Sunday, March 24, 2019

Vows, revenge, and enemies! – Matthew 5:33-48

Vows, revenge, and enemies! – Matthew 5:33-48
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 24, 2019

Foul language, disrespect, arrogance and revengeful attitudes have become a societal norm. So much so you have those who actually think that you can dictate through laws how to make people act respectful toward one another. The Washington State Legislature is considering a law that would enforce rules against bullying in schools. Believe me it will not stop the perceived problem they are trying to solve. Laws are a Band-Aid approach to a deeper problem.

Remember Jesus was trying to get his audience to realize that it isn’t what comes out of a person that matters as much as what is inside a person. Jesus taught that “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45 NIV)” That which is “stored up” inside of us is what truly shows the world what we believe when it comes flowing out of us. This is why Jesus now addresses the issues of vows, revenge, and how one treats their enemies…

READ: Matthew5:33-48

For some the old adage “A promise made is a promise kept” still means something while for others it is simply something you say in order to get people to feel good about you. Words mean things. My Dad would teach us that “A man is only as good as his word” and when you make an oath or promise it means something to those you make it to and you keep it. Jesus taught that…

I. Our words should be our bond! (Vv. 33-37)

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

  1. Jesus continues with their distorted view of how they taught the Law: “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’” To make an oath meant that you were willing to abide by what you promised to do, however, by Jesus’ time people actually thought that if they did not use God’s name or anything pertaining to him, like the temple, they could get away with breaking their vows. Jesus is relating that nothing could be further from the truth. While the Pharisees were quick to make a vow they were just as quick to ignore them if it no longer suited them and they would deliberately use certain wording so they could not be held accountable when they broke their promises! If it sounds like a lawyer it should because the means of using the right phrase to escape liability was an art form for them! God detested it then just as he does now! They would say things like “By Jerusalem the holy city” or “as heaven is my witness” knowing all along that they were already thinking of how they could break their oath because they had not actually been bound by using God’s real name! It’s kind of like when people use “Jimmie Crickets” or “gosh darn” instead of Jesus’ or God’s name when they swear. Don’t they realize that God looks at the intent? Jesus was not fooled by their turning of a phrase and tells the crowd, “But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.” Words matter and when you make a promise you should keep it because of who you are and whom you represent: The Lord! This is why Jesus tells them to keep it simple and to not try to fool anyone: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” As believers our words should be our bond!

  EXAMPLE: “Don’t make a promise you can’t keep” my father once told me. He was correct because a person is only as good as their word. In our day we have forgotten just how important our words can be. Teenagers have learned that a few snarky words posted online can destroy one’s reputation. Far too often we hear politicians using words to escape taking a stand on issues or to be held accountable. I have even seen and heard this in Christian churches where folks are nice to one’s face but use hurtful words when describing the person to others. “Bless their hearts.” Jesus boldly taught that as his disciples our words should be our bond!

Revenge has become something to be admired in movies, video games, books, and TV but in real life it can get you jail time. The latest mass shootings are a form of revenge perpetrated by their attacker on people they seek to do harm against in order to justify their distorted worldview. In a further discussion on favorite sayings concerning the notion of revenge we find Jesus teaching that…

II. Personal payback should be replaced by compassion! (Vv. 38-42) 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

  1. We think we’ve got it bad when our Internet goes down or our cell connection drops and we want someone to be responsible for it! Recently millennials were asked what they thought was the worst thing that could happen to them and most said not getting any “likes” on a personal post! We say that bullying has no place in our society yet we have fostered it by allowing bullies to not suffer the consequences of their actions. Instead of allowing for payback Jesus teaches us something quite radical. He again reminds his listeners, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’” Jesus was referring to several Old Testament passages: “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21 NIV)” They were called the lex talionis, the law of retaliation. This law was given to protect the innocent and to make sure retaliation did not occur beyond the offense. The Pharisees used this as a means to extract vengeance on those that disagreed with them or those they disliked for whatever reason. Jesus however dramatically changes this by relating, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.” He could not be serious, could he? Jesus’ disciples had to be different than the rest of the world. Pay back or vengeance was not to be a part of their lives. God’s children are to be changed and practice his righteousness, compassion, and humility. So Jesus continues by telling his astonished listeners, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” What Jesus is asking his followers to do was humanly impossible for them to do without the presence of Jesus in their lives. Any Roman soldier could enlist anyone to carry his pack for a certain distance and now Jesus is telling them that they should actually carry it even further without being asked!? Yes and even farther! Jesus also wanted them to not lend money or anything else to one another but instead give freely from their heart! Personal payback should be replaced by compassion!

  EXAMPLE: There is a famous scene from the movie Princes Bride where Spanish pirate Inigo Montoya longs to find the mysterious six-fingered man who scarred his face and murdered his father. He has spent his entire life training to be a master swordsman, endlessly rehearsing the words he will speak to the murderer when he finds him. Montoya’s moment arrives when he encounters the sadistic Count Rugen, the six-fingered man. Over and over, he says the words: “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” He kills his nemesis but realizes he can’t have his father back by doing so; Jesus teaches us that personal payback should be replaced by compassion!

I find it astonishing that it seems easier for some folks to go around the world than across the street to be neighborly. In the continuation of Jesus’ discussion concerning oaths he faces head on his society’s idea of who constituted their “neighbor” just who they should consider being friendly with or doing something for. Interestingly we do the very same thing. We discover Jesus teaching us that…

III. Our adversary should become our prayer concern! (Vv. 43-48)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

  1. The Pharisees had taught contrary to what God commanded to hate their enemies so Jesus reminds his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” They had either forgotten or deliberately neglected what God had actually told them: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 NIV)” Instead of getting angry, wanting retribution, or hating their enemies God desired something extraordinary: “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” His disciples were to be like him! If they were to be the children of God they needed to act like his children but this was impossible without Jesus in their lives! It was totally inconceivable for the Pharisees to care about anyone else but their own but God was not like them. He loves everyone even when they do not love him! In fact “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” So Jesus begins to ask them a series of questions to make them think about whom they really followed, their ungodly teachers or would they listen to him? “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” The Pharisees could not even think they were to be kind to tax-collectors or their enemies! Yet Jesus relates that even the unbelieving pagans could be kind and compassionate to their enemies unlike the Pharisees! Jesus’ followers were to be different than the Pharisees! They were to be better and in fact they were to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Of course it was impossible until they gave their faith and trust to Jesus but when that happens, Jesus is tacitly teaching us that our adversary should become our prayer concern!

  EXAMPLE: When was the last time you prayed for your enemy? Not the coined phrase whereby we try to escape the requirement of compassion and pray, “Lord, you have your will with them” but rather where you earnestly and deliberately pray for those who seek to do you harm. When was the last time you went out of your way to help someone you dislike? Have you ever given someone money without ever expecting anything in return? We all want recognition for the help we give or the money we lend but Jesus says we should not. In fact Jesus related that our adversary should become our prayer concern!

Conclusion:

Our words should be our bond! Personal payback should be replaced by compassion! Our adversary should become our prayer concern!
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This article is copyrighted © 2019 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.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Lust and love! – Matthew 5:27-32

Lust and love! – Matthew 5:27-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 17, 2013

Our society as a whole often confuses lust and love. It has become more of a concern because we have begun to endorse and even encourage perverted lifestyles because we have blurred the lines between the two. Young children are often caught in the crosshairs of politically correct garbage rather than the truth. Some are undergoing chemical, physical, and emotional sex changes in order to sooth the ungodly consciences of adults. Sadly we will reap the consequences of such ungodly and perverted politically correctness.

Here in Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus meeting head on the age old ungodliness of sexuality. He confronts how people viewed marriage and sexual relationships. With the Internet and the rise of pornography addiction we need to look again at what Jesus taught about lust and love and why…

READ: Matthew 5:27-32

We must remind ourselves that here in the beatitudes Jesus deliberately used extreme examples in order to gain the crowd’s attention. He wanted them to be shocked to their senses in order for them to begin to think about their worldview and whether they actually lived for the Lord or not. We discover…

I. The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical! (Vv. 27-30)

You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

  1. There is more to one’s faith than just feeling good about one’s self. If all we needed to do was a few good things once in a while in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves Jesus did not have to come to earth, walk among us, cruelly suffer and die on a cross, and be raised from the dead! We could do Habitat for Humanity, join the Peace Corps, or mow the widow’s lawn next door. Marching for a cause may make you feel good and show the world you’re serious about something but the intent of your heart is what God truly looks at. It is this intent that gets most of us into trouble. This is exactly why Jesus focuses the crowd by reminding them that “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’” Jesus was referencing Exodus 20:14 where God gave the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” The Pharisees knew the commandments and meticulously followed them but they had totally missed the point, just as many believers do in our day! They were only concerned with the outward act. God is not as concerned with the outward act as he is concerned for the inner heart of a person. This is why James, Jesus’ brother would write: “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15 NIV)” Jesus goes on to relate, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Wow! We need to be aware of where our hearts (everything that makes us who we are) resides because the cure can be far worse than the cause: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Was Jesus advocating dismembering or disfiguring one’s body to resolve their sin condition? Nope, what he was doing was focusing on the enormity of the power of sin in one’s life! The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical!

  EXAMPLE: There’s an old story about a country doctor who gave his patient a total examination, he scratched his head in bewilderment, and asked, “Have you had this before?” When the patient answered, “Yes,” the doctor wrinkled his brow and said, “Well, you’ve got it again.” There’s nothing as frustrating as a problem that defies diagnosis. What a relief it is to find a skilled doctor who can say with confidence, “This is your problem and this treatment will help.” Jesus as the Great Physician has given us the cure for the ultimate disease! We discover there that the cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical and in Jesus we have the cure!

When we sin we often forget what it destroys relationships, our self-esteem, and our standing with a holy God! Lust can destroy our marriage as well. The ungodly view of marriage in Jesus’ day had left many women destitute simply because their ungodly husbands had treated them so horrendously. Here we discover…

II. Marriage is sacred! (Vv. 31-32)

It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

  1. Nothing in our society today has suffered as much as marriage. Contrary to what some would have you believe, divorce is not the same among believing Christians and the world. In Jesus’ day the view of women was completely ungodly. They were basically relegated to being the property of men. God had never intended the relationship between a husband and wife to be seen this way or to be practiced the way it was during the lifetime of Jesus. Believe me he is just as disgusted with how we view marriage. While we may not see women as property how both men and women have disdained the sacredness of marriage is disgusting. Jesus goes right to the heart of the issue during his day by relating, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’” Jesus was introducing his argument with a well known truth. Among the Jewish leaders were two schools of thought regarding divorce: 1) There were those who said it was permissible for a husband to divorce his wife for any reason at all like burning the soup or keeping a messy house, but the other group 2) said divorce was permissible only for a major offense. In Jesus’ response, the Lord strongly taught that marriage is viewed by God as a special relationship between a man and a woman and the Lord! Jesus was not giving us specific regulations to adhere to concerning marriage but rather he was teaching how horrible their view of their marriage vow was! Notice what he tells them: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Improperly trying to dispose of one’s wife was tacitly making her sin and that sin was just as horrendous! Again Jesus is trying to help people see that the intent of a person’s heart was extremely important to God. When we marry someone we are giving them our lives and it is similar to us giving our lives to God! When later asked by the nearsighted Pharisees if it was okay for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason, Jesus replied, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law… but at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will ‘become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. (Mark 10:5-9 NIV)” In fact when a man and a woman marry it is a sacred commitment and should not be disdained or handled improperly!

  EXAMPLE: There are those that think that by simply living together they can bypass the sacredness of marriage and ignore what God teaches us about this relationship. They are wrong because when they do they are committing adultery. And there is no reason for the couple to stay together or to be committed to being faithful. Interestingly it was recently disclosed that Ciara and Russell Wilson remained abstinent until after their wedding, and now the singer is opening up about the couple's decision, explaining that it wasn't easy. “That took a lot of prayer,” the 33-year-old admitted to InStyle in a recent interview. “It was hard. I can't lie.” The star, who graced the fashion magazine's April cover issue, had previously spoken about her and Wilson's decision, noting that “you shouldn't feel like you have to give your body away to get someone to like you.” God sees it as something special and when you give yourself away before being totally committed you will suffer the consequences of that decision. Jesus taught that marriage is sacred!

Conclusion:

The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical and that marriage is sacred!
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This article is copyrighted © 2019 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.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

Anger! – Matthew 5:21-26

Anger! – Matthew 5:21-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 10, 2019

Angry words can never be taken back. Society’s standard of foul and angry words has declined in recent years, but we don’t have to decline with it, we should think about how to honor God with our speech. We please the Lord with our tongue when we show discernment. Proverbs 10:19 reminds us that “He who restrains his lips is wise”. When we do speak, we are to filter the words that escape our lips: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23 NIV). Paul’s warns us to “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).

How can we keep our anger contained? How do we remain calm in a world that seems to be filled with hatred, evil, and ungodly behavior? Jesus in the Beatitudes sets an almost impossible situation where we are to speak right and think right all the time. Jesus did this to startle his listeners and to shock them into listening to what he was teaching about himself. And here he gives us some practical advice on what to do when we get angry with one another. Let’s discover what Jesus teaches…

READ: Matthew 5:21-26

A young lady remarked, “As I was reading the text message on my phone, my temperature started to rise and my blood began to boil. I was on the verge of shooting back a nasty answer when an inner voice told me to cool down and reply tomorrow. The next morning after a good night’s sleep, the issue that had upset me so greatly seemed so trivial.” In dealing with anger Jesus teaches us…

I. We can murder others with our angry words! (Vv. 21-22)

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.

     1. Jesus reminds the crowd and his disciples of the commandments of God. He relates, “You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’” “You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13 NIV)” Jesus was also commenting on some of the prevailing opinions among the Jewish leadership of his day to show that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was defective. Remember he had just related that if their righteousness did not exceed that of the Pharisees they would not see the kingdom of heaven. The people needed a better righteousness or they could not be saved. Jesus illustrates what he meant by that better righteous-ness by showing that the common opinions of the scribes were incorrect. This is why he immediately remarks, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Jesus is equating a person’s irrational anger to that being the same as murder! The Pharisees thought it perfectly okay and even righteous to be angered at the Romans or anyone who did not agree with them; this is how they could later justify murdering Jesus and using the Romans to do their dirty work! Jesus understood that irrational anger could lead a person to totally dismiss those one disliked and thereby “murder” them. He continues by reminding them that “Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin.” God views all human life as sacred and to dismiss someone by calling them a “fool” was the height of arrogance and yet the Pharisees did it all the time. “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” To God it demonstrates one’s intent and the sinfulness of their heart and was in danger of being condemned to hell, “Gehenna” meaning valley of Hinnom, the valley south of Jerusalem where fires consumed the city’s garbage. This became an apt name for the eternal punishment of the wicked. Jesus is reminding us that we can murder others with our angry words!

  EXAMPLE: On the playground is not uncommon for children to get into arguments. We may think it is childish and just part of growing up but words can be hurtful and especially name calling. When adults carelessly use ungodly references or names for others it is just as childish and ungodly. Regretfully, I must confess that I am often tempted to respond in anger more than I would like to admit. I constantly find myself having to put into practice familiar Bible truths, such as “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV). Thankfully, God has given us his Spirit who will assist us in our battle with our sin. Peter and Paul called it the “sanctifying work of the Spirit” (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2 NIV). We need to remember that we can murder others with our angry words!

Jesus could have just given his listeners an admonishment for their bad behavior and then let it go but he then gives them how they can resolve the issue of angry words used in haste. Jesus continued by teaching that…

II. We can be reconciled for our angry words! (Vv. 23-24)

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

  1. Jesus is not giving us a set of rules we have to put into effect in order to be forgiven by God. Sadly there are those who actually think that this is exactly what Jesus was doing but he is not. What Jesus begins to do is to teach us through example how we are to come before God when we do sin and how we are to treat one another when we act horrendously. The Pharisees were intent only on the external act in worship. They looked not at all to the internal state of the individual. If a man conformed to the external rites of religion, however much envy, and malice, and secret hatred he might have, they thought he was doing well. Jesus taught a different doctrine. It was of more consequence to have the heart right than to perform the outward act. How many of us have been dismissive of our parents, our children, siblings, neighbors, or fellow believers? How could anyone say they love God and yet harbor in their heart ill feelings toward another? We could never go to worship! Jesus puts it in a way everyone could fully understand. He related “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.” I must insert here that Jesus will later tell us what the two greatest commandments of God are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (and to)… Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV)”! Here he is sharing how they could do this when they realize that they have offended another by their hateful words. If they realized it they were stop what they were doing, even if was going to worship God, and “First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” This would have been shocking behavior to the Pharisees who thought their worship was far more important than anything including people’s view of them! What Jesus is describing here is not the actual act we are to do but rather how we are to respond when we realize we have offended someone else with angry words. And in his example Jesus is teaching us that we can be reconciled for our angry words!

  EXAMPLE: “Now go and tell your brother that you are sorry” my father admonished me. My retort was, “What if he doesn’t care?” My dad reminded me that I had been given only one brother and that I would always be his brother no matter what. It did not matter how he responded but rather how I acted. And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover a wonderful picture of how we can readily approach God anytime we have sinned! It does not matter where we are we can come before him and be forgiven! Also if we say we love God but do not care about those we have offended then what does that truly say about our love of God? This is where the Pharisees failed but Jesus pointed to a new covenant of reconciliation between us and God and one another! We can be reconciled for our angry words!

Words mean things. If they didn’t then we would not use them to express ourselves. This is why Jesus knew that words said in anger can truly be hurtful and can literally “murder” another’s character. As believers we need to be careful of our words and anger. Jesus teaches us that…

III. Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment! (Vv. 25-26)

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

  1. The consequence of not being reconciled Jesus expresses in the language of courts. The adversary (the one you offended or perhaps God himself who becomes our adversary when we do not confess our sin) shall deliver us to the judge, and then to the executioner and he shall throw us into prison! If we are unwilling to be at peace with others how will God deal with us? God’s dealings with those that harbored these feelings towards those who would not be reconciled with their fellow believers results in the example of punishment inflicted by human courts! That is, he would hold us as violating the sixth commandment and would punish us accordingly. Murdering someone can occur when we willingly know we have sinned and refuse to confess our sin or be forgiven by others! We should therefore “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.” It is like when I would call my brother a stinky name and I knew as soon as I did I had better say I was “sorry” and mean it or suffer the consequences! Jesus related if we did not immediately do what we know we are supposed to do in such a situation we could suffer the consequences: “Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.” Jesus is not suggesting that the believer will never be forgiven and thereby end up in hell for an eternity, because we know this to be patently false. What Jesus is teaching is the seriousness of our angry words and our ungodly actions! His disciples, his followers, were to act differently than even the pious Pharisees! God wanted us to be holy because he is holy and he knew this was totally impossible because we are ungodly in our attitudes and actions! It is only through the shed blood of Jesus we are made holy and can be seen as righteous! We could surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees in Jesus! Our ungodly anger will lead us to an eternity in prison: “I tell you the truth you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” We can never pay the debt we own without Jesus’ sacrifice! Unless we take care of it through our faith in Jesus our unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!

  EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes: “A friend told me about the time he was watching football on TV as his young daughter played nearby. Angered by his team’s bad play, he grabbed the closest thing and threw it down. His little girl’s favorite toy was shattered, along with her heart. My friend immediately embraced his daughter and apologized. He replaced the toy and thought all was well. But he didn’t know how much his fury had frightened his 4-year-old, and she didn’t know the depth of her pain. In time, however, forgiveness came. Years later he sent an identical toy to his daughter when she was expecting a baby. She posted a photo of the toy on Facebook with the words, ‘This gift has a very long story going back to my childhood. It wasn’t a happy story then, but it has a happy ending now! Redemption is a beautiful thing. Thanks, Grandpa!’” When we are the victim of anger, God asks us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (v.32). Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!

Restored relationships are not easy, but they are possible by the grace of God.

Conclusion:

We can murder others with our angry words! We can be reconciled for our angry words! Unreconciled anger will lead to judgment!
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This article is copyrighted © 2019 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.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Fulfilled! – Matthew 5:17-20

Fulfilled! – Matthew 5:17-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 3, 2019

We have all heard the phrase, “the letter of the law”. It means that the law must be followed exactly in how it is written and not simply interpreted however someone wants it to be or whenever they want it to be. It is the old argument over the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words of the law, but not necessarily the intent of those who wrote the law. The problem comes when one tries to interpret what those who wrote it intended because then it is often tainted by the one wanting to interpret it.

The Jewish spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day had done quite a number on the Law of Moses and often spent hours, days, months, and years interpreting what they thought God meant. We see this kind of spiritual legal dance in today’s Catholic Church or in mainline liberal denominations like Episcopalian, Lutherans, or Methodist. Most theologically conservative Baptist churches see the Bible as the individual’s guide to how God interacts with humanity and how we are to live. Jesus turned the Jewish world upside down in the following verses where he describes himself as the fulfillment of the law of God. Let’s learn today what he said and why…

READ: Matthew 5:17-20

If you were given a set of rules and regulations that guaranteed your safety, comfort, and eternity wouldn’t you want to follow those guidelines? Now what if everything you believed and followed was about to change? Here we find Jesus…

I. Accomplishing the plan of God! (Vv. 17-18)

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

  1. This part of Jesus’ sermon presents the heart of his message because it demonstrates Jesus’ relationship to the Law of God. Jesus was not merely presenting a rival system to the Law of Moses and the words of the Prophets but a true fulfillment of it. This is why he tells them, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” For centuries the Law of Moses had directed every aspect of the Jewish nation; how they viewed themselves within the rest of the world, how they saw their relationship with God, and what they were about as God’s chosen people. Isaiah related that “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8 NIV)” Now we hear Jesus reminding his listeners that God’s plan would be finished but perhaps not in the way they thought it would be. He had come into the world to complete the Law of God. Jesus bluntly tells them, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” When Jesus related “I tell you the truth” he uses the word “Amen”. It is a serious and formal pronouncement by Jesus. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that “Jesus’ fulfillment would extend to the smallest Hebrew letter, the “jot” (lit., yôd), and even to the smallest stroke of a Hebrew letter, the “tittle.” In English a jot would correspond to the dot above the letter “i” (and look like an apostrophe), and a tittle would be seen in the difference between a “P” and an “R”. The small angled line that completes the “R” is like a tittle. These things are important because letters make up words and even a slight change in a letter might change the meaning of a word.” The tiniest and smallest part of the law would be utterly completely fulfilled by Jesus! This was God’s plan all along. Jesus reminds us that he is about accomplishing the plan of God!
  Example: Whenever Jesus uses the term “Law and the Prophets” he used a common term that meant the entire Word of God from Genesis to Malachi! We would simply say, “All of it”; like my father who came home one afternoon and asked my brother and I why we did not do “all of it” that my mother asked us to do. We knew he meant everything she had asked us to do during the day. There was no confusion on our part because we understood exactly what my father meant. The same was true for Jesus when he used the terminology he did. Jesus wanted his listeners to know he was about accomplishing the plan of God!

How in the world can human beings be good enough for another let alone heaven? We know that from the very first days of our lives we are selfish and rebellious lot. We learn to say the words “no” or “mine” almost before anything else and here we find Jesus…

II. Reminding everyone of their spiritual situation! (Vv. 19-20)

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

  1. The Pharisees had become so completely immersed in the Law of Moses that they had become unworldly. What I mean is they became almost worthless to the rest of mankind. They were the closest Jewish representation of spiritual hermits there was at that time. A hermit is a person who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons. Hermits are a part of several sects of Christianity, and the concept is found in other religions as well. The Pharisees became shut off from the people and world around them, like hermits. And even though their goal was to draw closer to God by following their strict codes they had derived from the law, they had failed miserably. While they tithed even to the tenth of their spices and herbs found in their cupboards they neglected justice and the love of God. In fact Jesus later would bluntly tell them, “you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them (Luke 11:46 NIV)”! They weighted the people’s lives down with useless lists of what to do and what not to do. So when Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” they would immediately wonder who in the world could ever do that? No one was perfect not even the Pharisees let alone the common folk! Like Catholicism does now with mortal and venial sins the Pharisees had divided the law into greater and lesser offenses but Jesus related they were all important! Sin is sin and breaking God’s law whether it was deemed by man to be greater or lesser did not matter! The key was “whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven”! They would have instantly thought of the Pharisees, surely they were “good” enough to do so? Yet Jesus immediately related, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Surpasses the Pharisees? Who could do that? In what he was teaching Jesus was reminding everyone of their spiritual situation!

  EXAMPLE: It is easy to forget that no matter what we think about ourselves what truly matters is what does God think? A good parent encourages and mentors their children and does not leave it up to others to do. Jesus wanted his disciples to be the best they could possibly be and to understand that God did indeed love them but they needed to understand their sinful condition kept them from his love. Jesus therefore took time in reminding everyone of their spiritual situation!

Conclusion:

Accomplishing the plan of God! Reminding everyone of their spiritual situation!
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This article is copyrighted © 2019 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.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Salt and light – Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and light – Matthew 5:13-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 24, 2019

What would you consider the absolute necessities of life after food and water? For some it might be their cell phone, big screen TV, clothes or shoes. One of things that help put perspective on what you value in life is to do an extensive list of your top 50 priorities. It can show you in a very real way what you value in life and what you focus on or not.

In Jesus’ day a couple of absolute necessities were two things we often take for granted, salt and light. Salt was used for many things from seasoning, preservative, sterilization of wounds, and as currency. It was considered an absolute staple for everyday life. Light was a means of continuing to work later, see your way, keep warm and keep out the darkness of night and long winters. Jesus understood the dependence and importance folks of his day placed on these two things; let’s discover how he uses salt and light this morning…

READ: Matthew 5:13-16

According to the urban dictionary a person who is “salty” means they are being rude, upset, angry, or bitter all the time. However when fellow sailors use it with one another as in “stay salty” it means to have a salty layer on one’s person because of their constant exposure to the ocean and here we learn that…

I. Believers are to remain salty! (Vv. 13)

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

  1. It is an old adage or phrase we have heard and used for centuries but it was Jesus who first used it in the context he did when he addressed his disciples and the crowd. He tells them, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt was often mined from the ground or produced from an evaporation process from the ocean. The purer the salt the better it was and the more expensive it was. Pure salt was highly prized. While many today are trying to get as much salt out of their diet as they can, most people during Jesus’ day prized it for its preservative and seasoning powers. Jesus reminds his listeners that they are the common folks that make up most of the world. Just as salt was a common necessity so were they as far as God was concerned. He valued them for who they were. But he knew like everyone else of his day knew that “if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” The answer is that it could not. In fact the storage of salt was just as important for traders, businessmen, the Roman army (which used it as pay) and others. Huge salt cellars were often dug out of the side of mountains where moisture could not leech it away; but as good as they tried to store it some of it would leach away and leave behind the minerals that did not evaporate. The salt would become worthless. If they lost their “saltiness”, their godly flavor, they could not automatically be made salty again either. In fact salt was “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men”! Jesus was referring to the fact that leached out salt where it was mostly dirt or minerals were no longer good for seasoning or as a preservative. In fact, it could be dangerous and so this kind of worthless salt was thrown on the roads where it killed the invasive vegetation and was walked on by man and beast! If God’s people, lost their godliness, they could not be made godly again could they? This is the inference Jesus was making. Most would have agreed with Jesus’ assessment of salt and them. His disciples were to be the salt of the earth, seasoning the world with his gospel message! They were to be careful to not lose their saltiness, the message they would declare could not be allowed to be diluted or spiritually evaporated away! Jesus’ warning was clear, believers are to remain salty!

  EXAMPLE: Recently I watched a YouTube video by Destin of Smarter Everyday about making his brain relearn how to ride a backwards bicycle. He related that “truth is truth and knowledge does not equal understanding”. He is correct. We may think we know the truth or that we are knowledgeable because we are educated. Yet Jesus came to show us the truth and still people decide not to believe him. If folks did not believe Jesus they would not believe his disciples either. The truth is people often think they know better but in reality they don’t. Truth is truth no matter what one believes and we may think we know something but in reality not understand the truth at all. Jesus related, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32 NIV)” Here Jesus teaches us that believers are to remain salty!

Being able to illuminate one’s home was often considered an extravagance in Jesus’ day because oil or tallow was expensive. And the lights during this time were not that great but even in the darkest room a little light was a welcome thing. Here we discover that…

II. Believers are to enlighten the world around them! (Vv. 14-16)

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

  1. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples “You are the light of the world.” Notice Jesus does not say that all people are the light of the world, only his disciples or followers were. He was referring to the fact that the world at large is a sin-darkened place. Those who are in the world cannot spiritually see without the light of God in their lives and they would be the light of God. And just as “A city on a hill cannot be hidden” they could not hide the fact of who they were once they decided to follow Jesus. It is an offhanded reference to the Holy Spirit residing in someone who would trust him with their lives. Of course this would not be evident or available until after Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12 NIV)” and this is why the Apostle Paul would write, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)” Jesus’ disciples however could not hide the fact of the Spirit of God living in them! So, just as a city on a hill could not be hidden “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” They were to share the light of God; his gospel with the world. People are attracted to the love of God that is found in Jesus. His compassion, gentleness, kindness, and ability to cross any social, racial, or economic barrier made him attractive to the crowds. As his disciples we are in a sense to be attractive as well: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Faith in Jesus without kindness, compassion, or gentleness displayed in one’s life is “dead” as James, Jesus’ brother, would later write. Believers are to enlighten the world around them!

  EXAMPLE: In Clark County we get our electricity from several different sources: wind, water, solar, and natural gas. With the invention of better lighting it has revolutionized homes and industry. People began to have free time, they could read, play games, study, or do extra work. We can now light our homes at a fraction of the cost compared to when I was a child. In fact we have so much light it can be seen from space! Interestingly the idea of light became synonymous with combating the darkness of sin and here we are told by Jesus that believers are to enlighten the world around them!

Conclusion:

Believers are to remain salty! Believers are to enlighten the world around them!
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This article is copyrighted © 2019 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.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Happiness is… - Matthew 5:1-12

Happiness is… - Matthew 5:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 17, 2019

Folks look for happiness in many ways in our day and age. Some use exercise, sports, food, money, recreation or other activities in order to find happiness while others may look to spirituality, religion, or philosophy to try to find personal happiness. The Bible teaches us that happiness in life is not truly found until one first finds God and develops a relationship with him.

People in Jesus’ day were not much different from us except they lived more of a day to day existence. Daily food and water, safety and personal health were of the foremost concerns of their lives. Most individuals did not live past their late 40s and just about any illness could be disastrous. Purchasing or growing food and getting clean water were also daily concerns; much of their happiness in life centered on these simple things. And all of it revolved around their relationship with God. So in the following teachings of Jesus we discover what happiness is; let’s find out what Jesus taught and what he meant.

READ: Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus begins his ministry by teaching people what it meant for God to be in their midst. Never forget that up until Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection no one could be saved by faith alone. God had always desired it to be that way but people proved to be a frustrating lot and God gave them laws and sacrifices to follow. Jesus begins by teaching…

I. We are kingdom material! (Vv. 1-4)

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  1. Wanting those he had chosen to develop their full understanding of who he was and what he was about Jesus begins by teaching them some eternal truths. We discover that “when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.” When my father wanted us to pay attention to what he was trying to teach us he would call us to his side so we would focus on what he had to share. Jesus was like this as well. He gets away from the crowds, goes up on a mountainside (hill for us here in the Northwest) and sat down so his followers could hear him better. We discover that in fact “His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them”. This was a common means rabbis used for teaching their students or disciples. We understand that the crowd gathered around the edges of the disciples and listened in as well to what Jesus was teaching. Jesus began by telling them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus begins here because I believe he was building a foundation. Folks wanted to know if God cared about them. “Am I good enough for God to love me?” (Hasn’t changed much has it?) The Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees taught them strict religious rules and regulations instead. Jesus was not teaching them a set of guidelines to follow but rather how God saw them and how he could change them. If they realized their impoverished spirituality, they would be good candidates for the kingdom of heaven! In fact Jesus continued by telling them “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Everyone has experienced some kind of personal loss but it was more evident in the lives of the poor; especially those who understood their circumstance. If one was willing to “mourn” for their spiritual loss or poverty, they would be “comforted” by God! If they understood how much God loved them they would be more willing to follow him. God loved them for who they were not their position in life. If we are willing to see our spiritual poverty and grieve over over our condition we are kingdom material!   

  EXAMPLE: I learned from my mother-in-law that you had to have patience and use only the best ingredients in order for whatever you were cooking to turn out consistently good. Too often people think that God could never forgive them or love them because of who they are or what they have done. God loves us and willingly came to walk with us and to show us the way back to him. In fact we learn from his words that we are kingdom material!

When my mother wanted us to truly understand what she was telling us she would ask, “What did I just tell you?” Our answers would reflect if we had been listening or not! Jesus continued with his disciples and the crowd by developing what he meant by their spiritual poverty. Jesus teaches that when we realize our spiritual condition…

II. We can become the children of God! (Vv. 5-8)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

  1. Jesus understood that those who realized their spiritual position in life would be more able to receive his gospel message! So he continued by telling them that “Blessed (or happy) are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. Meekness here is not weakness as some would have you believe. Rather it is a positional. Like a powerful horse controlled by tiny reins we are to control ourselves. It is like when one entered the throne room of a king he would willingly bow down low to the ground to display his position of humility before his king. If we want to inherit the kingdom of heaven we have to be willing to be meek in our attitude and not think of ourselves as more than we are then we “will inherit the earth”! Earth here is a familiar term every farmer in the crowd would understand because they worked it daily. In Genesis because of Adam’s sin the earth would yield its fruit at a very high cost; but because of Jesus our inheritance in heaven would be an existence without hard labor! In fact, Jesus continued by relating, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Instead of spiritual hunger the sons of God would experience fullness! Little did Jesus’ listeners realize that this would be through the power and presence of the Spirit of God! He would become our living water and our daily bread! Jesus continued, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” And since God’s “mercy” is given to us as his children we should therefore show his mercy to others as well! Jesus goes on to relate that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” If we are pure we would know and see God! The heart here means who we totally are as a person. How could we be pure or holy in all we are; isn’t that impossible? And yes it is without Jesus yet he is the one who would make peace between us and God! Therefore happy or “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” As God’s sons and daughters we are to bring his peace to others. We can become the children of God!

  EXAMPLE: I know my folks did not always want to claim us as their kids all the time, especially when we got into trouble. I remember having to walk home after school realizing that my father already knew about how I had been sent to the principal’s office. There are times in the lives of parents when they wished their kids belonged to someone else. It’s normal. How good to know then that God has provided a way for us to be called his children. It should humble us, give us strength, help us to display kindness toward others, because we know God and bring his message of peace to the world! How good to know we can become the children of God!

We all like to be thanked once in a while when we do something for someone else. It’s a nice surprise when someone thanks you for opening a door or giving up your place in line for them; you know what I mean. However not everything we do justifies a thank you and not everything we do as believers will beings us a prize, however, we discover that…

III. We will inherit a great reward! (Vv. 9-12)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  1. When we become part of God’s family it changes us. And when we are changed we become different than the rest of the world around us. Because of Jesus we will be persecuted for what we believe. Jesus taught his disciples not to be surprised by this fact. He tells them, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If we are mistreated or disdained because of what we believe it means we have been made righteous because of our faith! We are different from the world around us and our kingdom is not of this world! There are only two kinds of folks: Those who know God and those who don’t. In fact Jesus goes on to tell them, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” It has become popular to ridicule Christians in movies, on TV, and in the media. They depict us as ignorant and kind of antisocial. Evil does this when confronted with whatever it dislikes. It cannot use reason because their worldly atheistic philosophy makes no sense. And evil hates anyone that desires to live a holy life. Jesus knew his disciples would face severe persecution for their faith in him. Their world put their faith in manmade idols fashioned from wood, stone, or metal. Jesus came as a man to show the world God does indeed exist and to prove his love for mankind. After Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension, they would be the ones to share his gospel message with the world. All that was ungodly would be against them. It is just as true today as it was then. Yet he encouraged them and us by reminding us to “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The ungodly have always disdained and persecuted those who live for God and bring his message; but when that occurs we can smile and realize that the end justifies the means. We suffer now for a greater reward that awaits us. We will inherit a great reward!

  EXAMPLE: If we know the outcome and we know why it will happen, why in the world are we so worried when folks treat us with contempt for what we believe? In fact I’ve often wondered why folks get all concerned about things getting worse when they believe that things will get worse before the Lord comes back! Shouldn’t we do like John and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”? (Revelation 22:20 NIV)” Why are we surprised to see the world getting worse or folks treating believers harsher when we know Jesus could come back at any time? Shouldn’t we therefore be about sharing the good news instead of worrying so much, like Jesus shared with his disciples? After all, we will inherit a great reward!

Conclusion:

We are kingdom material! We can become the children of God! We will inherit a great reward!
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This article is copyrighted © 2019 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.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The message, the men, and the masses – Matthew 4:12-25

The message, the men, and the masses – Matthew 4:12-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 10, 2019

In the gospels we discover not only the mystical but the mundane as well. Life is made up of both and if you do not discover this fact you will miss out on some of the shear wonderment of life itself. This is why it is so distressing for me to see the ungodliness of socialism in our nation. When individuals do away with the sacred and try to replace it with feelings it leads to society based on emotionalism instead of the holy. Mankind is reduced to animal stature and God becomes nonexistent. This is one reason why Jesus came – to display for us the sacred. God became man and walked among us.

We know much about the everyday life of Jesus because the gospels are full of narratives concerning it. In Matthew’s gospel we discover some of the details of Jesus’ early ministry. He begins to relate the message he has for Israel and mankind, he begins to put together those who would continue the ministry after his death, burial, and resurrection, and he begins to actively reach out to people around him. Let see how Jesus began his message, picks his men, and goes to the masses…

READ: Matthew 4:12-25

Rather than moan about the spiritual erosion of America believers need to get involved in sharing their faith. Just as the Israelites failed to share Christians have as well. Here we discover…

I. Jesus and the message he shared! (Vv. 12-17)

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali--to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

  1. Interestingly we learn in John’s gospel that Jesus in fact began his ministry in the Jerusalem area but the other three gospels have Jesus beginning it in the northern part of the country. Yes Jesus did turn the water into wine in Cana but we see him beginning his ministry in John in cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem the first time in John 2 and his interaction with Nicodemus in John 3. We learn that the possible reason is that it probably did not last very long because shortly after Jesus’ own baptism John the Baptist is imprisoned. And so “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.” It was too soon to bring to much focus on his self and if Jesus had begun immediately in Jerusalem what he did in Capernaum it might cause undue attention, especially after chasing the money changers out of the temple with a whip! However, it also fulfilled what Isaiah had foretold. So, “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali--to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles--the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’” Though Isaiah was probably using these two tribal names to represent the Northern Kingdom, it is remarkable that Jesus’ upbringing and early ministry was mostly in that very area near the Sea of Galilee. The area was known as Galilee of the Gentiles and it is here Jesus begins to share the message of God. After John is arrested he leaves Jerusalem and goes to those who are open to hear what God has to share. This is a good example for believers to follow even in our day and age. If those who you begin to share Jesus with do not want to hear what you have to share you have to move on to those who are ready to listen! “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Here we discover Jesus and the message he shared!

  EXAMPLE: The time was ripe. God had come as Jesus and folks needed to turn their lives around because his kingdom was “near” meaning right now! While we can lament over the condition of the world it should inspire believers to be even more about the ministry of sharing the gospel message of the good news of Jesus! Never before in the history of our nation do people need to turn away from their sin and turn to the Lord! And how good to know that Jesus paved the way for us and we learn in Jesus’ life about how he immediately began his ministry. It is here we discover Jesus and the message he shared!

When sharing your faith it is good to have fellow believers around you because they can pray with and encourage you. A band of friends can help keep you focused and here we discover…

II. Jesus and the men he chose! (Vv. 18-22)

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

  1. We learn in John’s gospel that after John the Baptist had baptized Jesus he told his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!” when Jesus passed by. They followed Jesus and asked him where he was staying for the night and Jesus invites them to join him. The Apostle John and Andrew were these two men. John writes that later Andrew excitedly goes to get his brother Peter and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” Yet here Matthew infers that evidently both had returned to their profession as fishermen and so now “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.” So here we discover from Matthew they “were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen”. While they had gone back to their regular lives they were destined for greater things and Jesus knew it. He tells them “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus would take them from looking for the best places to capture fish to sell and make them into men who captured men for the kingdom of God! However their willingness to follow Jesus would come at a cost. They would have to decide if they were willing or not to follow him. Matthew tells us that “At once they left their nets and followed him.” However Jesus wasn’t done. “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.” We find the Apostle John had also gone back to being a fisherman with his brother James. Mark writes that Jesus “gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17 NIV) and the connotation is that their personalities were contentious or fiery. Some families are like that. “They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets.” These men also had a life decision to make. The calling carried with it a cost, for it involved leaving not only one’s profession but also one’s family responsibilities. I find it interesting that Jesus decided to ask hard working blue-collar types to be his disciples. Jesus did not call any Pharisees, Sadducees, or Teachers of the Law instead he called hardworking men who understood not only the common man but were willing to devote themselves to their calling. Matthew writes that “Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Here we discover Jesus and the men he chose!

  EXAMPLE: I have often wondered about how Jesus chose those who would follow him and become his disciples. Sure God knew but I believe that Jesus having set aside his divine nature to walk among us had willingly laid aside his divine capacity to fully know certain things. These men would become those who would spread his message, his teachings, and who he is. They would also in the process become his friends, confidants, and one who would betray him. They would display selfishness, spiritual ignorance, compassion, fear, courage, trustworthiness and devotion. Yet in each of these men Jesus called he evidently saw something I believe we would not have seen – a willingness to put their lives on hold and to seriously consider the message of and the man who was the Messiah. Matthew introduces us to Jesus and the men he chose!

It can be difficult to share the good news of Jesus because not everyone will want to hear it. But that should never deter us because it has hope, healing, and the answer for our lives. Here we discover…

III. Jesus going to the masses! (Vv. 23-25)

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

  1. Often as the writers of the gospel narratives do Matthew condenses for his readers, weeks if not months. We learn that after calling his disciples to follow him “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” Early on Jesus is welcome among the people because he is meeting their basic needs. He is helping them to understand more about God by teaching them in their local places of worship, sharing with them the gospel, and meeting their physical needs. Jesus’ message was that God was moving to fulfill his covenant promise with Israel and to establish his kingdom on the earth. And that his words were backed up by the display of his ability to dramatically heal the people of their diseases. Jesus was who he proclaimed himself to be and because of this “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” The populace realized that something special was occurring. It could only be the hand of God. There have always been those who claimed to be able to heal the sick or to drive out demonic influences, but Jesus did not just claim to be able to do so; he actually did it! We discover in the gospel narrative that Jesus made himself available to the masses not for any form of selfish gain. He did not need the accolades of man nor the riches that he could have gained. In fact we find him often seeking to be secondary to giving God the glory for what was occurring. The people were in darkness physically and spiritually and they needed God more than anything. Jesus came to show them the way. He would tell them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1 NIV)” and “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NIV)” Matthew tells us that because of these miracles “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Many did not yet believe in him as the Messiah but at least they were willing to come to him for answers and it is here we discover Jesus going to the masses!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus going to the masses!

Conclusion:

Jesus and the message he shared! Jesus and the men he chose! Jesus going to the masses!
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This article is copyrighted © 2019 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.