Tag Archives: truth

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!

Malachi 2:17-3:6 – Being hopeful!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 8, 2018

Being a parent is tough, but I cannot imagine being a single parent. When we were kids my mother, after a particularly hard day, would tell us, “You kids are going to wear your old mother out!” Looking back on this I find it kind of humorous since at the time she was only about 35 years old and she had the backup of my father! Perhaps it was the constant care she had to give to two young active little boys who were always on the go? Being a good parent can, at times, make one feel a little worn out.

I wonder how God feels when his constant care of his children wears on him. Not that God can be worn out, he is God after all. However, when his children continually distrust, disobey, and disrespect him, God tells us he becomes “weary.” Malachi tells the Israelites that God has grown weary of their endless spiritual platitudes. Who were they trying to fool? They did not trust God. We discover that Malachi’s message is just as valid today as it was when he first presented it! As God’s children we are to fully hope in God and not weary him! It’s a matter of being hopeful, let’s discover how…

READ: Malachi 2:17-3:6

God’s people can begin to think and act without faith. We can begin to blame God for the outcome of our own sinful choices. Israel did just that. God’s people need to remember that faith begins and ends in hope. In fact Malachi reminds us that…

I. Our actions show our hope in the Lord! (V. 2:17)

You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”

1. How we live says more about what we believe than all our empty words of praise! First, the Israelites had no hope because they were spiritual beggars! They begged God for blessing without investing anything themselves. They are accused of wearing the Lord and ask, “How have we wearied him?” The implication was, “It’s not our fault it’s God’s fault!” They were blinded to their sinful manipulation! The Psalmist related they “soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for (Psalm 106:13-14 NIV)!” They were acting and talking as if they had no God to hope in! This world is a spiritual desert, a wasteland and Christians can give into their cravings when they beg God and then blame God for their choices! Secondly, the Israelites had no hope because they trusted in themselves, in their judgment, and in their own decisions of what was right or wrong. They had the gall to sarcastically declare, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them.” Can you imagine a nation where God had blessed it and manifested himself daily, saying this? Christians can do this very thing when they question why God allows the ungodly to prosper and then question why God doesn’t make them prosper too! This is defining for God what sin should be according to our standards! And finally the Israelites had no hope because they wanted to know, “Where is the God of justice?” In other words they demanded, “If God is real, where is he when we need him?” And this was coming from God’s own people! WOW! Talk about audacity! They questioned God’s justice by saying that he delighted in evil people more than those he chose to love! Yet they were the guilty ones, they were the ones who were unfaithful! God was only God to them when they could see the benefits! Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

EXAMPLE: Have you ever known people who are always demanding attention, wanting more for themselves but never giving anything in return? No not your preschooler. What do we call children who act this way? Spoiled! This is what God’s people had become, Spiritually-spoiled brats! They had begun to think that they deserved being blessed because they were God’s chosen people and not because they were faithful. Their hope was not in the God of Jacob, Abraham and Isaac. Their hope was only in what they could get from God now! They had become like the pagan world around them, seeing God as a good luck charm, something to be manipulated for personal gain. We can weary God when we do the same thing. A God who is infinitely patient and loving was pushed to the point of judgment by those who should have been placing their hope in him. Our actions show our hope in the Lord!

It would be about 500 years before John the Baptist would be a voice crying out in the wilderness announcing the coming of the Messiah. The Israelites would be defeated again, taken into national captivity, and enter into a time of spiritual desperation. Through it all the Israelites had a reason to not despair and we discover that…

II. God offers us hope in a hopeless world! (Vv. 3:1-6)

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

1. The gospel writer Matthew quoted Isaiah concerning Jesus by stating that “In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV) First, Malachi writes about the coming of God’s wonderful messenger! (V.3:1a) This title “the messenger of the covenant” occurs only here. Many believe it points to John the Baptist, others believe it references Jesus. Malachi relates that “Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” Yet, what if the people aren’t prepared and are still sinning? Jesus has “entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12 NIV) God’s messenger has come and the Messiah has entered his temple! Secondly, Malachi mentions God’s judgment! Malachi asks two questions: “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?” The answer is “No one.” The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment on the whole world for those who do not know the Messiah, “For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” No one will escape Jesus’ judgment! In fact “he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” God tells them, “I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.” God will judge what we believe and how we live! Yet, in all of this there is the basis for hope! Will God’s people be destroyed or put to shame? God says, “No.” “I the Lord do not change!” We can trust in God to do what he promised, “So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” God has left a remnant in those who believe in Jesus. Peter reminds us that we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)” — those who trust in Christ are never put to shame. God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

EXAMPLE: Hope is a gift of God. It does not come wrapped in fancy packaging. In fact real hope came in the form of a very ordinary looking man. He wasn’t anyone you would notice or think of as a hero or a celebrity. Yet at just the perfect time he came to give us all hope, the greatest gift of all. This hope is a free gift as well. It isn’t a come on or a con. Although the hope offered by this one man, changes the con or the priest or the seeker of truth. He is God’s Messiah. He is the hope of the world. He is Jesus Christ. What the Israelites had a tough time understanding in Malachi’s day, we can have in hindsight this morning. Jesus has already come, proven his love for us in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

Conclusion:

Dave Franco talks about his young married life as a writer. He had lost his job, his apartment building evicted his family and was becoming a co-op. His wife was pregnant with their second child. In New York City, out of a job, in a place with high rent, and a new family–Dave was frantic. One day they were walking home and he could not stand the pressure of a silent God. “What is God doing?” he angrily demanded of his wife Nicole. Just then his three-year-old son Julian threw a fit because they had passed an ice cream truck and did not stop. “Not now,” they told him. That didn’t work. Finally, after all else failed, Dave told him, “Julian, you’re just going to have to wait!” Dave’s wife remarked, “You know, Julian’s doing exactly the same thing to us that we’re doing to God. God is saying, ‘Wait,’ and we’re telling him we want our ice cream and we want it now.” Israel had become spoiled and negligent spiritually. They failed to place their hope in the One who gives us hope. Dear child of God, have you? Remember, our actions show our hope in the Lord and God offers us hope in a hopeless world!

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

Do you go to Sunday School?

Do you go to Sunday School?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 29, 2018

The apostle Paul wrote his friend and young cohort Timothy these words: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)” Yet sadly in our day many think that by just attending a worship service they have done this; handled the word of truth correctly. Nothing could be further from the truth. We live in a time when things like Wednesday Night and Sunday Evening Services have gone by the wayside and now for many churches they are doing away with Sunday School Classes or promoting Bible Study. It has created a flux of folks who think they know all about the Bible by simply listening to the latest pithy relevant message by their prognosticating preacher, using the Internet to garner spiritual insight, or by reading the latest Christian fad found in their local bookstore.

Paul correctly understood the human condition that it was like water in that it has a tendency to always flow downhill so-to-speak. We are lazy lots who would rather diet and exercise an easy way rather than put in the hardcore self-control and workout that is needed. A pill or prepackaged food will not create the life change needed and the same is true for the Christian who should be growing in their knowledge and understanding of Scripture.

As a pastor I try my best to be in a Sunday School Class on Sunday mornings. I enjoy not only the give and take of lively discussion, I enjoy the friendships formed, and the insights given me by fellow believers. It goes to the basics of what does this passage in the Bible mean, what does it mean for me, and what is its history and context?

Because of the lackadaisical attitude of most Christians there is a spiritual shallowness rampant within Christianity today. Many do not know what they believe nor why they should believe it or not. Most are influenced by society rather than being the salt and light they are supposed to be in an ungodly world. In the 80s and 90s it was the heresy of end times theology that crept into believer’s lives, in the early 2000s it is a worldview that is totally contrary to biblical truth and personal holiness. Worship was never meant to be where one is taught the deep spiritual truths of Jesus. It is where we are to worship. Depending upon a message in a moment will not suffice to make an individual one who is “approved… who correctly handles the word of truth”. Christians need to be in Bible Study or a Sunday School Class, whatever you want to name it, in order to mature and understand the word of God correctly. Paul also told his friend Timothy, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV)” And I am reminded of a beautiful little comment by Luke who wrote about a tiny church who saw the importance of getting together with their fellow believers to learn the word of God: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11 NIV)”

My advice then is this: Get your body to Bible Study or Sunday School Class on Sunday mornings and if your church does not offer them, find one that does. Therefore, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV)”

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Religion, Today's Thoughts, Uncategorized

How to remain faithful! — 1Timothy 4:1-7

How to remain faithful! — 1Timothy 4:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 26, 2017

Here in America we have not faced the persecution that exists in much of the rest of the world for our faith. We think that if someone feels ill-will towards us or says a nasty thing about our faith that this is the same as the persecution others around the world face — it is not. Certainly we are facing more and more resentment, ungodliness, and outward bitterness towards Christianity but we are not yet suffering beatings, slavery, and religious genocide as others have and are. Yet how are we to remain faithful if persecution for our faith worsens?

Paul knew very well what real religious persecution was all about. He not only felt it as he followed Jesus but had inflicted it on other believers before becoming a Christian himself. This is why he was being so urgent with Timothy; being a believer in Paul’s day meant being persecuted for your faith. So how does one remain faithful in light of such a prospect? Let’s find out…

READ: 1Timothy 4:1-7

Paul knew there would be those for whatever reason who would try to sway the early church to not adhere to what Jesus taught and so tells Timothy that in order…

I. To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ! (Vv. 1-2)

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1. Jesus had taught his disciples that “false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect–if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time… No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:22-23, 32 NIV) And Peter had written to remind the church that “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?’ Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation… But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2Peter 3:3-4, 9 NIV) So like Jesus or the other disciples I do not think Paul was specifically writing Timothy about a set date but rather he knew everyday brought believers closer to the day of Jesus’ return and that “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Never forget that anyone who teaches against the gospel in the antichrist and any teaching that goes against what Jesus taught is demonic. John would write that “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist… every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1John 2:22; 4:3) So Paul warns Timothy that “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ!

EXAMPLE: I believe in fact this is what we are facing now in our day. There are those who want to dismiss Jesus as just another human who taught good things and was a nice guy who loved everyone. While this is the partial truth it is not the actual truth. Adam Rutherford in his book A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Human Genes writes that history is “foggy” and therefore untrustworthy so if we “Flit back a few centuries, and there is no contemporary evidence even for the existence of Jesus Christ, arguably the most influential man in history. Most of our tales about his life were written in the decades after his death by people who had never met him. Today, we would seriously question that, if it were presented as historical evidence. Even the accounts that Christians rely on, the Gospels are inconsistent and have irreversibly mutated over time.” This is not the gospel message of Jesus who came to “seek and save the lost” rather it is part and parcel of a worldview to dismiss Jesus. To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Jesus Christ who “appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1Timothy 3:16 NIV). To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ!

There are a lot of false notions that have existed even for decades concerning what is taught in Scripture. As believers we must not appear hypocritical in our faith walk nor in our teaching of what Scripture actually says. Therefore Paul tells Timothy that…

II. To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth! (Vv. 3-5)

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

1. There is a lot of ungodly teaching concerning Jesus in our day and sadly a lot of it comes from “Christian” churches. Some of comes from the pride of the preacher who speaks it; some of it comes from the human adherence to unbiblical teaching; and some of it comes from those who would want to deceive you in order to gain some kind of control over your life. I learned early on that the best thing believers can do is to read their Bibles but again sadly few actually do. Instead we allow others to fill our heads full of gospel gunk that has no actual bearing on what Jesus, the disciples, or biblical writers actually taught! As I have heard and taught the best thing to remember when reading what others say about a certain passage: A text taken out of context is a pretext to a false doctrine, and so we must be willing to make sure we contextualize what we read or hear concerning Scripture! Paul gives us some examples of what folks do who have an axe to grind rather than truthfully teaching what is actually in Scripture. Some of these folks “forbid people to marry” like ascetic Catholics or those who think marriage is not necessary or that it can be redefined to fit their personal perverted proclivity! Or those who “order [believers] to abstain from certain foods” like Seventh Day Adventists and their schizophrenic attitude towards the Old and New Testaments or those who teach that Christians should eat only certain “healthy” things forgetting that all things “God created [were] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” Going back to what Jesus actually taught and how he completed God’s plan and therefore the law, redemption, and what we should know about God, Paul reminds us that “everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth!

EXAMPLE: Pontius Pilate stood in front of the truth of God in human form, Jesus, and asked him “What is truth?” In our day the answer to this question has been reduced to some personal esoteric often emotional concept. We have churches that are complacent in not teaching the entire truth of God found in Scripture. Some do it in order to sooth their own guilt, some do it in order to promote themselves, and some do it so they will not “offend”. The gospel message is offensive by its very nature. Never forget Jesus bluntly taught his followers, “All men will hate you because of me.” (Luke 21:17 NIV) Later Paul would write Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV) To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth!

What the world needs today is the gospel truth yet there are those who will defy it, discredit it, and try to dissuade others from following it. Therefore as Paul taught Timothy in order…

III. To remain faithful we must teach others the truth! (Vv. 6-7)

If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.

1. I have found it frustrating, kind of funny, and often puzzling when you use logic with others and they resort to name-calling, vulgarities, or lying. It is truly sad when those who profess faith in Jesus do these things. Paul understood that this would occur as well and he wanted his young friend Timothy to be aware of his concerns. He knew the Jewish community, the pagan world, and even other jealous believers would resort to these kinds of tactics when faced with the stark truth of the gospel. So he writes that it is his duty as a pastor to teach the truth in season and out of season no matter what others claim. In fact, Paul writes, “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” The same is true for each of who profess our faith and trust in Jesus. In fact, Paul would write Titus, another young pastor, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8 NIV) Paul would later tell Timothy to “Keep reminding them of these things.” (2Timothy 2:14 NIV) In fact he would tell him to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” (2Timothy 2:15-17 NIV) And in fact this is why there still exists a resistance for some to follow actual biblical teaching rather than what has “always been taught”. This has created a false correction by some and spiritual rebellion by others. Therefore we are to “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; [but] rather, [we are to] train [ourselves] to be godly.” To remain faithful we must teach others the truth!

EXAMPLE: I have found it beneficial to allow others to read for themselves what the Bible says rather than always trying to tell someone what it says. This is why I will use specific passages when witnessing to someone else and allow them to read them out loud and tell me what they think they say. Now do not think I am saying that reading some Christian books are not beneficial because they are, but we need to be more discerning in what we read even if it claims Christianity. As Paul would write, “‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV) We must follow and teach what the Bible actually says and not our own inclination. Much of what is taught about Jesus’ coming, prayer, angels, worship, church membership, giving, church leadership, and salvation has more to do with manmade doctrines rather than what is actually taught in Scripture. Paul tells Timothy that in order to remain faithful we must teach others the truth!

Conclusion:

To remain faithful we must not believe the world’s teaching concerning Christ! To remain faithful we must adhere to the truth! To remain faithful we must teach others the truth!

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Religion, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

Keep Your Promises!

Keep Your Promises!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2017

What is a promise? The Bible relates that it is the same as an oath and is reliant and reflects upon not only the character of the person giving it but it reflects on God himself. If a person says that they believe in God, makes a promise – an oath – and then breaks it they are reflecting poorly not only their own dishonesty but that God cannot be trusted either. This is why Jesus would teach his disciples, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37 NIV) Satan, the “evil one” Jesus is referencing here, is the chief liar in all of history.

Jesus has a curious conversation with those who would try to accuse him of being dishonest. He bluntly tells them, “Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:43-45 NIV) The reason some folks cannot understand the truth, the promise of God through Jesus, is that they are liars. They would rather believe a lie rather than the “gospel truth” concerning salvation through Jesus! Jesus’ language is not clear to a liar because he speaks only the truth and they are unable to hear his language! Wow!

For God and therefore Jesus making a promise and not keeping it is the same as lying. You are a liar if you do not keep your promise. This is why one should always consider the promises one makes and it is why things like marital vows are held in such a high degree. In fact, law courts view breaking the marital vow can result in legal action whereby the guilty party can be held liable. The same is true for contracts we sign and it is why God holds us spiritually accountable for the vows we make, the promises we keep or not, and spiritual laws we are to follow.

So do you think that making a promise to your child, spouse, parents, or others is important to God as a believer? I do and so should you. Keep your promises.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Just Wondering, Religion, Uncategorized

Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20

Armor all! – Ephesians 6:10-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 30, 2017

Armor All is a line of car care products manufactured by American company Armored AutoGroup of Danbury, Connecticut, United States. Its sprays, gels, liquids and wipes are specifically designed to clean, shine, and protect most interior and exterior automobile surfaces. It is now owned by Spectrum Brands which is a diversified company that makes weed killer, batteries, and pet products. On the Armor All logo is a Viking dressed in his armor to portray the protective properties of the product.

The believer has been given spiritual protection by the grace of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul listed what he believed the protection of God consisted of and his list is not to be either comprehensive or all there is to the protection one has under God’s grace. Paul’s desire was not to give Christians a check off list to follow or adhere to but rather to show them that we are in the midst of a battle and that we have been given a gracious gift to go into combat. As believers we have the Armor All of God; let’s see what Paul meant…

READ: Ephesians 6:10-20

Paul is coming to a close in his letter to the Ephesian Church and his desire was that they remain true to the gospel and faithful to Jesus and so he writes them about…

I. The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! (Vv. 10-12)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

1. It is important to notice what Paul wrote here. He writes them to “Finally be strong”. Paul knew that the main battle people face is a spiritual one. Not everyone understands this or notices it because most just get up each day and do the same things over and over. Now certainly there are those who face psychological or physical handicaps but the point here is that we can become so focused on us that we forget about our spirituality. Many have and therefore do not give it a thought. It makes their lives a greater struggle than they realize. However, Paul reminds us that one can be strong “in the Lord and his mighty power”! God has given us what we need for our spiritual challenge! He reminds believers to “Put on the full armor of God”. Not just part of the armor but all of it. Again, Paul is not making a list so you can check it twice each day but rather he is reminding his readers that they face a foe far greater than they realize. We put on this armor “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”, literally his wiles or methods. His scheme is to get people from focusing on the spiritual aspect of their lives and to focus on themselves instead. Paul understood that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The world does not understand the war being waged and that it is dying and decaying right before our eyes and many are blinded by the blight. We forget that everything in the universe and everyone in the world whose focus is not Jesus as Lord are spiritually blinded and doing battle against him! Remember Paul began his letter by writing that “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”(Ephesians 2:1-2 NIV) Paul is reminding us of the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

EXAMPLE: When soldiers are sent into battle they are reminded to remember their training and to stay focused on the task ahead. Each Roman soldier of Paul’s day was trained to fend off ten enemies. They knew they could depend on their training and their armor to give them the advantage against their enemies. Christians are not to stand against the sin and evil of the world in their own strength but rather in the full armor of God! The reason is simple: we face a foe that is far stronger then we are and who will use every method he has to trick us into focusing on ourselves instead of God. We are to armor up and face the spiritual battle everyone is challenged by!

Paul understood that in a sin-driven world it would be hard for believers to go out and live lives that were diametrically opposed to the ungodliness of the society they lived in. So he writes them to remember that…

II. Believers have everything they need to do battle! (Vv. 13-15)

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

1. Remember the old Superman motto that he was for “truth, justice, and the American way”? Of course if you were to repeat this in a college classroom today you might be lynched for being way too xenophobic, racist, and misogynist. Yet here in Paul’s encouragement we discover him declaring “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace”! Since our battle is a spiritual one Paul relates we are to “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Paul was not necessarily speaking of a particular day of evil but rather when evil on any given day challenges our lives in Christ. When this occurs we will be able to stand our ground in Jesus! Notice how many times he tells us to “stand”. He does not call us to attack but to stand firm because when all else fails in our lives we need to be able take our stand in Jesus alone! So how in the world does one stand in Jesus? Paul writes we are to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Look at the progression Paul does here in his writing about this armor: Again it is “truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace.” He is referring to the truth of salvation in Jesus alone, the righteousness that comes because of it, and gospel of peace Jesus preached between man and God because of him. We are to gird ourselves therefore in the truth of Jesus, dress ourselves in the righteousness that comes from believing in him, and walk in the readiness daily that comes from the gospel of peace we know in Jesus! Paul is teaching his readers about the confidence they can have no matter what the ungodly sin-fallen world throws our way! We can stand confidently and calmly as we go into the world no matter what occurs in our life because we have the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and we are ready to stand with our feet fitted firmly in the gospel! Paul knew that believers have everything they need to do battle!

EXAMPLE: One of things I learned early in life was that if my parents told me to “stay right there and don’t move”, I was to stay right there and not move! I later learned that if I was lost in the wild I was to remain put so that anyone who was searching for me could easily find me. Most people die in the wilderness when they are not prepared, go alone, or do not remain where they said they would be. However, we sometimes can focus so much on the what the meaning of the equipment meant that Paul listed that we forget the core truth Paul was making here; namely that we are to remain firm in Jesus. We are to stay put because we know that believers have everything they need to do battle!
Paul continues in his list of grace gifts and concludes with those that are the basics of Christianity. And in doing so Paul reminds us that…

III. The battle all believers confront is a daily business! (Vv. 16-20)

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

1. Interestingly Paul ends his teaching with what occurs in the life of a Christian when they first believe. Here’s what I mean: Paul shares about faith, salvation, the word of God, and then prayer. So he writes that “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” A soldier’s shield was often made of wood overlaid with linen and leather. And it was often soaked in water before battle in order to smother any flaming arrows. The one thing that protects the Christian is their faith and Paul knew it was like a shield. When a person’s faith is strong in the Lord it can snuff out any smoldering ember the enemy tries to use in igniting sin in our lives. Paul then encourages his readers to place “the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” together. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8 NIV) the Christian’s hope is certain and secure and we know that the Word of God is “Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) These things are not to be done necessarily in order or as a one-two-three kind of thing but rather Paul’s wording here suggests a constant and continual action. And the spiritual glue, so-to-speak, that we can hang our armor on is prayer. So Paul tells his readers: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Again this is a constant and so “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Prayer is the believer’s conversation, petition, and praise to God himself! Paul was acutely aware of this and so asks, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Paul probably imprisoned for his faith and so he knew quite well what it meant to be strong in the Lord. We are to armor all because Paul knew that the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

EXAMPLE: There have been several movies called “Death Takes a Holiday.” While the Bible describes a messenger of death sent from God in several places, the Bible does not teach there is a specific being in charge of death. And while it is pure fantasy to think that death might take a vacation at some point, evil never does. The Bible does teach that all of creation is in a fallen state. It is all tainted by sin and therefore in a state of death, dying, and decay. My Mom would say that “Evil never sleeps.” I am not sure if she was referring to us boys or what but I do know she was correct. More than ever Christians need to armor all because the battle all believers confront is a daily business!

Conclusion:

The spiritual battle everyone is challenged by! Believers have everything they need to do battle! The battle all believers confront is a daily business!
—-
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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

Whispers! — John 7:11-18

Whispers! — John 7:11-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 1, 2015

Have you ever had a vicious rumor spread about you or someone you know that was not true? I have. Gossip, like whispers in today’s passage, can be like a burning fire and consume everything and anyone in its path. The Bible relates that “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. (Proverbs 18:8 NIV)” In other words gossip can seem satisfying at first, but in reality it is like poison and affects those who participate in it and those who it is often about. It is like digested food, retained and remembered.

When folks gossip it says a lot about their character and what they value. How we handle gossip says a lot about who we are and our character as well. Jesus faced those who wanted to whisper or gossip about him and how he handled himself and those who wanted to spread rumors speaks volumes about Jesus’ character and who he was. Let’s find out what Jesus did about the whispers or gossip concerning him…

READ: John 7:11-18

Some folks make gossip a game. Douglas Adams, who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ quipped that “Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules.” Someone once wrote that “The Puritan’s idea of hell is a place where everybody has to mind his own business.” This could be said of the folks of Jesus’ day as well. We discover that…

I. Whispers can fill the sails of speculation! (Vv. 11-14)

Now at the Feast the Jews were watching for him and asking, “Where is that man?” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.

1. The Jews, meaning the Scribes, Pharisees, Teachers of the Law and other enemies of Jesus expected him to be at one of the biggest Jewish festivals and so they “were watching for him and asking, ‘Where is that man?'” The wording here denotes their disdain for Jesus and also their view of who they actually saw him as, a mere man and not the Messiah. Some surely wanted to find him and kill him, while others wanted to test his teaching or see some miracles. I believe some deliberately refused to name him publically because of their contempt. Certainly there are those who think they might have been afraid of the Jewish leadership, but that does not make complete sense with the word usage and how we just learned they desired to kill him. It is easy to dismiss someone or gossip about them when one uses non-descriptive terminology rather than a personal name. Whatever the reason, we discover that “whisperers were divided as to who Jesus might be, “Some said, ‘He is a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, he deceives the people.'” Both whispers were erroneous because Jesus is more than just a good man and he certainly was no deceiver. However, the gossip had already begun its dirty work. The people were in fear of the Jewish leadership and this is why “no one would say anything publicly about him.” Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him.” Interestingly, we also learn from John that it was “Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.” It is then, at just the right time that Jesus begins to confront the whisperers. The gospel goes against the gossip. This is exactly what one has to do when confronted by gossip, teach the good news through our responses, attitude, and actions. Remember, whispers can fill the sails of speculation!

EXAMPLE: Those who love to foster the sinister speculation of others do not like to face those they whisper about. Whisperers love to remain in the shadows of “she said, he said” “some say” or “it has been said.” Twain said that “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” When met with gossip Jesus confronted it with the gospel and we should as well. Jesus discovered that whispers can fill the sails of speculation!

When we talk frequently with God, we will speak the words we have heard. When we spend our time in speculation, we will discuss the lies we think we know. Again, we discover here in John’s gospel that…

II. Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth! (Vv. 15-18)

The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.

1. When Jesus begins to confront his gossips with the gospel, “The Jews were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?'” My grandmother would say, “Ignorant folks think those they talk about are just as dumb as they are.” This was the case here with the Jewish leadership and Jesus. They just could not believe this hayseed from Galilee could be so spiritually smart. As Jesus taught he did not teach as others did, he taught with authority and the truth. Jesus was not like those who wanted to garner other men’s praise, he desired that his listeners only know and understand the words of God. They were surprised at Jesus’ knowledge of the Scriptures; that he should be familiar with them; to be able to intelligently interpret them and give them sense and meaning in a clear concise manner as he did! Jesus answers his gossiping critics, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” He only taught what he learned from God. How much better would the world be if this were the case today in many of our lives as well. In fact if his listeners wanted to make sure what Jesus taught was the truth or not, all they had to do was the wil of God. He relates, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” Later on in John’s gospel Jesus would confront his skeptics by telling them, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. (John 12:49-50 NIV)” Jesus knew where their problem was, it found in their pride. The Jewish leadership thought they were the keepers of God’s words, his law, and now they were being confronted with the truth. This is why he continued by telling them, ” He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” The true goal of anyone should be to glorify God! In a sense, Jesus is exactly what we were meant to be! We were meant to be holy and teach the truth of God to others! When others began to gossip about Jesus, he confronted them with the truth! Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!

EXAMPLE: I like what Dennis DeHaan wrote concerning telling the truth, “How prone we are to lying! With a stroke of exaggeration here, an omitted detail there, or a misleading silence we distort the truth. Yet truth is the foundation and superstructure of all relationships. Remove the girders of truth, and society crumbles in on itself. This moral absolute is so self-evident that even criminals punish their own who lie to them. The ninth commandment forbids purposeful deceit against our neighbor and underscores the sacredness of truth in all our dealings. The two Hebrew words used for “false” in Exodus 20:16 and in Deuteronomy 5:20 mean “untrue” and “insincere.” Any expression of insincerity and untruthfulness, therefore, is bearing false witness against our neighbor. This commandment also exposes two underlying motives that God hates—malice and pride. When we lie, it is usually to cast a person in a bad light or to place ourselves in a good light. The first springs from malice, the second from pride. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John. 14:6 NIV)’ The closer we are to Him, the more truthful we will become with ourselves and with others. The question is, ‘Are we followers of Him who is the truth?'” Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!

Conclusion:

Whispers can fill the sails of speculation! Whispers’ winds are calmed by the truth!

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes

The testimony of the truth! — John 5:30-38

The testimony of the truth! — John 5:30-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 4, 3014

For a lot of folks, truth is relative. In other words truth is only true when it benefits them personally, however, this is not true! Truth is not defined by the moment, the era, social definitions, or our own desire to be happy. Truth is truth, period. In the movie Mary Poppins the main character sings a song to her charges to make things easier for them. The song is “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The lyrics relate that anything, even hard work is better with the right attitude, however, far too many think that the truth should be delivered in the same manner, with a spoonful of sugar. They often sugarcoat it in order for it to be more palatable for their listeners.

Jesus knew that truth was relative as well, so-to-speak. In fact, he knew it because his Father was the author of the truth. But he did not change the truth to suit his needs or to make people feel better about themselves. The truth was who Jesus was because his Father was the truth. Jesus here in John’s gospel gives us the testimony of the truth, let’s discover what he teaches us…

READ: John 5:30-38

My father had so instilled in me that lying was one of the worst things a person could do that I never even attempted to do so. In fact, I was horrible at it. He often said that “the truth will find you out.” We learn here in John’s gospel that…

I. The truth is the will of God! (Vv. 30-32)

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. (John 5:30-32 NIV)

1. Jesus continued on the theme he had begun with that by himself, as the Messiah in human flesh, “I can do nothing.” And even though he has the authority to judge (v.27), he relates three things concerning his judgment: 1) he judges only as he hears from God, 2) his judgments are always just, and 3) he never seeks to please himself but only seeks to please his Father concerning the judgment he gives. Jesus’ will is to do the Father’s will. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34 NIV)” What sustained and satisfied Jesus in his ministry was the fact that he was completely in God’s will for his life. We can rely on this truth as well for our lives because when we are in the will of God, we can be confident in all we do with our lives. We know when we are not in the truth of God when we begin to cover up our faith, are embarrassed by our faith, or make excuses for our faith. Jesus would also relate, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him. (John 8:29 NIV)” Jesus knew that God never leaves us or forsakes those he loves. Jesus knew that if what he said about himself was only from him, it might sound like boasting, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.” He also understood that the Jews wanted more than one source when someone was giving evidence about themselves and he bluntly remarks, “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” God testified concerning his Son, Jesus. Jesus was content to submit to the Father’s will and to let the Father authenticate Him. The truth is the will of God!

EXAMPLE: David Roper writes concerning the will of God: “We’re often looking for God’s will—especially when we’re in a difficult situation. We wonder, What will happen to me here? Should I stay or does God want me somewhere else? The only way to know for sure is to do what He asks you to do right now—the duty of the present moment—and wait for God to reveal the next step. As you obey what you know, you will be strengthened to take the next step and the next. Step by step, one step at a time. That’s how we learn to walk with God. But you say, ‘Suppose I take the first step. What will happen next?’ That’s God’s business. Your task and mine is to obey this day and leave the future to Him.” Jesus looked to his Father and allowed him to lead him. He did nothing without God’s leading. He could do so because he lived in the truth and the truth is the will of God!

I have one of those new flat screen TVs where they measure the resolution in 780p, 1080p, or HD. I have come to the realization that the truth of my resolutions are often in sub-standard definition! Yet, through it all I have discovered that…

II. The truth is the light of God! (Vv. 33-35)

You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. (John 5:33-35 NIV)

1. Jesus did not just depend on the testimony of himself or that of God the Father, he also reminds his listeners that John the Baptist’s function was that of a witness. He tells them, “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.” A good witness tells the truth. John’s witness about Jesus had integrity. However, Jesus immediately relates, “Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.” Human testimony is dependent upon human frailties. We cannot see everything, we cannot hear everything, and we certainly do not know everything; but God does! Jesus knew that his listeners respected John the Baptist because of who he was, but Jesus did not necessarily need John’s acceptance to be who he was or to say or do what he did. John’s gospel began by telling us that John the Baptist “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:7-8 NIV)” It was through the light of God that all men would believe and be saved. Jesus mentioned John’s testimony about himself so his listeners would “be saved.” Jesus’ truth, his light burns eternally, but “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” John’s light, his testimony, only burned for a little while and then Herod ended up killing him, but Jesus’ testimony, his truth shines forever! John the Baptist was sent for the people’s benefit, however sinful people are in such darkness that they need someone to tell them what is light! “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. (John 1:4-5 NIV)” How interesting is it then when Jesus is in front of Pontius Pilate, who accuses him of declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (John 18:37 NIV)” The truth of God shone brightly in front of sinful man, but they were blinded to its truth! The truth is the light of God!

EXAMPLE: One of the things we like to do when we go into the nearby Ape Cave is to turn off any lights. We are immediately engulfed in complete and utter darkness. You cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Just as it is hard to see in utter darkness, it is difficult for us to see the truth when we are in the darkness of personal sin. Sin blinds us to the light of the truth in our lives. Jesus would teach, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NIV)” We learn here that the truth is the light of God!

The problem with a new year is that it goes in one year and out the other! Kind of like our New Year’s resolutions. We make them only to break them. How wonderful to know then that there is something and someone we can utterly depend on and that is Jesus. The reason is simply because…

III. Seeing is believing the truth of God! (Vv. 36-38)

I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. (John 5:36-38 NIV)

1. Not only did Jesus have his own testimony, God’s testimony and the testimony of John the Baptist but he also had ” testimony weightier than that of John.” Sometimes we are trusted and known not just by what we say about ourselves but in what we actually do with our lives. Our actions speak louder than our words. Jesus was also justified by the things he did. He relates, “For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” The very miracles the Jews had such a hard time with because Jesus was willing to display God’s compassion instead of their legalism, spoke volumes to who Jesus was. Jesus would later tell Philip, one of disciples who wanted Jesus to prove who he was, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:10-11 NIV)” Earlier Jesus told his detractors, “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NIV)” When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and then died on the cross and rose from the grave, he testified to the truth of who he was! Isaiah the Old Testament prophet would declare concerning the coming of Jesus, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:5-6 NIV)” Sadly, the Jews of Jesus’ day were so calloused and hardened by sin they could not recognize who he was, but those of who do recognize Jesus for whom he is are blessed! Jesus retorted, “For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17 NIV)” This is why he said to those Jewish leaders, “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” The question this morning would be, “Do you see, hear, and recognize Jesus for who he is and will you give your life to him?” For Jesus, seeing is believing the truth of God!

EXAMPLE: My Uncle and I were working in my grandmother’s garden. I had been entrusted to weed it while he had worked on the other side of the house. When he came back he asked me how in the world I had gotten done so fast, then he realized I had just cut the tops off all the weeds instead of pulling them up by their roots. He informed me that a real man is not only seen by their words but by their work ethic as well. I learned that day that simply saying I did something carried little weight, but instead I was judged by what I had actually done. The legacy we leave in life is not just with our words but in what we do with our lives. We may struggle with believing in Jesus by what he said, but when we look intently at his life seeing is believing the truth!

Conclusion:

The truth is the will of God, the truth is the light of God, and seeing is believing the truth of God!

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes