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Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!

Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 18, 2018

We can dishonor someone by not holding them in high regard. The people of Israel had done this with God. Within the Ten Commandments the most important instructed, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Yet the Israelites had dishonored God.

Malachi’s second burden therefore deals with the dishonor God’s people can have for the Lord. While it may be easy for us to point to specific religions today that make idols and worship them, Christians can fail to see the idols we fashion and impure worship in our lives. In this, Malachi’s burden is just as much a message for us as it was for the Israelites. We are to honor God with acceptable sacrifice. Let’s find out what Malachi teaches us about being honorable…

READ: Malachi 1:6-14

From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation relationship is important to God. When God told the Israelites, “You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3 NIV)” he meant it. Therefore, Malachi’s burden begins with…

I. Evidence of a dishonorable relationship! (V. 1:6)

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

1. A relationship by any other name is not a relationship! Malachi spoke of proper relationships in his society. The Israelites understood that “A son honors his father and a servant his master.” People respected relationships and the structure they had. In fact one of the Commandments stated that a person was to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). However, God asks the applicable question that goes to the heart of the issue, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect (fear) due me?” If God was seen as the Father of the Israelite people and also as their Master, where was the respect due Him? God did view Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22) and the Commandments stated very clearly that children were to honor their parents. Israel recognized that “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).” What had happened then to the relationship Israel was supposed to have with God? They had allowed false and perverted ideas of worship to creep into how they honored God. The absurd response of the people, especially the priests, proves the point God made through Malachi. So conceited and into themselves were the people and their spiritual leadership that they have no idea they had flagrantly and deliberately strayed from God! They act like they are the ones offended and arrogantly ask, “How have we shown contempt for your name?” (I can see Malachi stepping aside to get out of the way of the fire from heaven!) Fear of God does not necessitate being terrified of him; but rather having a proper respect and reverence for him, a reverence that leads his people to worship and obedience! They had deliberately followed their own selfish desires instead and dishonored their relationship. Malachi brings evidence of a dishonorable relationship!

EXAMPLE: America has become a nation of consumers. There is nothing wrong with this except where God is concerned. We consume God instead of offering him our sacrifice. We look for ways to get the most bang-for-our-buck. This is why many hardly give their time, talent, or treasure. Churches offer up bigger and better Sunday morning shows knowing that the consumers in the pews may shop elsewhere. It is contemptible when we continually want God to fill our plastic bag with goodies, but never sacrifice anything for his kingdom. Malachi brings evidence of a dishonorable relationship!

When folks give the Lord something that doesn’t really cost them anything, it is not a sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice demands that it cost the giver. The Israelites should have understood what it meant to sacrifice because they were required to give the very best they had to God in order to show that they truly honored the Lord. Malachi goes on to give…

II. The evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship! (Vv. 1:7-10)

“You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. ‘Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?’–says the LORD Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.”

1. The proof was in the pudding and it contained a huge hairy fly! The priests were responsible to teach the people God’s covenant and turn their hearts to God! If the priests failed to honor God, what could be expected of the people? God tells them, “You place defiled food on my altar.” The “food” That God refers to here is the required sacrifices that were to be offered. They were warned against offering such sacrifices and thereby profane God’s name (Leviticus 22:2, 32). These offerings were symbols of obedience, trust, and the cost involved. By their actions they were literally “saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible”! God honors righteous sacrifice and they were bringing contemptible ones to his temple and table. Apparently they had become so hardened they rationalized their sin! They arrogantly ask, “How have we defiled you?” They had deliberately brought “blind…, crippled or diseased animals.” If they thought it was okay to do they should try offering them to their Persian “governor”! God sarcastically asks them, “Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” The answer is, “NO!” The people tried to get God to reconsider, “Now implore God to be gracious to us.” But his answer was: “With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?” In our day and age we think that if we feel it then it must be sincere! God knows better. He isn’t “pleased” with half-hearted offerings—they are contemptible and he “will accept no offering from [our] hands”. Notice what God tells the Israelites: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you and I will accept no offering from your hands.” it would have been better if they had just “shut the temple doors” so they did not “light useless fires on” God’s altar instead of bringing their worthless sacrifices and worship! Can you imagine coming to worship only to find the doors nailed shut and a sign outside that read: “Closed because of unholy Worship”? Malachi gives the Israelites the evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship!

EXAMPLE: How do you think people would feel if they came to an Ash Wednesday Worship and were greeted by having human waste spread across their foreheads instead of ash? Later God would tell the Israelites, “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. (Malachi 2:3 NIV)” Even today there are those who have taken the holy out of worship. They do not bring pure sacrifices yet they think God should bless them. Jesus related that, “by their fruit you will recognize them”. Is there evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship in God’s church today? Malachi’s words should give us pause. Malachi gives the Israelites the evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship!

The Israelites had forgotten that their whole existence was to be God’s witnesses in a sin-fallen world. I believe that much of Christianity has forgotten this spiritual truism as well. We see that it often begins in what we are unwilling to sacrifice for the Lord. He wants our best and we give him what we think we can afford. Like us the Israelites were guilty and Malachi give them…

III. Evidence of spiritual hypocrisy! (Vv. 11-14)

My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

1. The Hebrew word “because” actually begins verse 11 and is not found in the NIV. It was “because” God’s name would be “considered great among the nations” that the Israelites needed to make “pure” sacrifices. It was a matter of the Israelites witness to the world! When “In every place incense and pure offerings [were] brought to [honor God’s] name, [then his] name will be great among the nations”! Notice how God says the people responded: “But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, ‘It is defiled,’ and of its food, ‘It is contemptible.’ And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously”! They not only profaned God’s table, worship, by bringing the worst they had but they contemptuously turned their noses up to being God’s witnesses to the world! Levitical law stated they were to get a share of the meat sacrificed to eat themselves, but they didn’t want the diseased food they had originally brought God! They were blatant hypocrites. God bluntly asks them, “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” They didn’t want their own sacrifices why should God want them? God tells them, “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” No one likes a cheater. Cheaters try to gain an advantage by rigging the rules. These hypocrites tried to garner God’s favor with worthless offerings and they knew it. God reminds them that he alone is is “a great king”, in fact he is the Creator of everything and his “name is to be feared among the nations”! The idea of “fear” is held in awe and reverence, but it wasn’t because of their contemptible sacrifices. Are there evidences where Christians “cheat” God with their blemished sacrifices and then say that God’s church is a “burden”? I suspect there is just like the Israelites did and this is why Malachi gives evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

EXAMPLE: In a typical hypocritical fashion a woman in Oregon was caught driving 103 miles per hour with her 10-year-old grandson in the car. When she was stopped by the police, she told them that she was only trying to teach him never to drive that fast. I suppose she wanted him to do as she said, not as she did. Sadly we can see this in the worship of the Israelites during Malachi’s day and we find it in the lives of Christians as well. Malachi gives us evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

Conclusion:

What is disrespect? The dictionary defines it as “a lack of respect or esteem.” We can disrespect something or someone by not holding them in high regard. Malachi gave the evidence of dishonorable relationship, evidence of dishonorable sacrifices and worship, and evidence of spiritual hypocrisy!

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Do you go to Sunday School?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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United! – Acts 2:42-47

United! – Acts 2:42-47
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 11, 2017

Unity, what does it mean to be unified? I know as a military unit you have to work together to achieve the same objective in order to win the battle. As a company you have to be on the same page as to what your objectives, projections, and costs are. And if you are a church the Scriptures teach us that we are to be united as well in order to achieve the kingdom of God here on earth until Jesus returns, but what does that mean and what does it look like?

In our day and age few churches teach about unity except as a spiritual concept or construct but few believers understand or know what it means for the body of Christ, his church, to be unified. In the book of Acts, which is the early history of the first century church we discover that they were united in purpose. Let’s find out what that means for us today…

READ: Acts 2:42-47

If a group wants to achieve anything worthwhile the members have to be on the same page and working together. When they don’t they are dysfunctional, however, in the Book of Acts we discover that…

I. The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! (Vv. 42-43)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

1. Dedication comes in many forms; some make their dedication into a ritual. They do the same things every day in the same way in order to achieve a specific goal. Whether it is running a certain distance, losing weight, or reading through the Bible folks who are successful in achieving their goals have a certain amount of dedication and the early church was no different. However, notice what they were dedicated to: First, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching”. There was no New Testament written yet and so they devoted themselves or steadfastly continued in what they had learned about the gospel message and the teachings of Jesus. The gospel became their basic manual and teaching for how they were to conduct themselves and live their lives as Christians. Paul and other apostles began to write commentary in the form of personal letters in how to achieve this. They also continued in “the fellowship” of the church. This means they were members of a local church and made sure to keep themselves in fellowship. The word is the Greek koinonia which refers to a communal attitude and intimate working together. This is possible because believers share the Holy Spirit. Their devotion to learning, being discipled, and to their church was a conscious decision. It demanded personal sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure! Secondly they devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. Now some suggest that this means eating together rather than observing the Lord’s Supper regularly, but I am more inclined that Luke meant it as further evidence of their devotion to fellowshipping with one another in a spiritual capacity. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper and common prayer does unite a church body and we discover that because of their willingness to focus on spiritual learning and furthering their spiritual connection to one another that “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” Much of the modern church has lost its awe of the wonder of God in its midst because we think church should be about promoting us and not our common relationship with the Lord. Here in Acts we discover that the early church was dedicated to their spirituality!

EXAMPLE: She and her children wept when they found out they had to move out of the area. They wept because they were leaving a church family they loved. Being a part of something because it fulfills a check off list for your kids, your personal experience, or the jazzy music is not the same as becoming part of a local body that becomes your spiritual family. When you worship, serve, pray and are discipled together you form mutual spiritual bonds that are strong or even stronger than your physical family. Because we share the same Spirit we call one another brother or sister. The early church understood this and was dedicated to their spirituality!

Families come together as they build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Churches are like families and they too are to build relationship through love, acceptance, and forgiveness; this is done according to the Book of Acts as well. We discover that…

II. The early church was willing to share with one another! (Vv. 44-45)

All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

1. Notice that Luke tells us that within the Jerusalem Church “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” In the original Greek it literally states that “all that believed” were together. This is important because it tells us that the first requirement of being part of the church was to be a member. In order to be a member certain criteria had to be met: 1) Members had to be a believers meaning that you had to have placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and you had to have followed through in baptism; complete immersion. The word used in the Bible for church is the Greek word ekklesia, meaning a group of called out (ek – a primary preposition from which the action proceeds, like example) or specifically elected people (klesia a derivative of kaleō – where we get call from) who are called out to do a specific task. In this case the spreading of the good news. Christ does his work through his called out folks in the local church. The church is Jesus’ called out body in the world. As Paul would state, “we are members of his body”. (Ephesians 5:30 NIV) It is through the local church that our time, our talent, and our treasure are best utilized for the furthering of God’s Kingdom! The church knows that “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matthew 25:29 NIV) We know that “the collection for God’s people” should be done “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income”. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NIV) And Paul again reminds us that our time, talent, and treasure are to be measured out generously: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NIV) We find that the early church had this spiritual concept down pat and had implemented it in the real world by “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” True believers have a generous spirit because Jesus gave to us generously and was willing to sacrifice for those he never met! The early church was willing to share with one another!

EXAMPLE: This is not communism, which some vainly try to equate it with. It is not the government taking everything from the populace and then doling it out as it sees fit. Rather this is a communal sharing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the lives of Jesus’ body the church by its active members. They were not compelled to do this but did it willingly out of the abundance of their own hearts. The early church was willing to share with one another!

We are often told that “Good things happen to those who do good things.” The Scriptures teach us continually that one reaps what they sow in this life so if a church stays united we learn that…

III. The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth! (Vv. 46-47)

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

1. The outcome of a church fellowship staying close and being united was evident. We discover that the result for the early church was that “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” This would be like our church meeting every day down in front of the county court house praying, worshipping, and singing hymns together! Every day the early church in Jerusalem went up to the temple, at the time of prayer! Wow, can you imagine what kind of witness this was for the early church to the rest of Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin. Later the early Christians would be forced out of their local synagogues and the temple because so many of the Hebrew people were being converted to Christianity. We also learn that in places like Ephesus “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus” instead. (Acts 19:8-9 NIV) In fact, because so many people were converting to Christianity in the area of Asia Minor it affected the sales of silver idols and so “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.” (Acts 19:23 NIV) The fact is that when believers are unified and doing what they are supposed to do they influence their communities, neighborhoods, and nations! We find that the church “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” This is being the salt and light, the holy leaven in a sinful world. The outcome of such unified living is that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” If the church stays united there will be physical and spiritual growth!

EXAMPLE: Some churches depend on programs, music, a really good show to bring in the people, but this is in a way false advertising. When the music, program, or show changes the audience leaves. They are not invited to become part of the family of God, the body of Christ. Instead they were brought into a concert hall atmosphere whereby if the entertainment is not to their liking they will leave and go to the next “spiritual” venue down the road. Yes you can grow a crowd and call it a church, but a true body of believers is made up of those who have commonality in Spirit, relationship, and discipleship of the gospel. We discover that the early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!

Conclusion:

The early church was dedicated to their spirituality! The early church was willing to share with one another! The early church experienced physical and spiritual growth!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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3rd Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship – Matthew 2:1-12

3rd Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship – Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 11, 2016

Though not everyone agrees on the timing of the arrival of the Magi from the East, they apparently came sometime after the birth of Jesus. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, though still in Bethlehem, were now in a house (oikia) which can also mean place or residence, and could have been used generically by Matthew to describe where Mary and Joseph were simply staying. Jesus was also called a little child (paidion) rather than a newborn infant. This however is not the focus of our verses, but rather the Magi’s joyous worship.

When my wife and I first began to date, I would drive hundreds of miles, often times during very bad weather just to see her. I wrote her letters where I had painstakingly taken hours to draw cartoon characters just to make her smile. I was and am willing to sacrifice anything for her happiness and contentment. Why would I do such things? Because I love her. She is the joy of my life. And isn’t that the way believers should respond to the joy of their worship as well? Let’s discover just how and what the joy of our worship should be…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, there is a famous song called, “Climb Every Mountain.” The first two stanzas relate, “Climb every mountain, search high and low; Follow every byway, every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream; Follow every rainbow, till you find your dream.” Here in these verses of Matthew’s gospel we discover that the Magi were willing to do just that. In fact, what they did in order to reach the joy of their worship was amazing. It teaches us that the Joy of our worship…

I. Inspires us to overcome any obstacle! (Vv. 1-2)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

1. The exact identity of the Magi is impossible to establish, though several ideas have been floated over the years. Everything from a secret society, magicians, wizards, or truth seekers. They have been given traditional names of Gaspar, Melchior and; Balthazar; and identified as representatives of the three groups of peoples that descended from Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This notion is from about the 7th century. More likely they were Gentiles of high position from a country, perhaps Persia, northeast of Babylon. Maybe they were given a special revelation by God of the birth of the King of the Jews. This may simply have been revealed in the sky, as indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East. Those who wanted to learn more about the world around them often read the manuscripts of religions, histories, or literature of other nations. Some think the Magi’s comments reflect a knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). Whatever the source, they came” After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.” And we discover the main reason is stated in their question, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” These men had to travel a long distance (between 550 to 600 miles), mostly walking or perhaps riding, and endure the hardships of thieves and robbers, weather and dirt, and weeks if not months of travel. They left the safety of hearth and home in search of a child and for the mere chance “to worship him”! The Joy of our worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle!

EXAMPLE: There are many who search for truth, but few recognize it when they see. Some give their lives away serving others, like Mother Teresa who constantly agonized over whether she truly had done enough “good things’ for Jesus to love her! There are those who live lifelong journey of bellybutton introspection by focusing on self and emptying themselves of all worldly desires to find a sense of wholeness. There are those who think happiness is only found in the moment. Yet, in the midst of all of this we find Wisemen journeying from the East, following a heavenly star, hoping to kneel before a young boy on the chance that he might be the King of the Jews, the Messiah. That’s what the Joy of worship does, it inspires us to overcome any obstacle in order to worship Jesus!

There are those who say they have found the object of their worship, but when one takes a closer look all you see is them! We can mouth Christian platitudes, wave our hands in the air, sing all the choruses we know, and even quote Scripture verbatim, but not know why we are to worship because we truly do not know Jesus whom we are to worship! The Joy of our worship…

II. Is more than counterfeit comprehension! (Vv. 3-8)

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’“ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

1. King Herod knew what he worshiped and this is why, “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod was shaken to his core. It was said that it was better to be a pig in Herod’s household than to be one of his children! Herod in his paranoia had two of his sons and a wife murdered. Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact, he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and was an Edomite. This is why the Jews hated their king! Herod however was crafty and in fact did a lot to build up his nation militarily, financially, and physically. “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.” Herod in his paranoia wanted to know who this threat to his throne was. They give him the answer gleaned from Micah, “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Both Herod and his advisors had a counterfeit response and reason for their belief. The people’s chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to show off their knowledge to their King and Herod wanted to thwart any opposition to his reign! What he learned was soon related to the Magi, “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.” He was already planning his infanticidal response whereby “he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16 NIV) So, Herod sends them to Bethlehem and tells them, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” He only wanted to “worship” him at the end of a sword. The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

EXAMPLE: There is an atheist group who have paid for giant billboards with the message, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” Interestingly, American Atheists President David Silverman, whose heritage is Jewish, says they are trying to focus only on the “fun” parts of Christmas. And sadly, this is what many folks, including Christians, do as well with their worship. They focus only on the “fun” parts forgetting that worship of Christ is more than head knowledge or showing up once a year. Some view worship as a country club where they pay their dues for the benefits or grand show; it is more about receiving than giving, rights instead of responsibilities, entitlements instead of sacrifice, and being served instead of serving. They might as well be atheists asking, “Who needs Christ during worship? Nobody!” The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

Author Greig Beck in his thriller novel “Dark Rising” writes, “Without sacrifice, there is no freedom. Without freedom, there is no life. God bless them who give their all for us.” He wasn’t writing about missionaries, instead he was writing about those in the military who sacrifice themselves for the cause of freedom. Should this not be said of the believer? In the story of the Magi and this third Sunday of Advent, we discover that the Joy of our worship…

III. Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice! (Vv. 9-12)

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

1. Simple trust is an amazing thing. We discover it in children and are often silenced by it. We discover it here with the Magi and it should cause us to pause, because, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way.” At this time, they did not know Herod’s intent they only wanted to continue their journey. They followed the star they have seen earlier and wonders of wonders, “the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was!” Stars, like planets, usually go from east to west because of the earth’s rotation, not north to south! Could it be therefore that “the star” which the Magi saw and which led them to a specific house was the Shekinah glory of God or one of his angelic messengers? Possibly. But “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” They knew what it meant! It was showing them the way to the One they sought! The same God who had lead the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, now lead these Wisemen. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” They did not pause to worship or recognize Mary nor Joseph. The mother and father are of little importance to those who follow the Messiah. They immediately went to the object of their search! “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Some believe the gifts signified the character of Jesus’ life. Gold might represent his deity or purity, incense the fragrance of his life, and myrrh his sacrifice and death. Scripture does not say and therefore it is speculation. However, it speaks volumes on how these men were willing to enthusiastically sacrifice their time, talents, and treasures in order to worship Jesus! “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” The joy of our worship makes us enthusiastically sacrifice all that we have for Him!

EXAMPLE: How about you? What do you sacrifice for Jesus? Maybe you are more like the four blind men in the Asian myth who come across an elephant for the first time. One grasps the trunk and thinks it’s a snake. Another touches the elephant’s leg and says it’s a tree. A third finds the elephant’s tail and concludes it’s a rope. The fourth blind man, finds the elephant’s side, assumes it’s a wall. It is not differing religions describing the same thing in radically differing ways. The truth is that spiritually blind folks cannot make sense from that which they are blind to! Jesus correctly asked, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39 NIV) Stop being blind, the Joy of your worship should make you enthusiastically sacrifice all that you have for Jesus!

Conclusion:

The Joy of our worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle! Is more than counterfeit comprehension! Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice!
—-
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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The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26

The Tainted Lady at the Local Watering Hole! — John 4:1-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 16, 2014

Recently one of the local news outlets did a series on prostitution in Portland, Oregon. The people involved are younger and more dangerous than ever before. They enslave their victims, often abusing them physically, mentally, and emotionally. Police are trying to get a handle on the human trafficking in order to gain control of illegal guns on the street as well. Interestingly, no one ever mentioned the fact that the criminals involved did not register their weapons or submitted to background checks. I digress. Some call it the oldest profession, but it is a dirty, nasty, crime-ridden, and immoral blight on society that needs to be eradicated.

In Jesus’ day we discover that many women were placed in this horrendous position simply because they had no other means of support. Pimps, drugs, and illegal weapons were not necessarily a part of the trade back then, however it did carry a societal disdain and a seedier reputation, unless of course you were one of the respected pagan temple prostitutes. These were highly sought after positions that families often willingly gave their daughters over to. However in Jewish society it was seen as it should be, as ungodly and immoral behavior; not fitting for anyone to participate in. Here in John’s gospel we find Jesus with the tainted lady at a local watering hole, let’s discover what occurs…

READ: John 4:1-26

Here we find…

I. Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting! (Vv. 1-6)

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:1-6 NIV)

1. Interestingly we discover the reason for John the Baptist’s disciples getting frustrated that Jesus was baptizing: “The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John.” Now why this would excite them so much? Perhaps it was because of that temple incident where Jesus had forced them to confront their immoral and ill-conceived money changing scheme. Or perhaps it was because Jesus was gaining in popularity and John was waning, but whatever the reason we find out that “although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.” However, “When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.” Evidently Jesus decided it was not worth causing a stir, it was not time to reveal himself, and decided to head back north to Galilee. Most Jews would have gone a more of a roundabout route going completely around Samaria. They would not have wanted to be tainted with even breathing the same air that Samaritans breathed or walking on the same roads they did because all pious Jews thought of their brethren in the north as half-breeds. Not real Hebrews at all; to be avoided at all cost. Yet Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” Jesus deliberately decided to head almost straight through Samaria to get to Galilee! Jesus had a divine appointment to make and “So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” Samaritans “were racially mixed and their religion resulted from syncretism and schism from Judaism.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) “Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” It was here Jesus stops to rest. John writes, “It was about the sixth hour”, which was about noon. We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

EXAMPLE: When I first went to have my wrist looked at for surgery, they hadn’t put up their signage yet. It was a new building. I parked the car went around the building, could not find a door with any markings on it. I then backtracked and went to where I started, looked for someone who could help me. No luck. I then called the office on my cell phone and they told me to go through the door nearest the parking lot and take the elevator. I did that and ended going up several floors, walking clear around inside of the building and finally coming to what I thought was the office. I asked the receptionist why they were so difficult to find, she replied, “Didn’t you take the elevator from the ground floor, turn left and come through the door over there?” She pointed to the way I had come in! I had simply been going the long way instead of the shortest distance. Folks can do the same thing when they try to take their own way to God instead of simply trusting him. Here we find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting!

We listen as…

II. Jesus shares living water with a dead lady! (Vv. 7-18)

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” (John 4:7-18 NIV)

1. First a direct path and now a candid conversation. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)” So, we find Jesus alone at Jacob’s well with a strange lady. We never know her name. Jesus asks her for some water, which in of itself is unusual. Jewish men did not talk to women they did not know and especially in Samaria and this is why she retorted, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” John reminds us, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” For Jesus to drink from a jar a Samaritan woman had touched would have made him unclean. Having piqued her curiosity, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'” She was arguing about well water and Jesus answers with living water! God had told the prophet Jeremiah, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13 NIV)” Now, God was offering all people the living water found in Jesus, even this Samaritan woman! The water represented the Holy Spirit, the “spring of water welling up to eternal life!” You would have thought she would have been curious as to who Jesus was, what was the gift of God, and why was he talking about living water? Instead, like so many do, she could only think of what immediately benefited her, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jacob’s well is one of the deepest in the region. She challenges Jesus by asking, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” Jesus puts her straight, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Her sin blinds her understanding, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus however challenges her sin, “Go, call your husband and come back.” She is surprised and confesses, “I have no husband.” The truth comes to light!  “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” Her sin is exposed and we find Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

EXAMPLE: All who are without Christ are spiritually dead. Like dead pools of stagnant water their lives are as still cloudy pools, while those who are born again are alive and active like rushing water that flows over rocky rapids in a clear cold stream. Living water is that which revives the deepest thirst of a weary parched soul. Nothing is more enjoyable in a desert wilderness than a cold drink of crystal clear water. Nothing is more refreshing to the sin weary soul than the refreshing rush of the cleansing spirit in one’s life. And here we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady!

And we see…

III. It is not about where you worship as to who you worship! (Vv. 19-26)

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:19-26 NIV)

1. We forget, like so many do, that our relationship with God revolves around our worship of him. Worship defines who we are and what we truly believe. This is why Jesus would teach, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24 NIV)” Again, the lady misunderstands Jesus’ words and tries to steer the conversation away from her sin and life predicament, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Women, who are caught in her line of work often, try to flatter the ones they are earning their living from and perhaps this is what she was trying to do with Jesus by calling him a prophet. Yet notice now that she no longer uses the term “our fathers” but rather, “you Jews” to argue with Jesus. She could have repented and confessed her sin but instead turns the argument into the age old discussion about where the true worship of God should take place. It is not the place where one goes through the motions of manmade worship, it is who one worships! “Jesus declared, ‘Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.'” Worship begins when one is born again! Jesus bluntly responds, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” The Samaritans were deluded and thought they could worship God in any way they desired. However, the Messiah would not come from Samaria or anyone else but Israel. God promised it would be so and Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise! Yet the Jews were just as confused as the Samaritans! Here is the truth of the matter, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Only those born of the Spirit of God can truly worship God! This is the truth! The woman begins to finally understand and we see a glimmer of spiritual hope when she tells Jesus, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus, I believe smiled and his face lit up as he responds, “I who speak to you am he.” Now she knew the truth of the living water and that it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

EXAMPLE: I was listening to the radio and the speaker was saying that he liked to go to worship because it healed him. It was like going to the hospital for him and he needed to be there in order to face the following week. His whole point was that he viewed worship as for him to benefit from and that is what he felt it was for. Sadly, his view of worship is convoluted and here’s why: He, like so many do, was confusing worship with the church. The act of worship is meant for God and his people are to come to the body of Christ, the church, when hurt to be refreshed and healed. Too many think that when they come away from worship feeling good, their worship was successful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus told the woman that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” It is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

Conclusion:
We find Jesus taking the shortest distance to a fateful meeting, we discover Jesus sharing the living water with a dead lady, and it is not about where you worship as to who you worship!

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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The Temple! – John 2:13-25

The Temple! – John 2:13-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 26, 2014

I have heard sermons where the speaker equates today’s church as the new temple of God, however, we no longer continually offer sacrifices of live animals, we do not burn incense to represent the prayers of the people to God, and we do not wash our hands and feet before coming into worship nor do we bow down before the altar of God. And of course nothing separates us from the presence of God: Neither curtain, priest, nor mercy seat can keep us from his presence! While some of the things we do remind us of the temple or tabernacle of God, the church is radically different from the temple.

The Temple was an important part of the Jewish worship of God. It represented the presence of God with his people and a place where folks could come to pray, praise, and sacrifice to God. Now it was Passover which was kept on the fourteenth day of Nisan, in commemoration of the Lord’s passing over any home that had its doorposts painted with the blood of a lamb, when he killed the firstborn of every household in Egypt. Jesus more than likely had gone to Jerusalem before and we know he was there when he was eleven teaching in the Temple courts. But now the Temple is being misused and desecrated by his own people. How would Jesus respond as he walked through the Temple?

READ: John 2:13-25

The event we are about to study in the life of Jesus had such a tremendous impact on the disciples that it is one of the few circumstances of Jesus’ ministry that is mentioned in all four Gospels. I believe it is because of how Jesus responds and how others viewed what he did there. We discover…

I. Jesus shows us his passion for the temple! (Vv. 13-17)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

1. We learn that “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Direction in the New Testament has to do with elevation and not direction such as north or south. So when “Jesus went up to Jerusalem” it means he traveled in elevation up toward Jerusalem which was where the Temple was built on Mt. Zion. John records what comes next early in Jesus’ ministry while the other Gospels record it happening toward the end of his ministry. Some think there could be two occasions where Jesus cleansed the Temple; however, it could also simply be the process of writing that folks in Jesus’ day used. They did not care so much when something actually occurred and were more concerned about sharing that it did indeed occurred. Either way, we find Jesus in Jerusalem at the Temple during Passover and it was there “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.” Jesus found this distressing. The place that was to be considered the most holy place on earth was being used to store and sell animals and for the exchange of differing currencies into Temple coins! All sacrifices had to be bought with Temple currency and the powers that be had a real racket going. Temple sacrifices had to be bought with the acceptable Tyrian coinage, and a high percentage was charged for changing coins. “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” They had desecrated that which was to be a holy place and turned it into a money-making scam! Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We would do well to ask ourselves if we desecrate the holy place of God on Sundays in order to make it more acceptable for ourselves rather than a place of worship. My grandmother would say that there should be a certain amount of decorum maintained. We would call it manners or respectability. Perhaps we have bought into the lie that since God lives in us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we can do anything we desire during worship. God did not live in a place made by human hands, nor does he live within the walls of a church building, yet when his people who are called by his name gather themselves together to worship, he is there. And what we do while we are there says a lot to the Lord about whether we honor him above all other things; things like lattes, the Internet, Facebook, texting, or other distractions we deem more important than focusing on him. Perhaps we need to overturn some of the tables in our lives so we can focus on what is truly important when we worship. Here, Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!

We no longer have holy passion and so we often expect our worship leaders, music ministers, or pastors to invoke in us the passion we lack. The sad truth is, no matter how emotional one gets, emotion never makes up for a true passion for the Lord. This is why we discover that…

II. Folks can misunderstand the true temple! (Vv. 18-22)

Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

1. When we get caught in our sin we can either respond one of two ways, either by repenting and turning to the Lord or by getting defensive and demanding God prove we were in sin. Sadly, far too often those caught in sin do the latter. This is exactly what the Jews do after Jesus upsets their ill-conceived con game. The Jews vehemently demand of Jesus, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Basically they are saying, “We know we are wrong in doing what we are doing, but what gives you the right to do what you did!?” They are trying to shift the blame for their sin to Jesus! Jesus would later remind these same hypocrites, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! (Matthew 12:39 NIV)” In fact he tells them that the only “sign” they are going to get is the one of Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 NIV)” And here Jesus bluntly answers them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus wanted them to think about his answer, but they were thickheaded and confused because of their sinfulness. When we are in sin we never want to admit it is our problem, that we should change, or that we do not understand the significance of our ungodly behavior. They respond, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” We may wonder at how dense these folks were, but how dense can we be in our response to our sinful condition? We know that “the temple he had spoken of was his body.” But that should not excuse our behavior. Notice that it was only “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.” What is the reason we are so confused? Folks can misunderstand the true Temple!

EXAMPLE: Paul would later remind his readers that “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)” Jesus didn’t cleanse the Temple because he thought God lived there, he cleansed it because it represented the place where God met with his people. Our lives in Christ are to be kept clean as well because we are now his temple, bought with a price, the blood of Jesus our personal sacrifice. When we hypocritically treat our lives in Christ with disdain, as the Jews did the Temple courts, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple!

Jesus cleanses the Temple area of animals and the money changers tables, but his time in Jerusalem was not done. He had other things to do. Jesus knew that the Hebrew nation was focused inward instead of on what mattered. They were to not only reach those who did not believe but they were honor God with their lives. The problem was and is that…

III. People often think they are the Temple! (Vv. 23-25)

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

1. Wow, the Jews just demanded of Jesus that he show them some miracle in order to justify his actions concerning their sins and now we read that “while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” Interestingly, John chose not to describe any of them. John’s interest is in introducing us to Jesus and showing us how others viewed him. Folks are often more interested in making themselves the center of the universe rather than God. And isn’t it fascinating while those who questioned him about overturning the money changers tables and demanded he give them some miracle to show he could do such a thing, could now see for themselves by the miracles he performed! I believe John deliberately gives us this piece of irony to show their hypocrisy. No matter how many miracles Jesus did, they probably would not have believed he was the Messiah! This is why “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” Jesus knew that people’s first inclination would be to make him into some kind of rallying point, to make him their political puppet king who would rescue them from their oppressors the Romans. Later, they try to do this on several other occasions, however, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15 NIV)” Those who opposed Jesus would falsely declare that Jesus wanted to make himself king! When Jesus was asked by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate, “Are you the king of the Jews?” meaning was he declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36 NIV)” Temporary fame or excitement over his miracles would soon fade because people would just demand more and more, kind of like those who hike clear around the Sea of Galilee in order to get more food from him! Therefore, “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” People often think of themselves as the Temple!

EXAMPLE: We may say we worship Jesus or that we believe in God, but what we do next can say a whole lot about what we truly believe. When we show up for worship expecting God to “bless” us because we happened to be there; when we are haphazard with our prayers and demand God listen when we have a need; or when we know more about episodes of The Walking Dead than we know about books of the Bible perhaps we think God should revolve around us. Maintaining a way of life had become more important to the spiritual leadership of Jesus’ day than knowing the Messiah! And this was the problem just as it is today, people often think of themselves as the Temple! It is time we stop focusing on ourselves and begin to focus on what God desires; people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

Conclusion:

Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple, and sometimes people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!

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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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 7, 2014

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:1-5 NIV)

I was just wondering what it means to adhere to denominational authority and doctrinal integrity. In our day many believers have fallen for the theological heretical fad of non-denominationalism whereby their creed screams, “We don’t believe in anything except Jesus!” However, there is an inherent doctrinal disease that infects this kind of personal theology. I was recently reminded of C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity.” Some incorrectly think Lewis was an advocate of non-denominationalism, but nothing is further from the truth. He was a devout born again Episcopalian. Notice what he wrote, “I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of existing communities – as if man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open to several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I have attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.” The hall for Lewis was non-denominationalism and the doors were the denominations. The hall was no place to live. He, like Paul, was reminding his readers that there is a huge danger in thinking that one does not need foundation for their faith. The fires of the truth, the chairs of orthodox theology, and the fellowship of like-minded meals are found in the foundational truths of denominations, not in the hallways of non-denominationalism. Just as Paul wanted to remind his readers of the foundation of their faith, this is why denominations are so important. We may have been sold a bill of goods that denominations snuff the Spirit, which never has been true. We then open ourselves to willingly swallow the tacit twittering that non-denominations are mere Christianity unencumbered by the stodginess of corporate denominations. The danger is in the future generations that the heretical germ of non-denominationalism infects. It is slow cultural Christian cancer. The biblical truth that one reaps what one sows comes to fruition in generations brought up without the foundational truths prayerfully hammered out over centuries and common fellowship that denominations and their foundational doctrines bring. Jude, Jesus brother, wrote about how Godless men had crept into the church to infect it with their own theology, claiming they knew the truth. He passionately wrote, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 1:3 NIV) Non-denominationalism focuses on the self, it has to in order to justify itself and its willingness to leave behind orthodoxy. It whispers, like the snake in the Garden did to Eve, to the basest theological sins of the human heart; namely, we know what is best for ourselves. In our rush to make Jesus about ourselves and our worship as an emotional response for the moment, perhaps we have not held firmly, contended for the faith of Jude and the truth Paul preached and denominations have kept. Makes one wonder…

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