Sunday, February 24, 2008

Who We Are In Jesus Christ – John 13:1-17

Who We Are In Jesus Christ – John 13:1-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 24, 2007 AM

It had been a tough three years. Walking from place to place along dusty roads, facing the ridicule and anger of those you were supposed to respect and look up to. Hiding sometimes from the mob in order to get enough sleep, a little food, or just some quite down time. Then there was the fact that you knew that a time would come when you would have to finished what was laid out before you. You realize it is your last few days on earth, walking with the people you cared about, and trying to get your message across to a lost generation that had completely rejected you and your message. Who would face such odds and continue in their life’s work under such circumstances?

Jesus did. He did because that was who He was. Knowing that His time had come to leave this world, He sets in motion a series of events that would change the world forever. But before He did this He lovingly does something quite special for His disciples, those who followed Him. Jesus leaves them an example of who He is and who they are to be as well. He leaves them the knowledge of who we all are in Jesus Christ when we become His disciples.

READ: John 13:1-17

This is perhaps one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Jesus had defined what it meant to be His disciple by telling those who sought to follow Him that they could not depend upon the necessities of life, that taking care of family matters took second place, and that the message of the gospel was far more important than anything else in life! (Luke 9:57-62) But here in these verses Jesus gives us a graphic example of who we are to be in Him. He related that…

I. Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His!

1. The inside of a dirty dish needs greater cleaning than the outside! The evening meal had been prepared and served. As those hurried around making sure everyone had a place to sit, the glasses were full, and the plates piled with food, Jesus stops and does something quite unexpected. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.” He takes a towel from His waste, a basin of water, and begins to wash each of the disciple’s feet! Even Judas Iscariot who had decided to betray Him, Jesus takes on the role of a servant! Could you wash the feet of someone whom you knew was betraying you? Jesus does. However, notice it is not Judas who objects, but Jesus’ right hand man – Peter. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Peter objects. Peter understands the concept of a Master and his students, and the student should serve the Master. Yet, Jesus tells him, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” Peter bluntly responds, “You shall never wash my feet!” Calmly and efficiently Jesus answers, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” There it is: Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His! Peter, like many today, missed the spiritual lesson. He is quick to please and he desperately wants to be a part of Jesus’ band of brothers, and he quickly responds, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus responded by relating that, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” If you have been cleansed by Christ, you are spiritually clean, but the daily devotion of personal cleansing is also needed to wash away any sin stain obtained in life. First, you are washed when you trust Jesus with your life, secondly you are washed daily as you come to Him in personal confession: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:9-10) Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His!

EXAMPLE: As a young boy I had a favorite shirt. It was a long-sleeved red plaid work shirt that most of the cowboys and farmers wore. I loved it. I wore it everywhere. To school, at home, to the store, and even to church – if I could get away with it. I remember quite well one Sunday sitting in the wooden pew as the Priest droned on about the love of Mary or something and my mother all of a sudden realizing that I had on, under my Sunday coat, my favorite shirt. “How dare you come out of the house dressed in that for church!” she vehemently whispered to me. Then the words we all feared came, “Just wait until I get you home, young man!” As we were headed out the front door of the church, with my mother grasping my arm tightly so I would not bolt, we came to the Priest. He spoke a few words to my father, to my mother, and then he looked down at me. “Well,” he said, “Lowell, is this your youngest?” My mother replied, “We are not too happy with him this morning. He decided to wear his old work shirt instead of his Sunday shirt,” she explained as her death grip dug into my arm. “Why, that’s a right fancy work shirt, he has there. It shows character and I can see that while it is well used it is well cleaned.” I cannot remember my mother’s reply, but she let go of me and later never said a word to me about the shirt. I figured that if it was clean it was good enough to use, and so does the Lord. The fact remains, that unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His! However, if we are cleansed by Christ we are good enough to be used.

“Lessons are caught rather than taught in life,” someone once quipped. Jesus understood both concepts quite well and used both often. Here we find that Jesus was willing not just to tell a lesson but to teach it by doing it as well. Jesus teaches us that…

II. Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

1. As hard as it is for some of us to have our own filthy feet washed, it is tougher to touch the dirty toes of others! A lesson is not learned unless you are able to do it yourself on your own. When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place at the table. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" He asked them. It is an easy thing for many in our world today to say they “love Jesus,” or that they “follow Jesus,” but what do these words mean when we see so many in our community lost and dying in their sin? Remember when Jesus asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” Jesus responds each time with “Feed My sheep.” Certainly Jesus wanted Peter to experience for himself the love, acceptance, and forgiveness He offered Peter after his betrayal, but Jesus also wanted Peter to remember that although he may call Him “’Teacher’ and 'Lord,'” Peter now needed to understand that his Lord and Teacher, had washed his feet, and that he should also wash “one another's feet!” It was the “feed my sheep” part of the spiritual equation Peter and all of us have to learn. Unless you are willing to be the servant of all, the sheep feeder and foot washer, you are not fit to follow the Master of all, Who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8) Jesus plainly told Peter and the rest of the crew sitting there at that table, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Not to wash feet every Sunday, but to serve one another! Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

EXAMPLE: When guests were coming to visit my mother would set out the “good towels.” You know what the “good towels” are? They are for decoration only and no one is supposed to actually use the “good towels” for anything else but to look at and admire. That is, unless you are a guest. As a young boy I found this to be a hardship and well, kind of offensive. Wasn’t I good enough for the “good towels?” Shouldn’t I be allowed to use the “good towels?” What god is a “good towel” if it isn’t used real good!? I remember forgetting about the “good towel” rule and actually using one. I left my hard earned dirt on one of them. My siblings were horrified and hid, not wanting the wrath of Mom to come down on them. When my mother did discover that he “good towel” had been actually used, she immediately wanted to know by whom. I confessed, but I also asked, “What good is a towel if it is never used?” My mother just took the towel and never said a word to me. I guess she understood what Jesus was trying to teach here: Towels are to be used. In fact, we have no idea whatever happened to that “foot towel” of Jesus’. The next day it could have been used to wipe off the mud and grime of a camel’s behind as far as we know! Far too many Christians are like “good towels” never being used. They just kind of hang around hoping to be blessed but in reality never knowing the blessing of being used in the service of the Master. Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

Conclusion:
Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His! Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

Who We Are In Jesus Christ – John 13:1-17

Who We Are In Jesus Christ – John 13:1-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 24, 2007 AM

It had been a tough three years. Walking from place to place along dusty roads, facing the ridicule and anger of those you were supposed to respect and look up to. Hiding sometimes from the mob in order to get enough sleep, a little food, or just some quite down time. Then there was the fact that you knew that a time would come when you would have to finished what was laid out before you. You realize it is your last few days on earth, walking with the people you cared about, and trying to get your message across to a lost generation that had completely rejected you and your message. Who would face such odds and continue in their life’s work under such circumstances?

Jesus did. He did because that was who He was. Knowing that His time had come to leave this world, He sets in motion a series of events that would change the world forever. But before He did this He lovingly does something quite special for His disciples, those who followed Him. Jesus leaves them an example of who He is and who they are to be as well. He leaves them the knowledge of who we all are in Jesus Christ when we become His disciples.

READ: John 13:1-17

This is perhaps one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Jesus had defined what it meant to be His disciple by telling those who sought to follow Him that they could not depend upon the necessities of life, that taking care of family matters took second place, and that the message of the gospel was far more important than anything else in life! (Luke 9:57-62) But here in these verses Jesus gives us a graphic example of who we are to be in Him. He related that…

I. Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His!

1. The inside of a dirty dish needs greater cleaning than the outside! The evening meal had been prepared and served. As those hurried around making sure everyone had a place to sit, the glasses were full, and the plates piled with food, Jesus stops and does something quite unexpected. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.” He takes a towel from His waste, a basin of water, and begins to wash each of the disciple’s feet! Even Judas Iscariot who had decided to betray Him, Jesus takes on the role of a servant! Could you wash the feet of someone whom you knew was betraying you? Jesus does. However, notice it is not Judas who objects, but Jesus’ right hand man – Peter. “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Peter objects. Peter understands the concept of a Master and his students, and the student should serve the Master. Yet, Jesus tells him, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” Peter bluntly responds, “You shall never wash my feet!” Calmly and efficiently Jesus answers, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” There it is: Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His! Peter, like many today, missed the spiritual lesson. He is quick to please and he desperately wants to be a part of Jesus’ band of brothers, and he quickly responds, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus responded by relating that, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” If you have been cleansed by Christ, you are spiritually clean, but the daily devotion of personal cleansing is also needed to wash away any sin stain obtained in life. First, you are washed when you trust Jesus with your life, secondly you are washed daily as you come to Him in personal confession: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:9-10) Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His!

EXAMPLE: As a young boy I had a favorite shirt. It was a long-sleeved red plaid work shirt that most of the cowboys and farmers wore. I loved it. I wore it everywhere. To school, at home, to the store, and even to church – if I could get away with it. I remember quite well one Sunday sitting in the wooden pew as the Priest droned on about the love of Mary or something and my mother all of a sudden realizing that I had on, under my Sunday coat, my favorite shirt. “How dare you come out of the house dressed in that for church!” she vehemently whispered to me. Then the words we all feared came, “Just wait until I get you home, young man!” As we were headed out the front door of the church, with my mother grasping my arm tightly so I would not bolt, we came to the Priest. He spoke a few words to my father, to my mother, and then he looked down at me. “Well,” he said, “Lowell, is this your youngest?” My mother replied, “We are not too happy with him this morning. He decided to wear his old work shirt instead of his Sunday shirt,” she explained as her death grip dug into my arm. “Why, that’s a right fancy work shirt, he has there. It shows character and I can see that while it is well used it is well cleaned.” I cannot remember my mother’s reply, but she let go of me and later never said a word to me about the shirt. I figured that if it was clean it was good enough to use, and so does the Lord. The fact remains, that unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His! However, if we are cleansed by Christ we are good enough to be used.

“Lessons are caught rather than taught in life,” someone once quipped. Jesus understood both concepts quite well and used both often. Here we find that Jesus was willing not just to tell a lesson but to teach it by doing it as well. Jesus teaches us that…

II. Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

1. As hard as it is for some of us to have our own filthy feet washed, it is tougher to touch the dirty toes of others! A lesson is not learned unless you are able to do it yourself on your own. When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place at the table. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" He asked them. It is an easy thing for many in our world today to say they “love Jesus,” or that they “follow Jesus,” but what do these words mean when we see so many in our community lost and dying in their sin? Remember when Jesus asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” Jesus responds each time with “Feed My sheep.” Certainly Jesus wanted Peter to experience for himself the love, acceptance, and forgiveness He offered Peter after his betrayal, but Jesus also wanted Peter to remember that although he may call Him “’Teacher’ and 'Lord,'” Peter now needed to understand that his Lord and Teacher, had washed his feet, and that he should also wash “one another's feet!” It was the “feed my sheep” part of the spiritual equation Peter and all of us have to learn. Unless you are willing to be the servant of all, the sheep feeder and foot washer, you are not fit to follow the Master of all, Who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8) Jesus plainly told Peter and the rest of the crew sitting there at that table, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Not to wash feet every Sunday, but to serve one another! Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

EXAMPLE: When guests were coming to visit my mother would set out the “good towels.” You know what the “good towels” are? They are for decoration only and no one is supposed to actually use the “good towels” for anything else but to look at and admire. That is, unless you are a guest. As a young boy I found this to be a hardship and well, kind of offensive. Wasn’t I good enough for the “good towels?” Shouldn’t I be allowed to use the “good towels?” What god is a “good towel” if it isn’t used real good!? I remember forgetting about the “good towel” rule and actually using one. I left my hard earned dirt on one of them. My siblings were horrified and hid, not wanting the wrath of Mom to come down on them. When my mother did discover that he “good towel” had been actually used, she immediately wanted to know by whom. I confessed, but I also asked, “What good is a towel if it is never used?” My mother just took the towel and never said a word to me. I guess she understood what Jesus was trying to teach here: Towels are to be used. In fact, we have no idea whatever happened to that “foot towel” of Jesus’. The next day it could have been used to wipe off the mud and grime of a camel’s behind as far as we know! Far too many Christians are like “good towels” never being used. They just kind of hang around hoping to be blessed but in reality never knowing the blessing of being used in the service of the Master. Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

Conclusion:
Unless Jesus is allowed to wash you, you cannot be one of His! Unless you are willing to stoop down and wash others, you cannot be one of His!

NOTE: This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but please if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety. This devotional will follow Morning by Morning by C H Spurgeon. You may use it however you desire.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

What God Has Called Us to Be – Luke 4:18-19; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10

What God Has Called Us to Be – Luke 4:18-19; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 10, 2008 AM

The words “humility” and “servanthood” for much of modern Christianity have become emotional outpourings rather than personal goals. We are encouraged to discover them by feeling them anew or by doing activities that sensitize us to our inner spirituality. This is a sickening concept built on a lie that gives us a false sense of self-worth. Why would I say that? Because we find in the life of Jesus the very essence of what the Christian is supposed to be. Our goal and mission in life is not found in feelings of faith, but rather in the discovery of who we are and whom Jesus is and what He has called us to be. Every human being should ask the question: What has God called me to be?

For many modern churches they have adopted sloganeering as a means to teach people about their life’s mission statement or “purpose.” Kind of like the US Army does with their motto of “Be all you can be,” or their latest which states, “Army strong.” Many of these purpose statements have left me wondering, “What in the heck does that mean?” It is one thing to adopt a pithy statement to enlist people into a cause, but quite another in trying to find just the right phraseology in order to get folks through the front foyer or give them fuzzy feelings about their faith! God has called us to more than self-centered spirituality. We discover what this means when we take a closer look at what Jesus said about his own life. Let’s find out what God has called us to be, shall we?

READ: Luke 4:18-19; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10

“Do not make a mess,” my mother would sternly warn each of us after she had spent time cleaning the house. Too often Christians think of God as a benevolent parent that has victoriously placed them in a clean house He does not want “messed” up. Yet we exist in a messy sin-fallen world. People are destined to eternal damnation unless they are made aware of the fact that God has chosen them for eternal life. Jesus calls us to that task. As we look at the life of Christ we discover that…

I. Christians are called to tell the good news of God! (Luke 4:18-19)

1. The gospel is a messy message not everyone wants to hear! When Jesus stood up in that small town synagogue and declared the startling truth that “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” It was more than just a statement of purpose. It was in effect the throwing down of a spiritual gauntlet. He was openly declaring war on the sinful status quo that had existed from the time of Adam. His message was more than just helping people out. His concern was not for the materially impoverished but the spiritually destitute. His “purpose” was fourfold in nature: 1) “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners,” caught in sin’s grasp 2) “recovery of sight for the blind,” for those blinded by sin 3) “to release the oppressed,” to break the bondage of sin, and 4) “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” namely, that the Savior has come! This is the good news! Jesus was not saying He came to heal those who were physically sick, but rather to eternally heal those who were spiritually sin-sick and destined for an eternity in hell. And this is where it gets messy. A sin-fallen world does not like to hear it is sick and in need of a cure that only God can provide. Yet, every believer in Christ is called to declare the exact same message. Jesus was “anointed to preach the good news,” as we are. Christians are called to tell the good news of God!

EXAMPLE: She came to me and laughingly remarked, “Pastor, I made a real mess of things with my friend. I could not find the right words to say. I forgot all the Scripture passages I was supposed to use. And, worst of all, I kind of went out on my own.” This young woman had been trained in one of our witnessing clinics and then as a “team member” she was supposed to go out and share her faith. She felt she had done it all wrong. So I asked her, “What happened?” Smiling, she replied, “As messy as it was, she came to know the Lord! At first, she did not want to hear what I was saying, but I just kept on speaking, and telling her what God had done in my life! And, you know what pastor? It finally sank in!” I have often discovered it is not the correct Scripture you know, or what “program” you use, it is what you do with what you have been called to do. Christians are called to tell the good news!

We live in a day and age whereby we are taught to look after number one first. This has so infected our Christianity that many began to think that God revolves around them. “What’s in it for me?” has become the modern day seeker’s citation. After all, isn’t God supposed to be my “best friend?” Contrary to a lot of convoluted pop theology, God is not our personal buddy. He is God. However, we are called to reflect His Son Jesus Christ, and in that we discover…

II. Christians are called to be God’s servants! (Mark 10:45)

1. The Christ life is a messy way to live because it places others first! Like I said earlier, we all want to be “first.” Jesus’ disciples were no different. They overheard Jesus discussing this with two of their number and became “indignant” at the idea that one of them might have been left out! Sadly, this is too true for our day and age. Again, it goes back to our convoluted view of God and what He has asked us to do. Notice here in Jesus’ reply there is no hint of meeting any of His objector’s “needs” or personal desires. In fact, Jesus bluntly states, “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all!” (v. 44) What!? How in the world could Jesus say such a hurtful thing to His “buddies?” He goes on to relate to them why: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (v. 45) In other words, “You think you want to be first? Well let me tell you what is required of anyone who desires to be on my team.” Servanthood has gone out of style in our world. It actually implies that we are to put others first and to place our needs last! Christianity is faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but it is also a life of personal sacrifice. Paul would say, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” (1 Corinthians 15:36) Faith is dying to self and believing what God has promised to do! It changes the one who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has died to self. Like Jesus we must learn personal sacrifice in all areas of life: time, talent, treasure, family, friends, relationships, jobs, material things to name just a few! Paul said, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) Christians are called to be God’s servants.

EXAMPLE: When I was younger we were taught to say, “Please, thank-you, and you are welcome.” But there was more to it than just knowing the right phrase to say. My father actually expected us to display what we were saying with our attitude and actions! Can you imagine? I can vividly remember saying “thank you” to my Mom, and having my Dad call me back and make me say it “correctly.” I knew what he meant. It was not the words I used, it was how I had said them. The same is true when person comes to Christ as Savior and Lord. It is not the words you use, it is what you mean by them. It will change your life if it is true. Jesus told one man that if he wanted to follow Him, he had to be willing to live wherever God directed. To another He related that life’s concerns did not take priority, even if it meant not burying his parent, if he wanted to follow Jesus. And to yet another Jesus related, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62) Was Jesus being harsh? No. he was being truthful. Believers are called to “seek first” God’s “kingdom and righteousness,” and everything else in life will fall into place and be second place to following Jesus! (Matthew 6:33) It is a life of sacrifice. Christians are called to be God’s servants!

Many have become so enamored with finding just the “right” place to express their worship, that they forget they are called to a Godly task. It is a task that has not changed for thousands of years. Jesus Himself stated succinctly exactly what it was to be. In fact, it was so important that we discover it in all four gospels and the Book of Acts. Want to know what it is? Simply we are to do what Jesus came to do. We discover that…

III. Christians are called to seek and save the lost! (Luke 19:10)

1. Going where lost folks are gets us into the messy world around us! This is more than just witnessing, inviting folks to Sunday School, or worship. It is “seeking” to “save the lost!” It is an active desire and focus to go where sinful people are and seek them out to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ. We discover this occurring in the life of Jesus everywhere He went. He even demanded it of those who traipsed around with Him! Zacchaeus was a tax collecting leech but where did Jesus want to eat supper that night? At Zacchaeus’ house! When others complained to Jesus, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-31) What a beautiful noble truth we need to be reminded of this morning! Jesus did not join in their sin, but He went where they were! Christians so insulate themselves to the reality of the sin-fallen world that they only look for places whereby their needs can be met, not giving one thought to how God wants to use them in His kingdom work. Every Christian is called to do the work of God’s body in this world until His Son returns! We forget that He has called us to “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my [God’s] house will be full.” (Luke 14:23) Every day we live we are to establish His kingdom. Christians are to get messy, hurt, and dirty in going out and inviting in those who do not fit our preconceived notions of who is invited! It is not a request of the one who is preparing the banquet, it is a command of the Master of the house! Christians are called to seek and save the lost!

EXAMPLE: I cannot tell you how many times I have been surprised at who God has chosen for His own! There have been those I thought would never want to hear the gospel and respond and then there were those who I thought would be raring to go, but went away rejecting what I shared. I have since learned that I am not called to pick and choose whom I share my faith with, but I am called every day to be ready to share what I do know about Jesus. He has not called me to share with every single person I meet, but God has called me to share with those He purposefully places in my path. Notice the difference? Just as Jesus did not heal everyone that He came across, He did heal those whom God brought to Him. However, Jesus made Himself available to be used by His Heavenly Father and so should we. We are to purposefully seek out those whom God has placed in our path and share our faith with them. This is why Paul would rhetorically ask and answer: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15) Christians are called to seek and save the lost!

Conclusion:

Christians are called to tell the good news of God, Christians are called to be God’s servants, and Christians are called to seek and saved the lost! Who have you told the good news to lately? Who have you been a servant to? When was the last time you actually purposefully sought out someone to share your faith with?
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This article is copyrighted by Pastor Lee Hemen © 2008 and the property of Pastor Lee Hemen. You are welcome to copy it, email it, or use it but if you copy it, email it, or use it you must do so in its entirety.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Being Wise About Relationships – Proverbs

Being Wise About Relationships – Proverbs
February 3, 2008 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

Friction is a consistent element in human relationships. Husbands and wives sometimes disagree over financial, parenting, or household decisions. Church members conflict over issues such as worship styles, budget, or ministries. Coworkers disagree over how to accomplish a project, bosses, or work ethic. All of us have many relationships. We interact with friends, coworkers, and family members almost daily. We may see church members several times a week. We get together with extended family at reunions and holidays. Someone once quipped, “You can pick your friends but you are stuck with your family forever.” How then are we to relate to others?

The Book of Proverbs addresses many of these relationships by giving us basic moral and spiritual principles. Today we will deal with three basic areas that are important in building and maintaining healthy relationships. First, we need to be careful how we speak. We can build or destroy a relationship with a few words. Second, we need to learn how to control our tempers. Patience is a biblical virtue that many Christians struggle to develop. Third, we need to consider the consequences of our actions. Even a seemingly insignificant action can have tremendous long-term results for our relationships. Proverbs provide for us general principles for us in being wise about relationships.

READ: Proverbs 12:18; 15:1; 12:19; 16:28; 17:9; 14:17, 29; 15:18; 20:3; 19:11; 22:24-25; 12:16; 17:14,19; 17:17

Even when you think you are offering helpful insight to a tough situation, it can become unwanted if it is not given in a discrete way. I know, I offered the opinion on how to cook gravy just once, in our marriage. Proverbs speaks to this issue. The first lesson we discover in being wise about relationships is to…

I. Choose Your Words Carefully (Proverbs 12:18; 15:1; 12:19; 16:28; 17:9)

1. A great part of self-control is mouth control! Various proverbs stress that what we say is crucial. Proverbs 12:18 stresses that how we speak is often as important as what we say. Speaking rashly or recklessly can hurt other people. Verbal violence is just as real as physical harm in destroying relationships. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” A gentle answer often defuses a tense situation. A harsh word provokes another hot response. The battle of words easily escalates into alienation, hurt feelings, and broken relationships. Curbing anger and seeking understanding are invaluable in keeping friends. Proverbs 12:19, contrasts the enduring nature of choosing the truth to the limited duration of lying. Our society often encourages deceit. Yet, God expects His people to be truthful. Speaking truth strengthens friendship with trust and respect. This is why gossip is so hurtful and divisive. A contrary person creates problems for themselves in relationships. Some people seem to stir up trouble quickly by being critical, self-centered, or demanding. “Perverse” literally means “fraud.” Some people revel in gossip. The idea refers to someone who deliberately gossips fraudulent things about another! Even if the gossip’s words are true, the motive is to alienate people. Those who set people against one another and spread gossip destroy relationships. This is why the writer reminds us that “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” (v. 17:9) We do not always need to tell everything we know. Out of love for another, we might need to conceal some information. Cold, brutal honesty can be devastating to others. In being wise about relationships you need to be able to choose your words carefully!

EXAMPLE: Mart DeHaan writes: “While riding in a car, I passed a sign that warned: $100 FINE FOR THROWING LITTER ON HIGHWAY. Soon I saw another sign that stated: LITTER BARREL—1 MILE. A short time later, I passed a garbage truck on its way to the disposal plant. There are three things you can do with garbage: You can collect it, scatter it, or dispose of it. Some people are garbage collectors; they are always listening for some choice bit of gossip. If they were only collectors, it would not be so serious. But these collectors are often litterbugs, and insist on scattering it all along life's highway. Thank God, there are also those who know how to dispose of it. They put the refuse where it belongs—in the "litter barrel" of forgetfulness…. Don't spread gossip, but dispose of it by silence. Gossip soon dies if it is not repeated. Today you will find plenty of garbage. You can collect it, scatter it, or dispose of it.” Proverbs reminds us that in being wise about relationships you need to be able to choose your words carefully!

As Christians we should be careful about what we say and how we say it. Concern for building and maintaining relationships will help us know what to say and when to say it. Speaking the truth in love is a solid biblical principle that reinforces the wisdom in Proverbs. God expects His people to use godly care and discretion in what they say and how they say it. Therefore, the second lesson we discover in being wise about relationships is to…

II. Cultivate Patience (Proverbs 14:17, 29; 15:18; 20:3; 19:11)

1. The end never justifies the meanness! The Book of Proverbs frequently contrasts losing one’s temper to cultivating patience. Proverbs 14:17 relates that a quick-tempered man acts like a fool. Being quick-tempered refers to expressing inappropriate anger. This kind of person has the proverbial short fuse or goes off half-cocked. Losing one’s temper can seriously harm relationships. Losing one’s temper is not to be equated with anger. Anger is a God-given capacity that, when controlled, can be used constructively to motivate us to straighten out a problem. This is why Proverbs relates that “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” (v. 29) In fact, “a patient man calms a quarrel.” (v. 15:18) and “It is to a man's honor to avoid strife.” (v. 20:3) A wise person will work to resolve a dispute, whereas a fool revels in stirring up arguments. An honest confrontation may be necessary to resolve conflict. The motive behind such a confrontation should always be reconciliation, not a desire to stir up more trouble! Peace at any cost is not the idea here. Avoiding needless quarreling is a virtue. To be able to exercise patience and self-control is to win in life! Patience is not an impassive indifference or ignoring a problem. Patient people see life’s difficulties realistically. They do not overreact to tense situations and they work toward meaningful solutions: “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (v. 19:11) An overly sensitive person will have a difficult time in life! If you take offense easily at what people say or do, you will struggle with patience. A perfectionist wants everything done exactly right or only his way has difficulty demonstrating patience in the real, messy world in which we live. In being wise about relationships, we are to cultivate patience!

EXAMPLE: Do you know who Joshua Chamberlain is? You should get to know his story: Before he enlisted in the Union Army to fight during the US Civil War, Joshua Chamberlain was a quiet and unassuming college professor. In the crucible of military combat he distinguished himself for his heroism in holding the line on Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. He was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. To recognize Chamberlain’s contribution to the Union victory, General Ulysses S. Grant designated him to receive the first flag of surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The defeated troops of the South expected to be ridiculed and humiliated. Instead, Chamberlain showed them great patience, kindness, and respect. For this, the Confederate commanding officer wrote in his memoirs that Chamberlain was “one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army.” As a committed Christian, Chamberlain reflected the grace of Christ. We too need to stand for what we believe but also to be patient and kind to those with whom we disagree. In being wise about relationships, we are to cultivate patience!

When the Apostle Paul contrasted the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:19-24), he listed patience as a fruit of the Spirit (v. 22). Ultimately godly patience comes from following the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We cannot talk ourselves into being more patient, although being aware of our temper and our impatience is a good starting point for improvement. Cultivating patience in relationships will help us avoid damaging those relationships by losing our tempers. Finally, Proverbs teaches us that in being wise about relationships means we should…

III. Consider the Consequences (Proverbs 22:24-25; 12:16; 17:14,19; 17:17)

1. The road to ruin is always in good repair! Proverbs 22:24 relates that the people we choose to associate with on a regular basis shape our character: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” Paul wrote that bad companions can corrupt our morals (1 Cor. 15:33). Ideally, Christians will have positive influence on their non-Christian friends and coworkers. A key factor here is spiritual and moral maturity. Children and young people are generally more impressionable than adults. And, even adults can become entangled in bad behavior out of a desire to be popular or successful. However, Proverbs 12:16 tells us that a foolish person and a wise person respond differently to the same situation. A sensible person responds to an insult in a more measured, thoughtful way. A wise person does not react with a knee-jerk response to a critical remark because “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam.” (v. 17:14) It results in a flood the perpetrator may not be able to stop. We have all experienced people who seem to just love to get angry. The writer of Proverbs is correct when he relates that “He who loves a quarrel loves sin.” (v. 19) However, we find that the opposite attitude is the correct one. True friendship with God and others will reflect the love of God in our lives. True friends assist us when we face adversity. We need to stand by friends who experience trouble, whether financial, marital, vocational, legal, or moral. Proverbs relates that “A friend loves at all times.” In fact, a friend who is close as a brother “is born for adversity” when we are going through it ourselves! Many young people in our day do not consider the outcome of picking the wrong friends. Who we choose to spend our time with is a reflection of who we are as well. Others will judge us by the friends we keep. Before you decide to hang around with the wrong people, consider the consequences!

EXAMPLE: Someone has said, “The more I get to know the human race, the more I love my dog.” Dogs are loyal, dependable, eager to please, and quick to forgive and forget. Don’t you wish people were more like that? Sometimes we are to our detriment. The desire for the approval of others makes us do strange things and adults are no exception to peer pressure. We wear clothing that is fashionable whether we like it or not, we accept invitations we'd rather decline, and we work much harder than we want to for a level of financial success we don't need. Most regrettably, however, we sometimes choose to follow a crowd that encourages us to do what is wrong. Like the old carnival headliner nicknamed “Cannonball.” In his younger days, he was blasted out of a cannon 1,200 times, pulled a 90-pound weight across a table with his eyelids, and performed many other bizarre stunts. When asked why he did such things, he replied, “Do you know what it's like to feel the applause of 60,000 people? That's why I did it over and over.” People pressure—we are all influenced by it. It bears down on us from all directions. But we can choose the path we will take. If we are swayed by the proud or by those who love money, live for pleasure, to be liked, or long for power, people pressure will lead us down the path that ends in destruction. But if we heed the counsel of those who are humble, good, and godly, we will follow the way that pleases God. Before you decide to hang around with the wrong people, consider the consequences!

Conclusion:
First, we need to be careful how we speak. We can build or destroy a relationship with a few words. Second, we need to learn how to control our tempers. Patience is a biblical virtue that many Christians struggle to develop. Third, we need to consider the consequences of our actions.