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Condemned by conformity! — 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16

Condemned by conformity! — 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 28, 2018

I used to go fishing for crawdads. As we caught them we would put them in a bucket of water. As the bucket got full of crawdads they would try to crawl out but the ones trying to get out were pulled back in by others trying to get out. As parents we warn are children about the influence of peer pressure. Peer pressure can be just like those crawdads that pulled others back into the bucket. I have learned however that peer pressure does not end in childhood, it continues into our adult life. There are those in our Christian lives who try to pull us back into conformity rather than live the lives God desires.

2 Kings 14–15 contains a brief history of the reigns of 3 kings over Judah and 6 kings over Israel. Their reigns were characteristic of life in Judah and in Israel. The reigns of the kings of Judah did okay but they compromised God’s requirements. They allowed people to offer sacrifices and offerings in the high places instead of in the temple in Jerusalem. Their disobedience resulted in Judah moving further away from God. And the six kings of Israel all did evil by worshiping golden calves and Baal. Both kingdoms went to war against one another and the final result of their unfaithfulness led to their conquest by Assyria. They were condemned by their conformity! Let’s discover why…

READ: 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16

Believers who disobey God, who do not worship him, and who do not repent will suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. This is true for common folks as well as leaders of nations. Here we learn that…

I. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! (2 Kings 14:8-14)

Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, with the challenge: “Come, meet me face to face.” But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah, however, would not listen, so Jehoash king of Israel attacked. He and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth Shemesh in Judah. Judah was routed by Israel, and every man fled to his home. Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.

1. Let’s break down what’s going on for the Israelites during this time. Amaziah the king of Judah to the south did some things right in God’s sight but not like his forefather David. He did evil by not removing the high places where people worshipped idols. David permitted no worship except that of God and no sacrifices except those offered in the temple in Jerusalem. Embolden by his military success against Edom, Amaziah challenged Jehoash to the north by telling him “Come, meet me face to face.” Jehoash was no dummy and responds by telling Amaziah, “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant.” Jehoash of Israel answered Amaziah’s challenge with a fable! Judah was just a small, weak weed and Israel as a strong Lebanon cedar. Jehoash’s army would be like the wild animal. Amaziah would be trampled to death in battle. Amaziah had become arrogant in his victories. Was he truly going to threaten northern Israel? Jehoash advised Amaziah: “Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah refused to listen and “so Jehoash king of Israel attacked… at Beth Shemesh in Judah”. Jehoash did not stop there, he “went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.” What occurred was because in his pride “Amaziah… would not listen, for God so worked that he might hand them over to Jehoash, because they sought the gods of Edom. (2 Chronicles 25:20 NIV)” Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!

EXAMPLE: Many mainline churches today that had been spiritually great in the past are mere shadows of what they once enjoyed. They sent missionaries around the world with the Gospel. They fed the poor and helped the weak but now more often than not they are more involved in socialism than the spreading the Gospel. Arrogantly they depend upon spreading liberation theology than sharing the good news of Jesus Christ thinking that mankind can change the sinful condition of the world. Mankind can’t only the good news can. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!

Pride often leads to disastrous consequences. Pride led Amaziah to declare war on Israel, one in which he suffered a humiliating and disastrous defeat. Not only did Amaziah suffer personally but also he brought disaster on his people, the city, the temple, and his palace. Pride should not be found among God’s people. As we continue we learn that…

II. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! (2 Kings 15:10, 13-14)

Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah. He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king… Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned in Samaria one month. Then Menahem son of Gadi went from Tirzah up to Samaria. He attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.

1. “Shallum son of Jabesh” of Israel, whose name means “retribution”, was originally a captain in the army of King Zechariah and now he “conspired against Zechariah”. He wanted to be king himself. And so we learn that “He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” See, politics haven’t changed much in thousands of years! This is the culmination of ungodly spiritual conformity that goes back to Jehu. He was a king who had “destroyed Baal worship in Israel” (2 Kings 10:28). However, he was warned that because of his spiritual conformity of not turning “away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan” his descendants would only be in power for 4 generations. Jehoahaz, Joash, Jehoram, and Zechariah were his successors until it was abruptly ended by Shallum! However what goes around comes around and even though “Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah” we quickly learn that “he reigned in Samaria one month”! And we think that our elections are so bad. They are nothing compared to those ungodly men who decided against following God and decided on their own to usurp power for themselves. Shallum was opposed and slain by Menahem, who, according to the historian Josephus, was the commander of the forces, which, on the report of the king’s murder, were besieging Tirzah, a town twelve miles east of Samaria, and formerly a seat of the kings of Israel. Stopping the siege, he marched directly against the usurper, “attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!

EXAMPLE: How often have we seen as large ministries or churches fall because of their leadership? The scandals that plague the Joel Olsten’s of the world are rife. Basic Youth Conflicts was one such organization. Here locally we had a fast growing mega church that was lead by one man fall into ungodliness. The Senior Pastor and his relatives made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was later caught involved in ungodly perverted behavior and is serving time in prison for his crimes. We have seen the same kind of corruption in the history of the Catholic Church and other denominations when they become full of themselves rather than following the Lord. It is easy for those caught in the corruption of sin to acquiesce and excuse their ungodly behavior. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!

Many atrocities occur in today’s world. God’s people should renounce these brutalities that often characterize the ungodly. Christians should do what they can to help defend people who are helpless before such atrocities. These people include the unborn as well as children, youth, women, and elderly people who are abused. We discover that…

III. Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response! (2 Kings 15:16)

At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates and he sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.

1. Before WWII churches were becoming complacent in Germany and the rest of the world. Some even took the posture that National Socialism was a good thing for Germany and perhaps the rest of the world! When the first reports of Jewish genocide reached the shores of America many did not believe it was occurring. Some reported it was a false narrative. Sadly it was not. Spiritual leaders simply refused to stand against the evil they saw rising around them. This is exactly what occurred in both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The nation of Israel should never have been split into two separate nations. It should have remained true to God. What occurred afterwards is a horrendous example of what happens when God’s people do not remain true to him. Being a military man and only knowing aggression and the horror of war Menahem used his knowledge to subjugate Israel: “At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.” What a horrendous act! He was a horrible leader and led his people into debauchery and ungodly worship: “In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. (2 Kings 15:17-18 NIV)” It is a sad commentary to the outcome of the once great nation Israel! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!

EXAMPLE: Believers who disobey God, do not worship him, and do not repent suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. We live in a time when there is societal pressure to shame believers into accepting perversion as normal and godly. TV shows like Young Sheldon offer viewers a distorted view of Christianity. The Pastor of the family’s church is often ridiculed and displayed as a dolt. The church secretary is seen as a chain-smoking crass elderly woman; and the mother is displayed as a hypocritical weakling who doesn’t have a clue about Christianity. What mainstream media desires is that Christians conform to their worldview or suffer the ridicule of their peers. Paul reminds us that “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)” Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!

Conclusion:

Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!
—-
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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Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22

Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2018

There are those men and women who look beyond their circumstances in life and see God working right in the midst of every situation. I would like to think that I am such a person but I confess this is not always the case. However in those times when it is difficult for me to see the hand of God working in my life I am reminded of this incident in the life of Elisha and kind of find comfort in how he deals with his servant. The reason I do is because more often than not I am like Elisha’s servant and I need to learn to look with faith.

When the king of Aram sent a large military contingent against Elisha, the prophet did not fear because he saw by faith that God had sent him protection and help. God had provided a large spiritual contingent that was more powerful than even the Aramean army. God protected Elisha when the Aramean king sent his forces to surround Dothan and capture Elisha and in the process taught those around him to look with faith, let’s discover how this morning…

READ: 2 Kings 6:8-22

We need to view every situation in life with faith. God desires us to see him and his resources are always available for every experience in life. This incident recorded in the life of Elisha teaches us that…

I. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! (Vv. 8-12)

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

1. Arameans were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with Israel during the years of Elisha’s ministry. At the time of this particular incident the Arameans were making profitable surprise raids into Israel. So we are told that “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The dates for these events are not clear. Therefore the names of the kings of Aram and Israel are uncertain. History tells us that Hazael or Ben-Hadad were two possibilities for the king of Aram. Jehoram, who was also called Joram, might have been Israel’s king at the time. Whenever the Arameans set up for such an attack, God would reveal the Aramean’s plans to Elisha. Thus God’s prophet always knew where the Aramean forces were waiting to ambush Israel’s forces, or where they were planning to attack Israel. Then the man of God would tell the king of Israel about the Arameans’ movements and what they planned. Elisha was Israel’s early warning system! “Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.” This failure and frustration “enraged the king of Aram”. He did not recognize God was at work through Elisha’s supernatural knowledge of the Arameans’ troop movements. The Hebrew word translated enraged means “to storm.” The Aramean king’s first reaction was to suspect a traitor among his officers. So he “summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” One of Aramean officers told his king that no one of the officers was a traitor. The person responsible for leaking information about the king’s raiding plans was Elisha, the prophet in Israel. Elisha could tell the king of Israel even the words the Aramean king spoke in his bedroom! Elisha knew even the innermost secrets of the king! These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

EXAMPLE: These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. Such a conclusion was understandable for surely the king knew about or even had experienced the work of traitors. His conclusion was reasonable and humanly possible. He chose to look at the problem from a human viewpoint and through human reasoning. The king did not know God was working. However, the Aramean servant saw the situation differently. The passages do not explain how or why the servant saw their problem was the result of Elisha’s work. Whether the Aramean was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. His actions teach us that when we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

Whether the Aramean soldier was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. This officer’s actions illustrate the biblical truth of this lesson that seeing life through the eyes of faith is both a choice and God’s gift. In fact we learn that…

II. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! (Vv. 13-17)

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

1. To his credit the Aramean king believed his officer and ordered all of his officers to go into Israel and see where Elisha was. The king began making plans to capture the prophet. This Aramean king was another of many kings who tried to silence prophecy that was not in their favor. After a period of time a report came to the king that Elisha was in Dothan, a city about 12 miles south of Israel’s capital city of Samaria. “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” The “strong army” translates a Hebrew word meaning “strength” like the strength of an army. The king sent a powerful military force to capture one scruffy man of God. “They went by night and surrounded the city.” By sending them at night, the king thought they could slip up on Elisha. The forces moved to encircle Dothan to keep Elisha from escaping. The king was still looking at the situation only through physical sight and reasoning through human reason. He did not factor God into the situation at all. Elisha’s servant was the first to report their situation. In a panic he rushed to Elisha and said, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The Aramean king wasn’t the only one looking at the situation through human eyes, so was Elisha’s servant. The servant’s exclamation “Oh” can mean “Oh, no!” Seeing the enemy forces all around them, the servant could only react in hopelessness and fear. He was looking through eyes of human sight and not of spiritual faith. He saw only the overwhelming enemy, not the more than adequate resources of help available from God. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” “Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Where the servant only saw the enemy’s mighty forces, Elisha saw God’s mightier forces. Both forces were there but God’s were stronger. God answered His prophet’s prayer, and the servant was able to see the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. The servant needed his eyes of faith opened so he could see God’s protecting presence. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

EXAMPLE: Enemy troops really did surround Dothan, which frightened the servant. But Elisha was right. God’s protecting forces really did surround Elisha and Dothan as well. Both were acting realistically. The servant either didn’t know or had forgotten that God is always present with his people; just like we can when we are in the midst of life’s circumstances. The servant needed to stop looking at situations with human sight alone. The psalmist said, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalms 34:7 NIV). When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

Looking through the lenses God provides requires that we walk with him by faith. We cannot always we see the outcome but we can always rest assured God has our back and desires the best for our lives. In fact we discover that…

III. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working! (Vv. 18-22)

As the enemy came down toward him, “Elisha prayed to the LORD, Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”

1. We discover this must have been a firsthand account because of the detailed personal information given. We learn that “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’” Elisha and Israel did not have a great army nor did they have the resources to wage an ongoing campaign, all they had was their dependence on the Lord. That was enough and in fact more than they needed because God held the victory. “So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” Think of a situation in which you had difficulty seeing any evidence God was at work. Did you eventually believe He was at work? How can that experience help you begin to view each situation today with faith? After God answered Elijah’s prayer to strike the Arameans blind, Elisha led these sightless soldiers the 12 miles from Dothan into the heart of Samaria. “Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ On entering Samaria, Elisha prayed again. This time he asked God to open the eyes of the men of Aram so they could see. When their sight returned, they saw “they were inside Samaria”! This city was encircled with a defensive wall. The Aramean military force was surrounded by Israel’s forces and enclosed within Samaria’s walls. And he led them to Samaria.” Seeing his enemy helpless before him the Israelite King asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” Calling him this showed his respect for Elisha and he could have had the soldiers released, enslaved or killed. Yet this was not the King’s victory, it was the Lord’s! Elisha’s answer revealed the prophet (and God) had other plans for the Aramean forces. Elisha wanted to show mercy to them, not vengeance. Also, he wanted to make the point both to the king of Aram and the king of Israel that God’s horses and chariots of fire had captured and defeated the enemy. Elisha wanted the Israelites and the Arameans to see the hand of God in the situation. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

EXAMPLE: Instead of having the enemy soldiers killed, the prophet instructed the king of Israel to prepare a great feast for the conquered forces (v. 23). After the feast was over, Elisha instructed Israel’s king to release the captives and allow them to return to their master; his instructions to refrain from killing them and to feed them and let them go free was a demonstration of God’s mercy. Showing mercy and offering forgiveness are expressions of God’s nature and reveal what He prefers to extend to all people. Elisha wanted God to receive the glory for what had happened and his actions teach us that when we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

Conclusion:

When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
—-
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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Pollution – Jude 1:1-16

Pollution – Jude 1:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2018

I always laugh when the media does a story on pollution and they show pictures of steam coming from “smoke” stacks. Few realize that there are very few real “smoke” stacks within the US and Canada and this is why the media has to use billows of steam in order to make you think it is smoke. It’s like when they would write dire warnings about radiation from nuclear power plants and they would show us pictures of the water cooling towers and the huge plumes of steam coming from them.

Is there pollution? Does it occur today? Absolutely! And there is also a spiritual pollution that is just as harmful that many do not realize has affected the way they think about the Bible, salvation, and even Jesus. Most of the New Testament writers had experienced spiritual pollution firsthand. Jude, Jesus’ brother, meets this contamination head on and dramatically reveals it for what it truly is. Let’s discover for ourselves what he wrote concerning pollution…
READ: Jude 1:1-16

Many in our day and age let others do their thinking for them. They are not good at discernment and rely on others to tell them truth when in fact these folks may not have their best interests in mind. As believers we must be willing to find the truth, especially when it concerns Jesus. Jude writes that…

I. Pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! (Vv. 1-4)

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

1. Jude introduces himself right away as “a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James”. He is not someone who speculates about Jesus because he declares he is a “servant” a “doulos” or bond slave. Someone who willing bound himself to the one he served and in this case for Jude it was Jesus. Jesus was his Master but also notice that he writes that he is the “brother of James”. There are three differing arguments as to who Jude was: 1) Jude the Apostle but he never mentions being one, 2) Jude an early leader in the Jerusalem church and one of two nominees to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus, but early church history and evidence does not support this, and finally 3) he was Jesus’ half brother which most historians support. He calls himself a “servant” because he had not always believed in Jesus. He now was writing “to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. He wanted them to know the “mercy, peace, and love” of Jesus as he now did “in abundance”. He wanted to write them about their shared faith but instead he “felt” that he “had to write and urge [them] to contend for the faith that was once for entrusted to the saints”! Jude was worried because “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago [had] secretly slipped in among” the believers! Like wolves in sheep’s clothing these ungodly men camouflaged themselves in the flock of Christ. They were “godless men” meaning they did not care about the Lord at all. Instead they wanted to “change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord”! Wow, things have not changed much have they? These guys wanted to add to or subtract from what Jesus taught and who he was! Sound familiar? In fact they wanted to do so, so they could excuse their immoral behavior! Jude knew that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

EXAMPLE: The word “contend” is an old-fashioned word that isn’t often used anymore. It means to fight for, stand up for, or stand firm for. The idea is someone who is willing to stand their ground for what they know to be true! Here is a good example: 71% of Americans identify themselves as “Christian” but 51% of those who identify themselves as “churchgoers” have never heard of the Great Commission! Many in our day consider themselves “spiritual” but not religious. The Barna Group writes that “The twin cultural trends of deinstitutionalization and individualism have, for many, moved spiritual practice away from the public rituals of institutional Christianity to the private experience of God within.” It is a faith based solely on feelings rather than actual facts. It can excuse the immorality of murdering babies in the womb, living together before marriage, and same sex marriage. Why has this occurred? Jude writes that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

Can there be consequences for not “contending” for our faith? Jude writes that there certainly can be and in fact the consequences can be dire. James in fact goes on to write that…

II. Pollution carries its own consequences! (Vv. 5-9)

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

1. What James was writing them wasn’t anything new but he wanted to remind them what their inaction could cost them if they were not willing to clean up their spiritual act so-to-speak. So, he writes, “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” Say what!? Remember the little incident with the bronze snake on a pole? And how those who made and worshipped Golden Calves died in the wilderness without ever seeing the land promised to them? “And the angels” Jude writes, “who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” You mean God holds even angelic being accountable? Yep! And “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” All of these “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”! Jude knew that “in the very same way” those who slithered into the church and corrupted the gospel that “these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings” just as the perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah did! Curiously Jude then cites a pseudepigraphical book, The Assumption of Moses, in showing that these false teachers had no respect for even heavenly beings: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” These folks had deliberately brought the gospel, Jesus, and who he was down to their level on purpose. They wanted to excuse their polluted spirituality but Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

EXAMPLE: Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Generation Z, those born between 1999 and 2015, is the first truly “post-Christian” generation and what they don’t believe is alarming. They do not assert any religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is more than double that of the US adult population. It appears that today’s youth struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God. More than one-third (37%) believes it’s not possible to know for sure if God is real. More than half of all Americans, both teens (58%) and adults (62%), agree with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life; there is no ‘one true religion.’” This is the result of believers not contending for their faith at home, in the classroom, at work, and in the market place. Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

Spiritual ignorance is at an all time high. People often place more credibility on what they feel than what is real. Believers spend too much time arguing over the gnat and the world has swallowed the camel. It’s time to stop arguing over biblical minutia and focus on what matters. Jude writes that…

III. The result of spiritual pollution stinks! (Vv. 10-16)

Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

1. Interestingly when people no longer have a spiritual core they distrust and even hate anything spiritual. Jude writes that “these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” Cain killed his brother in jealousy, Balaam tried to get rich by selling his gift to the highest bidder, and Korah said that they could worship God anyway and anywhere they wanted! Jude writes very descriptively about these deceptive individuals: “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” Interestingly Jude quotes another pseudepigraphical book of Enoch where “the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” While Jude used books his audience would be familiar with he wasn’t endorsing them as holy or spiritual. He wanted his audience to realize that “These men [were] grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude knew that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

EXAMPLE: In partnership with Summit Ministries, Barna conducted a study among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism have influenced Christians’ beliefs. They found strong agreement with ideas to nonbiblical worldviews among practicing Christians. For instance 28% strongly agree that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of more than 27%. The New Spirituality worldview has also inched its way into Christian ethics; 32% strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” Almost 23% strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” And it was noted that younger believers were willing to embrace Marxism alongside their faith! These things are ungodly, unbiblical, and heretical. Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

Conclusion:

Jude reminds us that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence! Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

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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Being Faithful – Malachi 2:10-16

Being Faithful – Malachi 2:10-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2018 AM

After learning to say, “No!” we quickly learn to ask the question, “Why?” It is an innate thing with us and it goes back to the Garden of Eden when Eve rebelled and then asked the very same question. It exists in every preschooler and manifests itself in adolescence through our demand to be told the reason for everything that happens to us. We especially hate it when someone dares to tell us, “Because I said so, that’s why!” We want and expect an answer to our inquiry. But guess what? The simple truth is, we do not deserve an answer for every “Why?” we ask, nor should we expect one.

In God’s economy trust is manifested when we obey without asking “Why?” When we pridefully think God should justify himself to us God reminds us that his ways are not our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts. He desires his children to live by faith and trust. Israel had failed to do just that. Instead they came up with their own way of worship, their own manmade guidelines, and fashioned gods into the images that made them feel comfortable about themselves. God, through Malachi, called them back to a fresh beginning in himself. Would they listen? Let’s find out as we discuss being faithful…

READ: Malachi 2:10-16

When Israel was faced with the scathing retort from Malachi, they demanded to know “Why?” God literally says, “Okay, if you want an answer here it is!” For a fresh start they needed to realize…

I. They were faithless! (V. 2:10)

Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?

1. Spiritual questions stab the soul and our answers reveal our faith — Malachi asks three!
1) The first question is: “Have we not all one Father?” The issue here goes to the idea of what a person truly believes. Malachi is addressing the teaching that God is the spiritual father of us all. Malachi is making the case of one God, who is our father and it goes back to verse 6 where God asks, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” So the correct answer would be, “Yes. We have one father and he is God.” If we recognize God is our spiritual father, then he is to be obeyed!
2) The second question is: “Did not God create us?” This idea goes to who is in charge—just who is the Creator and who is the creation?! In our day we like to think we are in charge. “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want!” We want to decide what is best for ourselves. We do what we like. We worship God how, when, and where it suits us. It is the profane notion that says, “I can worship God anywhere.” Yet God says, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, and I will accept no offering from your hands (v. 1:10).” If the One who created us wants us to worship him are we not obligated to worship him the way he desires, when he desires, and where he desires? The answer of course is, “Yes.”
3) The final question Malachi asks is: “Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” God had created and worked with Israel as a nation and as a people. Now Israel was divided. This was totally against God’s will. Amos related that God had “chosen” them from “all the families of the earth (Amos 3:2).” Yet they acted like bickering children and rival siblings. They had profaned God’s sacred covenant by splitting the nation! They were faithless!

EXAMPLE: Being the siblings we were, Ed and I used to pick on one another. It is a brotherly love/hate thing. Anthropologists believe it goes back to establishing dominance within the gorilla group, establishing a pecking order. Not that I believe this is true for human beings who are created in the image of God. Anyway, I do know that when my Mom would have her fill of our rivalry she would tell my Dad, “You handle it. They’re your boys!” All he had to say was, “Boys, behave because I said so.” And we did. We behaved because Dad had set the law down. He was our Dad and we respected him and the punishment that followed if we didn’t “behave” because he said so. The same was true for Israel and it is true for us as well. Christians are to honor and follow God for no other reason except he said so and it is a matter of being faithful not faithless!

Like all people who have been caught doing what they should not have been doing, the Israelites demanded proof of their untrustworthiness of not being faithful. God responds by telling them that if they wanted a fresh beginning they needed to realize…

II. They were Spiritual adulterers! (Vv. 2:11-12)

Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob–even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.

1. Spiritual adultery occurs when we fool around on God!
1) Malachi describes their sin, “Judah has broken faith!” The KJV gives us a better idea of what had occurred and just how God looked at their sin by describing it this way: “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god!” The unfaithfulness Malachi had in mind (v. 10) is called “a detestable thing” (lit., “an abomination”), something abhorrent to God. The abominable unfaithfulness that profaned Israel’s holiness was spiritual intermarriage with pagan idols. They had married themselves to foreign gods instead of being faithful to the one who loved them! They fooled around on God!
2) Malachi declares the result of sin, “As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.” The prophet invoked a curse on any Jew who had committed or would commit the sin of idol adultery. It meant that the man would die or that he would have no descendants in Israel. This was a horrible notion to the Israelite. Notice also that “even though he brings offerings to the Lord Almighty” God would see through his hypocrisy. Christians do this very thing when they say they love God, believe in Jesus, yet live with one foot in the world. Christians can commit adultery with their faith and deaden their walk when we fool around on God!

EXAMPLE: Spiritual adultery doesn’t mean a person has to totally leave God. It occurs when our spiritual affections are lukewarm because we have diluted them. Jesus told 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 (Revelation 3:15-17 NIV).” We leave our first love when we allow the world to attract us more than our love of Jesus does. When the things of God become second place to our success, our education, or our relationships we have done a “detestable thing” and married the “daughter of a foreign god.” We have fooled around on God!

Not wanting the Israelites to think that they were getting off easy God, again through Malachi, continues in his chastisement of his children. God illustrates for them exactly why their sin had affected their relationship to one another as well. They wanted a fresh start, yet they were not being faithful…

III. They had committed spiritual divorce! (Vv. 2:13-16)

Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

1. Breaking faith with God is like divorcing a devoted spouse – we are to remain faithful!
1) Malachi teaches us about the outcome of our actions (v.13)! Malachi said the people had “flooded the Lord’s altar with tears.” People are always sorry when they get caught in sin or when they need God’s help. The idea here is one of begging, pleading, or false and phony repentance but God did not care any longer. He knew their true inner nature. John wrote to his friend Gaius, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:3-4 NIV) It does not matter how “sorry” we are what matters is if we put into practice and renew our marriage vows to the Lord. God is filled with joy over our walk with him!
2) This is why Malachi shows them the exact sin they were guilty of (2:14-15a)! God doesn’t heed their tears or hear their crying. They asked, “Why?” and he replies, “Because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant (v. 14).” God had made them “one flesh” with himself. God wanted a holy people totally devoted to him! This is why Peter warns us that “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).” God hates divorce and especially our spiritual abandonment from a personal relationship with Him!
3) Malachi then mentions the cure (2:15b-16)! God’s people are to “guard” themselves in their “spirit” and “not break faith with the wife of your youth (v. 15b).” They were to return to the one they loved in the first place! It would show true repentance. By guarding their spirits they would be acting in accord with God’s purpose and would help preserve the unity of the nation as well as their individual relationship to him! We forget that God sees divorce as an act of spiritual “violence.” This is why he “hates divorce”! This is why he asks, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.” He continues by asking, “And why one?” God then gives us the answer, “Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Christians are God’s spiritual children, “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:13 NIV) We are to remain faithful!

EXAMPLE: The other night I watched an old John Wayne movie called “The Cowboys”. During the movie some boys that were supposed to be moving a herd of cattle through dangerous country found a bottle of whiskey and got drunk. John Wayne and his cook knew they had done it and the next day when the boys were suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, the cook gave each one a dose of castor oil. As he ladled a large spoonful into each boys unwilling mouth, he remarked sarcastically, “I wonder why you ‘boys’ all of sudden are so sick?” That’s the way the cure for sin is. The cure for our sin may seem distasteful to us but God is gracious and desires that we return to Him. And, yes, it can be hard to swallow! We need to remain faithful!

Conclusion:

We all at some time want to ask the question “Why?” Yet for some of us the answer may be more than we want to hear. These people revealed their true faith; they were spiritual adulterers, who had divorced God from their lives. The writer of Hebrews teaches, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) It is a matter of being faithful!

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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Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!

Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 18, 2018

We can dishonor someone by not holding them in high regard. The people of Israel had done this with God. Within the Ten Commandments the most important instructed, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Yet the Israelites had dishonored God.

Malachi’s second burden therefore deals with the dishonor God’s people can have for the Lord. While it may be easy for us to point to specific religions today that make idols and worship them, Christians can fail to see the idols we fashion and impure worship in our lives. In this, Malachi’s burden is just as much a message for us as it was for the Israelites. We are to honor God with acceptable sacrifice. Let’s find out what Malachi teaches us about being honorable…

READ: Malachi 1:6-14

From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation relationship is important to God. When God told the Israelites, “You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3 NIV)” he meant it. Therefore, Malachi’s burden begins with…

I. Evidence of a dishonorable relationship! (V. 1:6)

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

1. A relationship by any other name is not a relationship! Malachi spoke of proper relationships in his society. The Israelites understood that “A son honors his father and a servant his master.” People respected relationships and the structure they had. In fact one of the Commandments stated that a person was to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). However, God asks the applicable question that goes to the heart of the issue, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect (fear) due me?” If God was seen as the Father of the Israelite people and also as their Master, where was the respect due Him? God did view Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22) and the Commandments stated very clearly that children were to honor their parents. Israel recognized that “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).” What had happened then to the relationship Israel was supposed to have with God? They had allowed false and perverted ideas of worship to creep into how they honored God. The absurd response of the people, especially the priests, proves the point God made through Malachi. So conceited and into themselves were the people and their spiritual leadership that they have no idea they had flagrantly and deliberately strayed from God! They act like they are the ones offended and arrogantly ask, “How have we shown contempt for your name?” (I can see Malachi stepping aside to get out of the way of the fire from heaven!) Fear of God does not necessitate being terrified of him; but rather having a proper respect and reverence for him, a reverence that leads his people to worship and obedience! They had deliberately followed their own selfish desires instead and dishonored their relationship. Malachi brings evidence of a dishonorable relationship!

EXAMPLE: America has become a nation of consumers. There is nothing wrong with this except where God is concerned. We consume God instead of offering him our sacrifice. We look for ways to get the most bang-for-our-buck. This is why many hardly give their time, talent, or treasure. Churches offer up bigger and better Sunday morning shows knowing that the consumers in the pews may shop elsewhere. It is contemptible when we continually want God to fill our plastic bag with goodies, but never sacrifice anything for his kingdom. Malachi brings evidence of a dishonorable relationship!

When folks give the Lord something that doesn’t really cost them anything, it is not a sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice demands that it cost the giver. The Israelites should have understood what it meant to sacrifice because they were required to give the very best they had to God in order to show that they truly honored the Lord. Malachi goes on to give…

II. The evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship! (Vv. 1:7-10)

“You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. ‘Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?’–says the LORD Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”

1. The proof was in the pudding and it contained a huge hairy fly! The priests were responsible to teach the people God’s covenant and turn their hearts to God! If the priests failed to honor God, what could be expected of the people? God tells them, “You place defiled food on my altar.” The “food” That God refers to here is the required sacrifices that were to be offered. They were warned against offering such sacrifices and thereby profane God’s name (Leviticus 22:2, 32). These offerings were symbols of obedience, trust, and the cost involved. By their actions they were literally “saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible”! God honors righteous sacrifice and they were bringing contemptible ones to his temple and table. Apparently they had become so hardened they rationalized their sin! They arrogantly ask, “How have we defiled you?” They had deliberately brought “blind…, crippled or diseased animals.” If they thought it was okay to do they should try offering them to their Persian “governor”! God sarcastically asks them, “Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” The answer is, “NO!” The people tried to get God to reconsider, “Now implore God to be gracious to us.” But his answer was: “With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?” In our day and age we think that if we feel it then it must be sincere! God knows better. He isn’t “pleased” with half-hearted offerings—they are contemptible and he “will accept no offering from [our] hands”. Notice what God tells the Israelites: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you and I will accept no offering from your hands.” it would have been better if they had just “shut the temple doors” so they did not “light useless fires on” God’s altar instead of bringing their worthless sacrifices and worship! Can you imagine coming to worship only to find the doors nailed shut and a sign outside that read: “Closed because of unholy Worship”? Malachi gives the Israelites the evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship!

EXAMPLE: How do you think people would feel if they came to an Ash Wednesday Worship and were greeted by having human waste spread across their foreheads instead of ash? Later God would tell the Israelites, “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. (Malachi 2:3 NIV)” Even today there are those who have taken the holy out of worship. They do not bring pure sacrifices yet they think God should bless them. Jesus related that, “by their fruit you will recognize them”. Is there evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship in God’s church today? Malachi’s words should give us pause. Malachi gives the Israelites the evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship!

The Israelites had forgotten that their whole existence was to be God’s witnesses in a sin-fallen world. I believe that much of Christianity has forgotten this spiritual truism as well. We see that it often begins in what we are unwilling to sacrifice for the Lord. He wants our best and we give him what we think we can afford. Like us the Israelites were guilty and Malachi give them…

III. Evidence of spiritual hypocrisy! (Vv. 11-14)

My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

1. The Hebrew word “because” actually begins verse 11 and is not found in the NIV. It was “because” God’s name would be “considered great among the nations” that the Israelites needed to make “pure” sacrifices. It was a matter of the Israelites witness to the world! When “In every place incense and pure offerings [were] brought to [honor God’s] name, [then his] name will be great among the nations”! Notice how God says the people responded: “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously”! They not only profaned God’s table, worship, by bringing the worst they had but they contemptuously turned their noses up to being God’s witnesses to the world! Levitical law stated they were to get a share of the meat sacrificed to eat themselves, but they didn’t want the diseased food they had originally brought God! They were blatant hypocrites. God bluntly asks them, “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” They didn’t want their own sacrifices why should God want them? God tells them, “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” No one likes a cheater. Cheaters try to gain an advantage by rigging the rules. These hypocrites tried to garner God’s favor with worthless offerings and they knew it. God reminds them that he alone is is “a great king”, in fact he is the Creator of everything and his “name is to be feared among the nations”! The idea of “fear” is held in awe and reverence, but it wasn’t because of their contemptible sacrifices. Are there evidences where Christians “cheat” God with their blemished sacrifices and then say that God’s church is a “burden”? I suspect there is just like the Israelites did and this is why Malachi gives evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

EXAMPLE: In a typical hypocritical fashion a woman in Oregon was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10-year-old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. Sadly we can see this in the worship of the Israelites during Malachi’s day and we find it in the lives of Christians as well. Malachi gives us evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

Conclusion:

What is disrespect? The dictionary defines it as “a lack of respect or esteem.” We can disrespect something or someone by not holding them in high regard. Malachi gave the evidence of dishonorable relationship, evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship, and evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

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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The Disciples Get Schooled! — John 4:27-42

The Disciples Get Schooled! — John 4:27-42
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 30, 2014

The Get Schooled Foundation (also Get Schooled or getschooled.com) is a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of media, technology and popular culture to motivate and inspire young people, their families and teachers to improve high school graduation rates and college-going rates. Get Schooled combines powerful national content and programming (on-air, on-line and on the ground), with school-based engagement strategies to ensure both a broad reach and a measurable impact. Sounds good doesn’t it, yet we learn it is founded and funded by Viacom and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with significant support from AT&T. Why is this important? Before receiving assistance in getting kids to learn parents and guardians need to be aware of the social and political philosophies some of these organizations have and how they use programs like these to reprogram your children.

Getting schooled is an old term which often meant the person was on the receiving end of someone else who knew their stuff whether in sports, education, or politics. Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus’ disciples getting schooled, so-to-speak, by Jesus about what and who the gospel message is and meant. Let’s discover how the disciples get schooled…

READ: John 4:27-42

We discover here that…

I. People get schooled when they are spiritually clueless! (Vv. 27-38)

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

1. Jesus’ disciples were spiritually clueless because their focus was wrong. They are more concerned about Jesus eating something and making sure he doesn’t eat with the woman he was talking to! Interestingly they go into the very town the woman goes to but each of them comes away with something quite different!  The disciples return just as she is leaving. They “were surprised to find him talking with a woman.” However, none of them ask Jesus, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Instead they immediately urge Jesus to eat something! Folks can get so concerned for themselves or the world and become spiritually clueless. They were supposed to be Jesus’ disciples. Jesus who came to seek and save the lost but they were more concerned for food and societal restrictions. Jesus begins to try to bring them back to what they need to focus on by telling them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Instead of asking Jesus about what he meant by his statement, they wonder, “Could someone have brought him food?” Here is a teachable moment. Jesus responds by telling them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” God had begun a wonderful plan to rescue mankind and now Jesus would complete the task by his death and resurrection. Jesus did not want them to continue to be so spiritually myopic. Being Jewish they only thought God had come for them but Jesus came to finish God’s work! “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!” They had been so caught up in asking God for deliverance they could not see it right in front of them! But more than that, God had provided a way for the whole world to be saved! The harvest was now! Jesus instructs them, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages; even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” The disciples had received the blessings of God because they were Hebrews, but they personally had done nothing to earn it. The woman would shortly return from telling everyone she met, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” She was busy harvesting while the disciples were busybodies. Because of her testimony many in the town “made their way toward” Jesus. People get schooled when they are spiritually clueless!

EXAMPLE: The movie Clueless was a 1995 American comedy loosely based on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma. Charlotte “Cher” Horowitz is a good-natured but superficial girl who is attractive, popular, and extremely wealthy. A few months shy of her sixteenth birthday, she has risen to the top of the high-school social scene, and is happy and self-assured in her insular, fashion-obsessed world. When she can’t get a teacher to give her a better grade, she and friend match him up with another teacher to make him happier and perhaps laxer on his grading. When a girl named Tai transfers to Cher’s school, she gives her a makeover and attempts to find her a boyfriend. Cher soon realizes that she wants a boyfriend herself, but no one seems right. She goes through a superficial “spiritual” makeover and realizes that there’s more to life than clothes and popularity before she finds the boy of her dreams. It exemplifies how spiritually clueless many Americans are today. Like the disciples with the woman at the well, many on our day and age get schooled when they are spiritually clueless.

We also discover that…

II. The unsaved get schooled when they finally accept Christ! (Vv. 39-42)

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

1. Jesus’ testimony becomes the woman’s testimony. Here’s what I mean, we wonderfully discover that “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” Now Jesus did not necessarily tell her everything she did however she learned that Jesus could not be fooled. Most folks who know Christ often can’t be fooled by those who claim Christ but who do not truly have a relationship with him. The reason goes back to what Jesus shared with her earlier when he told her that “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24 NIV)” Those who do not have personal relationship with Jesus cannot worship him in spirit and in truth because the Spirit does not live in them and they do not know the truth! She now knew who Jesus was and she now knew that he knew her as well! It is because of this relationship that she was changed enough that the folks in the village who once had perhaps shunned her now “urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.” I am certain Jesus’ disciples were shocked at first when Jesus related they would be staying in Samaria to teach the folks there about the kingdom of God. “And because of his words many more became believers.” This is the beautiful truth of the gospel message. The simple truth is that it is all about Jesus. I am sure Jesus had to go over some of the teachings of the prophets because the Samaritans did not use anything but the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentuach. Now the old schooled get reschooled about the Messiah and who he is. In fact, we learn that they now tell the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” The unsaved get schooled when they finally accept Christ!

EXAMPLE: There are those who think they know God but who actually have no understanding of who God is and how he works within his creation. There are those who think God loves them no matter what they do or think. There are those who think God is not actually involved on our world today. Some say there is no God while others think God is in everything. Then there are those who assert that God the Father “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” and that as we are God once was and we can become gods ourselves. Some think God has evolved along with man and was once more primitive then grew into a more evolved ideal of Jesus. These ideas are as convoluted as what the Samaritans thought or what the Hebrews held to during Jesus’ day. I have discovered that when someone does not have the spirit of God living in them it is very difficult for them to understand who God is. Like the townspeople, the unsaved get school when they finally accept Christ!

Conclusion:

People get schooled when they are spiritually clueless! And, we discover that the unsaved get schooled when they finally accept Christ!

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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