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Walk in love! – Ephesians 5:1-21

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

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

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

READ: Ephesians 5:1-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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What America needs now is: You!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 15, 2014

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

I was just wondering, why we don’t live the transformed lives in the Lord we are supposed to? Notice dear reader what Paul is sharing with us here. We who have placed our faith and trust in the One who brings “freedom” and whereby our faces are unveiled before him, are being transformed. We are not being transformed into ourselves, our old sin nature, nor our wretched past. We are being transformed into “his image”. If this is true why are you not living like it right now? Your transformation is not some day when you die, pie-in-the-sky, me oh my! It is a moment by moment occurrence. Why do you continually go back to the trash-heap of your old life? When you go to a fine restaurant do you enjoy the meal and then head for the dumpster outback? Do you wear your brand new garments and never wash them? Do you rub yourself with the filth you find in the gutter after taking your daily shower? Now before you answer, think for a moment how you treat your life in the Lord. We are free in Christ who saved us. We are free from a life of regulation or our own striving to get into heaven because of his grace, but our freedom does not mean we are to live eating refuse, to wear filthy rags, or to continually return to the muck of the world and wallow in it. As Paul would admonish, “be transformed”! If you say you love Jesus but live like hell, what does that display to the world? Certainly not a transformed life. Your glory is not to be found in the dirt of this world but rather in the transforming presence of your Savior. Makes one wonder…

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The Holy Life! — James 1:22-27

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

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

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

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

I. The Holy life responds to God’s Word! (Vv.22-24)
1. Herein is a primary problem of Christianity today; people do not do what the word of God says. It was present in James’ day as well. What is truly astonishing about this is that this is one of the first New Testament letters written concerning the Christian faith. Yet, we find James very bluntly telling his readers, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The wording here means to delude oneself or to deliberately fool oneself into thinking something that was simply not true! His fellow believers were not doing what they had just heard they were supposed to do in order to live holy lives! Like delusional dolts, they listened to the fine sounding words of the gospel, left their wonderful worship and their study of God’s Word and immediately forgot what they were just taught! Can you imagine such a thing? Many of the moral and ethical problems we face in our day are not the fault of politicians, the world or satanic influence; rather, they distill down to individual believers not doing what the Word of God says! We have thousands of churches full of folks listening to fine sounding sermons doing nothing with what they hear! We suffer from spiritual dementia! We can still walk, talk, and feed ourselves but we no longer recognize what holiness is supposed to look like. We have become blinded by the selfish faith we put on everyday rather than living a sacrificial life God desires! James declared, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” We are very religious, but spiritually worthless. Jesus disgustingly told the self-centered religious folks of his day, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24 NIV) Following Jesus is more than a simple confession. Isaiah said that a person like James describes “feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” (Isaiah 44:20 NIV) Too many Christians excuse their ungodly lifestyles and hold onto its filth rather than holiness. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV) Far too many live in spiritual dementia! James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!
EXAMPLE: Jesus rebuked those in his day who thought of themselves as holy but did not respond to the Word of God before their very eyes by telling them, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart (meaning the person’s totality) the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV) Well, guess what? Out of the overflow of one’s life, the totality of what a person is in Christ flows one’s holiness or not. James teaches us that the Holy life responds to God’s Word!

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

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

1. The simple unvarnished truth is that Christians need to begin to live a godly lifestyle! James knew that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward!” (Psalms 19:7-11 NIV) The answer to the ills of the world is the Word of God! The answer for weak-willed believers is to follow their Lord and be holy! James wrote, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom (the Word of God found in the gospel), and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” Again, Paul would remind us, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIV) Love here is sacrificial action, holy living! John wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16 NIV) Holy living demands sacrifice and we do not like to sacrifice anything! We want the sacrifice of Christ; we want others to sacrifice for us; but we balk at giving anything of ourselves away at all! However, holy living also recognizes the delusion! It confesses the sin of selfishness! John would teach succinctly, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth… If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:6, 8-10 NIV) James continues, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” Whether it is your mouth, your habits, or the way you live, James is telling us we need to live lives of holiness, not just fool ourselves and say we are holy. In fact he goes on to teach, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Holiness has an outcome. It is more than concerned for others, it acts! Holy living is more than feeling good about oneself; it keeps itself from being polluted by the world! James knew that the holy life lives their religion!
EXAMPLE: Paul was harsh and much of today’s politically correct world does not like what he wrote concerning holy living, but what he taught is true. He wrote, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ‘Everything is permissible for me’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’–but I will not be mastered by anything… Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-12, 19-20 NIV) James knew that the holy life lives their religion!

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

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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James 4:1-17 – Who Is Your Best Friend?

James 4:1-17 – Who Is Your Best Friend?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 27, 2013 AM

How many close trusted friends do you have, not family, who stick with you “through thick and thin”? A number of years ago, an interim pastor read the opening verse of Philemon where Paul wrote “our dear friend.” He stopped reading and inquired: “If I asked you how many true friends you have—friends you can count on—what, would you say?” He paused for a few seconds and then shared how many intimate friends he had. Slowly, he held up two fingers. He had two friends to whom he could go at any time and share anything with the assurance of total acceptance and support!

Folks want friends and would gladly welcome even more friends in their lives. This is also true of God. God desires everyone to be His friend. The first step is to become one of His children. Some folks are unwilling to make this commitment. Some do not care about being known as God’s friend, and do little to confirm they are! They never nurture their relationship. They assume their salvation is enough to ensure a close, intimate relationship with Him. Let’s discover why James teaches our friendship with God is important and how he helps us to consider who our best friend truly is.

READ: James 4:1-17

James addressed a serious situation among the believers he was writing. Conflict was severe and ongoing. He denounced Christians’ worldly behavior, noting it indicated they were friends with the world rather than with God. If we want to be God’s friend…

I. We are to reject worldly behavior! (4:1-5)

1. Evidently, the peace and peacemakers James wrote about were in short supply among these Christians. James asks, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” The word fights refers to chronic military campaigns, while quarrels indicates separate battles in those campaigns. In the context of conflict among believers, some were expressions of ongoing hostility while others were temporary flare-ups. James answered his first question with a second question that calls for a “yes” answer: “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” Desires refer to lustful passions that could be sensual or could be desire for money or power. We get our word hedonism from the Greek term. It conveys intense desire for what a person does not have. These believers kept on desiring and went on failing to get what they desired! James charged, “You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” James was not describing petty differences but substantial and chronic conflict among believers. The sense is probably that these Christians wanted what others had, could not get what they wanted, and deliberately broke the Tenth Commandment! James retorts, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” And “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” When these Christians petitioned God, they still did not get what they wanted because their desires were not in line with God’s will. God’s answer to selfish, self-serving prayers is a resounding “No!” They were adulterous people who were more at ease with the world! Didn’t they “know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” In fact, “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God!” We might paraphrase verse 5 as, “Do you suppose the Scripture does not mean what it states?” God’s Spirit begins to reside in believers at conversion, and His Spirit continues to yearn jealously for our loyalty. With love, He intensely pursues us! “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?” Thus, the Spirit seeks to guide us in realizing that if we want to be God’s friend, we are to reject worldly behavior!
EXAMPLE: Feudin’, Fussin’ and a-Fightin is a musical comedy which starred Donald O’Conner. One of songs went, “Feudin’ and fightin’ and a-fussin,’ That’s all that’s goin’ on with us’n. We are such neighborly people peaceful and sweet, all except when we happen to meet.” Sounds like some Christians I know! Being God’s friends involves rejecting worldly behavior and eliminating attitudes that lead to trouble between others and us and between the Lord and us. Ongoing rivalry and conflict among Christians destroys fellowship and diminishes—if not negates—our witness for Christ! If we want to be God’s friend, we are to reject worldly behavior!

James stressed the availability of God’s grace to correct believers’ conflict with one another. On the basis of that grace, he called on them to submit and draw near to God through repentance and humility. If we desire to be God’s friend…

II. We should draw near to God! (4:6-10)
1. We do not have to continue in a state of bitter, selfish conflict. In contrast to destructive infighting, greater grace is available to overcome hostility and restore relationships. James writes that, “But he gives us more grace.” Grace is the necessary power to end chronic conflict with others, renew loyalty to Christ, and relate in love. James quoted Proverbs 3:34 to remind us of the peril of pride and the need for humility: “That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” God is always in opposition to the haughty and arrogant, but He continually extends His favor to His people. James contends we are to, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!” Because of God’s presence and power with them, the Devil would flee from them. Evil would be vanquished from the battlefield. In rapid-fire succession, James gave three additional imperatives. By deliberate choice, Christians are to submit, resist, and come near! He urged believers to draw near to God for the purpose of offering Him reverence and worship. To do so would strengthen or repair their personal relationship with Him. But would believers do this? James described his readers as sinners and double-minded, as such we need to wash and purify ourselves! The use of these terms was meant to shock them into awareness. James stressed the sincere repentance believers should demonstrate because of their sins. They should be so upset that they are moved to lament with tears. Their frivolous laughter should become lamenting; and their shallow, worldly joy should be changed to dejection. Only deep, genuine repentance would lead to the forgiveness they needed to remedy their situation! James repeated himself, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” He called on them to confess to God their sins, weaknesses, and inadequacies. They were to admit their need for His grace and be open to receive it. As a result, God would raise them up! If we desire to be God’s friend, we should draw near to God!
EXAMPLE: When our attitudes in prayer and worship are proper, God makes His presence known to us. In approaching God, however, we have to deal with sins in our lives through repentance and God’s forgiveness. We need to get rid of our selfish motives, as well, and sincerely desire to know and do God’s will. For many of us, submission has a negative tone. It has overtones of weakness. Submission to God, however, frees us to become what He can make of us by His power, love, and grace. If we are His friends, we obey Him and draw near to Him in reverence and worship. In addition, we eliminate attitudes and actions related to pride. If we desire to be God’s friend, we should draw near to God!

Believers were criticizing and judging one another. James rebuked them for assuming God’s right of judging people. If we desire to be God’s friend…

III. We need to recognize God is Judge! (4:11-12)
1. A key element in believers’ humbling themselves before God is to stop slandering one another. James’ words indicate these Christians were engaging in criticism and needed to stop the practice. James declared that a believer who uses malicious, insulting language against another Christian or who issues withering sentences of condemnation against a believing brother or sister does the same against God’s law; particularly, the command to love your neighbor as oneself. God’s law was designed to evaluate people; any person who criticizes or judges others has taken over the law’s function. Actually, that individual presumes to take on God’s role, but only God is qualified to judge people. In doing so, the individual accuses the law and God of not doing an adequate job! That person assumes a stance of superiority to the law instead of living as the law teaches. James reminds us that, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” James reminded believers that only one lawgiver and judge exists. The literal translation of the Greek text is emphatic! “One is lawgiver and judge.” James emphasized that God is the only lawgiver, judge, and all-powerful. He can save or destroy. God has the ability to preserve life or to end it. In light of His sovereignty and mercy, which of us could presume to take His role and judge a neighbor? No Christian is qualified to do so. If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to recognize God is Judge!
EXAMPLE: When conversations turn to criticisms of people not present, how do you usually respond? What if the conversation concerns your pastor? God alone sets guidelines for living. His directives seek to protect people from evil and to free them to develop characters of high ethical and moral qualities. He alone is qualified to judge, because only He has the complete knowledge of people. James may have had in mind Jesus’ warning against judging others: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV) Being God’s friends involves recognizing He alone is Judge and eliminating all judgmental criticism of others. If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to recognize God is Judge!

James warned people who made business plans without considering God’s will. He emphasized the arrogance of such planning. If we desire to be God’s friend…

IV. We need to seek God’s will! (4:13-17)
1. James turned to a familiar life-situation to stress believers’ need to make God’s will their first priority. James described a meeting in which hard-working small businessmen—probably believers—proposed a business plan: “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” As was typical of Jewish traders of that time, these men would travel to a city and promote their business. They had everything neatly worked out. Yet, James reminds them, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?” He reminds us that we have no guarantees about the future! Each day would bring its challenges and surprises. In fact, they had no assurances concerning their lives. Tomorrow might dawn for us, and it might not! James compared people’s lives to a bit of “mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!” The Psalmist would write, “For my days vanish like smoke!” (Psalm 102:3 NIV) Both writers stressed life’s frailty and brevity. James made his point clear. The traders had not included God in their plans. They felt self-sufficient and secure. Life’s uncertainty should have led to dependence on God. “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” Note that James stressed seeking God’s will in business, not merely in religious matters. The implication is that everyone is to seek God’s will in all segments of life. James knew that “As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.” He condemned the merchants’ presumption and self-reliance. Their bragging about plans and perceived profits expresses arrogance. Such boasting in one’s intelligence and skills not only is empty; it also is evil because it excludes God and exalts their own human ability. James succinctly writes, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins!” God’s will is that believers demonstrate their faith by living good lives for Him! To understand this truth and to fail to act on it is sin! Failure to act misses the mark God has set for His people. If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to seek God’s will!
EXAMPLE: If we are not careful, we can live as though relationship with God does not matter. We can depend on our abilities to chart our futures and thus be guilty of the sins of presumption and arrogance. Being God’s friends involves seeking His will before we make decisions or plans and eliminating attitudes and actions related to arrogance.

Conclusion:
If we desire to be God’s friend, we need to:
1. Reject worldly behavior.
2. Draw near to God.
3. Recognize God alone is Judge.
4. Seek God’s will.

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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Follow the Spirit! – Galatians 5:16-26

Follow the Spirit! – Galatians 5:16-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 25, 2013 AM

I like some of the new features of smart phones, especially the ability to use them as a GPS whether you are walking around town or driving to a destination. However, one has to be careful not to completely trust in the directions they give, because they still can lead you down someone’s driveway or to none existent places. Kind of like the car commercial a few years ago where the guy was following the vocal directions from his in-dash GPS and it tells him, “Turn left…” he immediately does and runs into a building, a then as the dust and debris settles the robotic voice continues, “…in 500 feet.” Not all guidance is necessarily good guidance.

Christians have access to the best possible guidance as they exercise their freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, many believers sometimes confuse Christian freedom with the liberty do anything they want, and then garner God’s forgiveness. They do not know—or they do not care—that they are free but only to follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Not surprisingly, they may become experts in several or more of what Paul called “works of the flesh”. They follow their own lusts, not the Spirit. They show little evidence in life of the fruit of the Spirit. God wants His people to avoid all works of the flesh and to focus on developing all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. For this reason, He wants them to follow the Spirit’s leadership. Let’s see what Paul teaches us this morning as we learn to follow the Spirit…

READ: Galatians 5:16-26

Believers face the constant temptation to follow culture’s permissive influences. Many are the voices urging self-indulgence and insisting, “anything goes” and “if it feels good, do it.” We need to hear the Spirit’s voice giving spiritual, moral, and ethical direction. Paul gives us the antidote to poisonous behavior: following the Spirit’s leadership. He contrasts the Spirit to the flesh and highlights the conflict between them. He reminds us to…

I. Walk by the Spirit! (Vv. 16-18)

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18 NIV)

1. Paul quickly states, “So I say, live by the Spirit” and the reasoning is obvious to him because when you do, “you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” We forget that when we come to Christ, He saves us for eternity but not out of infernal bad habits. This is why Jesus would warn his followers to, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5 NIV) The words literally translated are, “keep on walking.” As a believer walks through life, he should depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit for guidance and power. But the Spirit does not operate automatically in a believer’s heart. He waits to be relied on or trusted in guidance. The believer must learn to hear and heed the Spirit’s voice because when they do, they “will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Too many believers constantly fight within themselves daily whom they will follow and then wonder why God is not more active in their lives. He cannot be and will not be if you continually decide to follow that which is contrary to His nature! “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.” Point in fact, “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Never forget, dear child of God, every Christian is a walking civil war. Flesh and Spirit are in perpetual conflict; they are diametrically opposed to each other and vie for dominance in believers’ lives. This is where your guilt comes in, you follow the lusts of your sinful nature, the Spirit within you knows you should not be doing what you are doing, and you then sense the guilt. It is unrelenting warfare for control of believers’ lives! The Spirit strives to prevent believers from giving in to evil; the flesh tries to thwart the Spirit’s work. However, Paul reminds us, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law!” Trying to be “good enough” in order to assuage your guilty conscience places you back under a life of trying to live under the law, rules and regulations instead of the freedom of the Spirit. The answer: Walk by the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: What temptations arising from your lower nature do you face? How does the Spirit help you overcome them? Paul maintained strongly that only following the Spirit’s guidance could enable people to overcome evil and experience the freedom of grace. The inner struggle between believers’ old nature and the Spirit would continue, but following the Spirit’s leading—walking with Him—would empower them to be victorious. We are to let the Spirit guide our living. We must cooperate with Him. Each day presents temptations and challenges. The warfare between our old natures and the Spirit continues. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit’s prompting and to rely on His power to help us overcome persistent pulls to evil. Through His power we can avoid doing what displeases God. We are to walk by the Spirit!

Paul goes on to present a catalog of “the works of the flesh” so these believers could be forewarned. He repeated what he had told them when he was with them: People with lifestyles marked by works of the flesh are not part of God’s kingdom. He warns us to…

II. Avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit! (Vv. 19-21)

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV)

1. Paul tells us bluntly, that, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious!” Paul listed what the flesh produces by naming three sexual sins: immorality, impurity, and debauchery! The first was a general word for illicit sexual activity—sexual intercourse before and outside marriage. The word can mean “fornication” or “prostitution” and often is translated “adultery.” How sad in our day and age where folks think they can skirt God’s grace and the hurt of divorce by having sex outside of marriage! Paul says it is impossible! The second word “impurity” refers to material dirt, defilement, moral filth or lewdness! It is the aspect of not caring what you do publicly or privately; literally, dirty thoughts and lifestyle! Much of the Internet today produces this kind of behavior through pornography, sexting, or openly flaunting sexual activity in public. Jesus severely warned, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:21-23 NIV) Paul had also warned, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10b-11 NIV) Far too many play a dangerous game with the grace of God thinking that what they think or do has no consequence on their spiritual lives, Paul warns otherwise! In fact, it can lead to all kinds of ungodly activity: “idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like!” Dear child of God, do you constantly struggle with any or all of these? Perhaps you have forgotten, as the Galatians had, that a life lived this way leads to guilt and a weak faith. In fact, Paul suspected that those who constantly battled with these things may not have truly committed themselves fully to Christ, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Does your daily thoughts and life depict your faith? If we are to follow the Spirit, we should avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: With what attitudes of the old nature do you need the Spirit’s help to overcome? The world today encourages, exemplifies, and instructs us to daily indulge our sinful nature. It goes so far as to barrage us with the notion that if we do not, we are out of step, living in the past, or phobic. That we may suffer from some kind of psychological disorder because the rest of the world says anything goes anywhere anytime! However, if we let the Spirit guide our living, we will avoid doing what displeases God. We will model sexual purity for a perverted society in which moral guidelines are being erased swiftly. The Spirit will enable us to bear witness concerning authentic religion, will help us avoid destructive attitudes, and will help us reject consumption of drugs or alcohol in order to have a “good time.” If we are to follow the Spirit, we should avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit!

Finally, Paul teaches us that the Spirit’s activity in Christians produces a cluster of virtues that gives explicit evidence believers belong to Christ. Paul exhorts believers to “follow the Spirit” and then gives us three examples of what following Him calls for. He teaches that believers will…

III. Display the fruit of the Spirit! (Vv. 22-26)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26 NIV)

1. Paul doesn’t leave us in spiritual despair but reminds us what, “the fruit of the Spirit” is. The word fruit refers to virtues only the Spirit can cultivate and bring to full growth in believers’ lives. Human nature apart from God can only perform works; only the Spirit can produce fruit. Note that the word fruit is singular. Genuine believers exhibit a cluster of virtues characteristic of living in the Spirit. The first is love. Paul chose the word “agape” because it does not carry the primary element of emotion or affection. Agape is God’s kind of self-sacrificing love: determined good will that acts for others’ best interests. “Joy” differs markedly from happiness. Happiness depends on favorable circumstances. Joy is a deep celebration of relationship with God no matter what the circumstances are. The gladness of being held securely in God’s grace empowers believers to face life’s challenges. “Peace” is much more than absence of conflict. The word has the idea of wholeness and well-being under God’s rule that issues in spiritual calmness in the face of difficulties. “Patience” means “longsuffering.” It conveys a slowness to become angry. We would say it is the capacity to “put up with a lot.” “Kindness” is gentleness, thoughtfulness, and consideration in dealing with others. It is not sentimentality. It has the sense of being agreeable, obliging, or pleasant. “Goodness” is “moral excellence,” but it is much more. The word carries the idea of active generosity and compassion toward others—of doing more than justice requires. We might define goodness as kindness in action. “Faithfulness” is honesty or loyalty in relationships with others. It is the quality of reliability; people can count on believers. “Gentleness” conveys the sense of strength under control. It was used of animals that people tamed and disciplined to carry riders or pull loads. The Spirit enables Christians to exercise disciplined strength in relating to others. “Self-control” is mastery over emotions, especially over sensual desires. It is the spiritual strength to discipline self, to impose self-restraint. Self-discipline issues in moral purity. “Against such things, there is no law!” In fact, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” And Paul ends his instruction by reminding us that, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” We are to follow the Spirit, not our emotions or the world’s desires because when we do, we will display the fruit of the Spirit!

EXAMPLE: Which virtues in the cluster of the fruit of the Spirit are most evident in your life? Which are underdeveloped? What will you do to allow the Spirit to produce a more complete harvest? If we let the Spirit guide how we live, we will exhibit characteristics that please God. The fruit of the Spirit will be evident in our inner spiritual lives, in our interactions with others, and in our conduct. We not only will avoid works of the flesh, but we also will advance toward the goal of spiritual maturity, which leads to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!” In following the Spirit, we will display the fruit of the Spirit!

Conclusion:

We have learned from Paul what it means to follow the Spirit in our lives. We are to walk by the Spirit, avoid ungodly conduct contrary to the Spirit, and to display the fruit of the Spirit!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 28 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2013 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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Today’s Thoughts, John 17:15

by Pastor Lee Hemen
May 2, 2008

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:15)

Far too many Christians falsely think that just because they know Jesus as Savior and Lord, that He should rescue them from any consequences from their actions or from bad things that happen to them in this world. Nothing is further from the truth. We forget that right alongside of God’s love, sin and evil exists. We will also suffer the outcome of what we have sown in our lives. While Jesus prayed that His own disciples would be “protected from the evil one,” He had already related to Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat and was given permission to do so! What Jesus was praying here was not some kind of spiritual force field that would have zapped anything evil or bad that came the disciple’s way. Like some cosmic bug zapper! Rather, He was praying to His heavenly Father that He would watch over them and protect them from the deceptive practices of the evil one by making them aware of them.

We are a lazy lot in many cases. We rely on others to give us our spirituality. The fact remains, each of us are responsible for our personal walk with the Lord. His Word and wisdom and His guidance can and will protect us if we spend time with Him in prayer and studying His Word and applying it to our life on a daily basis. Remember, He said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands,” and that “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” Jesus noted that “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:15, 24; 15:10)

What was Jesus’ “teaching”? Was it to go back and rely on the Old Testament way of following God? No! He related that unlike the Old Testament, that was disappearing and was a heavy burden to bear, He related, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) In fact, He continued by teaching that “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21) What were these commands? Simple, it is to “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

You want a heavenly spiritual ‘force field” of protection in your life? Obey Jesus’ two commands, because by doing so you fulfill all the others! If you do so you will not be found guilty of any of the others! And when you know the One who gave us the Law of God in the first place, you can never break His commands because you have trusted your life to Him and His grace is sufficient to keep you in Him because of what he has done for you! Here is your simple way of life whereby you do not need to go out and buy the latest Christian fad book concerning how to walk with God. Give the money instead to your church and love God completely and others as yourself and you will be kept from the evil one!

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

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