Tag Archives: Trinity

The God of the Universe! – Colossians 1:15-16

The God of the Universe! – Colossians 1:15-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 16, 2017

We know that God in his natural state, for lack of a better phrase, “is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 NIV) and “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19 NIV) contrary to several heresies. However, folks have wondered for ages just what God might look like if one could see him and because of this he came in the form of Jesus to show himself to all mankind.

Paul teaches us about God through Jesus Christ. He wanted his readers to be enlightened to who exactly Jesus was and is. Recently I read an article that twisted the use of Lifeway’s VBS literature to teach Modalism where the persons of the Trinity represent only three modes or aspects of the divine revelation, not distinct and coexisting persons in the divine nature; Lifeway uses three states of being in an illustration of ice, liquid, and gas for water to help children understand the concept better. The author truly stretched his argument to fit his paradigm; a tomayto, tomahto kind of argument. Let’s discover for ourselves what Paul teaches us about the God of the universe…

READ: Colossians 1:15-16

There are certain characteristics concerning God that many believers fail to understand. Paul desired that the early church fully understand who God was and what that meant. The Israelites often failed to seek God as he truly is and were easily pulled into paganism. So Paul begins by teaching that…

I. Jesus is the God of the universe! (v. 15)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

1. Paul begins by relating that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” Paul had written 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) The word “image” implies representation and expression. Like the head of a sovereign imprinted on a coin, so Christ is like the writer of Hebrews related, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV) Jesus is both Creator and receiver who is also the perfect picture of God. As Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”. (John 14:9 NIV) The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that “Anyone who saw Christ, the visible manifestation of the invisible God, has thereby ‘seen’ God indirectly.” This is why John wrote in his gospel that “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18 NIV) Jesus who is the exact representation of the invisible God, because he is God, made him visible when he came as a baby grew to be a man and died for our sins. As Paul would write, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name”! (Philippians 2:6-9 NIV) Therefore, Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation”! Jesus being “firstborn” signifies two very important things concerning who he is: 1) he existed before all of creation, and 2) he is ruler over all creation! The wording here for “firstborn” does not mean as Jehovah’s Witnesses or other heretical groups would have you believe that Jesus was the first created being, but rather he has always existed and since he has he cannot be part of creation if Jesus created “all things.” Paul is establishing that Jesus is the God of the universe!

EXAMPLE: There can be only one God. Now I know there are those who claim there is no God and it is all a myth but have a tough time explaining away his footprint in all of creation. But more than this, if Jesus was before all things and if you see Jesus you see God then Jesus is God! After all he did emphatically state, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2 NIV) “‘I tell you the truth’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’”(John 8:58 NIV) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) and when Jesus prayed to God the Father he prayed that “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.” (John 17:10 NIV) If Jesus is God then his willingness to go and die and rise again is tremendous! Jesus is the God of the universe!

Since Jesus is God who came and died for our sins we cannot and dare not worship anyone else. It is not only sheer folly but extremely dangerous to do so. As Jesus would state to the disbelieving Jews of his day, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24 NIV) From what Paul wrote we also know that…

II. Jesus is Creator God! (v. 16)

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

1. Paul reaffirms his statement that Jesus existed before all things and therefore since he did Paul knew that “For by him all things were created”! Now this is fundamentally of great importance to our theology. Our doctrine and teaching as believers. From this we know certain things concerning Jesus and because of this we are to live our lives accordingly. Here is why: If “all things were created” by Jesus that means us as well. And Paul immediately puts this into perspective by reiterating that “all things” means “things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities”! This means we follow the one who created the stars, planets, galaxies, moons, sun, birds of the air, beasts of the field, creatures in the waters, and all of nature! Contrary to those who would worship the earth or Mother Nature, Jesus created it himself! He created the tiniest microbe to the largest animal walking or swimming. God tells the Israelites that he was not satisfied with their worship or sacrifices because they were superficial and phony and he reminds them that “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.” (Psalms 50:10-12 NIV) While we are to recognize our stewardship of nature, we are commanded not to worship it; instead we are to give glory to the one who truly did create it in the first place! But notice that Paul continued by writing that Jesus also created that which was “visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities”. He meant that all spiritual beings, including all angels fallen or not, and all pontiffs, potentates, politicians, and presidents! It is truly sad when human beings think they are above God who created them. Succinctly Paul would write, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” (Colossians 2:9-10 NIV) And again Paul would proclaim in his letter to the Romans, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NIV) Paul therefore finishes his statement by reiterating “all things were created by him and for him”! Jesus is Creator God!

EXAMPLE: There are a lot of folks in our day and age who think they are God, that they can dictate what to believe about their fellow man, their sin condition, or how they worship God or not. At their core they are hedonists because they put themselves and their emotions before anyone or anything. For them love is the measurement of what is godly. What they believe has no eternal consequence for them because they live for the here and now. For those who transparently say they believe in Jesus do not give him the honor he is due by their acceptance of immorality and idolatry. They have forgotten that Jesus is Creator God!

Conclusion:

Jesus is the God of the universe and Jesus is Creator 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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Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21

Spiritual strength! – Ephesians 3:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 12, 2017

The spiritual strength that God provides gives the believer the tenacity to stay the course. Wanting to mature in her spiritual life one woman started what she called a Thanks-Living jar. Each evening she wrote on a small slip of paper one thing she thanked God for and dropped it in the jar. Some days she had many praises; other days she struggled to find one. At the end of the year she emptied her jar and read the slips. She discovered how God had given her simple things like a sunset or an evening stroll; or how he had provided momentary grace to handle a difficult situation.

What is it that gives the believer the strength to go into hardships, frustrations, and at great personal sacrifice to foreign fields to share the good news? How can they spend years serving far away from their home country, neighborhoods, and families to serve the calling of Christ? How can the average believer stand fast in their faith where they work or within the hostile environment of family and friends? Here in Ephesians Paul gives us the answer: Spiritual strength.

READ: Ephesians 3:14-21
We can forget as believers that God provides for us in ways we often do not realize. Here Paul related that we do not have just one source of spiritual strength but rather…

I. We have several sources of spiritual strength! (Vv. 14-17a)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

1. It was for the mystery of the gospel message that Paul did what he did. His ministry to the gentiles compelled him to preach the good news. And so he writes the Ephesians that it is “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Paul’s kneeling in prayer is one of several postures for praying (standing, kneeling, and lying prostrate) found in the Bible. However, notice his first comment is directed toward God the Father the first personality of the Trinity. The connotation here is not that God is our Father as some cults view him but rather God is the creator of all things. The Hebrews understood this and often referred to God as their “Father” the beginning of everything! But then Paul continued with the second personage of the Trinity and related that he prayed “that out of (God’s) glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”. Remember Paul had equated that this spiritual power was “like the working of his mighty strength” as when Jesus was resurrected and ascended! (Vv. 1:19-20) And all believers “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”! (Vv. 1:13-14) Finally Paul tells us why the Spirit does this by directing us to the third person of the Trinity, Jesus “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”! He prays to the Father who is the Creator that he would strengthen with the Holy Spirit’s power in them so that they would have a stronger faith! Wow! Paul shares with his readers and us that we have three sources of spiritual strength!

EXAMPLE: It is aggravating to hear about athletes who think they are so awesome that they are all a team needs to win. They do not listen to their coaches or teammates and fail to understand that it takes a team to win a team sport. Each coach and player is part of the whole plan to win. In the spiritual realm we can never forget that we have several sources of spiritual strength!

I am not totally sold on 3D movies. I find that often when they make a movie 3D it is because it is a lousy movie otherwise. I do not always need a multidimensional experience, except where my faith is concerned. Paul teaches us that…

II. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! (Vv. 17b-19)

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

1. Paul continued his thought by writing what some of his chief concerns for them as new believers was: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love”. This is kind of a reference to the Psalmist who declared that the person whose delight is in the Lord “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3 NIV) Or like the “wise man” Jesus referred to who “built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24, 25 NIV) The believer’s faith is to be established, firmly plant in the love of God as expressed in Jesus! We are to be rooted and to continually be planted in him! Why? Paul says that it is so we “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”! Someone once wrote that “The more a Christian knows about Christ, the more amazed he is at Christ’s love for him.” In our day far too many think that this is a feeling or an emotional response and they desperately try to gain access to it over and over like spiritual drug addicts by doing good deeds, spiritual hype, showmanship worship, or continual self-abasement. However Paul makes it plain that it is a relational thing that we are “to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (we) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Jesus taught that “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23 NIV) Faith is more than an emotional experience; it is the deep rooted relationship one has as they walk with God in Jesus! It is wider, longer, higher and deeper than we can imagine and surpasses all the knowledge of the world! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes about our spiritual strength by asking, “What are the five best toys of all time?” He continues by writing that “Jonathan H. Liu suggested the following: A stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt” from a GeekDad column at wired.com. All are readily available, adaptable, and suitable for all ages. They are cheap and are powered by our imagination and no batteries are required. Imagination gives us the ability to use common things and make them something else. We are multidimensional in our play. After asking God to strengthen them with his power through the Spirit Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ. Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional!

Just when a person thinks they have God nailed or trapped in a box, they discover that he is far more than one could ever conceive. We can become so jaded in our walk with God that we fail to see it as it truly is and therefore fail to understand its potential in our lives. Paul reminds us that…

III. Our spiritual strength is inconceivable! (Vv. 20-21)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

1. Paul closes his personal prayer for the Ephesians with a final teaching concerning Jesus. He tells them that his desire is that God would “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”. Now we can imagine a lot of things but Paul is following up the idea that our relationship with Jesus is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than we can imagine! And so we can ask for more than we realize when we walk with him because we will understand more about our relationship with him! Notice Paul qualifies this prayer with the words “according to his power that is at work within us”! This mighty power is the same as that which resurrected Jesus! It is the same power that gives the believer eternal life! It is the same power that bought us back from the pit of eternal damnation! It is the power of God at work within us! So Paul expresses his praise by stating “to him (God) be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” Only God through Jesus could get all races, tribes, countries, and nationalities to work together in his body the church. Paul would also write the Roman church, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NIV) The Apostle John would write that the saints in heaven would sing about Jesus, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” How wonderful to know that our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

EXAMPLE: God is not commonplace. Far too many have relegated God into a position of being just like any other deity that mankind could dream up. Nothing could be further from the truth. God did not “evolve” from a plethora or pantheon of gods until mankind was far along enough in their mythos to finally make him into their image and monotheistic. Nor do we discover the same god in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. While there can exist comparable concepts and even similar stories, it does not mean they all come from the same source. That would be like saying Mien Kampf and Tom Sawyer are from the same author since they both deal with personal struggle and racism! Paul relates that we should never forget that like God our spiritual strength is inconceivable!

Conclusion:

We have several sources of spiritual strength! Our spiritual strength is truly multidimensional! Our spiritual strength is inconceivable!
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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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A new hope! – Ephesians 1:1-14

A new hope! – Ephesians 1:1-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 1, 2016

It’s a new year, a fresh start, and a time to get rid of the old and in with the new, right? For some it is easier said than done. I have never even in my entire life seen and heard such a crowd of whining sore losers. I used to think that this nation would and could move forward no matter who was elected, and this was after Presidents that I thoroughly disagreed with and who abused and misused their offices to further their personal, sexual, and societal agendas. We have a nation that exhibits an immaturity that needs to be kicked in the rear and told to get over itself. A new President does not mean the end of all things; it only means you get to vote a different scoundrel into office in another four years! There is always a new hope!

We live in a day and age where there is way too much emphasis on self. People would rather have others tell them what to think and do rather than actually figure out for their own selves what the truth is! Paul was one of those folks who used both practical wisdom and theoretical knowledge. He did not allow his emotions to dictate what he believed. Instead he used what he knew to be true to influence how he responded. Paul wanted his readers in Ephesus to understand the new hope they had in Jesus and why it was important for their lives. Let’s discover what Paul wrote and how we today can use his advice concerning a new hope…

READ: Ephesians 1:1-14

Humans have always wondered why God does what he does. When life is going well we do not give a thought to why things happen but when life turns sour we cry out, “Why?” Here in these verses…

I. Paul tells us why we have a new hope! (Vv. 1-6)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

1. Paul began his letter by reinforcing his own calling as “an apostle of Christ Jesus” and let his readers know that it was “by the will of God”. He did not make himself an apostle, one sent out to do the work and will of the Messiah. Rather it was God who had given him the task and mantle. He then addresses those he is writing by reminding them they are “saints” and “the faithful in Christ Jesus”. Sainthood is not reserved for those elected to it by any human organization but rather to all who have believed in Jesus as the Messiah are given the mantle of “saint”. Therefore Paul’s authority came from “the will of God” just as his reader’s holiness did. His desire was “grace and peace” to them both “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace expressed God’s unmerited love directed to those who believed in Jesus and peace is the result of that grace! Paul knew exactly where this grace and peace came from and joyously writes “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Paul then comes to the crux of the matter by relating why God did this wonderful thing: “For he chose us in him”! This grace and peace was all a part of God’s wonderful plan all along, before “the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight”! Wow! God did this “In love” and in fact he “predestined us to be adopted as his sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ”! We become God’s “holy and blameless” children because of Jesus and this was “in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” This is why we have a new hope!

EXAMPLE: Far too many seem to think that by doing more thrilling things or by purchasing more exotic experiences that they will find true happiness. Then there are those who feel that new relationships will bring new and exciting results in their lives. What these do is bring us a false sense of hope. However the Bible teaches us that the world was in a hopeless situation until Jesus came. Paul tells us why we have a new hope!

We are a curious group of beings and have always wondered how things work. When faced with a situation to be solved we look for answers. Here in these verses…

II. Paul teaches us the how of our new hope! (Vv. 7-10)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

1. In agreement with God’s perfect pleasure and will he freely gave us hope when we had none! But how is this possible? Paul immediately addresses this question by writing that it is “In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood”. We are bought back with a price! And this gracious Godly coupon is redeemed for our “forgiveness of sins”! We did not earn it, win it, or deserve it! It was because it was “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”. It was because of this wondrous work of love that God “lavished” poured out fully “on us with all wisdom and understanding” of his gracious act in Jesus! In other words God has enabled believers to understand his will! In fact Paul relates that God “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”! Paul would tell the Colossians “My purpose is that (Christians) may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3 NIV) The plan of God was “put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment”. That fulfillment was reached in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection! This is why Jesus pronounced while dying on the cross, “It is finished!” Complete. God’s plan was to bring about his will for all of his creation. The words “bring all things… together under one Head” translate one Greek word which literally means the summing up of how God did what he did through Jesus! Jesus is the entire summation of God’s perfect plan! Paul teaches us the how of our new hope!

EXAMPLE: I have been truly amazed at the sheer number of people who could not handle the recent election. It’s as if the end of the world has occurred to them; it concerns me to think what would happen if something truly awful occurred in their lives. It also makes me wonder where in the world they get their hope from. God has given us free of charge hope when we had none. Paul teaches us the how of our new hope!

Wanting to know what is about to happen has fascinated folks for centuries. Some have followed charlatans and phonies with the hope to know what will happen. In these verses…

III. Paul shares with us the what of our new hope! (Vv. 11-14)

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.

1. Paul has shared with his readers the why and how of our new hope and now he continues in what has occurred because of Jesus. He writes that it is “In him we were also chosen”. This is more than being God’s chosen to receive the Law it is God’s choosing all of us personally. We all were chosen by God and in fact he cast his lot for us! Paul writes that it is “having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” Jews and gentiles alike are chosen for God’s praise and glory! The Israelites had gotten so spiritually myopic that they had begun to think they were the only ones God cared about but now Paul declares that even gentiles, non-Jews, “also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Hearing means believing and applying what one hears to their lives. And what the Jews could only long for we all now enjoy completely when we believe, namely we are “marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption”! Paul has introduced to his readers the active will of One God in three personalities: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! It is God’s plan from the beginning to send Jesus his Son that we may believe in him and be sealed by God the Holy Spirit! Believers are marked in God by his guaranteeing presence of the Holy Spirit! And this seal, this deposit of God of himself in us stays with us “until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.” Jesus, God’s only Son brought this all about! This is what our new hope is all about!

EXAMPLE: There is a child’s book called “Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb!” And like the beat of a drum it goes over and over the rhyme so that toddlers can learn. Paul’s message for us this morning is kind of like the drum beat rhyme found in this book in that he continually beats the drum of God’s predestination in his perfect plan of redemption. In it he shares with us the what of our new hope is – Jesus!

Conclusion:

Paul tells us why we have a new hope! Paul teaches us the how of our new hope! Paul shares with us the what of our new hope!
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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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Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:1-7

Sunday of Advent – Hope! – Isaiah 9:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 29, 2015

Sometimes we can be like the old song from the TV show Hee Haw that lamented, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me; deep, dark depression, excessive misery! If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all; gloom, despair, and agony on me!” Some us understand the lament of this song while others sing it simply because things are not going the way they expected. Life hardly ever does. Yet on the Sunday of Advent we light the candle of hope.

Hope is more than wishful thinking; it is the outcry of the human heart and the certainty of God’s promise. We as his children hope in him because we know who he is and what he has done. The Israelites of Isaiah’s day had no such experience. They should have been able to trust God and the promises he made from knowing their own history, but in the midst of war, famine, and the threat of enslavement it can be tough to see God or his promises. Perhaps this is where you are today. Take heart, there is hope. Let’s discover what Isaiah tells us during this day of Advent concerning hope…

READ: Isaiah 9:1-7

In a world where we find self-centerness at the forefront of the human condition it is often hard to find hope in the world. But today we can discover anew just what it means to have hope in what may seem a hopeless situation. Isaiah tells us that…

I. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! (Vv. 1-3)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–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. There would come a time in Israel’s history when instead of asking God they would consult with “mediums and spiritists” to seek what the dead had to say concerning the living. Because of their fickle nature concerning the word of God and not following him alone they would go hungry both physically and spiritually. Things would get so bad they would become bitter and blame God for their own faithlessness!  The coming Messiah would be their hope of joy and “there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.” The Israelites could now look forward to the Messiah’s coming which would bring renewed joy. In fact even the non-believing gentiles would find the joy of God and so Isaiah tells them that “In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan–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 wonderful truth would be that something good would indeed come from Galilee of the Gentiles. He would be from there and out of what the Jews considered to be an area of spiritual darkness, there would be the light of life, Jesus Christ! Death was an ever present shadow in the life of those who could not or would not trust God; however, a new light would dawn. God would “enlarge the nation and increase their joy” because of those who would now trust in the one coming. Isaiah foretells that the nation of Israel would “rejoice” before God “as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” What a wonderful time Isaiah spoke about! The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

EXAMPLE: Christmas is that time of year when children began making wishes and wants made known. They long for something wonderful to unwrap on Christmas Day. With excitement and anticipation their longings turn into hope and when the day arrives, it turns into joy! When Jesus came as a baby in a feeding trough the world did not know that the hope it had long awaited for had arrived. Yet all of creation paused on that one moment as a child was born and the hope of the ages came true. Matthew fittingly applied this passage to Jesus, who began His preaching and healing ministry in that region. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

As Islam raises its ugly snakelike head in the world we may wonder what is in store for future generations. Islam has always brought enslavement wherever it is introduced, most often by force. The word means “submit”. Throughout the history of the world sinful mankind has used whatever means, including religion to force others into slavery. However, Isaiah tells us that…

II. The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! (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. We truly do not understand what it means to be enslaved; even those who would like to riot or feel justified in their marching against racism, do not know the injustice of enslavement. Yet, we are all enslaved until we are set free from the bonds of sin. And sadly, even fewer folks understand their enslavement. However, the Israelites did and they longed for their freedom from not just physical oppression but from their bondage to sin. Here, Isaiah proclaims to them they have hope because just “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.” The Messiah would bring an end to their bondage! Midian had been a thorn in the side of the Israelite’s flesh for years. Because of the Israelite’s own sin God allowed the Midianites to so oppress them that they had to prepare “shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds” and “Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.” (Judges 6:1-6 NIV) God rose up Gideon who would resoundingly defeat thousands of them with only 300 men, but now they would have a new Deliverer. He would completely shatter their yoke of slavery that burden them and the rod of their oppressor would be gone! In fact, the hope the Messiah would bring about would do away with the reminders of war! “Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.” These things would now only be good for the flames of a funeral pyre; the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

EXAMPLE: Some think that it was Christians who began the Crusades; this is an outright boldface lie. The Crusades began as a response by believers for the decades of war and enslavement the forces of Islam brought to the Christian world. Wherever the armies of Islam marched, you either submitted or died. When they finally came to the shores of Italy and had forcefully taken over most of Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East, the Pope responded by raising armies to fight the threat. Many of the areas Paul and the other disciples had won to Christ fell under the boot of Islam and never returned to the truth of Christ. Isaiah’s nation now faced similar circumstances and longed for real freedom. He tells them that the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

True freedom is found in trusting Jesus, but freedom without peace is little freedom. However, the freedom Jesus brings is spiritual first, which influences the physical nature of the world around it when it is applied to the lives of those he influences. But Isaiah now turns to a new truth concerning the coming Messiah. He would be more than just a king or leader; Isaiah tells us that…

III. The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! (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. Now Isaiah proclaims to them such a wonderful thing that many found it hard to believe. They were now living much as their ancestors did; under the oppression from their own rulers like Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh and the threat of coming annihilation from Assyria and finally Babylon. They were not to trust in others like Egypt to save them, but instead rely on God alone. However, here Isaiah goes beyond their current circumstances and looks to the future of his people. He foretells that “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” The one to come would be their ultimate ruler; but more than being simply a king or monarch, the one to come would “be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, [and] Prince of Peace.” These are not the common titles or monikers for cruel kings but the wonderful names for one who would be concerned and care for his people! The Messiah would be the “Wonderful Counselor” of God (Holy Spirit), he would be “Mighty God” (God himself), the “Everlasting Father”, and the “Prince of Peace” (the Son of God)! All three personalities of the trinity are named and actively involved! However, the peace the Messiah would bring would not be like the world gives, Jesus would declare, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27 NIV) In fact, Isaiah declares that the ministry of the Messiah would be different from any earthly ruler: “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.” His rule and reign would not last just a lifetime, it would be forever! His rule and reign would bring a lasting peace no one had ever experienced before! The coming Messiah would be God in human flesh and “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

EXAMPLE: It amazes me that whenever someone is faced with the truth of a situation they often get angry. I was speaking with someone the other day about how the healthcare system has been destroyed; how it has affected me and my brother as well. His retort was not just confusing, it grew louder as he spoke. I have learned the volume of your response does not mean you are right. The frustration of one’s soul is calmed by the presence and power of the Spirit. As the saying goes, “No God no peace, know God know peace!” The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

Conclusion:

The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! That is what this day of Advent is all about; hope.

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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The Light! — John 1:1-5

The Light! — John 1:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 31, 2014

In the strictest sense this Gospel has no author named like Paul’s letters do. It is anonymous. In fact, none of the four Gospel authors identify themselves by name. There is a good reason for this, they are not meant to be private letters to specific churches or individuals, except perhaps Luke’s Gospel. Yet we discover that often the writer reveals himself through his writing and we discover that church history can often reveal who the authors were. Putting all of these facts together makes a good case for the author of the Fourth Gospel having been John, one of the sons of a fisherman named Zebedee.

The date for the writing of the Gospel of John was probably between 85 and 95 AD, however, there is good evidence that it could have been written as early as 45 and 65 AD before the destruction of the Temple. And, John himself tells us why he wrote his gospel, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31 NIV)” Matthew’s gospel begins with a genealogy, Luke is dedicated to his friend Theophilus, Mark begins with the preaching of John the Baptist, but John’s gospel begins with Jesus the Light! Let’s discover why…

READ: John 1:1-5

John Wayne in the movie The Cowboys asks Jebediah Nightlinger, Rosco Lee Brown, about his bona fides as a cook and Nightlinger then remarks how he can cook and cook well by reciting his cooking credentials. A person’s bona fides serves to guarantee a person’s good faith, standing, and reputation; authentic credentials. John begins his gospel in reciting Jesus’ bona fides as the Light. John writes that first of all…

I. The Light is God! (Vv. 1-2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

  1. John immediately establishes Jesus’ credentials, his bona fides, as being God by giving him a new moniker. John addresses Jesus as the Word, logos. It was a common Greek philosophical term which had become the rage of the day for even the religious leaders of the Jews. Like the Greeks, they loved to debate. So it was a common term in Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy as well and it was familiar to his readers. John’s usage becomes quite clear when he writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” The “logos”, Jesus, was with God in full fellowship in the very beginning of all things. But more than that, “the Word was God.” John states, “logos en Theos”, and so his meaning is very clear. The Light, Jesus, is God! He existed from the very beginning, he was and is in complete total fellowship with God, and the Light is God himself! Not “a god” as the heresies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Latter Day Saints teaches. John is clearly setting up the doctrine of the Trinity, whereby the Father, Son, and the Spirit are one; coequal in power, authority, and nature. This is very important because we discover Jesus teaching later, “I and the Father are one. (John 10:30 NIV)” and “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father. (John 16:28 NIV)” He also affirmed, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am! (John 8:58 NIV)” and finally, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:15 NIV)” When we look at Jesus, we see God Himself! (John 12:45) John begins by teaching, “He was with God in the beginning.” It is the divine nature of who Jesus is; that namely the Light is God!

  EXAMPLE: There is a whole lot of confusion in our world today concerning what it means to believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. Many readily say “I believe in God.” But what they mean by that usually means they believe in some kind of higher power than themselves. Jesus is more than just a wise holy man, he is more than a nice guy who taught great things, he is the Logos, the Word; God himself! If Jesus is not God then what he was sent to teach us about God and what he eventually did, die on a cross and come back to life, means nothing! In J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, the wizard Gandalf explains why he has selected a small hobbit to fight the enemy. He says, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” As nice as that sounds, it was the Light who did that greatest act of kindness ever in order to pierce the darkness of sin! The Light for John is God!

The Light for John is God; he is foundational to all things ever taught to the Hebrew people. He is the hoped for Messiah, but he was much more. For John…

II. The Light is the Creator! (v. 3)

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

  1. Like bullets in a PowerPoint presentation Johns immediately establishes for his readers exactly who Jesus is. However, for John it was important that we understand what he meant that Jesus is God and that he was in the beginning of all things. “Through him all things were made” is a statement for the power and authority of Jesus as well. While the Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father, we discover that Jesus did not at some point in time come into existence or begin a relationship with the Father. From eternity past the Father and the Son have always existed together; both are God, not two Gods. Jesus is Creator God. This is why Paul would affirm, “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV)” And he would reiterate that in fact Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)” This is why John would teach us that “without him nothing was made that has been made.” Why is this so important? Simply because there are those who would have you believe that everything came into being, BANG, on its own or that some pantheistic god holds everything together and we just have to tune into the vibe of it. Nothing could be further from the truth! We are not part of the amoebic whole nor were we some blob that finally crawled up on a beach somewhere and evolved into the image of our creator! The mere existence of Jesus disproves all of these false teachings! The Light is the Creator!

  EXAMPLE: The Bible teaches us that God spoke and everything came into being, some call this ex nihilo, meaning out of nothing something. Why is this important for us to know? Paul wrote the Corinthian church, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV)” Here is a beautiful truth that while we were once just as Paul describes us, the new reality is that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)” The Light, for John, created all things proving he is indeed God, but he also created us in him! The Light is the Creator!

The reason I say this is because of what John writes next about the Light. John knew that Jesus was more than some unreachable deity; he was just like us without sin. However his whole life reflected who he was. For John…

III. The Light is life! (Vv. 4-5)

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

  1. Life is sacred and it is the most important benefit of who we are as sinful humanity. God granted and gave us life. God gave us Jesus the life of all mankind. We all understand that to lose a loved one is a tragedy and to lose someone we love without them knowing the love of God is truly heartbreaking! Yet what John writes gives us hope. In Jesus “was life, and life was the light of all men”! Jesus is the Creator and he is the source of all life, especially eternal life! We know “that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:15-16 NIV)” Jesus would affirm, “I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 14:6 NIV)” And, he would teach, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the Light of the world! He is the one who gives us eternal life and a hope in the darkness of sin and death! This world is full of evil, violence, and death. None of us can say how long we will live or when we will die, however, if we know the Light of the world to live is Christ and to die is gain! Jesus would lovingly tell his disciples, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (John 12:46 NIV)” In Jesus we have wonderful hope in a sin-darkened world! “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” That which is sinful and ungodly does not recognize the light of life! Jesus came to rescue us from the darkness of spiritual ignorance, death, and the sin condition of our lives. Paul would ask, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV)” Matthew would write that “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16 NIV)” John knew that Jesus the Light is life!

  EXAMPLE: When comedian Robin Williams recently committed suicide people were shocked, dismayed, and hurt. Yet we soon discovered his life was full of personal demons of self-doubt, drugs, and alcohol. While much of Hollywood embraces all things weird, odd, or strange what a difference it could have made if even one of Williams’ friends would have shared Christ with him. I have known others who suffered some of the very same doubts, used drugs and alcohol to try to sooth their darkened souls, but found hope, personal peace, and light in darkness because of Jesus Christ. Life is sacred and we only have one to live on this earth. God granted and gave us life in Jesus. For John, Jesus the Light is life!

Conclusion:

Jesus the Light is God, Jesus the Light is the Creator, and Jesus the Light is life!

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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