Saturday, June 16, 2018

Father’s Day – Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:7-12

Father’s Day – Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:7-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 17, 2018

Did you have a good father? I had a pretty good dad. He took us fishing, camping, and spent as much time with us as he could. He taught us to be moral, believe in God, and what marital devotion was all about. I still can remember him showing us boys how to cast a salmon egg just right in order to catch the bigger trout in the river. I also remember he was firm on his word and discipline.

Sometimes children can think their parents are unfair or that they do not understand but what I have learned is that parents, especially fathers, do understand and that is why they often have to take the firm stand they do. Too many fathers in our day are AOL (absent without leave) either physically or emotionally or both. Proverbs reminds us that “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. (Proverbs 29:17-18 NIV)” Let’s discover what it means to be a father…

READ: Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 12:7-12

In our world trying to raise children to be independent critical thinkers, moral, and to follow the Lord has become increasingly hard. It is good to know however that the Scripture is not only filled with examples of how not to be a father but it also gives us good advice on how to be great fathers. We discover that…

I. Great fathers consistently discipline their children! (Ephesians 6:4 & Hebrews 12:7-9 NIV)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord… Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

  1. Paul writes, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children”. The wording here refers to a dad who constantly and deliberately tries to enrage or provoke their children into an ungodly reaction. This is not a reference to teasing a child but rather a dad who deliberately and consistently tries to incite their children to react in anger. This could be done through improper parenting where the father constantly degrades their spouse in front of the kids, uses foul language, or involves their children in ungodly activities such as lying, stealing, drug use, or violent behavior. A father can “exasperate” their children when they are not the consistent godly loving example their children need! However, this can also cover inappropriate discipline that is either too harsh or nonexistent. The writer of Hebrews writes that believers should “Endure hardship as discipline”. This teaches us that as children we can think it is a hardship to be disciplined, but in reality it is a blessing if it is done consistently and correctly! Our discipline in life is “God treating us as sons”! It also reflects the biblical concept that discipline is godly! “For what son is not disciplined by his father?” A lack of consistent discipline by fathers can frustrate a child emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually! Children need parameters in life. They need to know their boundaries. And if they do not have them from their fathers they can feel unloved and unwanted or illegitimate! “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” Children need to feel and know they are loved and one of the ways they do is when they know their boundaries in life because when they do they grow up loving and respecting their fathers! “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.” Yet more than this, children who are consistently and compassionately disciplined learn self-discipline! “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” Children learn discipline when great fathers consistently discipline their children!

  EXAMPLE: My father was a consistent disciplinarian. We knew his “yes” was yes and his “no” was no. We also quickly learned that simply going to our mother to get a different answer did not work. I did not understand my father when he once told me that his discipline of me at the time would hurt him more than it would hurt me. My spanking sure hurt! Yet his words came flooding back when I had to spank my daughter for the first time. It actually did hurt me more than her momentary pain. However it did not stop me from trying to be the best father I could be. I did not stop disciplining my daughter simply because it momentarily made feel bad. Children learn discipline when great fathers consistently discipline their children!

I’ve learned that life is not always fun. It is not painless or never filled with hurt. An old pastor was quipped, “Life is hard by the yard but a cinch by the inch!” He was correct. Great fathers learn that directing the lives of their children is not a momentary thing. It is a process. We learn from Paul that…

II. Great fathers keep on keeping on being a father! (Hebrews 12:10-12 NIV)

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

  1. Certain things in life only last a short while. This is why as fathers we should cherish every day we have with our families. Sure you may have suffered from making the wrong choices in life but God is a loving father and through his example teaches us guys how to be the fathers we need to be! Paul writes, “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best”. Training and nurturing your children only lasts a few years. In fact most psychologists will tell you that how a child responds to you at 5 years old will be how they respond to you as a teenager! This is why fathers should spend time with their kids. Reading, playing, talking with and listening to them are extremely important if you want your child to be respectful with you later in life. Remember “God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness.” God is a great example to follow as a father. He always looks at the long haul as fathers should and he loves us in spite of ourselves! Fathers should want the best for their children realizing that the investment they make now in the lives of their children will one day reap a great reward! “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” A good life harvest means that fathers must be willing, ready, and able to do the hard day-by-day and moment-by-moment investment in the lives of their children! It is a matter of consistency again. Just as children are not potty trained, know how to walk or immediately feed themselves it is fathers that help them to become the adults they should be! “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” Godly dads do not complain about having to spend time with their kids. Great fathers keep on keeping on being a father!

  EXAMPLE: I remember the frustration of my father when he sat me down and asked, “How many times am I going to have to ask you to do something before you do it?” I responded, “I guess until it sticks.” To my surprise he reached out and tousled my hair and gently replied, “For your sake I hope not.” Got up and walked away. Some of the greatest moments of my life were spent with my ailing father the last year of his life. We spent the entire summer together. His insights, love, and quiet spirit had a huge impact on me. I learned from him that great fathers keep on keeping on being a father!

Conclusion:

Children learn discipline when great fathers consistently discipline their children! Great fathers keep on keeping on being a father!
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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.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

No matter what, preach the gospel! - Philippians 1:12-17

No matter what, preach the gospel! - Philippians 1:12-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 10, 2018

What is important in your life? I mean to the point where you would be willing to leave your home, family, friends, and do what you knew was the most important thing in the world. For some it is sports, some it is music or writing, for others it might be acting or art but for the believer who has given their life to Christ everything should revolve and focus on him who gave everything for them.

For Paul life was Jesus and Jesus was life and this is why for Paul in his life he considered it the greatest thing in the world to preach the gospel. He gave up family, friends, and everything in life to follow him and following him meant telling others about Jesus’ mission and message. Therefore for Paul it meant that no matter what, preach the gospel! Let’s find out how Paul encouraged others to do the same…

READ: Philippians 1:12-17

Someone once said that “The most important thing you have to realize in your life is: knowing your self-worth and by knowing your self-worth you would finally get to know what you deserve. And then you'll be able to work for what you deserve.” Paul understood his self-worth. He wrote, “Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8 NIV).  For Paul it meant…

I. Preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen! (Vv. 12-14)

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

  1. A lot of folks think things happen in life through happenstance but when it is something bad they immediately want to blame God but Paul never did. He knew things happen for a reason and not by mere accident. And for the believer Paul knew that things happen in life for one reason only: to further the gospel. This is why Paul writes, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Paul was being persecuted for his faith and especially for his preaching the good news. In fact, he was in prison for doing just that! Now he was held captive under house arrest waiting for his trial in Rome, held prisoner under false accusations by the Roman government for telling others the gospel. However far from discouraging Paul it only reinforced in him the providence of God in a Christian’s life. In fact Paul’s imprisonment became a means for him to testify about Jesus! And Paul writes that “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” Evidently those back in Philippi were concerned for Paul but he was enjoying every moment! Paul was not discouraged at all because his imprisonment meant that from the Roman guard to those in the household of Caesar was now hearing for the first time the gospel of Jesus! Paul the prisoner had a second affect as well, “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” His persecution made others bolder in sharing their faith! Life for Paul was all about Jesus and that meant preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen!

  EXAMPLE: Christians can be a contrary crowd believing that Jesus is the only means of salvation but only sharing with those they feel comfortable with. A group of teenagers visited a home for the elderly in Montego Bay, Jamaica, one young woman noticed a lonely looking man at the end of the room. He appeared to have little left in this world but a bed to sleep on—a bed from which he could not move because of his disability. She began to share the story of God’s love for us. Responding to his interest, she explained the wonder of Jesus’ sacrificial death for us. “It was hard for this man, who had no hope and no family,” she recalled, “to understand that Someone he’s never met would love him enough to die on the cross for his sins.” She told him more about Jesus—and then about the promise of heaven (including a new body) for all who believe. He asked her, “Will you dance with me up there?” She saw him begin to imagine himself free of his worn-out body and crippling limitations. She helped him pray a prayer of forgiveness and faith. When she asked him if she could get a picture with him, he replied, “If you help me sit up. I’m a new man.” Paul believed in preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen!

People do things in life for different reasons: Some out of pride or for praise; some from a sense of duty while others do certain things because of guilt. Paul knew that…

II. Preaching the gospel is an act of love! (Vv. 15-17)

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

  1. Paul was not stupid. He knew that not everyone who was preaching the good news did so because they loved the Lord like he did. He knew they did it for varying reasons and he writes, “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.” Just like today there were those who wanted to make a quick buck off of anything that was new and that folks were attracted to. During Paul’s day it was usually the latest fad in spirituality. There were those like the cults of today whose founder’s only want fame and fortune. Then there were those who sadly while even within the church itself sought personal recognition or they thought they were in some kind of a competition with Paul. Paul did not care as long as the gospel was correctly preached! So he wrote, “The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” How sad there were those within the church whose only desire was to outdo Paul or to bring Paul down in some way. Their reasons did not concern Paul because he was happy that Jesus was preached! Make no mistake he disliked factions within the church and wrote the Corinthian church, “For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:4-7 NIV)” For Paul preaching the gospel is an act of love!

  EXAMPLE: Lee Geysbeek of Compassion International told about a woman who had the opportunity to travel to visit the child she sponsored. She decided to take the child, who was living in abject poverty, to a restaurant. The boy ordered a hamburger and the sponsor ordered a salad. When the food came the boy surveyed the scene. He looked at his huge hamburger and over at his sponsor’s small salad. Then he took his knife and cut the burger in half, offered it to his sponsor, rubbed his tummy, and asked, “Hungry?” A child who had next to nothing his whole life was willing to share half of what he had with someone he thought might need more. This child can be a good reminder the next time we meet someone in physical, emotional, or spiritual need. As followers of Jesus, our faith in him should be mirrored through our actions. We encounter people in need every day; some simply around the corner who need of a warm meal or a kind word. What a difference believers can make by doing good and sharing their faith. Paul knew that preaching the gospel is an act of love!

Conclusion:
Preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen! Preaching the gospel is an act of love!
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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.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Partners! - Philippians 1:1-11

Partners! - Philippians 1:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 3, 2018

Having a good partner is important in life whether it is in marriage or in friendship. A good partner can lift you up when you are down, they can be there for you when you need them to be, and a good partner knows when to correct you so you can be the best you can be. Partners are important.

When we think of partners in history we might think of Orville and Wilber Wright, partners in old time comedy would be Abbot and Costello, and of course partners in the Bible would be Paul and Barnabas. Yet Paul had other partners as well and we see him writing to those he considered to be in close partnership with him in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s see what Paul says to his partners in the gospel.

READ: Philippians 1:1-11

Here we discover that…

I. Paul understood where his partnership came from! (Vv. 1-2)

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. Here in these opening verses we see that Paul addresses the Philippian church, who he considered his partners in the gospel, by telling them about his partnership with Timothy: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”. Paul understood what his partnership was based on with his young pastoral apprentice and friend Timothy, namely that it was founded in their being “servants of Christ Jesus”; literally Messiah Jesus. Paul was asserting the fact of who their Master was and he was the Messiah the world had longed for and who had made those he was addressing “saints”! Paul uses the word hagios which meant that they were made pure and holy because of their faith in “Christ Jesus”! All Christians are made holy and pure because of Jesus and this is why all who believe in Jesus are considered “saints” in the Lord! But Paul’s letter was not just to the mainstream congregation at large because Paul had some specific things he wanted to share with “the overseers and deacons”, the pastors and leadership within the church itself. Within Paul's opening remarks we read the love and devotion he had for these folks at Philippi. Paul desires they know “grace and peace” which was a common enough opening for letter of the time but here we discover that this grace and peace Paul wanted for them was to be from “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” What a wonderful thing to write your partners in Jesus! Paul understood where his partnership came from!

  EXAMPLE: It has been said that “Christians shoot their wounded” meaning that they allow themselves to criticize or ridicule fellow believers when they are spiritually hurt or wounded. This should never happen instead like the writer of Hebrews we should “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13 NIV)” And Paul would write that Jesus “died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 NIV)” Paul understood where his partnership came from!

We now learn that…

II. Paul was grateful for his partners! (Vv. 3-6)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

  1. I heard an old time preacher state that “Christians should develop an attitude of gratitude” and he was right on in his insight. In reading the letters of the Apostle Paul you can immediately tell who he had struggles with and who he was grateful for and he was grateful for the Philippians! Paul writes, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” What a wonderful thing to have written about you by someone else! For all of history this church will be known as the church Paul was truly thankful for! But even more than that he thanked God for them every time he remembered them! Wow! But even more than that Paul thanked God every time he remembered them “In all [his] prayers for all of {them]”! When Paul prayed, which I believe was quite often, he remember his partners in Philippi and thanked God for ALL of them! How many believers are truly that thankful for their church? I pray most are because they should be. Paul was so glad to have this church as his partners in Jesus that when he prayed for them he “always pray[ed] with joy because of [their] partnership in the gospel from the first day until now”! How in the world could Paul pray this way for these folks? He writes it was because “being confident of this, that he (meaning Jesus) who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”! Paul was grateful for his partners!

  EXAMPLE: Too often pastors or other believers can become impatient with new believers but they should not because it is God’s job. And Paul reminds us of this when he writes to his new partners in Jesus at Philippi that he was confident God would complete what he had started in them just as he does for all believers. Perhaps we should develop that attitude of gratitude for fellow believers and see them as our partners in Christ. How wonderful to learn that Paul was grateful for his partners!

Finally we find out that…

III. Paul desired the very best for his partners! (Vv. 7-11)

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.

  1. In this letter we discover that Paul knew that “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you”. He not only felt this way about his partners in the gospel in Philippi “since I have you in my heart”. Paul kept his partners close in his thoughts and prayers. Paul cared about them deeply and he meant it. He tells them “for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me”. When we share our faith, when we pray for one another, and when we fight the good fight for the sake of the gospel we as believers share in each of these things. We are truly partners in Jesus and we “share in God’s grace”. The mere fact Paul wrote this testifies to his deep godly affection for his fellow believers. This is why Paul writes that “this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”. Paul wanted them to not only experience God’s love as he did but Paul desired that heir love “abound more and more”. Paul wanted them to grow in “knowledge and depth of insight” so that they “may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ”! Shouldn’t this be all believers’ desire for one another? Like Paul all Christians should deeply want one another to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God”! Paul desired the very best for his partners!

  EXAMPLE: When one Christian witnesses we all share in that witness as we pray, encourage, and lift one another up. When one of us suffers we all suffer because we are all one in him who saved us. In speaking about the observance of the Lord’s Supper Paul writes “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV)” In fact he would write, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV)” And Paul desired the very best for his partners!

Conclusion:

Paul understood where his partnership came from! Paul was grateful for his partners! Paul desired the very best for his partners!
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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.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Persevere! - Jude 1:17-25

Persevere! - Jude 1:17-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 20, 2018

Recently a lesbian couple went on vacation with their six adopted children; the couple got drunk and drove off a California coastal highway into the Pacific Ocean at 90 miles an hour killing all of them. They left Minnesota when they claimed one of their children was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, and moved to Oregon, and finally Washington. Actually they fled Minnesota after bruises were discovered on a preschooler and the “mother” received a three-month suspended jail sentence and a year of probation. The Harts later moved to Oregon and began homeschooling their brood, but relocated to rural Woodland, Washington when Oregon began to suspect them of abuse. They fled their Woodland home after CPS workers tried to contact them about starving and neglecting their children.

The warning signs were all over the place concerning this couple but few responded fast enough to rescue innocent children. Sadly many of us face warnings every day we refuse to respond to. We have forgotten that every day following the ascension of Jesus we are living in the end times. Each day brings us closer to his return. We think that because it has been a long time that we do not need to persevere and remain strong in our faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s find out what Jude writes concerning how believers should persevere…

READ: Jude 1:17-25

Recently a centenarian, someone who lives to be 100 years old, was asked what he did to live so long. He quipped that he just faced “each day as it came and kept on keeping on!” As believers we learn that…

I. Jude warns us to persevere! (Vv. 17-19)

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

  1. Jude begins with reminding his readers that they are his “beloved” or “dear friends”. All believers share a common bond in Jesus Christ. Jude then continues by relating the basics by reminding them that in order to keep on keeping on in their faith they needed to “remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus foretold.” The early church did not have the luxury of being able to read their Bible anytime they wanted. They were verbally taught and they had to remember what they were taught. Therefore the teachings of those who had actually walked with and who were taught by Jesus himself were extremely important to learn and know. Paul had warned Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations” (2 Timothy 4:3-5 NIV). In fact he had told Timothy to “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV). Jude now reminds his readers that “They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’” We now live in those “times”! There is a concerted effort to not only weaken Christianity but to make it sound like another myth and “unscientific” and many young people have fallen for these ungodly heresies. Sadly there are even those who say they believe in Jesus but have reduced him to just a nice guy who taught good truths to live by. Jude direly warns that “These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” And that is the problem with the world today – it does not have the Spirit of God. Jude warns us to persevere!

  EXAMPLE: Two little boys were fishing on the side of the road. They made a sign saying “The end is near! Turn around now before it’s too late!,” and showed it to each passing car. One driver that passed didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted, “Leave us alone you religious little nuts!” All of a sudden they heard a big splash. One turned to the other and asked, “Do you think we should just put up a sign that says: ‘Bridge Out’ instead?” Sometimes warnings aren’t heeded simply because folks do not know the truth. In a world where many ignore the truth we as believers need to remain faithful and Jude warns us to persevere!

Warnings can go unheeded because folks simply do not believe the warning. In a world that seems to want to feel faith instead of know the truth of their faith it can become frustrating. Thankfully we discover that…

II. Jude tells us how to persevere! (Vv. 20-23)

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

  1. Again, Jude writes to his “dear friends” in order to encourage them to persevere. Knowing we should keep on keeping is one thing but it sure is helpful when we are told what we can do in order to persevere. Jude remarks that first of all we need to “build [ourselves] up in [our] most holy faith”. We can do this as we “pray in the Holy Spirit”. Now Jude is not endorsing speaking in tongues as some rather odd folks would have you believe but rather he is referencing the fact of our “most holy faith”. That faith comes when we trust Jesus as our Messiah and Lord. Salvation is found only in him alone. We pray in the Holy Spirit when we know Jesus. Secondly Jude writes “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Notice our perseverance is not a one and done kind of thing but rather it is a lifelong walk. We “keep” ourselves in Jesus by walking closely with him through our prayer, study of Scripture, and fellowshipping with other believers in worship, study, prayer and friendship. Paul wrote “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)” Lastly, Jude goes an extra step in that he writes that believers should “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Christians are not to be in bed with or develop affection for those who disdain Jesus. We are to be “merciful” to those who are weak in their faith and if we have to we should drag them out of the fire of hell they are attracted to! However we are to hate even the very clothing of those who are “corrupted” by the world of unbelief! Jude writes that believers should literally “show mercy mixed with fear” in other words disdain anything that teaches us anything other than Jesus is the only means of mankind’s salvation. Praise God that Jude tells us how to persevere!

  EXAMPLE: I have had folks tell me “keep the faith” but what in the world does that mean? I know Jesus never leaves me nor forsakes me and that I am safe and secure in him, but how do I “keep the faith”? Keeping the faith is more than trying our hardest to be nice people. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ I am to walk daily with him. I am to trust him with my life. Paul would write, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)” I am grateful that Jude tells us how to persevere!

I have shared before about several men who had a huge impact on my spiritual life. Brother Mac was one such man. In his nineties he was still very active in serving the Lord. When he would say good-bye to his friends he would use these final verses of Jude. I was glad to call my friend and he often prayed Jude’s prayer to me. I have since learned that…

III. Jude prays for our perseverance! (Vv. 24-25)

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy--to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

  1. Jude was certain of his faith and who had saved him and this is why he closes his letter to his “dear friends” in the Lord by writing them “To him who is able to keep you from falling”. Jude absolutely knew that if you had trusted Jesus you were his forever! No one and nothing could cause you to “fall” out of his grasp. But even more than that the promise of Jesus was more than a here and now kind of thing it was a forever promise! Jesus keeps us from falling but he also will “present [us] before his glorious presence without fault and with glorious joy” in heaven! Jesus is happy to do it! He willingly gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins and so he is overjoyed to present us to himself in heaven! WOW! Paul understood what Jude is expressing here. He would declare, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 NIV)” The apostle John would write that “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)” Jude was totally blown away by this fact and it is why he continued: “to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!” What a wonderful thing to know that Jude prays for our perseverance!

  EXAMPLE: James teaches us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16 NIV)” Prayer is never the last thing we can do nor the only thing we can do but it is the most powerful and precious thing we can do. As a pastor I could not do my job without your continued and consistent prayers for me. Your prayers provide me with strength, encouragement, and protection to preach the word and be the pastor I need to be. Paul would pray for those he cared about: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV)” This is why I believe that Jude prays for our perseverance!

Conclusion:

Jude warns us to persevere! Jude tells us how to persevere! Jude prays for our perseverance!
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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.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Mother’s Day – Ephesians 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:1-5

Mother’s Day – Ephesians 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:1-5
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 13, 2018

When we are taught that everyone is “special” then the final outcome is that ultimately no one is. It becomes meaningless. Let me try to explain a little bit. When I was a young boy my father taught me some very important life lessons on how to be a man but it was my mother who taught each of us how we were unique. Notice I did not say “special” because she never said we were special just to say so like a lot of folks do nowadays instead she said we were special when we did something that was truly special. That’s what moms do; they keep you in the real world.

This Mother’s Day I wanted us to focus on why we should respect our mothers. Parenting in general has gotten a bad rap in America today and what I mean is good parenting. It seems as if there is no longer any consistency or heritage of what good parenting is all about. Recently I overheard a mother yelling at her preschooler to get her blankety blank blank bottom into the car. Now I know children can sometimes drive a person to distraction but I believe we need to refocus on what motherhood should be and why believers should honor their mothers. Let’s see why…

READ: Ephesians 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:1-5

To be fair the same mother that I overheard cursing at her preschooler to get into the car the next week was blowing her kisses and saying “Mommy loves you” as she pulled out of the driveway. Let’s see why we are to honor our mothers this morning. On this Mother’s Day we discover that…

I. Christians are to honor their mothers! (Vv. Ephesians 6:1-3)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”--which is the first commandment with a promise—“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

  1. Here Paul writes that “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Now notice Paul is not speaking to the world in general but to believers. He writes that children are to obey their parents “in the Lord.” What does this mean? While obedience is kind of a foreign word in our nation today we would do well to remember just how important it is. Paul writes that Christian children are to be obedient to their parents in the Lord. Paul meant in their spiritual instruction, in their personal following of God, and in how they respected him. Paul knew if children followed God they would be obedient to their parents. His reasoning was simple: “for this is right”. Obedience some would say comes from respect however many have forgotten that respect is not simply given, it is earned. Paul writes that his readers were to “Honor your father and mother” a reality that is often misplaced in our day. A life that is not focused on the Lord and filled with the Spirit of God is one that can never understand what real reverence means. Honor in our day and age is hard for a lot of people to give others because we live in such a victim-oriented world. It seems as if there is special kind of sport or enjoyment in tearing down anything or anyone that might have earned our respect or be honored in our world. The Boy Scouts of America is the latest victim. No matter how old we are we are to give honor, deference to our parents and especially our mothers. Certainly there are those whose parents may not have been the best sort but Paul is speaking to Christian households here, those who have given themselves to the love and discipline of the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote that this honor is required because it comes from “the first commandment with a promise”. It isn’t the only commandment with a promise from God nor is it the first or primary commandment one is to learn, rather it is the commandment with the promise of God “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Christians are to honor their mothers!

  EXAMPLE: I know that any mother can at times be driven to distraction. I remember my mom telling us boys in rather a loud voice to “Just go outside for a while and leave your mother in peace!” Even though there were times we could drive our mom crazy we knew from what she taught us in how to treat the future women in our lives. We were to respect, be polite, and kind to older women, teachers, and all girls period. It wasn’t just a suggestion it was absolutely expected. We were to be gentlemen with any female in our life including our sister! We learn that this is expected from all believers as well. Paul teaches us that Christians are to honor their mothers!

I learned at an early age that boys were to act like gentlemen and girls were to act like ladies. Things like saying please, you’re welcome, and thank you was expected. Manners were taught to us from the time we were toddlers. It is interesting therefore for us on this Mother’s Day to learn that…

II. Christians are to treat women in the church like their mothers! (Vv. 1 Timothy 5:1b-5)

Treat… older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help.

  1. Believers need to act as to exemplify Jesus in every way possible and especially where their mothers are concerned. Folks inside and outside of the church watch our lives very closely and as part of the family of God Timothy was encouraged by Paul to treat other believers as family. So gentleness, kindness, and morality were to be his motives so that “older women” would be treated “as mothers”. Not all women were treated with the respect they should have been during Paul’s day but Jesus changed all of that. Paul would teach that we “are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” and that there “is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26, 28 NIV)” This is why he tells Timothy that “younger women” were to be treated “as sisters, with absolute purity”. In a world that chewed up people and especially the weak, the orphaned, and the widowed Timothy as a believer was to “Give proper recognition to those widows who [were] really in need. But if a widow [had] children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents (mothers and grandmothers), for this is pleasing to God.” Family was to take care of family and especially their mothers! Paul told Timothy, “The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” Paul is writing about a person’s focus in life. In that day single women and especially widows had very few options; either they had family who could care for them, they begged, or if they were young enough they became prostitutes. Note Paul’s emphasis is on their spirituality. Someone who focuses on her spiritual growth is to be commended while the one who focuses on only her own pleasure is spiritually “dead” without even knowing it already. The family of God is to take care of the family of God and Christians are to treat women in the church like their mothers!

  EXAMPLE: My mom used to say that “Manners never go out of style”. Now you would need to realize that she was raised in the backwoods of Wyoming riding horses, driving cattle, living in a circus tent and log cabin, hunting and fishing, and going to a one room school through 7th grade, but her mother put a huge premium on well-behaved children. It is something sadly that has gone out of vogue. Children are seen as young adults, which they aren’t, and are way too pampered. I believe this is why many young men no longer know how to treat the women in their lives. Paul teaches us that Christians are to treat women in the church like their mothers!

Conclusion:

Christians are to honor their mothers! Christians are to treat women in the church like their mothers!
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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.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Pollution - Jude 1:1-16

Pollution - Jude 1:1-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2018

I always laugh when the media does a story on pollution and they show pictures of steam coming from “smoke” stacks. Few realize that there are very few real “smoke” stacks within the US and Canada and this is why the media has to use billows of steam in order to make you think it is smoke. It’s like when they would write dire warnings about radiation from nuclear power plants and they would show us pictures of the water cooling towers and the huge plumes of steam coming from them.

Is there pollution? Does it occur today? Absolutely! And there is also a spiritual pollution that is just as harmful that many do not realize has affected the way they think about the Bible, salvation, and even Jesus. Most of the New Testament writers had experienced spiritual pollution firsthand. Jude, Jesus’ brother, meets this contamination head on and dramatically reveals it for what it truly is. Let’s discover for ourselves what he wrote concerning pollution…

READ: Jude 1:1-16

Many in our day and age let others do their thinking for them. They are not good at discernment and rely on others to tell them truth when in fact these folks may not have their best interests in mind. As believers we must be willing to find the truth, especially when it concerns Jesus. Jude writes that…

I. Pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! (Vv. 1-4)

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. 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. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

  1. Jude introduces himself right away as “a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James”. He is not someone who speculates about Jesus because he declares he is a “servant” a “doulos” or bond slave. Someone who willing bound himself to the one he served and in this case for Jude it was Jesus. Jesus was his Master but also notice that he writes that he is the “brother of James”. There are three differing arguments as to who Jude was: 1) Jude the Apostle but he never mentions being one, 2) Jude an early leader in the Jerusalem church and one of two nominees to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus, but early church history and evidence does not support this, and finally 3) he was Jesus’ half brother which most historians support. He calls himself a “servant” because he had not always believed in Jesus. He now was writing “to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. He wanted them to know the “mercy, peace, and love” of Jesus as he now did “in abundance”. He wanted to write them about their shared faith but instead he “felt” that he “had to write and urge [them] to contend for the faith that was once for entrusted to the saints”! Jude was worried because “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago [had] secretly slipped in among” the believers! Like wolves in sheep’s clothing these ungodly men camouflaged themselves in the flock of Christ. They were “godless men” meaning they did not care about the Lord at all. Instead they wanted to “change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord”! Wow, things have not changed much have they? These guys wanted to add to or subtract from what Jesus taught and who he was! Sound familiar? In fact they wanted to do so, so they could excuse their immoral behavior! Jude knew that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

  EXAMPLE: The word “contend” is an old-fashioned word that isn’t often used anymore. It means to fight for, stand up for, or stand firm for. The idea is someone who is willing to stand their ground for what they know to be true! Here is a good example: 71% of Americans identify themselves as “Christian” but 51% of those who identify themselves as “churchgoers” have never heard of the Great Commission! Many in our day consider themselves “spiritual” but not religious. The Barna Group writes that “The twin cultural trends of deinstitutionalization and individualism have, for many, moved spiritual practice away from the public rituals of institutional Christianity to the private experience of God within.” It is a faith based solely on feelings rather than actual facts. It can excuse the immorality of murdering babies in the womb, living together before marriage, and same sex marriage. Why has this occurred? Jude writes that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith!

Can there be consequences for not “contending” for our faith? Jude writes that there certainly can be and in fact the consequences can be dire. James in fact goes on to write that…

II. Pollution carries its own consequences! (Vv. 5-9)

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"

  1. What James was writing them wasn’t anything new but he wanted to remind them what their inaction could cost them if they were not willing to clean up their spiritual act so-to-speak. So, he writes, “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” Say what!? Remember the little incident with the bronze snake on a pole? And how those who made and worshipped Golden Calves died in the wilderness without ever seeing the land promised to them? “And the angels” Jude writes, “who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.” You mean God holds even angelic being accountable? Yep! And “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.” All of these “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire”! Jude knew that “in the very same way” those who slithered into the church and corrupted the gospel that “these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings” just as the perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah did! Curiously Jude then cites a pseudepigraphical book, The Assumption of Moses, in showing that these false teachers had no respect for even heavenly beings: “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” These folks had deliberately brought the gospel, Jesus, and who he was down to their level on purpose. They wanted to excuse their polluted spirituality but Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

  EXAMPLE: Rates of church attendance, religious affiliation, belief in God, prayer and Bible-reading have been dropping for decades. Generation Z, those born between 1999 and 2015, is the first truly “post-Christian” generation and what they don’t believe is alarming. They do not assert any religious identity. They might be drawn to things spiritual, but with a vastly different starting point from previous generations. And it shows: The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is more than double that of the US adult population. It appears that today’s youth struggle to find a compelling argument for the existence of both evil and a good and loving God. More than one-third (37%) believes it’s not possible to know for sure if God is real. More than half of all Americans, both teens (58%) and adults (62%), agree with the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life; there is no ‘one true religion.’” This is the result of believers not contending for their faith at home, in the classroom, at work, and in the market place. Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence!

Spiritual ignorance is at an all time high. People often place more credibility on what they feel than what is real. Believers spend too much time arguing over the gnat and the world has swallowed the camel. It’s time to stop arguing over biblical minutia and focus on what matters. Jude writes that… 

III. The result of spiritual pollution stinks! (Vv. 10-16)

Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals--these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

  1. Interestingly when people no longer have a spiritual core they distrust and even hate anything spiritual. Jude writes that “these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals--these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion.” Cain killed his brother in jealousy, Balaam tried to get rich by selling his gift to the highest bidder, and Korah said that they could worship God anyway and anywhere they wanted! Jude writes very descriptively about these deceptive individuals: “These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” Interestingly Jude quotes another pseudepigraphical book of Enoch where “the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” While Jude used books his audience would be familiar with he wasn’t endorsing them as holy or spiritual. He wanted his audience to realize that “These men [were] grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude knew that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

  EXAMPLE: In partnership with Summit Ministries, Barna conducted a study among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism have influenced Christians’ beliefs. They found strong agreement with ideas to nonbiblical worldviews among practicing Christians. For instance 28% strongly agree that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Further, the belief that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is” has captured the minds of more than 27%. The New Spirituality worldview has also inched its way into Christian ethics; 32% strongly agree that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” Almost 23% strongly agree that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” And it was noted that younger believers were willing to embrace Marxism alongside their faith! These things are ungodly, unbiblical, and heretical. Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!

Conclusion:

Jude reminds us that pollution occurs when believers stop contending for their faith! Jude reminds us that pollution carries its own consequence! Jude reminds us that the result of spiritual pollution stinks!
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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.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Baptists and baptism - Matthew 28:16-20

Baptists and baptism - Matthew 28:16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 29, 2018

Christians should be baptized out of obedience to and love for our Lord Jesus. Water baptism by immersion is the biblical method of baptism because of its symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Water baptism symbolizes the believer’s total trust in and total reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a commitment to live obediently to him. It also expresses unity with all the saints because we are “fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household” (Ephesians 2:19), that is, with every person in every nation on earth who is a member of the Body of Christ where there “is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Water baptism conveys this and more, but it is not what saves us. Instead, we are “saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are baptized because Jesus commanded it: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Total immersion was practiced for the first 800 years of church history.

Water baptism is for believers. Before we are baptized, we must come to believe that we are sinners in need of salvation. We must also believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, that he was buried, and that he was resurrected to assure our place in heaven. When we turn to Jesus, asking him to forgive our sins and be our Lord and Savior, we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our eternal salvation is guaranteed, and we begin to die to ourselves and live for Christ. At that time we are scripturally qualified to be baptized. Infant baptism was not practiced for the first 300 years of church history and some texts by early church fathers regarding the issue deal with heresies. It is not found anywhere in Scripture and the closest we find are three references to “households” being baptized but a household only considered those over a certain age of maturity meaning adults.

Water baptism is a beautiful picture of what our Lord has done for us. As we are completely immersed in the water, we symbolize burial with our Lord; we are baptized into his death on the cross and are no longer slaves to self or sin. When we are raised out of the water, we are symbolically resurrected—raised to new life in Christ forever. Water baptism also illustrates the spiritual cleansing we experience when we are saved; just as water cleanses the flesh, we are cleansed when we trust Christ.

The fact that water baptism is not a prerequisite for salvation is best seen in the example of a saved man who was not baptized in water—the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39–43). This self-confessed sinner acknowledged Jesus as his Lord while dying on a cross next to Him. The thief asked for salvation and was forgiven of his sins. Although he never experienced water baptism, at that moment he was spiritually baptized into Christ’s death, and he then was raised to eternal life by the power of Christ’s word (Hebrews 1:3).

Why Baptists?

Baptists derive their name from their view of baptism and from the word “baptizō” (bap-tid'-zo) which is a Greek word for dipping cloth.

Sadly, most people today do not have a proper understanding of who Baptists are and where we came from. Baptists are not “Protestants”. We never protested or were part of the Reformation where Luther broke free from the Catholic Church. We came from a group known as the Puritans. Puritans tend to be thought of as old stogies who just wanted to spoil everybody's fun. However, the modern-day view of the Puritans is far from the truth. They did not wear black with white collars and frown a lot. In fact they wore very colorful clothing and were happy joyous folks. They broke away from the likes of Lutherans and Anglicans.

The Puritans wanted to see real biblical reform come to the Church of England. The Anglican Church was founded by Henry VIII so he could marry whom he wanted. It was basically a “Catholic Light” organization. These early Puritans were led by Bishop Hooker and Thomas Cartwright and they began to call for a “pure” Church. However, the Queen and the Church of England were not willing to put up with these Puritans and thus began to enforce religious conformity by law.

Catholics and Anglicans both believe that only they can impart the grace of God. It is faith in Christ and then the ministering of God’s grace through specific acts within the “church” that saves a person: infant baptism, confirmation, confession, acts of contrition, prayers, marriage and in some cases how you die. Grace is seen as a big bucket you dip into.

This demand of conformity from the political and religious persecution in England produced a group known as the “Separatists”. The principles behind this movement were the freedom of the Church from State rule, pure doctrine rather than a watered-down or compromising doctrine, and overall reform of the Church. The Separatists took the Bible seriously and they were determined to order their lives by its teachings. They separated themselves from the Anglican Church. They believed in believer’s baptism after one placed their faith in Jesus and no longer in infant baptism.

From this group of Separatists came a small group know as General Baptists because they believed in a “general” atonement. General Baptists also had a distinct belief that Christians could face the possibility of “falling from grace”. The two primary founders of the General Baptist movement were John Smyth and Thomas Helwys.

The earliest General Baptist Church was thought to be founded about 1608 by John Smyth (1570-1612) and it was located in Holland. Smyth’s history begins in England where he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594. Soon after his ordination, his zeal landed him in prison for refusal to conform to the teachings and practices of the Church of England. Smyth continually battled the Church of England until it became obvious that he could no longer stay in fellowship with this church. Thus, he finally broke totally from them and became a “Separatist”.

From the General Baptists a second group formed known as the Particular Baptists. They came out of the Separatist movement as well. This group emerged in the 1630's. It was influenced by the great reformer John Calvin and held strongly to a “particular” atonement. The first church was thought to be founded around 1633 or 1638. This small group in 1644 acted together to issue a confession of faith called the First London Confession of Faith. This confession preceded the widely known Westminster Confession of Faith by two years. Present-day Baptist churches can be traced back to these early Baptists. Many of these folks fled to the New World and America for religious freedom. Many of the pilgrims were Separatist and Baptist in theology.

The first Baptist church in America is thought to be the church at Providence founded by Roger Williams in 1639. This church was founded on Particular Baptist doctrine, but in mid-1650 fell away to a more General Baptist position. Even though there was growth for Baptists in the 1600’s in America, it was during the 1700’s that the Baptist churches in America began to gain a widespread voice. In 1700, there were only 24 Baptist churches with 839 members, but in 1790 there were 979 churches with 67,490 members. The Baptist John Leland was influential in having the First Amendment placed within the Constitution that guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.
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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.