Tag Archives: works

The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19

The Way of the Lord! – Psalm 19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 25, 2017

In Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” the Queen of Hearts asks Alice where she comes from, Alice tries to explain that she is trying to find her way home. The Queen retorts, “Your way? All ways here are my ways!” We have all known folks who radiate the notion that “It’s my way or the highway!” And this might pass muster if you are an infant, toddler, or preschooler but it gets old and very tiring from an adult. Yet many live their lives this way. Perhaps they need to reconsider their way of life and consider the way of the Lord instead?

Here in this Psalm we discover the ways of the Lord are truly magnificent. In fact in many ways they are quite indescribable and incomprehensible. The Psalmist David tries his best to describe for his listeners the way of the Lord. Let’s discover what he sings…

READ: Psalm 19

As amazing as some of things mankind has created none of it compares to the creation of God. The Psalmist David teaches us that…

I. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! (Vv. 1-6)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

1. Within the next couple of months, our area will experience a total solar eclipse; a heavenly event only seen a few times in a person’s lifetime and extremely rare. When the ancients saw such phenomenon some thought some evil disaster would occur, however, others like the Hebrews saw it as a manifestation of the creative wonders of God. This is why the Psalmist David writes that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Both the starry skies at night and sunlit days declared and proclaimed God’s creative work because “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” In fact the writer understood that the whole world experienced God’s handiwork, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Therefore in his understanding there was no excuse for people not knowing there was a Creator; a God who made everything they saw in the heavens at night or saw in the sunlight by day! All they had to do was look up! From dawn till dusk a person could see God’s creative work for “In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Just as the sun burst forth in the morning and seemed to all of sudden appear like a rejoicing bridegroom or a runner ready to run his race we can see the work of God in the sun running its race across the sky each day! All of creation, all mankind had a front row seat to this heavenly spectacle as “It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”  Truly for the Psalmist David the way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

EXAMPLE: Just as artists sign their works, use the same brushstrokes, or leave their fingerprints in the paint; or as sculptures that use certain chisels or polishing techniques that leave telltale marks on the statues they carve, we can see the signature of God in the things he has made. From the atoms that are the building blocks of everything there is to the most complex life form we see the signature of God in his creation. The Psalmist David simply looked to the heavens and saw that they declared God. The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands!

In a world where so many are searching for something and often finding they have not been told the truth it is refreshing to find that God’s words are steadfast and true. The Psalmist David writes that…

II. The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! (Vv. 7-11)

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.

1. Not every child is perfect but almost every mother sees their newborn as such. Why is that? I believe it is simply because most every mother instantly falls in love with their child. By their sheer devotion they accept their child completely, utterly, and without hesitation. Faith is a bit like this. It is the individual’s willingness to utterly accept what God has revealed to them. Until one does, they can never ever fully understand or know God’s word. This is why the Psalmist David wrote that “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” We are imperfect but God’s law is and can restore us completely when we follow its ways. In fact, “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” God’s laws, his ways are not complex, confusing, or hard to understand; one simply follows God wholeheartedly and loves others as he loves himself! “The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.” Some of the simplest folks I have known have been truly the wisest and happiest because they adhere to this one godly precept. For the Psalmist David God was not unknowable or a concept and neither were his laws; they gave him insight, light in a sin-darkened world, and a way to view reality as it truly was and so “The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” He knew that when one drew near to God they would be awed by his presence and humbled by the experience because “The fear (the awe) of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.” This is what reminds us who we are and whom we are to worship and is why there was no question of doubt in his mind that “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” David could absolutely trust in the law of God, his statues, precepts, commands, and ordinances. And as he did they became “more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they [were] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” The Psalmist David had come to know God intimately by walking with him moment by moment in following his ways and in doing so he had learned that “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

EXAMPLE: I have found a wondrous consistency in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that I did not find in any other spiritual work I ever read. The Koran, the Vedas, Book of Mormon, or other works seemed shallow, simplistic, disjointed, and totally fabricated. While there are those who will declare that there are also inconsistencies within Scriptures it is usually because they are like someone who looks at a sweet little child’s work of art and can only see the mistakes instead of the heartfelt joy, the beauty of creation, or its simple reliability. No wonder so many folks have not discovered what the Psalmist David did, that the way of the Lord is discovered in his directions!

Much of the psychological, emotional, and spiritual problems the world faces are because the world’s view of morality has been drastically skewed. The Psalmist teaches us that…

III. The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin! (Vv. 12-14)

Who can determine his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

1. Unless a person is willing to look at and acknowledge their own imperfections they are not being honest with themselves or others and certainly not with God. It can be difficult to do. This is why the Psalmist David asks, “Who can determine his errors?” And if course the answer is “no one can.” We are to narrow in our view of ourselves. Yet if we are willing to honestly look at ourselves and truthfully admit our sins we can be the people God desires. This is why the Apostle John would write, “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 1:8-10 NIV) So the Psalmist David immediately confesses, “Forgive my hidden faults.” These were the sins he tried to hide from God but knew he could not yet he had deceived himself into thinking he could! Kind of like we do. Yet he took his condition one step further by requesting, “Keep your servant also from willful sins” because his whole desire was that “they not rule over me.” He did not want his headstrong nature and stubborn sin or anything that was unconfessed to rule or reign in his life! We often try to make excuses for our ungodly actions but this man wanted to be fully free from any guilt in order to follow God. He knew that if he was honest about his ungodliness then he would “be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” In thinking about the wondrous works of God and his simple yet beautiful precepts the Psalmist David realized his own evil nature. He would write in another Psalm, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” (Psalms 51:1-4 NIV) And so it is here we find him praying, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Because like Paul, David knew that “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10 NIV) The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

EXAMPLE: I find it humorous when a believer is caught in their sin and they blame circumstances, others, or try to justify their actions in that they deserved to commit this sin in this instance! I often want to blurt out, “Don’t you hear yourself?” For all of his faults David was willing to do whatever it took to restore his relationship with the Lord. And here in this wonderful Psalm about God’s creation David teaches us that the way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!

Conclusion:

The way of the Lord is found in the works of his hands! The way of the Lord is discovered in his directions! The way of the Lord is understood when we confess our sin!
—-
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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The scolding! – Galatians 1:6-10

The scolding! – Galatians 1:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 5, 2016

What would you do if a family member or friend was about to join a cult that would cause them and their family a lot of distress? Sometimes there is nothing one can do because most folks are often unwilling to admit they are wrong and especially about what they believe about God or their spirituality. I have learned in the 30 plus years of pastoring that you can often have the answers, know all the counter arguments, and even understand how to witness to someone involved in a heretical situation but it often does little to sway them unless you are willing to go the extra mile and be there each time they need to be confronted or have their questions answered. Sometimes what works best is a direct confrontation, maybe even a personal scolding.

Paul was deeply concerned for what the church at Galatia had fallen into. After accepting the good news of Jesus as Messiah, they had readily forsaken the truth and supplanted it with false doctrine that added to the grace of God through faith alone. He now enters into the subject matter of his letter and opens it with a direct confrontation. Let’s discover how Paul scolded them to get their attention…

READ: Galatians 1:6-10

No one likes to be scolded or told they are wrong, especially concerning their faith yet Paul does just that. Paul felt deeply about where this church was headed and he wanted them to know he was thoroughly dissatisfied with them and in fact…

I. Paul condemns their perverted faith! (Vv. 6-7)

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

1. Paul’s chief concern was to restore those he had introduced to the gospel back to their original faith. It was very surprising to the apostle that they willingly gave up on their faith which he had so recently entrusted to them. He probably had only been a very short time away from them, perhaps three years, and already Jewish sympathizers had come into the new church trying to pervert the gospel of grace! He bluntly tells them, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ”. The one who had called them was of course Jesus himself. Paul was not referring to himself. His concern was their weakened faith. Sometimes reclamation demands a high price and Paul was willing to risk his friendship with the Galatians in order to restore them. They in fact were “turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all.” They were leaving the one who had saved them and going back to their old habits of trying to please God through following a set of rules in trying to earn their salvation. It was based on nothing, literally “no gospel at all”! It was obvious to Paul that it was outside influences that were subverting their new-found faith in Christ. He was not unaware and he writes them, “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” This is exactly what cults try to do; they love to throw folks into confusion concerning the truth. They try to bend, distort and pervert the gospel. Latter Day Saints rewrote the Bible to suit their perpetrated con on people and declare that there is more than just faith in Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses rewrote the Bible and added to salvation by faith alone in Jesus alone, and then there are those who claim they are Christian but add to sola fide, faith alone by saying it is Jesus plus works or certain acts of contrition. They all claim a different gospel, throw folks into confusion, and they pervert the good news of Jesus! Paul scolds the Galatians about turning to a different gospel and condemns their perverted faith!

EXAMPLE: What was once considered perverted just a few years ago is now beginning to be readily accepted; things like homosexuality, transgenderism, sexual relations out of marriage, and the ungodly veneration of animals over human beings. When the shooting of a gorilla is seen as horrendous in order to save a child, something is drastically wrong with society as a whole. More and more public school teachers are having sexual relations with their students. And now we have to excuse anyone’s perverted nature and see it as psychologically healthy. The twisting of societal norms is influencing the Christian church as well. The calling of God is no longer seen as sacred nor is the Bible. Paul warned the Galatians that if they accepted the teaching of salvation plus works it would pervert their faith. He was correct and Paul condemns their perverted faith!

Every time Christians allow the society they live in to influence what the Scriptures clearly teach, they are perverting the grace that God has given through Jesus! There are certain scriptural truths that cannot and should now ever be allowed to be perverted. Paul knew this as well and as for the Galatian church…

II. Paul condemns their weakness! (Vv. 8-10)

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

1. Paul was having none of their excuses or their willingness to accept a perverted gospel! He bluntly tells them that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” No pastor, minister, or preacher of the true gospel of Jesus is afraid of anyone questioning their message. Either the message speaks the truth or it does not. Either it will stand the scrutiny of men or it won’t. And claiming Paul or an angelic messenger would not garner Paul’s sympathy for their heresy and he squarely convicts them. In our day and age it does not matter whether it’s Islam or Mormonism neither can claim any other message than that of the one Jesus pronounced. In fact, Paul was so vehement in his condemnation of these false prophets he repeats it and reiterates, “As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” This is so contrary to today’s philosophy of anything and anyone should be accepted. Inclusiveness is not spiritually satisfactory because there are cannot be many truths and as Peter would declare quite clearly: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved!” (Acts 4:12 NIV) so does Paul! Jude would state, “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:3-4 NIV) Paul was more than willing to have his own integrity challenged on this issue and tells them, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” This is what anyone who claims Jesus plus something else does; they either want to sooth mankind’s guilty conscience or have themselves puffed up in the eyes of others. Paul condemns their weakness!

EXAMPLE: Never ever put up with someone who claims Christ and then tries to justify their own ungodliness. We have become a community of weak-willed wimps who roll over at the slightest aggression towards our faith. I am not advocating being deliberately obnoxious, but rather we need to stand for what we believe! As Peter reminds, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV) Sure we do it with “gentleness and respect” but that does not mean rolling over to the ungodliness of the world! We are to have a clear conscience because “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17 NIV) Never excuse evil or you become part of it. This is why Paul condemns the Galatian’s weakness!

Conclusion:

Paul condemns their perverted faith! Paul condemns their weakness!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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 do you know about God? — John 5:39-47

What do you know about God? — John 5:39-47
by Pastor Lee Hemen
January 11, 2015

I have known a lot of folks who were penny-wise but pound foolish. They knew a lot about a lot of stuff but did not have wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two different things. Kind of like those who say they know God, but what they think they know and what they actually know are two very different things. And what many actually think they know about God is what they actually feel about God rather than the real truth of who God is. So, let me ask you, what do you know about God?

The Jewish people thought they knew a lot about God, but what they thought they knew was not true! They forgot what God had actually said and promised them and how he works within his creation and with his people. Jesus had just gotten through accusing his detractors that they had “never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor [did] his word dwell in [them], and the reason for this was simply that they did “not believe the one he sent.” They refused to believe Jesus, God’s one and only Son! What they thought they knew about God therefore was incorrect. This is why today we need to discover for ourselves what we know about God. Let’s find out what John writes…

READ: John 5:39-47

Jesus reminds us in the gospel of John that…

I. The Scriptures help us to know God! (Vv. 39-42)

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.

1. The Hebrews held the Word of God in high regard. So much so that they thought that by constant study of them they could deduce some secret or hidden meaning that would impart some kind of eternal blessing. There are those today who view the Bible in almost a cultic way in it becomes something they worship instead of the subject it is written for! The Bible contains the words of God and it points us to a greater understanding of who God is and how he communicates and works within his creation and with his people and why. Jesus retorted to his listeners, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.” However, simply studying the Bible or memorizing a multitude of passages does not give anyone eternal life. In fact in may not even make the learner any more close to God than if they had studied a encyclopedia or dictionary! If we memorize the Bile or study the Bible but it does not lead us to a knowledge of Jesus something is wrong with our due diligence. The reason was obvious for Jesus because ” These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” Every passage, every verse, and every word testifies to the Messiah, to Jesus Christ! “Yet” they refused to come to Jesus to have eternal life! Their myopic view of the Scriptures kept them from looking closer at Jesus and to come to him for eternal life! They loved to hear the praise of men who would tell them, “Wow, you sure know a lot about the word of God!” Or that “You sure can quote verbatim a whole lot of the Bible!” Jesus did not need or accept such praise and by their own example of how they worshipped Scripture instead of God, Jesus knew that they did “not have the love of God in [their] hearts”! How overwhelmingly sad. Yet there are folks today who want you to think they know a lot of Bible by their memorization, their adherence to ungodly teaching, or their misinterpretation to Scripture, but if they truly knew Scripture they would know Jesus! The Scriptures help us to know God!

EXAMPLE: We can be so intellectually-minded or theologically-blinded that we are no heavenly good! Years ago when I was attending seminary I had a professor who was trying to complete his second doctorate in New Testament Studies and had written a book that focused on the philosophy of the New Testament. While this sounded interesting at the time he proved to be so intent on his book that he forgot what the Bible and the New Testament taught us. He had us reading so much material and discussing things that did not pertain to the New Testament, that I had to lead a group of student to protest his methods. He had been so intellectually-minded he lost all perspective of what he was supposed to be teaching! The Scriptures help us to know God!

There is more than just having fuzzy feelings about God, in fact we learn that…

II. Knowing God comes from following him! (Vv. 43-44)

I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

1. How is it that folks are more than willing to listen to or accept the words of some “expert” talk about something they truly know nothing about? It is like listening to the late Carl Sagan talk about God when in fact he knew nothing about God! And in fact many of the things he believed about the universe are being proven wrong as well! Yet there are those who give way too much credence to someone simply because they have a PhD or some other initial in front of their name. Now I am not saying education is not a good thing, because I truly believe it is, but those educated in one area would do well to listen to others who know more about an area they know little about. This was the case in Jesus’ day. He told his listeners, who thought they knew everything there was to know about God, that he “had come in [his] Father’s name, and you do not accept me.” The one who knew more about God, because he was God, than they did they were unwilling to listen to him! However, “if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.” We do the very same thing when we allow people into our homes, through the front door, TV, books or movies who say they know about God but their knowledge is suspect, ungodly or wrong! The Jewish leaders loved to give one another praise because of their position in life, their knowledge, or even because of their age. Yet, they did not desire what truly mattered. Jesus bluntly asked them, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” Those who say they love God should seek the love of God. Remember Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? (John 3:11-12 NIV)” They should not be so concerned with the accolades of people but rather the praise of the one who created them in the first place! Knowing God comes from following him!

EXAMPLE: It has always baffled me that people are willing to say they know God but they do not know the first thing about what the Bible teaches us about God. Far too many today want an easy believism or a quickie spirituality without any personal investment. Jesus would say that when we come to know him we must be willing to give up our life in order to follow him, “anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 NIV)” In fact he told a man who declared he had kept all the commandments since his youth, ” One thing you lack, go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Matthew 10:17-21 NIV)” Knowing God comes from following him!

Reading the Scriptures, the Bible, or walking with God help us to know him better, but we are to understand that…

III. Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words! (Vv. 45-47)

But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?

1. Listening is more than just acknowledgement or nodding our heads in agreement. Listening comes when we actually act upon what we hear and apply it to our lives. One of the major problems the Hebrews had was the fact they refused to listen and acknowledge Jesus’ words. So, John relates that Jesus tells them, “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father.” He had already told Nicodemus that he had not come “into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world” instead (John 3:17). It was needless for Jesus to accuse the Jews. Moses, whom they claimed to follow and honor, would condemn them because they had broken the covenant of God he had established. In fact, Jesus tells them, “Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.” The Jewish leaders would say that their father was Abraham, meaning that was where their people came from, and that Moses was their spiritual leader where they had gotten the commands of God. Yet they had set their hopes on a false premise that if they diligently and methodically studied the commandments Moses received from God they would be blessed. Salvation for them came from their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Because of their spiritual blindness for thousands of years their people lived and died under a false premise. Jesus tells them, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” Jesus did not come to do away with the law or the prophets, he came to fulfill, finish, and complete them (Matthew 5:17). Paul would teach that “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Romans 2:13 NIV)” In fact he would later write, ” “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV)” This is why Jesus would ask, “But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!

EXAMPLE: When I was young I had a hard time focusing on listening to what people were saying to me. I cannot tell you the number of times my mother would ask me, “Are you even listening to what I am telling you?” or she would declare, “You haven’t heard a single word I have said to you!” For years I thought I was the only child who had this problem of focusing in this way, but then one evening we watched a Peanuts special and depicted there was exactly what I had experienced all of my youth! In the Peanuts cartoons when the adults would speak all one heard was, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!” Perhaps this is what the Jewish leaders heard when Jesus spoke! If they did it was because their lives were not focused on who he was nor did they know God! Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!

Conclusion:

The Scriptures help us to know God, knowing God comes from following him, and knowing God comes from listening to Jesus’ words!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Faithful Life! — James 2:14-26

The Faithful Life! — James 2:14-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 8, 2014

Latin for “always faithful,” Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. It guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what. It is too bad that the soldiers of the Lord could not adopt the same motto for their lives as well; to be always faithful to the Lord no matter what the cost. Christians are to have an unwritten motto that states, “Sola fide” or faith alone. However, in the constant confusion and societal blurring of today’s walk with Christ, many have forgotten what the meaning of a faithful life is supposed to be.

Just as the law of love gives no excuse for disregard of individuals, so one’s faith gives believers no excuse to quit doing good works. A believer must not only demonstrate one’s love by readily accepting others, but we must also demonstrate our faith by helping those around us. James went on in his letter to emphasize the demonstration of a faithful life, to outline the confirmation of a faithful life, and to finally give us illustrations of a faithful life. Let’s see what he teaches us concerning the faithful life…

READ: James 2:14-26

The poet Edgar A. Guest wrote, “I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me, than merely tell the way.” What he was writing about is the fact that most folks want to see if one’s faith is real or not. The best means to do so is to actually see one’s faith revealed through what they do in life. James gives us…

I. A demonstration of a faithful life! (Vv. 14-17)

1. I do not know about you but I would rather have someone demonstrate their love for me rather than just say they love me. Yet there are those who say they love Jesus, but they hardly ever demonstrate their “love”. We would call that kind of faith “hypocritical” and this is why James relates, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” The answer is of course, “No!” James’ emphasis is not on the true nature of one’s faith but rather on the false claim of one’s faith. It is the spurious boast of faith that James condemned. Such “faith” does no “good” and is worthless. James’ rhetorical question is followed by a realistic illustration, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.” Notice he uses the example of a fellow believer, “brother or sister”, not just someone in the world. James’ focus is on how we as believers treat fellow disciples! If we say we love Jesus but treat our fellow followers in the faith horribly, what does that say to the world about our faith? James is also discussing the basic bare necessities of sustaining life. Warm fuzzy platitudes of feeling one’s pain is not going to do any good. As the Mommas and the Papas sang in the sixties, “Words of love, soft and tender” won’t win the heart of anyone if there is nothing behind them! Much of today’s faith has a lot of worn out phrases and longing gazes, but little in actual action! James concludes, “If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” The answer again is that it is no good whatsoever! Paul remarked, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion… Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1, 4 NIV)” We can send folks to foreign fields, but if we are not taking care of our own as we should, something is drastically wrong! I am not supporting an “us four and no more” attitude, but rather the total disconnect of some believers not tithing or serving to support their own congregation they spiritually suckle from! “In the same way,” James would declare, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action” towards fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, “is dead.” James teaches that the faithful life will give a demonstration of a faithful life!

EXAMPLE: When service dogs are being trained they stay with host families first in order to get some basic things down before they enter into their more rigorous training. Then they go to training centers where they learn more on how to be the service dogs they are supposed to be. One of the final tests is they have to demonstrate their skills in leading, serving, or responding to the folks they will service. Not every dog, no matter how smart they are, is a service dog. Christians should be mentored as well and they should be able to demonstrate their faith. Those who have truly professed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ will demonstrate their faith! James teaches that the faithful life will give a demonstration of a faithful life!

One can try to counterfeit their faith by continually doing a lot of great things in life. In fact, there have been a lot of folks who have done just that, when in fact their faith wasn’t worth a plug nickel. They actually thought they could fool folks into thinking they were godly simply by their actions. God is not fooled however and James also teaches us that there has to be…

II. A confirmation of a faithful life! (Vv. 18-20)

1. This is probably one of the most misunderstood passages of the New Testament. Some think James disagrees with Paul, but he doesn’t. Instead they are looking at the same problem from the same perspective, namely, that faith is what saves us but there should be some kind of accompanying action to prove its existence! James knew that in our sinful hearts there would be “someone” who condescendingly “will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.'” And his response would be, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” James understood that true faith always leads the individual into action! Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by reminding them, “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV)” He would tell his young protégé Titus, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. (Titus 2:7 NIV)” Being good or doing good things never has saved anyone, but if you believe in Jesus who came to sacrificially serve, then you will serve sacrificially as well. There are a lot of folks who claim, “I believe in God!” Yet they live lives that are on the level of the ungodly world. James’ response to these folks is, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” It isn’t enough to simply say one believes there is a God; one has to be spiritually changed by their submission to God’s redemptive act through His Son Jesus. So, to “believe” in one God may be good so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. The demons do that. In fact not only do they believe (the same verb, pisteuō); they even “shudder,” or “bristle up” at the fact. Works of Christ are the evidence of one’s faith, not the means of salvation. To just say you believe, well anyone can say anything, but the proof is in the pudding, so-to-speak. James continues by berating his imaginary opponent by retorting, “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” James was more than willing to go toe-to-toe with someone who actually tried to claim they knew God when their actions said otherwise. James understood that in the faithful life, he knew there would be a confirmation of a faithful life!

EXAMPLE: When I was in officer training we had to prove we could use a compass and sexton, we could not just say we could use them; we had to prove we were proficient in them. Navigation with electronic equipment, GPS, and satellites is one thing but being able to navigate by using the position of the sun, the time of day, and setting our direction with a compass proved to be quite challenging. And, we were challenged to get to a certain point in the Boston whaler we were rowing on the open ocean, because if we didn’t we would not be in time to eat! When we showed up on time it confirmed our proficiency. The individual cannot just say they believe in Jesus, they need to confirm it. James knew that the faithful life, there would be a confirmation of a faithful life!

There are always those who would try to argue their standing with God by relating a long list of their achievements. The Pharisees of Jesus’ and James’ day did just that. Jesus told them, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart (one’s life) the mouth (our actions) 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.” (Matthew 12:34-35 NIV) This is why James gives us…

III. An illustration of a faithful life! (Vv. 21-26)

1. As a final proof of his argument, James gives us two examples. One is the pinnacle of Hebraic thought, Abraham, and the other is a lowly prostitute named Rehab. Like any good debater he anticipates his opponent’s agreement to the questions he proposes. “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” And, the answer of course would be, “Yes.” Paul’s statement that Abraham’s faith, not his works, caused God to declare him righteous (Romans 4:1-5) seems contradictory to James’ argument. However, Paul was arguing for the “priority of faith. James argued for the proof of faith.” Paul declared that Abraham had faith, and was therefore declared righteous, prior to his circumcision. James explains that Abraham’s faith was evidenced in his willingness to follow God and sacrifice Isaac, knowing God would provide. “You see,” James declares, “that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” In fact, James vigorously argues that “the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.” Abraham’s faith was the motivating force behind what he was willing to do; just as it should be all believers’ lives. We do good things because we love a great God. As Paul would insist, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV)” James and Paul quoted the same passage to prove what faith meant. “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” Abraham was justified by faith and his faith proved that justification by his actions! “In the same way,” James continues, “was not even Rehab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” And of course she was! So, as far as James was concerned, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” He understood the basic truth that the faithful life will be a living illustration of a faithful life, just like Abraham or Rehab!

EXAMPLE: My sister wanted to get away with not doing the housework she was supposed to do. She tried blaming Ed and me for her not getting it done; and when that did not work she tried blaming the dog, the day, and anything else that came to mind. My father told her, “Your actions speak louder than your words.” “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is an apt quotation from the 1602 play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It has been used as a figure of speech, in various phrasings, to indicate that a person’s overly frequent or vehement attempts to convince others that the opposite is true, by making the person look insincere and defensive. Let me ask you, do others see Jesus in you or is your life one big compromise. If you are trying to say you believe in Jesus, yet your actions say otherwise, your actions are speaking louder than your words. Perhaps you “protest too much.” James understood the basic truth that the faithful life will be a living illustration of a faithful life!

Conclusion:
James teaches that the faithful life will give a demonstration of a faithful life!
James understood that in the faithful life, he knew there would be a confirmation of a faithful life!
James understood the basic truth that the faithful life will be a living illustration of a faithful life, just like Abraham or Rehab!

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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Show me your faith! – James 2:14-26

Show me your faith! – James 2:14-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 13, 2013 AM

Some adult believers have the wrong idea about faith and works. Some feel good works are necessary to maintain their Christianity. Thus, they always try to keep busy doing something good and feel guilty if they feel they are not doing enough. They do not understand their salvation is secure on the basis of faith, not good works. For other Christians, this security creates a different problem. Their attitude can be, “I don’t need to do anything I don’t have to do.” They are content to enjoy the blessings of salvation now and to look forward to heaven one day. They do not understand genuine faith always leads to good works.

James understood that believers who perform good works for the wrong reasons and those without good works need to evaluate themselves to see whether their faith is real. God wants us to do good works that demonstrate our faith in Christ. Some Christians are far to content to let others perform works of ministry. Monetary contributions are no substitute for personal acts of service. Others feel they must earn and maintain their good standing with God through good works. James challenges us by saying, “Show me your faith!”

READ: James 2:14-26

James moved from dealing with the sin of showing favoritism to the relationship between faith and works. He declared faith without works is “dead”, it is more than just “feeling” someone’s pain. In fact, James writes that if you want to show your faith, it is…

I. More than just talking! (2:14-17)
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
1. James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” God’s grace brings redemption, and the redeemed live out that unearned grace. Actions taken on others’ behalf demonstrate Christ’s love. James’ question called for an obvious answer: An inactive faith accomplishes nothing. James’s second question is a key to understanding the rest of these verses: “Can such faith save him?” Faith that does not bring forth good works is not saving faith. Why? Perhaps it is counterfeit, a false faith, or one based on emotionalism instead of total trust. Only faith demonstrated by works will bring a favorable verdict in the last judgment. Paul does not contradict James’ words about good works. Paul opposed those who taught salvation results from having faith and performing works of the law. He declared salvation is by faith alone. His focus concerned the fact that people are saved by faith and not by rituals such as circumcision. James wrote to counter people who taught works were not necessary in a Christian’s life. Both stressed that saved people do good deeds. James gave an illustration of the emptiness of words without actions. It echoes Jesus’ teaching, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36 NIV). James asks, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” A believer who is in a position to help refuses to and instead responds with useless words! Words are cheap. A cheap faith results in cheap actions. James drew the parallel between words without actions and faith that produces no good works: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Mere words, no matter how well meaning are no substitute for helpful actions. Showing one’s faith is more than just talk!
EXAMPLE: “Thank you, Jesus!” “Can I get a witness?” Praise the Lord!” If all we do is talk about having faith, we may not have saving faith. We can know and use all the right religious words, but without compassionate actions, they have a hollow ring. Kind of like a resounding gong or clanging cymbal bonged in an echoing cave! Francis of Assisi purportedly said, “Preach the gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” Francis’ “faith” was steeped in acts of kindness because of what Christ had done in his life. Saving faith engages in a lot more doing than talking.

James continues to emphasize that a professed faith is useless if actions do not demonstrate its genuineness. Faith and works are inseparable. He writes that showing one’s faith is…

II. More than just “believing”! (2:18-20)
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”
1. Throughout his letter, James employed a method of injecting an objection to his argument and then answering it. He anticipated someone in his audience would counter his strong assertion that faith not expressed in works “is dead”. His statement suggests a division of ministry in which some people perform good works and others encourage them. James would have none of it. James challenged the objector to give proof of faith. Is our vocal expressions sufficient evidence of our commitment to Christ? Can our correct and pious religious terms prove faith; perhaps emotional fervency or emphasis of tone, or, maybe by our strident repetition? None of these ways provides convincing evidence, for none demonstrates visibly our inward attitude of faith. The reality of faith is shown in a lifestyle characterized by ministry to others in obedience to Christ. Faith cannot be separated from daily behavior. James then used the basic affirmation of Judaism (Deut. 6:4-5) to illustrate that real faith cannot be mere intellectual acceptance of a creed. To accept God’s oneness is well and good. Yet, “Even the demons believe that–and shudder. “ Accepting a fact does not mean one has redemptive faith. James used a little humor as he pointed out demons shudder in light of the one God’s awesomeness—their hair bristles or stands on end in terror. Unlike people who profess faith and do no good works, at least demons tremble as an outward expression of their belief! James’ forcefulness in addressing his opponent reflects the issue’s crucial nature. Saving faith and good works cannot be separated; genuine faith consistently issues in actions of ministry to others in fulfillment of the royal law. Anyone who thinks works are unimportant is, according to James, “foolish” He asks, “Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” The lesson this “empty headed” person needed to learn was that faith without works is useless. James emphasized that unproductive faith is a contradiction in terms and is a sham. Showing one’s faith is more than just “believing”!
EXAMPLE: If all we do is claim to believe scriptural truths, we have a useless faith, not a saving faith. I have had dozens of folks over the years tell me they “believe in Jesus” but that is a meaningless statement if one does not see Jesus in their actions. Genuine faith is dynamic, active, and productive. You will see Jesus in one’s active faith! During His earthly ministry, Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Being His people means following His model. Showing one’s faith is more than just “believing”!

Abraham and Rahab are examples of people who demonstrate the kind of faith that makes people right with God. Their works gave evidence of saving faith. Showing one’s faith is…

III. Justifying faith! (2:21-26)
“Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”
1. James asks his readers, “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” They all knew the story of Abraham. James and Paul used the word “justified” in different ways. Paul used it in the sense of being made right with God by grace through faith instead of by “works of law” (Romans 3:28). Paul’s contention was that legalism played no part in salvation. James made a different point: Abraham’s obedience in being willing to sacrifice Isaac demonstrated the genuineness of his faith. His faith issued in obedient actions. The patriarch already had been made right with God; his obedience came out of his faith relationship with God. James concludes, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac perfected the patriarch’s faith in realizing God’s intended purpose–the goal of obedient action. “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.” Faith’s purpose in a believer’s life is to produce good works; without good works, faith is incomplete. Good works demonstrate faith’s integrity and maturity. The patriarch’s faith worked with his actions to demonstrate obedience. James was reinforcing his contention that faith and works are inseparable: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” A person who is right with God does good works. An absence of good works calls into question a profession of faith. Then, James turned to the dregs of society for his second example of faith demonstrated by works. “In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” Her actions were evidence of her having a right relationship with God. James well may have meant to make a point by contrast. Abraham, the father of the faithful, could be expected to perform good works out of his faith. Yet at the other end of the spectrum, a Canaanite prostitute also demonstrated her faith by her actions! James concluded with an analogy involving the human body. “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Such faith has no life; it is reduced to a walking corpse or perhaps in today’s vernacular, a zombie! James teaches us that showing one’s faith, is justifying faith!
EXAMPLE: We show our faith is genuine when it leads us to do good deeds. Opportunities to engage in compassionate ministry to needy people are all around us. We need determined good will, generosity, and sensitivity to grasp some of those opportunities. We cannot do everything and help everybody, but none of us is exempt from translating our faith into concrete actions. James teaches us that showing one’s faith, is justifying faith!

Conclusion:
1. If all we do is talk about having faith, we do not have saving faith.
2. If all we do is claim to believe the truth of the Scriptures, we have a useless faith, not saving faith.
3. We show ours is a genuine faith when it leads us to do good deeds.

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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Claim your freedom! – Galatians 5:1-15

Claim your freedom! – Galatians 5:1-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 11, 2013 AM

Freedom has different meanings today. For some, it is the ability to choose whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. Freedom therefore is having no authority that imposes personal restrictions. Others see it as overcoming all unpleasantness in their past, present, or future. Some believe that because at one time they made a profession of faith in Christ they think they now can do as they please. These reflect a misunderstanding of Christian freedom. They forget Christian freedom is the freedom to obey Christ and reflect His character. Then there are those think that they should perform good works to solidify their relationship with God. They need to realize good works flow from love for God and others and do not earn or ensure salvation or spiritual freedom.

Although Christian freedom has elements of each of these concepts, it differs because it results from salvation through faith alone. This salvation frees us from other requirements for being saved and gives us freedom from sin and death. It also frees us for God’s service, for growing more like Christ, and for following the Spirit’s leadership. God wants us to recognize our freedom as Christians differs from ordinary views and to exercise that freedom. How do you show gratitude for freedom you have in Christ? Let’s discover what Paul shares with the Galatians…

READ: Galatians 5:1-15

As we study Paul’s words on Christian freedom, let’s consider ways each of us can help one another experience the impact of exercising the freedom we have as Christians. Paul had just concluded his allegory of two covenants—the covenant of slavery to the law and the covenant of promise and freedom. In doing so, he used the strong declaration, “We are not children of the slave [Hagar] but of the free woman [Sarah]” (4:31) He then stresses that faith in Christ, not works or the law, makes people right with God. Paul desired that we…

I. Understand our freedom! (Vv. 5:1-6)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:1-6 NIV)

1. Paul in one brief statement summarized the entire point of his letter: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” By His sacrificial death, Christ provided salvation for everyone who would place faith in Him. Therefore, Paul emphasized, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery!” Because Christ frees believers from legalism as well as sin and death, they are to stand firm in that freedom. They are to keep on living in the freedom that grace provides. The Greek word for stand firm is a strong term that has the force of tenacity, of persistence. It is the image of a deeply rooted tree withstanding strong winds. The term “yoke” evokes the image of wooden collars placed on draft animals used to pull heavy loads. Paul did not want the Galatian believers to miss the full impact of what he wrote next. “Mark my words!’ he commands them. Paul strongly warned against male Gentile believers’ allowing themselves to be circumcised. They had not done so, but they were actually considering it. If believers submitted to circumcision, they would deny salvation comes by grace through faith alone; they would embrace the false teaching that salvation comes through faith plus legalism. If they did such a thing, then Christ would “be of no value” to them! Circumcision was an outward sign of dependence on good works for a right relationship with God, but no one could keep the law perfectly. In fact, folks who rely on works to make them right with God are “alienated from Christ.” They have no relationship with Christ! Paul said, “You have fallen away from grace”, which literally means, “You have forfeited grace.” Paul did not mean genuine believers could lose their salvation; people who try to combine law and grace for salvation are not totally committed to Christ. Partial commitment to Christ is not saving faith. The truth is that “by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope!” A right relationship with God is fulfilled by faith not by legalism. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” That is, God’s love for us through Jesus is expressed by our actions to others! We don’t do good works to be saved; we do good things to express our salvation that was freely given to us! Christians need to understand their freedom!

EXAMPLE: We are free because of what Christ has done for us and given to us. His continuing presence with us empowers us as we face life’s challenges. We need to follow His leading in order to advance toward spiritual maturity. How would you describe your freedom in Christ? How often do you express gratitude to Him for that freedom? In what ways do you demonstrate your faith through practical acts of love for others? We accept our freedom by continuing to trust God and His grace for our salvation. We also rely on Him for guidance in exhibiting our faith through love. We demonstrate that we understand our freedom through acts of kindness.

Now, Paul warns against the false teachers who sought to lead the Galatian Christians back into legalism. These teachers were preventing believers from obeying the truth Paul said they were “confusing” and “agitating” them. With sharp irony, Paul stated his wish that the teachers who advocated circumcision would make themselves eunuchs. He desired that we…

II. Keep our freedom! (Gal. 5:7-12)

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:7-12 NIV)

1. The Galatian believers “were running a good race” in Christ, but someone tripped them up! Paul asks, “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” He knew who the troublemakers were. The question put the spotlight on the Judaizers and presents the picture of a runner cutting in front of another and tripping him. These false teachers were hindering obedience to the truth—that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone. Paul tells them, “That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” The inference is that it is demonic and ungodly!  He reminds them, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” A little lie infects the entire truth! Some think that doing good things so God will love them is harmless, Paul, however, warned that submission to legalism was a corruptive influence. Doing good to glorify Christ is great, but doing good in order to be right with God is demonic! Yet, Paul related, “I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.” The Galatian believers had not fallen for the false teachers’ perversion of the gospel, and Paul felt sure they would hold to what he had taught them. Paul was sure that these agitators with false doctrines would “pay the penalty” of God’s judgment. They were lying to the Galatians saying that he preached the necessity of Gentile converts’ being circumcised. If this were true, why would they continue to persecute Paul if he also advocated circumcision? If Paul did this, he would render ineffective Jesus’ death on the cross. “In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.” The “offense” (scandal or stumbling block) of the cross, refers to the false teacher’s difficulty in accepting the concept of Christ’s sacrifice for sins. Paul used biting irony to shock the Galatians believers. Perhaps they should go further and do what pagan priests did—make themselves eunuchs! His sharp sarcasm, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves,” expressed the depth of his anger, frustration, and concern. He did not mean any literal harm to the teachers disturbing the Galatians. He believed the gospel was at stake and they needed to keep their freedom!

EXAMPLE: When have you used strong words to address a situation that concerned you deeply as a Christian? With what attitude and motive did you do so? We retain our freedom by resisting all efforts to inject legalism into Christianity. We need to reject such legalistic demands. We easily can fall victim to the subtle conviction that our good works enable us to retain our salvation. Paul would remind us to keep our freedom!

Paul emphasized God’s call to salvation in Christ is a call to freedom. This freedom is not license to sin but freedom to serve others. Loving ministry to people fulfills the law. Infighting among Christians, however, is destructive. Instead, we are to…

III. Use our freedom for others! (Vv.13-15)

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. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:13-15 NIV)

1. God had not called the Galatians to the “yoke” of legalism but to freedom. Yet Christian freedom is not to be equated with permission to sin. Paul stressed that freedom in Christ is not license to do as believers please. They were not to misuse grace as a springboard or launching pad for sinful living. Instead, “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.” Rather than using the liberty Christ provided as an excuse for self-indulgence, the Galatian believers were to serve one another through love. The word serve literally means, “to be a slave to.” Rather than become slaves to legalism, the believers were to willingly enter a bondage of love! The word Paul used for love is agape, God’s kind of love. Christ commanded His followers to have this kind of love for one another. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) Such love expresses itself in sacrificial ministry to others, including the most menial service. Christ frees believers from sin to serve Him and others. In fact, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Love, not adherence to rules and rituals, fulfills the entire law. Paul quoted Leviticus 19:18, which Jesus had quoted in response to a question about the greatest Commandment (Mark 12:28-31). Paul contended that believers’ love for their neighbors—all people they encounter—demonstrates love for God and right relationships with others, both of which are reflected in the Ten Commandments. Loving others complies with the law’s intent. Evidently, these believers were fighting with one another, perhaps over legalism! Love for others fulfills the law, but infighting among Christians is deadly. The Judaizers’ teachings had caused conflict in the Galatian churches. At least some of the believers were “fighting like cats and dogs,” as we sometimes say. So Paul finally warns them, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” The words bite and devour picture wild animals in a deadly struggle, inflicting fatal injuries. The result of such vicious infighting would be the destruction of Christian fellowships. Instead of fighting one another, we are to use our freedom for others!

EXAMPLE: What factors make loving other Christians difficult? By what acts of service do you express your love for other believers in your church? We are to use our freedom to serve others and help our churches. Conversely, we are to refuse to misuse it by doing what might harm others or our churches. We need to cultivate looking for opportunities to use our freedom for others!

Conclusion
1. We are free because of what Christ has done for us and by exhibiting our faith in love.
2. We retain our freedom by resisting all efforts to inject legalism into Christianity.
3. We are to use our freedom to serve others and help our churches and to refuse to misuse it by doing what might harm others or our church.

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.

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Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!

Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 30, 2012 AM

What kind of heroes do we hold up to be emulated? Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. writes about the need for heroes: “My middle son, Marlon, complained to me just the other day that his generation is coming of age ‘in a world without heroes.’ . . . His words tugged at me. . . . Our children have learned to wait for the other shoe to drop, for ‘heroes’ to be unmasked and values betrayed.” A survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University shows that 60 percent of adults have no heroes. It’s an unhealthy trend, according to former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, author of the best-seller The Book of Virtues: “It is particularly important for young people to have heroes. This is a way to teach them by moral example, so that we can point to someone as an ideal.” I believe this is why true heroes, heroes of our faith can give us a renewed vigor to live for the Lord.

In a summary, the writer of Hebrews pointed out that people can still be living by faith when they die, even if by that time they have not received what was promised. By faith, the patriarchs and prophets saw the promises from afar but continued in their faith refusing to turn back to the old ways they had left. His listeners should also renounce any opportunity to go back to their ancestral religion. They should persist in longing for a better country promised by Jesus! A Christian’s faith should form their true worldview. The believer’s faith is what life is all about. Hebrews reminds of how those in the past expressed their faith. Let’s discover what that means for us this morning…

READ: Hebrews 11:17-40

Do you express your faith or do you acquiesce your faith? There are those who think that Christianity should evolve and that it should change its core values with the times. This flies in the face of not just tradition, but with actual biblical theology. The same is true for what constitutes faith. We learn that…

I. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

1. The lives of those the author describes were defined by their faith. We would know nothing of these individuals without faith defining their lives. Abraham could never have offered up his son unless he fully trusted God already! Moses’ parents had faith that God would take care of their infant son cast adrift into an Egyptian pyramid scheme. And God provided every step of the way of Moses’ life! From making him a basket case, to bringing him up in royal court, to having him run for his life because of stupid decisions, and then leading his people to the Promised Land! His life was defined by his faith! Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” We see the Israelite’s faith when they ran through the Red Sea, when Jericho’s walls caved, when “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Her life was totally entrusted to her newfound faith! Because of their faith they “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised… shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword,” their “weakness was turned to strength; and… became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground!” Can you imagine living your life in this way? Jesus reminds us that we often cannot do what he asks us to do “Because you have so little faith.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV) The reason that Christianity is not vibrant as it should be is because we do not find faith that moves mountains! Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

EXAMPLE: Why do you do what you do in life? What makes you get up every day to go to work, clean your home, or simply live your lives? For some it is their children, for others it is their job ethic or education, and still for some, it is because they have nothing better to do! It is laudable to have a goal-oriented life, but what happens when children move away or rebel, what occurs when your job closes down or you retire, what is left at the end of your life when you realize you have lived for nothing? Just as the bedraggled crayon-scrawled signs, rain-drenched candles, and plastic sun-faded flowers left at the makeshift roadside memorials, our lives are not long remembered either. However, go back, look at the great folks of faith, and notice how they are remembered. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.” What about Paul, Silas, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John or perhaps, the Wesley brothers, John Rogers, C. H. Spurgeon, D. L. Moody or Billy Graham? Maybe you remember Brother McMillan, Pastor Ward Lawrence, Dr. Bill Peters, or Jan Sander. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

There are those who say they live their faith, but when one takes a closer look at their lives, or especially their families, we find a whole other truth. One of the reasons we have the violence we do in our society today, is we have redefined what constitutes a family. When we look at these verses, we discover that…

II. Our families are to be managed by our faith!

1. While there are not always good examples of parenting in the Bible, we do discover godly examples of faithful parents who entrusted their children to the Lord. Abraham “who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son!” Why would he do such a thing? Was he nuts? NO! “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Can you imagine? God asks you to do the unthinkable, but you understand immediately that God has a plan and you must above all trust in God’s plan for your family. All the way up the mountain, searching for wood, answering his son’s incessant questions about the sacrifice, and even while he was plunging the blade into Isaac’s chest, Abraham trusted God! Isaac wasn’t the best dad either, but he knew his sons, by faith he “blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” And Jacob, the liar, even though his sons had sold his favorite, Joseph, into slavery because of their insane jealousy “when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons”, and by “faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Even “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” From birth to death these parents, while not the best, had enough sense to trust God with their families! We live in an age where daycare, schools, television, and video games raise many of our children. Single parent homes are becoming the new “normal” with multiple transient hookups. God’s wisdom reminds us to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) and fathers are not to “exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV) Our families are to be managed by our faith!

EXAMPLE: Neither Guns nor their availability make people kill one another. Sin does. I remember in High School, during hunting season; it wasn’t unusual for guys to drive to school with gun racks filled with shotguns or rifles. Often, my friends and I went shooting after Friday classes and we had pistols and ammo in the trunks of our vehicles. I even brought my .22 caliber revolver to shop class in order to make new pistol grips! I graduated from a large suburban school, but no one was ever threatened or harmed. The reason: It was unthinkable. Nowadays the moral and social fabric of our society is so corrupted; we no longer see sin as sin. Most school shootings and attacks since the mid 1990s confirm that the perpetrators were on some kind of antidepressant. i CDC data shows that one in 25 children ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. are on antidepressants. ii  Add to this the unmarried birth rate of 41%, where unmarried couples make up 12% of U.S. couples iii, and a divorce rate for first time marriage is 41%, for second marriages, it is 60%, and for third marriages, it is 73%, Houston, we have a problem! iv These statistics are important because research shows that children without a mom and a dad are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, and are twice as likely to drop out of school, commit criminal acts, and engage in premarital sex. I would say that it is time again for families to be managed by faith!

During Christmastime, or when a national tragedy strikes, we find all sorts of folks willing to do good things for others. I am glad we can come together, but this should be more than writing a pity saying on a cup of coffee. Sadly, far too many think that by simply doing good, makes one good, and nothing could be further from the truth. We discover by these verses found in Hebrews that…

III. We are made perfect by our faith!

1. If holiness were obtainable by simply doing good things, we would never have needed Jesus to die on a cross for us. This is why Hebrews remarks concerning Moses, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” It was “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Unknown to Moses at the time, was the mere fact that by his act of faith he was pointing to a better way, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! In conclusion, the writer pointed out that the great heroes of faith he had spoken of had not yet realized the result of their faith concerning the human soul in its relation to death, judgment, heaven, and hell. When we die, we are not eternally judged for the good we did in life, we are first weighed by what we believed in life! Paul, a Jew by birth, knew “that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV) Like the author of Hebrews, Paul would say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV) This proves that God had planned something far better for them and us. Paul would also write, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:20-22 NIV) You see, Hebrews reminds us that, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect!” We are made perfect by our faith!

EXAMPLE: When someone says she believes in God, does that make her a Christian? When someone says he believes in Jesus, does that make the person a Christian? The affirmation of faith was important in the ancient world. It showed the world what you trusted in, as James declared, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.” (James 2:19 NIV) Of course, James also affirmed that his faith was shown by what he did after believing. Do you sometimes doubt your faith? I believe God knows our weakness and this is where faith comes in let me explain: One time Jesus saw a large crowd around some of his disciples and the teachers of the law arguing with them. A man had brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not. The man tells Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:16-24 NIV) The boy’s father didn’t claim that he had perfect faith, nor did he walk away in despair. He acknowledged his doubts (unbelief) at the same time that he passionately expressed his desire to believe! Therefore, our faith does not need to be perfect our faith makes us perfect!

Conclusion:
Our lives are to be defined by our faith! Our families are to be managed by our faith! We are made perfect by our faith!

i http://www.ssristories.com/index.php
ii  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/02/23/antidepressants-viewed-as-quick-fix/#ixzz2GJi0NgjB
iii http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/196 and http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-05-26-census-unmarried-couples_n.htm
iv http://www.divorcerate.org

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 © 2012 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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