Tag Archives: witness

The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13

The mystery revealed! – Ephesians 3:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 5, 2017

The books and televisions programs of Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and others are fantastic mystery series. I love a good mystery. Trying to figure out who done it, how they did it, and why is great fun for me. I also like a lot of Alfred Hitchcock movies and books as well because of the suspense. Yep, there is nothing like a good mystery; except where God is concerned.

There are many in our day and age and in the past who have tried to lie to mankind and declare only they know the secret or hidden mysteries of God. That all others except themselves need a special book, specific revelation, seer stones, a guide, or advanced teacher to tell us the hidden mysteries of God. Therefore isn’t great to know that the mystery of God has now been revealed through his Son, Jesus? There is nothing hidden, tucked away, or kept from those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus. And here in his letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us all about the mystery revealed!

READ: Ephesians 3:1-13

You can never truly know anyone; even one’s spouse can surprise you once in a while which can be a good thing. The great thing about the gospel message is that it reveals Jesus for who he truly is and Paul knew this to be true as well. He knew that…

I. The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! (Vv. 1-5)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.

1. Things can be confusing when you do not understand them whether it is some new fangled electronic gadget or something that is theological. In these situations it is often good to have someone who knows the ins and outs, kind of like a mentor, teacher, or guide. Paul understood this, not the electronic gadget part but the theological nuances that would have utterly confused both his Jewish converts but in particular the non-Hebrew gentiles. And so he begins to share with his readers from his own personal experience, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”. He considered himself a prisoner, which he probably was in Rome, of Jesus not just in a criminal sense but also as one called out as a volunteer to be willingly held captive by Jesus. He was held captive not for himself but for their sake! Paul saw his life’s calling as the “administration” as a personal stewardship or trust “of God’s grace”. God had given him this “household task” and “surely” they had “heard about” it! Paul had been made an apostle, messenger, to the Gentiles by Jesus. This grace was the “the mystery made known to (Paul) by revelation, as (he had) already written (them) briefly.” The mystery was that God would come in human form, be born of a virgin, grow to be a man and willingly give his life as a sacrifice for our sins! Also do not forget that Paul at one time did not understand this mystery and in fact had held the cloaks of those who willingly stoned to death one of Jesus’ followers. Only later when he was given instructions by the chief priests to go to Damascus to persecute more of Jesus’ followers did God intervene and call Paul to be his disciple to the Gentiles. And so Paul now tells the Ephesians that “In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

EXAMPLE: The mystery of the ages is not difficult to understand; the problem is we as believers often make it harder than it is. It is kind of like the old joke about the Rabbi and the Priest who were by the side of a country road holding a sign that read: “The End is Near! Turn around before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that passed didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted, “Leave us alone you religious nuts!” All of a sudden they heard the screeching of brakes and a big splash. The Rabbi turned to the Priest and asked, “Do you think we should have written: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” I am so glad that the mystery of Jesus has been made known by God!

The good news, the Gospel message is the mystery revealed. But what exactly does this mystery do and how does it do it? Oh that is a spectacular and most wonderful thing! Paul writes that…

II. He was entrusted to preach this mystery! (Vv. 6-9)

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

1. Paul continued by getting right to the heart of the mystery. He relates that “This mystery is that through the gospel”. What is through the gospel? What is this good news? Namely that “the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel” of all the promises of God! All believers no matter where they come from or their background become the chosen people of God! In fact we are “members together of one body” which is the church, the called out ones by Jesus that form his “body” in the world! Therefore we are all “sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”! This promise is more than joint heirs of God’s promise to his people it also gives eternal life and the presence and power of God to all who believe! Part of Jesus’ final prayer was when he asked God the Father, “My prayer is not for them alone (meaning his disciples). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21 NIV) Paul came to understand what this oneness meant as he explains that “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” God had imparted this mystery to him on the road to Damascus and thereby he became its servant! Now his readers could have wondered why in the world God would do such a thing to someone like Paul. Yet he knew his past and writes that “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Paul had been entrusted to preach this mystery! And like Paul we also are “to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things”. He had written his friend Timothy that he was to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV) From the Four Gospel narratives to the Book of Revelation we are entrusted to preach this mystery!

EXAMPLE: It is sad but there have always existed charlatans who would use the gospel for their own purposes; from Ananias and Sapphira to the likes of Peter Popoff there are those motivated to use the mystery of the gospel for their personal greed and power. Remember Paul told his friend Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.” He knew a “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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4 NIV) We are entrusted to preach this mystery!

Jesus had ascended back to his heavenly realm and left his body the church to fulfill the preaching of the gospel mystery. For Paul it was important that his readers understand that…

III. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery! (Vv. 10-13)

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

1. Paul bluntly relates that Jesus’ “intent was that now, through the church (Jesus’ body made up of his called out members), the manifold wisdom of God should be made known”. It is our job to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Jesus had) commanded”! (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Paul writes that this was part and parcel of God’s plan all along, that this “wisdom… should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”. God made this mystery known to all of the heavenly realm when he came as Jesus and when he died on the cross for our sins “according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord”! If that isn’t a mystery I don’t know what is! The Greek adjective “manifold” (polypoikilos) referred to the beauty of an embroidered pattern or the variety of colors in flowers. God redeemed all the “colorful flowers” of the world; all the patterns of races, colors, and creeds to himself through faith in him! This mystery brought Hebrew and gentile together into one body the church! “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Through faith in Jesus we have the right of freedom, the “courage, boldness” to confidently approach God’s throne! Hebrews reminds us that “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV) This is why Paul writes the Ephesians, “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.” He was asking the body of Christ to pray for him a fellow believer! He knew he could because Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

EXAMPLE: There are those in our day and age who think that the church is a show you come to once in a while in order to feel good about yourself and God. There are others who believe it is a repository where we are to dispense our good deeds to the unwashed world. Or there are those who think that the church is an organization one belongs to in order to gain entrance into certain segments of society or culture. None of these are correct. The church is the body of Christ in the world made up of many members where each does its part for God’s plan that he has for them in the world in order that his message, the gospel, is shared. In this process we come together for worship of him, encouragement of one another, and mentoring to be sent out into the world with his message. Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!

Conclusion:

The mystery of Jesus has been made known by God! We are entrusted to preach this mystery! Jesus’ church is entrusted with the message of the mystery!
—-
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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes, Uncategorized

John 1:35-51 – The Calling!

John 1:35-51 – The Calling!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 12, 2004

Tom T. Hall, an old country western singer, wrote a song that went, “If you love somebody enough, you’ll follow wherever they go. That’s how I got to Memphis.” The sentiment of the song is quite true because if you truly do love someone enough you will follow wherever they go. This is why Jesus would later relate to his followers, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37-38 NIV)” When Jesus calls us we are to leave everything and follow him.

A young man went to the same work he did every night with the same crew and the same duties he always did, but this evening he would be called. He never suspected that his friend would introduce him to the one who calls us eternally. Just as those who thought they were following a good and righteous man named John the Baptizer so long ago never realized that the one they followed would point them to the one they truly needed to follow. Let’s discover this morning what that calling means for each of us…

READ: John 1:35-51

In this section of John’s gospel we find Jesus calling his first disciples. When we are called by God we are to follow him wherever he leads us. The call of Christ calls us from our sin into his wonderful grace, from our normal way of life into his marvelous way, and from the darkness into his light; but first and foremost…

I. The call of Christ asks us to go with him! (Vv. 35-39)

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

1. The following day after John had given Jesus that wonderful name as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind we find him with two of his own disciples. He now turns to them and “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” This is more than a pronouncement it is a benediction, a sanction or a kind of an approval of who Jesus is. John is encouraging them to go with Jesus! How would it be if you were asked to devote the next 3 years of your life to one who would ultimately die? That you would be called to devote the rest of your life to proclaiming his gospel message! We discover that John fixes his gaze on Jesus and he knows that his ministry is about over and this is the one whom he has been preparing the way for. It is time for his disciples to be with Jesus. “When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” It is interesting to note that when John points them to Christ, they do not ask him why nor debate the issue, they “followed Jesus.” Of course this was in the sense that he was walking by and now they are following after him, but it would lead to much more. “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’” It is a natural thing to ask when strangers begin to tail after you. They heard John’s words, realized what they meant, and it reached into their souls whereby they had to choose and choose they did. Now, Jesus addresses them. I believe that Jesus perhaps overheard John and he knew these men had a choice to make. Perhaps God the Father whispered to his Son’s ear, “These are the first of many.” Whatever the case; “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’”  And then they immediately respond, “‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’” They become Jesus’ disciples in that moment. Called to follow Christ, they now go with him.  “‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.” The call of Christ asks us to go with him!

EXAMPLE: The “tenth hour” was about 4 PM in our time frame since it was around ten hours after sunrise. So it was quite natural for them to go with Jesus after being invited to do so to see where he was staying. They spent the rest of the day with him, and probably shared the evening meal as well. While we are not implicitly told they did, the timing and the structure of the events suggests this is true. I wonder what they talked about, what the food they shared was, and how they made their introductions. In fact we learn from the other Gospels that “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. (Matthew 4:17 NIV)’” What I find truly fascinating is the fact that when John told them who Jesus was, they immediately curious and wanted to find out for themselves what that meant. Too few folks are curious about Jesus in our day and age. Perhaps we need to induce curiosity in others concerning Christ so that they will want to see for themselves? Remember, the call of Christ asks us to go with him!

It is easy to secretly follow someone. You do not have to put yourself out, risk embarrassment, or stand out in the crowd. However, following Jesus does not work that way. It becomes a matter of public record no matter how hard you try to be a secret saint. There simply is no such thing in the kingdom of God. And afterwards, we soon discover that…

II. The call of Christ asks us to invite others! (Vv. 40-44)

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.

1. Here begins a delightful tale of one disciple. We find “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John said and followed Jesus.” He realizes the one he has been introduced to requires that we share him. That is the very nature of discipleship. The disciple shares his teacher, his rabbi, with others. Andrew appears two more times in John’s Gospel (John 6:4-9; John 12:20-22); and both times he is bringing someone to Jesus. The unnamed disciple is thought to be John the son of Zebedee, brother of James and author of this Gospel. Andrew is about telling others who he has found. “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” Interestingly we learn from the other Gospels that Peter and John return to their father’s business of fishing. And it isn’t until later when “Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20 NIV)” Curious of what Jesus is teaching, later they would have to decide to go and completely follow after him. Jesus takes them from their fisher nets and makes them fishers of men instead. After meeting Peter, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” Names often depicted one’s character and Jesus knowing these men are to be chosen, gives Simon (he who hears) the Aramaic name Cephas (stone). Peter would become the stone the disciples would depend upon after Jesus’ ascension.  In Matthew 16:18 Jesus asks the disciples who they people say he is and then he asks who they think he is. Peter submits that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah the Son of the Living God. Jesus responds to Peter that while he is petros (a small pebble), it would be upon the truth Peter just exclaimed the petra (large stone) that Jesus would build his church! “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” Philip was a fisherman as well, Bethsaida means fish house. And, interestingly, we discover “Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.” It begins with Andrew and John and they in turn go tell others. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!

EXAMPLE: When I was four years old I received an invitation to a birthday party for the little girl down the street. Being shy, I did not want to go. My mother dressed me in my best clothes, handed me a wrapped present with a card, and sent me off in the direction of the little girl’s house. After receiving a phone call wondering where I was, my mom came looking for me. She found me hiding in the bushes next door. She dragged me out, brushed me off, and marched me down to the birthday party. Invitations can be wonderful to receive. I stayed long enough to shove the gift at the girl, grab a piece of cake, and flee out the backdoor. I think the other kids had a great time. Birthdays, weddings, or parties but what if the invitation was to follow the Lamb of God? To follow the one who can save you from your sin and give you eternal life? Jesus tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 NIV)” Jesus invites us. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!

Some folks have a struggle with predestination, the notion God knows who will come to him and that it is he who calls us, frankly I do not. If God created all things, sent himself as Jesus to redeem us, and now lives in us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, I find it quite reasonable and comforting to know God knew beforehand I was his. However, in the calling we do not know who is chosen and here we learn that…

III. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith! (Vv. 45-51)

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

1. Like Andrew Philip does not let moss grown under his feet. We find that “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” At this point in time Philip does not know of Jesus extraordinary birth, but he does understand a few vital truths concerning Jesus. God told Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NIV)” Daniel, Micah, and Zechariah were just some of the prophets who spoke of the coming Messiah and now Philip had seen him, he tells his friend Nathanael!  Incredulous that such a small smelly fishing village could produce the Messiah to come, Nathanael asks, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nazareth was the backwoods; it was full of backwards folks who would not understand the intricacies of spiritual truth concerning the Messiah. Philip’s response is simple, “Come and see.” Nathanael does not expect to experience what he does next, “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’” Skeptical, Philip asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus responds to Philip with just the information this skeptic needs to hear, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” How did this man know when and where Philip had asked him to “come and see” for himself? For this skeptic it was enough, only the Messiah could have the foreknowledge Jesus had concerning Nathanael. He exclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” I honestly believe Jesus had a wonderful sense of humor and we see it displayed here with Nathanael. I believe that with a twinkle in his eye, Jesus smiles and responds to Nathanael, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that! I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man!” Nathanael believed Jesus was the Messiah simply because Jesus had seen him under a fig tree, well Nathanael – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Nathanael would see far greater things than he could understand and hear greater things than he had ever heard. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

EXAMPLE: God takes us where we are and then begins to build us in him. He never asks us to understand all there is and then come to faith. It is impossible to do because we are to respond in faith, not by sight! Besides we cannot fully understand spiritual truth without the Spirit of God living within us! This is what Jesus is referring to when he responds to Nathanael the way he does. Jesus is basically congratulating Nathanael on his simple faith! There is a beautiful story that takes place at the verify end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Another skeptic, Thomas, tells the other disciples who claim they saw the resurrected Jesus, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it. (John 20:25 NIV)” Thomas wanted all the answers to what he could not grasp. Jesus then appears to him and the rest and Thomas learns that faith is more than seeing and believing. Jesus tells him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29 NIV)” The writer of Hebrews would state “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)” The folks who lived before Christ were applauded for their faith, not what they fully understood! While they knew God created the universe, they did not know exactly how he did it so and they follow God by their willingness to trust in him and who he is! We do not need to clean up our lives nor understand the Bible; the call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

Conclusion:
The call of Christ asks us to go with him! The call of Christ asks us to invite others! The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sermon Notes

The Lamb of God! — John 1:29-34

The Lamb of God! — John 1:29-34
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 5, 2014

I remember some of the names my mother had for me. Some were rather embarrassing, and no I am not going to share those with you! We all have nicknames or pet names others have given us that we would rather not share with anyone. Yet there are some names we are proud to let others know we have. Names like father, mother, grandfather or grandmother, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, son or daughter. These names are ones we often carry with pride and enjoy when we are called by them.

John the Baptist not only testified about the Messiah to come, but he also gave him one of the most endearing and fascinating names ever. It is a name that people have used, found comfort in, and wondered at for thousands of years. Here in John’s gospel we see him writing about John the Baptist and his ministry down by the Jordan River and it was there while he was doing his baptizing that John the Baptist shares with others the wonderful name of the Messiah to come: The Lamb of God! Let’s discover what this means for our lives this morning…

READ: John 1:29-34

I have to laugh when I hear folks argue about who Jesus was or is because there is so much historical evidence pointing to exactly who he is. John writes that…

I. The Lamb of God is Jesus! (Vv. 29-31)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:29-31 NIV)

1. While John was baptizing down on the Jordan River near a small town named Bethany, Jesus, his cousin comes down to the river. We discover that the very “next day John saw Jesus coming toward him.” Perhaps they had grown up together and had seen one another, after all Mary did journey to her Aunt’s house to share her pregnancy predicament with Aunt Elizabeth. We know that after Mary discovers her pregnancy that “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zachariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39 NIV)” So, it does not seem too farfetched to think that these young men had known one another, after all they were cousins! But now John sees Jesus not as his pesky cousin he grew up with but in an entirely new light. (I know cousins can be pesky because when I was three years old, I met my cousin Steven for the first time, and I bit him on the arm! He was five and had been bugging me.) But whatever the case, we discover Jesus is seen by John differently. John now looks towards Jesus and proclaims, “Look (behold), the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Some think this was probably after Jesus had been baptized by John, spent time in the wilderness, and was tempted by Satan and so was changed and charged with his mission. John no longer saw Jesus as his cousin but rather as the one God-ordained, God-gifted sacrificial offering that took the place of the Pascal lamb and the sacrifice it represented! Jesus is the one who “takes away the sin of the world!” He could because he is the one John had already spoke about where he said, “A man comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” Jesus can take the sins of the world away because he is God, and was before John, surpassed him, and everything else! But why did John say, I myself did not know Him? While they were cousins, sometimes family cannot see you for who you truly are! I believe John did not know that Jesus was the coming Messiah until he was revealed to John by the Father. John however knew Jesus was the “reason [John] came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel” as the good news, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
EXAMPLE: M. R. DeHaan writes for the Radio Bible Class, “A tourist who had visited a church in Norway said that he was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower. He learned that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved. To remember that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell. John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). Peter said that the full weight of our sins fell upon Jesus (1 Pet. 2:24). And the apostle Paul explained, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We all have fallen in sin, but on the cross Jesus took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. He now offers eternal life to all who personally put their faith in Him (Jn. 3:1-16). Have you been saved by the Lamb?” The Lamb of God is Jesus!

Few of us have someone important go to the mat for us or give us a personal reference. Here in John’s gospel we discover that…

II. The Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit! (Vv. 32-34)

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34 NIV)

I. What John the Baptist had to say about Jesus probably did not carry to much weight with the crowds in his day and age; we have the advantage of hindsight. But here we discover John “saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on” Jesus. John’s Gospel does not say the Spirit appeared like a dove at Jesus’ baptism, however it is inferred and we know from the other gospel accounts that it did indeed occur. However, the invisible Spirit came from heaven and manifested himself in the form of a dove and John saw the Spirit as a dove remain on Jesus. Isaiah foretold that with the Messiah to come that, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD–and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:2-3 NIV)” Interestingly, we see that John “would not have known him, except that the one who sent [him] to baptize with water told [him]” that “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” So in these few words of John the Baptist we discover that he indeed heard his calling directly from God and that he followed what God told him to do. And what John is telling us is the fact that he would not have recognized that Jesus was the Messiah without God’s direction! God would show John exactly who the Messiah was and do it with a pronouncement that only God could make, that of the Holy Spirit resting on him when he asks to be baptized! The other gospels relate that, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:16-17 NIV)” For John the Baptist this was proof enough and he would declare, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God!” John teaches us that that the Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!
EXAMPLE: God proved his love for by sending his son Jesus and he testified to the fact by the display of his Spirit resting on him at his baptism. Randy Kilgore writes, “When Hans Egede went to Greenland as a missionary in 1721, he didn’t know the Inuit language. His temperament was often overbearing, and he struggled to be kind to the people. In 1733, a smallpox epidemic swept through Greenland, wiping out almost two-thirds of the Inuit people—and claiming Egede’s wife as well. This shared suffering melted Egede’s harsh demeanor, and he began to tirelessly labor to care for the people physically and spiritually. Because his life now better represented the stories he told them of God’s love, the Inuits could at last grasp His desire to love them too. Even in suffering, their hearts turned to God. Perhaps you are like the Inuits in this story, and you are unable to see God in the people around you. Or perhaps you are like Hans Egede, who struggled to express love in a way that taught people about God. Knowing we are weak and needy people, God showed us what love is like. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins (John 3:16). That’s how much God loves you and me.” John teaches us that that the Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!

Conclusion:

The Lamb of God is Jesus! The Lamb of God was confirmed by the Holy Spirit!

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes

The Testimony! — John 1:19-28

The Testimony! — John 1:19-28
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 28, 2014

Did you ever witness something you had a hard time explaining? I have. We were headed home from camping and the night sky filed with a brilliant light that flashed across the starlit darkness. At first we thought it was a UFO, but we knew they did not exist and so then we wondered where in the world the streaking light was coming from. We then realized that we were near Vandenberg Air Force Base. It is a United States Air Force Base located 9.2 miles northwest of Lompoc, California. It is under the jurisdiction of the 30th Space Wing, Air Force Space Command. And then we understood immediately what the strange light was, a rocket fired from Vandenberg.

A person’s testimony is simply them trying to explain to others what they have experienced and witnessed. Here in John’s gospel we are discovering what he experienced and witnessed concerning Jesus. Sometimes it was difficult for him to do so, but John persisted in his testimony and because of that we have one of the most beautiful narratives that describe Jesus’ life and what those around him thought of him as well. Today, we will look at the testimony of what others thought about Jesus…

READ: John 1:19-28

Again, we are looking at John the Baptist and what he thought about his own ministry and the ministry of Jesus. We may wonder why but in the Apostle John’s day many followed John the Baptist and wondered how this cousin of Jesus fit into the narrative of what God was doing in their world. And so, here in John’s gospel we have…

I. The testimony of John the Baptist! (Vv. 19-23)
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
1. As in the other three gospels (Synoptic Gospels), the ministry, words, and actions of John the Baptist was so influential that the religious and secular authorities in Jerusalem decided to investigate him. “Levites” is John’s way of describing some of the city’s leaders. The priests and Levites trucked out to where John the Baptist was doing his preaching to ask about his baptism and what he claimed about himself. So “this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.” John’s gospel begins to introduce for us the public ministry of Jesus to the nation Israel. Some feared that perhaps John the Baptist was the Messiah to come, so they go to find out if he was or not. Yet John the Baptist “did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’” In our day and age and in John’s as well, there are those who would quickly claim to be something they are not in order to gain recognition, fame, or perhaps fortune. Over the centuries we have had charlatans a plenty. To each question asked of him, if he were the Messiah (the Christ), Elijah, or some other important prophet John the Baptist readily responds with “I am not” or a flat out “no”. John wants only that which God has given him to proclaim or do. Here is a wonderful bold man of God satisfied with the task he had been given, whether great or small. Frustrated by John’s answers, they finally ask him, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” Do not be mislead here because these snakes wanted an answer that could either give them a way up or a way out of any predicament they might find themselves in when they return with an answer their big city bosses did not like. They either wanted to be able to hang on to the coat tails of John or hang John by his own words. Politicians and pendants have not changed. “Give us something we can take back with us to increase our station with those who sent us.” So, they place the results squarely on John the Baptist himself, “What do you say about yourself?” John the Baptist’s answer is brilliant in its Scriptural simplicity and wonderfully wise in its response and sets into motion the ministry of Jesus to the world. “John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’” John the Baptist was the pathfinder, the scout of God, and the testifier to the truth that was coming into the world! John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!
EXAMPLE: John the Baptist was one of those rare men who were completely comfortable in his own skin, even if it was draped in a camel coat! Few men in our day and age understand this. There is a good saying that states, “Real men know a real man. Real men follow Jesus!” John the Baptist was a real man; a man’s man. John was a man who was comfortable with godly things, speaking about righteousness, and willing to risk it all in order to affect his society and his surroundings. Not comfortable in getting all he could while he could, John knew God’s plan was bigger than his meager life and far grander than his existence. John the Baptist did not assume that which he knew he had no right to. He was a giver; a giver of himself, a giver of God’s word, and a giver of the truth. Here, in his gospel, John the Apostle gives us the testimony of John the Baptist!

John was a rare breed, he was literally the last of the Old Testament prophets. From this point on there would be no more prophets of God like that of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Moses or others. The reason is obvious, all the prophets pointed to the Messiah to come, as did John the Baptist. This is why John the Apostle now begins to describe for us…

II. John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus! (Vv. 24-28)
Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
1. The Pharisees were an important sect of Judaism and outnumbered the Sadducees. There were about 6,000 of them and they were most influential toward the general population. They believed in angels, the Messiah, an afterlife, and held a strict interpretation of the Law which also embraced many oral traditions. According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, the Pharisees were the only religious group to survive the Jewish war of 66-70 AD, and their teachings formed the basis for the Talmudic tradition of Judaism. We discover that “some Pharisees who had been sent questioned” John by asking him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” their question to John the Baptist was essentially, “Since you have no official title or you do not claim to be anyone important, why are you baptizing?” Interestingly, John the Baptist knew exactly why they had come to him. We learn that when “he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’ (Matthew 3:7-8 NIV)” In fact, while he did not think he was anyone of importance in the scheme of things, neither were they, because he knew that even “out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham! (v. 9)” His response again is illustrative of who John was and how he viewed himself, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know.” Remember John the Apostle had already told us that Jesus “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:10-11 NIV)” The religious and social leaders of the day did not recognize John the Baptist for who he was and neither would they recognize Jesus for whom he was! John related that simply put, “He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” His message was one of announcement; the Messiah would come and John the Baptist would not be worthy to even do the most subservient task, such as untying the Messiah’s sandal strap! This was John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We discover that John the Baptist always kept pointing people to repentance and the Messiah to come. He wanted to prepare them for the coming message of God. If they had not prepared themselves by repenting of their sins, they would not be prepared for what God would do in their midst. In fact, we will see for ourselves that even while many of these same folks see the miracles of Jesus, hear the words of Jesus, they are not willing or ready to receive the gospel of Jesus. The same is true for our day and age. I believe it is because many of us have either been misled or have forgotten what our task in life is to be after we come to Christ ourselves. On the night Jesus was betrayed one of the last prayers he prays is this, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:18-21 NIV)” As Jesus sent his disciples to witness, he sends us as well, and just like John the Baptist our testimony is to be about Jesus!

Conclusion:

We have seen for ourselves the testimony of John the Baptist and the testimony about Jesus! What do you testify about in your life?

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Sermon Notes

The witness! — John 1:6-13

The witness! — John 1:6-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 7, 2014

Testimony is built not only upon what people think they saw but also on the forensic, that is the physical tangible material evidence as well. Dennis Fisher writes in RBC about a young boy Yves Congar. He was just 10 years old when World War I began and the French town where he lived was invaded by the German army. His mother encouraged him to keep a diary, and what resulted was a clear description of a military occupation, complete with written narrative and colored sketches. His diary recorded a disaster from a child’s perspective. He was a personal witness to what occurred. His witness had such a deep effect on him that he felt called to share Christ with others.

The other day the news interviewed several people concerning a shooting and they soon discovered that while each one saw it occur, each person had a different perspective. In fact, each one brought into it their eyewitness testimony their own version of the events that took place! No wonder the police have such a difficult time trying to figure out what happened. The four gospels are such witnesses to an event that changed everyone’s life that were associated with what occurred; this why we get similar narratives, but each is from a different personal perspective of the person relating what they saw and heard. In these next few verses, John is trying to relate the witnesses involved and how each one bears testimony to what they saw concerning Jesus. Let’s see what John wrote…

READ: John 1:6-13

We find on the pages of history certain men who stand out simply because of what they did, their integrity, and the strength of their personal presence. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln or Jeremiah and Moses. Here we discover such a man from the pages of the gospel of John. We find…

I. The witness of John! (Vv. 6-8)
 

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He 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.
 

  1. The first witness John introduces to is John the Baptist. He writes that “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” John the Baptist was born to Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron who was barren, and Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. John, therefore was in line to be a priest of God himself. Luke tells us that both parents “were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. (Luke 1:6-7 NIV)” God sends an angel to tell Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would indeed give birth to a child and they were to name him John. In fact Zachariah was promised, “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:14-17 NIV)” This is why John wrote, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” John the Baptist would have a specific task given him from birth! He would be the one written about by the prophet Isaiah “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way’—a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:2-4 NIV)” John reminds us that “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” We find here the witness of John!
 

  EXAMPLE: John McCasland writes for the Radio Bible Class, “‘Movers and shakers’ are people climbing the ladder of influence and success. Luke 3 mentions seven prominent leaders who exercised control in the society of their time. Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar held the power of life and death over people in his far-flung empire. Pontius Pilate represented Rome as governor of Judea; while Herod, Philip, and Lysanias kept people in line at the regional level. Annas and Caiaphas served as high priests, taking their religious authority seriously. While these power brokers flexed their political muscles, ‘the Word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness’ (Luke 3:2 NIV). Who could seem less important than this obscure man living in the desert and listening for God’s voice? What could John the Baptist possibly accomplish by ‘preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins’? (v.3). Yet multitudes came to John seeking truth, turning from their wrongs, and wondering if he could be the Messiah.” In fact, John would tell them, “one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16 NIV). “John’s life helps us understand what it means to be significant in God’s eyes.” We have the witness of John!

Sometimes when we come from a darkly lit place into a brightly lit one we can become blinded by the brightness of the light. Such was the case of the Light of God entering into the world. John next testifies concerning…

II. The witness of the Light! (Vv. 9-11)
 

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
 

  1. John the Baptist was not the Light; he was only a witness to the Light coming into the world. We find that when asked by others if he was the Messiah, he would answer “I am not.” (John 1:20) John was a witness sent ahead to tell us that the Light had come. This was “The true light that gives light to every man” who “was coming into the world.” Quakers misunderstand this text as do many heretical teachings, such as Theosophical Society, Unity, Unitarian, and Christian Science. They stress an inner light that they believe every human is supposed to have and discover. All you have to do is to let it shine through good things you do, this is totally wrong. The true light gives light to the truth of the gospel message. It does not mean universal salvation, general revelation, even or inner illumination. What John means is that Jesus, the Messiah, as the Light shines on everyone either in salvation or in enlightening him to his sin and coming judgment! God allows us to decide if we will follow Jesus or not. This is why John continued by relating, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” Those caught in sin’s dark sway often do not recognize the one who can save them. People’s love of themselves, their sinful condition, and the filth of their sin holds them in darkness. They can be blind to the light! Paul would say, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32 NIV)” Jesus would declare about himself, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:19-21 NIV)” Sadly, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” Even the Hebrew people did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. John teaches us about the witness of the Light!
 

  EXAMPLE: We all know that one little candle can light up the darkest room. Jesus was and is such a light in a sin-darkened world. While all other religions say we have to better ourselves, appease or do something in order for the god or gods to even give us a nod. No matter how hard we try to become one with the whole, we can never fill the gap of our sin nature that exists. Jesus did not just teach good pithy platitudes, he told us exactly who he was and then proved it by dying on a cross and coming back to life. Jesus bluntly stated, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” Jesus is the witness of the Light!

We discover that the testimony of John concerning Jesus brings us to the point of his testimony. Jesus came so that he could produce spiritual progeny. John introduces us to…

III. The Children of the Witness! (Vv.12-13)

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
 

  1. Here is a wonderful beautiful truth that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”! Paul would rejoice that, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus… Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Galatians 3:26; 4:6 NIV)” John would later declare, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1 NIV)” Praise God there are some who do believe and because of their willingness to accept Jesus as the Messiah, the light, they become God’s children! Paul relates why this is such a wonderful thing, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 NIV)” Now, I do not know about you but I am kind of glad I am an heir, and inheritor of God! When we come to Christ we become “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” People are not naturally born children of God, although there are those who would try to convince you otherwise. They think that we all have some kind of god-stamp on us and all we have to do is discover it; this is wrongheaded. We know the Bible teaches us that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. However, we can become a child of God by receiving the gift of the new birth. Since we have done so, we are witnesses of the light. John would later write, “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:10-12 NIV)” We who are born of God need to testify, witness, concerning our inheritance! Christians are children of the Witness!  
 

  EXAMPLE: If you met him you think he was just an ordinary guy. He quietly served in a church I attended years ago. He helped prepare the Lord’s Supper, he swept the church sidewalks in the fall, and mowed the church lawn in the summer. He spent time with others sharing his faith. I often heard him telling people at church in his quiet way how good the Lord was to him. During prayer meeting he didn’t talk much about himself but would ask us to pray for those he was sharing Jesus with. Folks knew that John the Baptist “never performed a miraculous sign. (John 10:41 NIV)” And this is a wonderful thing: God takes ordinary folks like you and me to be his witnesses! This ordinary man came as a witness of the Light because he was a child of God. Like this man we who believe are now children of the witness! With our actions and personal testimony, let’s point others to the Light!

Conclusion:

We discovered the witness of John! Jesus is the witness of the Light! Christians are children of the Witness!

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sermon Notes

The Patient Life! — James 5:7-11

The Patient Life! — James 5:7-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 17, 2014

When things did not turn out the way the little five-year-old girl wanted, she sat down in a huff and cried. Her father, trying to be sympathetic, told her that she just needed to be patient and that good things come to those who wait. She lamented back, “I am patient I just want it now!” That kind of sums up a lot of us; we want to be patient, but being so is a lot harder than we often anticipate. Someone once said that “If patience is a virtue, many of us aren’t very virtuous!”

James realized that a lot of the struggles his readers were going through were of their own making simply because they wanted all of the blessings of God without any of the hardship involved. Now, doesn’t that sound familiar? While we can grin at the fact that folks haven’t changed a whole lot since James’ day, we should be ashamed and stunned that we haven’t changed. James’ answer for the fact that too many believers are indifferent to their ungodly behavior was not only to repent, weep and wail, but to practice a life of living for the Lord. With this comes the admonishment to be patient in the face of life’s difficulties. The hardship of life will happen but how we handle it says a lot about what we truly believe. Let’s discover what James teaches us concerning the patient life…

READ: James 5:7-11

Instead of plotting, planning, and scheming how you are going to get rich quick and stick it to the man, James writes that perhaps you need to focus your life on that which is more important. He reminds us that…

I. Patience is standing strong in the Savior (Vv. 7-8)!

1. James reiterates for his readers to “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming.” He is literally telling them to be long suffering, but we do not use that kind of terminology anymore. After all, who wants to suffer for a long time? Yet, that is exactly what James meant! Not that we should suffer for a long time but rather we should bear up and be strong until Jesus returns! Some think he was addressing the poor folks whom the rich had misused, while others think he is addressing the impatient get rich quick folks who wanted life’s richness now at the expense of others! I believe he is addressing all of us. Christians are to be patient until the Lord’s coming, then all of this scheming, plotting, and other ill-conceived living will come to fruition. James gives us an example of what he means by relating, “See” or consider “how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.” The farms in his day and in that area were totally dependent upon the autumn and spring rains for growth. If they did not happen, there was no crop. All the famer could do is to wait patiently for the rain and then also wait patiently for the harvest afterwards. In our day we can hardly relate to the patience these folks had to have in order to survive. We get impatient waiting for a red light to change or if our hamburger isn’t made perfect in 60 seconds! James concludes by telling his Christian friends, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” We easily forget that every day brings us one day closer to Jesus’ return. Jesus knew that each day bought us nearer to his eventual return and the justice of God, this is why he related that when the Son of Man returns “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8 NIV)” Until he returns we are to patiently stand strong in the Savior!

EXAMPLE: We have become a generation of miscommunication. While we think we have created more convenience for ourselves, instead we have created more frustration and misunderstanding. Texting has taken the place of email which took the place of using the phone which took the place of writing a letter which took the place of actually speaking to another person! Misconception is at an all time high because of the reliance of texting. In fact, we have even shortened texting to using letters for phrases or tweeting, which uses 140 characters or less! It is humorous how now when someone is misunderstood because of a tweet they wrote, others tweet what they meant by their tweet! We spend a lot of time texting or tweeting what we really meant in the first place when we could have spoken to the person ourselves and gotten it right the first time! Is it any wonder then the church has become impatient with its own faith? Believers are no longer admonished to wait patiently for the Lord’s coming. We are to be spoon-fed ten easy ways to gain a strong faith by the end of a sermon series instead! James teaches us that until he returns we are to patiently stand strong in the Lord!

James knew that in life we often see injustices. He warned against them, especially from the hands of believers who abused one another! This can create bitterness in our lives. Standing strong in the Lord is important, but he reminds us that…

II. Patience is bearing another believer’s burden (v. 9)!

1. We can be unhappy because our latte didn’t have enough foam or our drive to work was longer than we like. James is not referring to life’s petty inconveniences when he related we are to stand strong in Christ, rather he was writing about how we respond in faith to our circumstances. Part of the problem in today’s church is that we have effectively created a standalone faith. We erroneously teach that church membership is not necessary, that we do not need to fellowship with fellow believers on a regular basis, or that we are only responsible for ourselves. Church has become our Sunday morning experience rather than the Body of Christ it is meant to be. Nothing could be further from the truth of Scripture! James writes therefore, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” Grumbling here is murmuring or to sigh and roll one’s eyes. James knew that when you are part of something bigger than yourself, it gets messy. You actually have to get involved with one another! And guess what? You soon realize that believers are not perfect people, including our pastors or church leaders! According to Paul as the Contemporary English Version translates it, “You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand. If you think you are better than others, when you really aren’t, you are wrong. Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others. We each must carry our own load. (Galatians 6:2-5 CEV)” The burden we are to help one another with is the heavy load of life and the load is our faith walk in Jesus! When we grumble about a fellow believer we forget we will be judged for our griping, and in fact, “The Judge is standing at the door!” James reminds us. When we grumble about a pastor or fellow church member, we are grumbling about those Jesus died for. Instead of grumbling perhaps we should give a helping hand instead. Patience for James is bearing another believer’s burden.

EXAMPLE: I have been blessed over the decades on how other believers have come along side of one another to help, encourage, and strengthen one another. But I have also been shocked and saddened at the easy betrayal of those who profess Christ and their easy disloyalty of fellow believers. Often they have difficulty seeing their own delinquent behavior. James knew the Body of Christ is a sacred thing. It is Jesus’ body doing his work and will in the world until he returns. And when we grumble against a fellow member of that Body, we are grumbling against the Lord himself. We are saying through our actions that the Lord himself is burdensome! My mom would tell us, “Young man, don’t you roll your eyes at me and huff!” She knew what I was thinking by my actions and so does the Lord! Instead of being disgusted with another believer, we are to come along side of them until they grow strong in his Body! Patience for James is bearing another believer’s burden!

Christians are to be patient with one another. We cannot expect perfection from that which isn’t! In fact if we think we are so strong in the Lord that we can judge another person’s actions, we had better be careful. Remember Jesus’ teaching on the log removal from an accuser’s eye? Instead, James related that…

III. Patience is putting forth a pattern for other people (Vv. 10-11)!

1. James teaches, “Brothers,” fellow believers in Christ, “as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” Instead of going for the jugular of the weak in faith, we should look to the strength of those who have gone on before us! I have discovered that those who have the fewest problems within a church are those who actually have the strongest walk with the Lord! Go figure! David in all of his weaknesses could remind others, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV)” Paul would encourage, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)” Jesus remarked to his disciples after he had washed their feet, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15 NIV)” In fact, we are to “take note of those who live according to the pattern” that they have given us in the Lord! (Philippians 3:17) None of us have suffered as the early believers did, but in this life of ours we are to respond no differently. In the face of our lives we are to set a pattern for others to follow. We can look to Job, Isaiah, Daniel, James, Peter, Paul, John and others who were not perfect but who set for us an example themselves. James encouraged by writing, “As you know, we consider blessed (happy) those who have persevered.” Are you happy in your faith? Perhaps you have misunderstood what perseverance means? It isn’t putting up with or making excuses for, it means standing with God in Christ! James reminds us, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” Interestingly, James did not say that Job had makrothymia, “patience,” but rather that he had hypomonēn, “steadfastness, endurance, and perseverance”! While he may have gotten impatient with God, he endured in his faith, and that is exactly what we are to do; never forgetting that “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” We are to remember that patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!

EXAMPLE: As a parent I knew that I no longer lived my life in a vacuum. Little eyes and ears were watching and listening to everything I did and everything I said. As a grandpa, this lesson has come rushing back into my life again. Whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not, and whether we feel like it or not, as parents and grandparents we are examples to our children and grandchildren. They are the legacy we leave behind. And believe me those irritating things they do come from somewhere and usually they come from what they have seen or heard us do! The same holds even truer for our faith walk in Christ. The world around us is looking for the pattern of Christ in our lives, what do you think they see and hear? If your fellow believers have a hard time seeing and hearing Jesus in you, what kind of pattern are you displaying for the rest of the world? We are to remember that patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!

Conclusion:

Patience is standing strong in the Savior, patience is bearing another believer’s burden, and patience is putting forth a pattern for other people!

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sermon Notes

Corruption: A path to nowhere! – Micah 3:1-12

Corruption: A path to nowhere! – Micah 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 23, 2013 AM

One of my assignments for a course in seminary was to observe different kinds of worship services. They do this in order for students to not only experience different kinds of worship, but to also see how not to do worship. In one instance, students went to a church that met in an old theater. The service began with upbeat music that lasted about 30 minutes. The pastor came out following the music and announced he had received a vision from the Lord that 20 people would give him $20 and those who did so would receive a special blessing. He asked everyone to close their eyes and told those who would give the $20 to raise their hands. He then pretended to count and announced falsely that 20 had raised their hands. He then made the same false claim for those who would give $10!

We live in a world where greedy people use unscrupulous methods to reap dishonest gain. Pretended good is often an effective cloak for evil. Christians should examine their motives at home, at work, at school and the church to make sure they do not exploit others. In Micah’s day, the leaders of Israel were guilty of using people to obtain power and wealth for themselves. They failed in their God-given responsibilities to promote justice and the welfare of the people who trusted them. Micah graphically teaches us about how corruption is a path to nowhere! Let’s discover what he says…

READ: Micah 3:1-12

Micah introduces a broad condemnation of the leadership of Israel (also referred to as “Jacob”). Micah rebuked the leaders for failing to do what they knew was right. They were aware of their responsibilities to provide for and protect the citizens of Israel. However, they ignored their duties and savaged the people like wild animals devouring their prey. Micah predicted they would suffer for their crimes. Micah teaches us that…

I. Corruption is moral cannibalism! (Vv.3:1-4)

1. Micah spoke prophetically against the corrupt leaders of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Jacob and Israel are used synonymously for both in this verse. God’s people had two basic categories of leaders in Micah’s day. The civil rulers were the king and those who served him as officials. The religious leaders included priests and prophets. Micah focused on the civil rulers in verses 1-4. God was to be the ultimate ruler; and the civil and religious authorities were to serve as He directed. This rule is called a theocracy. The leaders were to care for the people as shepherds do for a flock. The rulers were to lead the people to obey the laws both civil and God’s by godly example. These leaders were expected to “know justice”! Yet they hated good and loved evil! A godly king would appoint judges who would dispense justice impartially for all. These civil authorities however were ungodly and failed in their responsibilities. Their failure denied justice for the people and established a culture of corruption in the nation. (Sound familiar?) We live in a day whereby our court system is reinterpreting our Constitution to suit their own political agenda. The corrupt rulers of Israel reversed the moral code of God for their nation. They were supposed to pursue righteousness and avoid wickedness. Yet, like wild animals, they tore the skin off their victims and the flesh from their bones! The actions of the leaders were hypocritical and opposed to God’s will and His laws. The leaders were anything but shepherds of the flock. They were like wolves in sheep’s clothing! In very descriptive terms, Micah related that these cannibals “eat my people’s flesh, strip off their skin and break their bones in pieces; who chop them up like meat for the pan, like flesh for the pot!” When God’s final judgment came on them Micah warned, “Then they will cry out to the LORD, but he will not answer them. At that time he will hide his face from them because of the evil they have done!” Corruption is moral cannibalism!

EXAMPLE: All believers function as moral leaven in a spiritually corrupt world. We set examples for others, our families, our classmates, or at our workplace. The question we must keep in front of us is what kind of example and influence are we. Does it measure up to the ethical standards God has revealed in His word? We see evidence in our day that some civil and political authorities have lost their moral compasses and no longer know the way of truth. They call evil good and good evil. People suffer in a nation that will not honor the Lord and the basic principles of righteousness. What can Christians do when justice is denied and civic rulers fail to lead wisely? First, we can speak out as Micah did about the ungodliness in society. Christians who speak out about the sanctity of human life, the value of the traditional family, and other moral issues follow a long tradition of courageous believers who stood up for truth in the past. Second, we can vote and be active in the process of choosing our leaders. We are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. We should use every opportunity to bring our biblical convictions to bear on the election and conduct of our leaders. Remember, Micah teaches us that corruption is moral cannibalism!

Micah condemned spiritually weak and corrupt prophets who failed to warn the people of the consequences of sin. He warned these disobedient prophets that they would not receive guidance from the Lord because of their rebellion. Their sins made impossible their receiving any revelation from the Lord. Micah contrasted his ministry with theirs, describing himself as a true prophet who spoke with the power of God’s Spirit. Micah reminds us that…

II. Corruption brings spiritual poverty! (Vv. 3:5-8)

1. Micah then turned his attention to the corrupt spiritual leaders of Israel. The prophets represented an office of spiritual leadership. True Old Testament prophets received revelation from the Lord and preached it to the rulers and the people. True prophets rebuked civil rulers when they personally failed to live moral lives. In Micah’s day, however, God identified the prophets as those “who lead my people astray.” They should have cared for the flock entrusted to them! Instead, they had become hirelings who would prophesy what the people wanted to hear. Micah related that, “if one feeds them, they proclaim ‘peace’; if he does not, they prepare to wage war against him.” These ungodly men were motivated by greed and lacked integrity. Their work was not a ministry but a way to gain wealth and power. They lacked courage and were no longer guided by the truth. They became prophets for hire who would say anything for profit. Many years later, Paul warned Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 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 4:2-3 NIV) Micah warned that spiritual darkness would be their punishment, “Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them.” The darkness would fall on them because they failed to warn the people to repent. It also represented the judgment that would come. In fact, “The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced.” Why? In shame, “They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God!” Judgment fell on the nation despite these leaders’ promises of safety and security. On that day, everyone would know just how corrupt these men were! Their false lies would amount to nothing! Corruption brings spiritual poverty!

EXAMPLE: Greed and materialism continue to shape the messages of many false religious leaders in our day. Many offer cures or guaranteed prosperity if contributors will give money to them. Some of these individuals align themselves with corrupt business or political leaders to defraud people through false offers of hope. Spiritual leaders today also need to be warned by the example of those in Micah’s day. The love of money offers many temptations that can corrupt a pure ministry. The fear of rejection can lead some to preach or teach only those principles that people want to hear. Avoiding sin and judgment is a way to be popular with sinners but not with God. The false prophets were the most popular religious leaders until judgment overcame the nation and the true prophets like Micah and Isaiah were revealed. We must always convey the truth without regard for the cost. There can be no permanent success when we suppress the truth of God’s Word. We must never forget that corruption brings spiritual poverty!

Micah condemns Israel’s political leaders for their injustice and bloodshed. These judges perverted justice by taking bribes. They exonerated the wicked and failed to protect the innocent. Micah condemned the spiritual leaders for condoning the sins of those paying them and for falsely promising safety from divine punishment. Micah warned of a devastating judgment that would destroy the nation.

III. Corruption demands accountability! (Vv.3:9-12)

1. Micah next summed up his condemnation of the corrupt leaders and identified the failures of civil and religious leaders. Those who abhor justice have no respect for God. God declares Himself to be an impartial Judge who is no respecter of persons (2 Chronicles 19:7). Justice is denied when bribes or partiality corrupt the process. God desires human judgments to reflect His fairness and equal treatment of all. Money, position, power, friendships, or other considerations must never be allowed to deny justice through punishing the innocent or releasing the wicked. Micah accused the leaders of perverting everything that is right. Sin is a perversion of something good. Lies are a perversion of truth. Adultery or same sex marriage is a perversion of traditional marriage. Betrayal is a perversion of loyalty. These officials had fallen down a slippery slope of personal ambition and everything they did was tainted by their sin. They despised “justice and distort all that is right” and had built “Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.” The leaders judged “for a bribe” and the spiritual leadership, the priests, taught the people “for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money”! WOW! The acceptance of a bribe in exchange for a political favor was prevalent in Micah’s day; nowadays we refer to it as political action! The disobedient priests and prophets had become so spiritually blinded to their own ungodliness they falsely professed loyalty to the Lord! They knew they were corrupt but wanted to continue their charade by displaying a false confidence by telling the people, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.” All is well, no problems here! Spiritual leaders are supposed to be like watchmen on the wall who would warn the people of impending judgment. Micah alone warned that, “because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets!” The people could not imagine such destruction. The majority of the civil and religious leaders told them God would never allow such to happen. They were wrong. The prophecy of Micah would occur and the fulfillment would be exactly as he described. Yet, we learn that corruption demands accountability!

EXAMPLE: Corruption continues to be a major problem in our world, demanding vigilance and oversight by authorities. When the government becomes complicit in the bribery, justice is not possible. Money and greed have historically been the cause of much of the corruption in the judicial and political system. After all, a million here and a million there adds up to real money when it becomes billions! A major source of misery around the world continues to be governments that allow or participate in a corrupt judicial or political system. Western democracies have sought to include checks and balances to eliminate bribes and maintain a fair judiciary and government. Even so, the temptation to subvert justice for financial gain is too much for some, and they cash in on it. The church and its members must be above reproach in seeking any financial gain. Those who proclaim God’s truth must be people of integrity who would be willing to risk financial loss rather than compromise the message. We are ultimately accountable to the Lord for our ministries, and we can be sure He will judge us impartially. Micah teaches us that corruption demands accountability!

Conclusion:
Remember, Micah teaches us that corruption is moral cannibalism! We must never forget that corruption brings spiritual poverty! Micah teaches us that corruption demands accountability!

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 27 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sermon Notes