist describes for us that the righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!

Conclusion:

The righteous person finds satisfaction in God! The righteous person has deep roots of faith! The righteous person is sheltered by the Lord!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15

Prayer! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 4, 2017
I have learned a lot by being a people watcher and listener. When I was younger it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut; I know it seems hard to believe but it is true! So, over the years I have made it a goal to really focus on how people pray and what they pray and in doing so I have noticed several things. First, a lot of folks misunderstand what prayer is and secondly, interestingly, they copy others in how they pray. Now that I have made you conscious and uncomfortable of how you should pray in front of me, I believe we need to learn what prayer is all about.
Prayer for the Hebrew during Jesus’ day was much by rote. They were kind of “Catholic” in a sense in that they all got together and recited similar prayers all together at the same time. They were not as dreadful as some religions and their overly mind-numbing chanted prayers that begin to sound like so much background white noise than actual prayer. Jesus’ disciples noticed how Jesus intimately prayed and they wanted to learn more. In the midst of Jesus’ landmark sermon on the mount he introduces a lesson in how to pray; let’s discover what he has to say about prayer…
READ: Matthew 6:5-15
Luke tells us 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) Here in Matthew is the fuller rendition of what Jesus taught them. We learn that…
I. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! (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. For Jesus there was never any doubt that his followers would not pray regularly and so he tells them, “And when you pray”. Prayer should be just like our taking a breath, something we do not even thinking about it but we do it anyway. Not like some robot reciting the same catch phrases, wording, or mantra but rather it should be something we naturally do! Notice he warned that when we pray we are not to “be like the hypocrites” who loved fine sounding words. Jesus said that “they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” They loved the sound of their own voices but more than that they loved the attention they got from others! Have you ever known someone who loved the sound of his or her own voice? Jesus bluntly told them, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” However, when the believer speaks to God it is to be one-on-one and personal. It is your conversation with the Creator of the universe and so Jesus quietly tells them, “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.” Now did he mean we should never pray publically? Nope. What Jesus is telling us is that our prayer is not for the ears of others but a conversation between two individuals: us and God! We are not to think about what others think; we are to focus on the one to whom we are conversing. The Pharisees had turned prayer into an act to be seen by men to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive monologues. Jesus taught, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Like the wind rattling through the trees or the sound of rushing water their prayers were meaningless. So Jesus warns us, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
  EXAMPLE: In the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast there is a crude, rude bully named Gaston. He likes himself and the sound of his own voice. Can you imagine telling the person you love just how much you love them in meaningless phrases at the top of your lungs in a crowded public place? While we may think it kind of romantic the first time it would soon get old, embarrassing, and meaningless if you did it all the time. Prayer is not all about you; it is your conversation with the Lord. It is individual and to be special. Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal!
As Baptists we often forget to whom we are praying and while it is a conversation with God we must never forget to whom we are speaking to. We learn that…
II. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! (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. Notice how Jesus taught that our prayer should focus on the one we are praying to. He begins by teaching, “This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven”. He understood that prayer is directed to “Our Father in heaven” and not to some manmade idol, statue, or effigy. God is our father not in that we are biologically related as some heresies teach but rather he is the one who made us, loves us, and sent himself to save us! Like children with loving parents, we depend on him for everything in life! Jesus continued by teaching our conversation with our Father in heaven should also remember his distinctiveness: “hallowed be your name”. God is to be revered and honored because he is God! He is holy, just, loving, all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. God should be honored in our prayer to remind us to whom we are praying. Our prayer is not to be all about us and in fact we are to pray that God’s purpose and plan for creation should be fulfilled: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom will be established whether we think it will or not. Jesus fulfilled the coming of God’s purpose and no matter what the rest of the world believes, God’s purpose and plan “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Our prayers should fit within the framework, purpose and plan of God which is to “seek and save what was lost”! (Luke 19:10 NIV) Far too often we think our purpose and plans are more important than God’s and that the only reason Jesus came was to give us a better life. I hate to burst your bubble but he did not. He came to give us life in him! We are to be dependent on God alone therefore we are to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Food was a daily focus for folks of Jesus’ day; not like today where we have refrigeration, grocery stores every four blocks, and availability to all kinds of food within hands reach. We can even get it pre prepared and sent to our homes over our cell phones! Earning enough money and being able to go to the market or being able to grow your own food for the day was a concern. Jesus was teaching that we are to be more dependent on God than we realize. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
  EXAMPLE: Don’t you just hate it when you have to go to some business or family function and you are greeted by folks who have a pasted on smile, nod and mouth they are glad to see you but are really looking for someone more important to greet than you? You know what I mean; before they are done with you they have already dismissed you and moved along. Now suppose you treated your significant other, your spouse, or the person you were dating this way? How long would your relationship last? And yet this is how we often pray. We go through the motions wanting to get through it in order to do the next chore we have to do. Prayer is not to be a check off list of regurgitated phrases. Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God!
Our conversation with God is to be more than about ourselves; it is a reflection of our attitude and our relationship with the Lord. We learn that…
III. Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition! (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. To truly have a conversation with someone there has to be give and take with both of you listening and sharing. And in this sharing you must be sincere and focused just like when you pray. Our prayer is a reflection of who we are. If we cannot honestly converse with our Creator, Savior, and friend how do we expect our prayers to be answered? Prayer, our conversation with our Father God, should be open and honest. It should begin with us reflecting on our relationship with others and with him! Jesus taught we are to ask him to “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” These are not debts we can repay or owe to God but rather are so called, because on account of them we owe satisfaction to the justice of God. Jesus paid our debt of sin fully, but we must acknowledge the payment daily for the sins we commit. If we cannot forgive others their sin against us how in the world can we expect God to forgive us? Our prayer should acknowledge our inability to make satisfaction for the debt we owe due to our sin and that only God can forgive and fully pay the debt! We are to humbly ask for forgiveness as we have forgiven others who have sinned against us. If we are willing and wanting that the Creator should forgive us we should be as mere humans more than able and ready to forgive fellow sinners. God is to be our guide in life. He is the one we are to follow and so it is quite correct to ask him to “lead us not into temptation”. The idea is not that God would deliberately tempt us or take us where we might be tempted but rather it is asking him to always clearly show us the right path to follow and “deliver us from the evil one”. The idea is we are to ask that we not be led astray by the world or Satan but that we instead would be drawn to God’s wonderful presence! Jesus explains 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.”  Jesus knew the Jews were a people very subject to revenge; an eye for an eye. Believers are not to be this way. Jesus is teaching about personal fellowship. One cannot walk with God and be unwilling to forgive others. Paul said it best, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
  EXAMPLE: Jesus knew he was about to do something so marvelous that it would boggle the minds of those around him. Because of what he would do their relationship with God would change forever. He would pay the price for their sins and the sins of the entire human race past, present, and future! When Jesus did this prayer no longer was a means by which one would come begging before God but it would reflect the relationship the believer now enjoys with his Father in heaven. Paul wrote that we have “received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” And that “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16 NIV)  Again Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10 NIV) Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
Conclusion:
Jesus taught that prayer is to be personal! Jesus taught we are to remember we are praying to God! Jesus taught that prayer reminds us of our condition!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 5:1-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

We must emulate God’s love! We are to live in the light of God’s love! We are to make the most of God’s love!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 2:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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1st Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7

1st Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! – Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 27, 2016

Some families keep an advent calendar and countdown the days until Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior of the world! As believers, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also wait eagerly for the Second Advent when Jesus returns!

A large part of our lives center around anticipation. How much we would lose if we were to wake up one day to the unexpected announcement: “Christmas in 10 minutes!” The enjoyment in many of life’s events is built on the fact that we have time to anticipate them. Whether it is Christmas, vacations, trips, or sporting events, all grow in value because of the hours we spend looking forward to them. Now imagine the anticipation of the salvation of mankind coming to earth. That is what the first Sunday of Advent is all about, our expectation and hope! Let’s discover why…

READ: Isaiah 9:2-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The Messiah will be born both God and man!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2016 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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What America needs now is: You!

What America needs now is: You!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 25, 2016

A clear and perfect example that America’s Christians are losing the battle of the soul is seen in the acceptance and embracing of younger generations to ungodly ideals of homosexuality, abortion, legalized drugs, alcoholic pleasure, and sexual relations out of marriage, adultery and pornography. However the other side of the coin is also seen in the outcome of decades of lousy preaching, shallow spiritual teaching, and the acquiescence of Christian parents to train their children in the way they should go. “The chickens have come home to roost.” Nothing occurs in a vacuum and the air has been sucked out of the spiritual construct of letting minors decide for themselves what they will eventually believe spiritually. Make no mistake we are reaping what we have sown and we have sowed very little spiritually into the minds and hearts of future generations. What was once seen as abominable, a few decades ago, many believers today are touting as the new Christian ideal for the modern era. I find it almost laughable that there are those who sanctimoniously say they cannot vote for a certain candidate because it isn’t what Jesus would do and yet project in their lives a failure to follow him by willingly submitting themselves, or their bodies, to the world’s notion of acceptance through what they wear, what they read or watch, and what they do to their own carcasses.

What is the answer? Certainly not rolling over like our dead dog Rover by going further into the darkness of sin. It is time those of us who have spiritual backbones to speak boldly and bluntly to not only the issues of the day, but to actually preach the “negative” aspects of spiritual neglect. You know, the entire Bible even the Old Testament. And not some hyped up notion of trying to massage a new form of legalism but where the New Covenant is far superior to the old because it was completely fulfilled through Jesus! We must preach the straight forward message that if one does not chose Jesus one will suffer the eternal consequences of their stupidity. Instead of watching for signs of our Messiah’s return we would do well to be about his business instead. Following the latest mega chart of some hapless hipster of the last befuddled “daze” we should realize we have been living in those days ever since Jesus ascended home! We must return to the spiritual truth that holiness is not felt but worked out in faith and that if the believer does not walk with Jesus daily one will drift away into the spiritual oblivion of compromise. (Kind of like the church has.)

Scripture is not our personal handbook to pull out in order to feel good about our temporal relationships, natural eating habits, marriages, parenting skills or for that Facebook pithy Pinterest Tweet of the day. It isn’t the Hello Kitty meme of the moment. Scripture is a message from God to a waiting sin-sick world in need of a spiritual cure that only God can provide through Jesus!

Following Jesus is not something you put on when it feels good to you like a good pair of warm jeans out of the dryer. When you decided to follow Jesus you decided to live for him alone; and that included everything that goes with it. He sacrificed it all for you and when you turn your life over to him you are sacrificing your all to follow him! It can personally pinch. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no turning back in Christianity! Stop whining that life is not fair for you or that you are not having fun; faith is found in trust and joy is discovered moment by moment as you decide to let go of your pathetic life and follow him alone.

Return to him because he has always been there for you. It is time America’s Christians to live like Jesus not just in word or feeling but in life. You are the leaven that will give rise to the truth; you are the light of a darkened world and you should not hide under the bed any longer. What America needs now is: You!

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The bread of life! — John 6:34-59

The bread of life! — John 6:34-59
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 8, 2015

They say that a person’s sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory trigger inducers. You can smell a certain scent and it will immediately remind you of a person, place, or time of your life. I know this is true because when I smell Aqua Velva, an aftershave lotion, it immediately reminds me of my father. the same is true for fresh baked bread. The smell instantly reminds me of my mother’s kitchen when I was growing up and the smell of her wonderful bread. She made the best bread in the world. We could hardly wait to get a thick warm slice with melted butter or peanut butter.

As I expressed before, bread was an important part of everyday life during Jesus’ day. It was how people survived and was the meal for even the poorest of folks. However, it was not like the bread we enjoy today. It was flat, ,chewy, small, round, thick, and kind of tasteless, but it sustained people for the day. It was often dipped in olive oil or wine. And here in John’s gospel we discover Jesus referring to himself as the bread of life. Its meaning carried with it several important connotations. Let’s find what Jesus meant and John wrote about the bread of life…

READ: John 6:34-59

First, we discover that…

I. Jesus is the bread of life! (Vv. 34-40)

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

1. The crowd still wants free food, but not just free, they want it for as long as they can get it. This is why they responded by telling Jesus, “from now on give us this bread.” From now on sustain us! When Jesus had earlier told them that the bread he gave gives “life to the world” they understood it to mean it would sustain everyone! And in fact it does but not in the way they thought. The sustenance Jesus gives is that of eternal significance. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” It is a personal relationship Jesus calls us to and it satisfies forever! We must be willing to partake of the spiritual food, gospel, Jesus offers in order to gain any sustenance from it, then we will not spiritually thirst or go hungry. Yet, like some today, even though they hear Jesus’ words and see the truth for themselves, they still do not believe. Jesus told them that in fact, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” When we beg for this bread of life, God willingly gives it! And he has chosen to gi e it to us and will not play games with us by giving it and taking it away. For Jesus the reason was obvious, he tells his listeners, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” This is the promise of God that his Son will not lose anyone who comes to him for salvation. It is dependent up his promise and not our guilty conscious. When we come to Jesus by faith we can rest assured when he returns that none of us will be lost  and we will be raised up on the last day! The truth is, Jesus reminds us, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jesus is the bread of life!

EXAMPLE: M.F.K. Fisher, in “The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition” wrote that “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…[and bread-making is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” Mahatma Gandhi said that “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” In John’s gospel we learn that Jesus is the bread of life!

II. Jesus is the sacrificial bread! (Vv. 41-51)

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?” “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

1. You can give people free bread, but often they will want butter to go with it as well! Some people are never satisfied. The “Jews began to grumble about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.'” They gripped because they thought they knew Jesus, he was one of their own. Like many small towns, everyone knew everyone else’s business, or so they thought. Yet this tells me some important things concerning Jesus that are often missed. They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I came down from heaven’?” Jesus was like most boys growing up! No one noticed anything out of the ordinary about him as a lad. He was very Jewish in his countenance and upbringing. This fulfills what Isaiah wrote concerning the Messiah to come, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Isaiah 53:2 NIV)” They did not think Jesus could do what he said nor did they believe he was who he claimed to be because he was Jesus, Joseph’s son. Yet, Jesus rebuts them by relating, “Stop grumbling among yourselves, no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” He can and will do exactly what he said he could do! “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” If they listened to Jesus’ words and believed they would have known the truth of God, because it would be God drawing them to himself! Jesus had seen the Father because he was with him from the beginning and all things were created through him! He then bluntly lays out the spiritual truth for them so they will fully understand it, “I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Jesus is the sacrificial bread!

EXAMPLE: Part of the setup of the Jewish temple was the table of showbread. It was an important focal point of worship for the Hebrew people. The showbread of the temple consisted of twelve loaves made of the finest flour. They were baked flat and thin, and were placed in two rows of six each on a table in the holy place before the Lord. They were renewed every Sabbath and the old ones were to be eaten by the priests only in the holy place. The number of the loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and also the entire spiritual Israel, the true Israel; and the placing of them on the table symbolized the entire consecration of the Hebrew people to the Lord, and their acceptance of God as their God. Jesus is the sacrificial bread!

III. The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses! (Vv. 52-59)

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

1. Far too many can only see as far as their noses. They only want what the world offers and do not care for the eternal things God has given us. The crowd first focused on the free food Jesus provided, then they focused on him giving them more of it, and finally they are focusing their attention on the wrong truth! The ” Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'” Jesus was not condoning cannibalism nor sacramentalism whereby the bread and wine would mystically turn into his flesh and blood! Rather, Jesus was teaching the eternal truth that unless you come to him, “eat of his flesh… and drink his blood”, in other words trust in his death and sacrifice, “you have no life in you”! The truth for Jesus is the fact that, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” The Jews were appalled at such a prospect because they could not see past their own prejudices of him being a small town boy and their preconceived notion of who God was. Jesus was teaching metaphorically. The person who could get past their spiritual ignorance and accept the truth of Jesus’ atonement, his sacrificial death and resurrection for them, they will be saved! In fact Jesus responds, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” Moses’ providing manna in the wilderness did not save anyone, in fact they all eventually died, but now we all can live when we receive Jesus by faith. The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

EXAMPLE: When the Hebrew people sinned against God by not trusting him, they had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. While there, God provided food for them in the form of manna and quail. The name manna is said to derive from the question man hu, seemingly meaning “What is it?” from the question the Israelites asked Moses. Only those who were deemed holy could eat the bread and it had to be eaten in a holy place, but now we hear Jesus saying that we are to partake of him to become holy. Jesus is the sacrificial bread! The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

Conclusion:

Jesus is the bread of life! Jesus is the sacrificial bread! The bread of Jesus is better than the manna of Moses!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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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