Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reconciliation – Colossians 1:15-23

Reconciliation – Colossians 1:15-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 30, 2008 AM

A ceasefire can only occur between two warring factions if there is an understanding and a settlement that resolves outstanding issues that led to the conflict in the first place. I found this out when as a third grader I began to like a little blonde girl with pigtails. Of course I could not let her know that I actually liked her, that would have been gross. Instead, I had to publicly tease her and pull her pigtails so that my guy posse would never find out my true intentions. There is only one problem with this scenario: The female you like, whom you are teasing, will not understand and will want to take revenge on you. It is at this point you have to begin to make appeasement. Which can include a lot of humiliation on your part. Needless to say, we were not soon reconciled.

Spiritual reconciliation while being similar in some ways, is handled differently because of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ. Following his prayer for the Colossian believers, Paul embarked on a marvelous proclamation concerning Christ and the reconciliation believers have through Him. Paul’s teaching in these verses is one of the greatest affirmations concerning Christ and His work of reconciliation found in the New Testament. It teaches us the true meaning of reconciliation for our lives. Let’s discover what that means for you and I today...

READ: Colossians 1:15-23

Sometimes, peace can only occur if one side has the power to enforce it completely. Thus, we have the phrase, “Peace through strength.” This is not necessarily a bad thing because if the one side that has the power to enforce the peace is in fact desirous for reconciliation, then peace can be found. Even more so when the Creator of the universe holds the ability to make reconciliation! Paul maintained that our Lord is not only the Creator but also the Sustainer of all things. As such He is more than able to bring about our reconciliation to God through what He has accomplished. Therefore...

I. Our reconciliation is established because of who Jesus is! (vv. 15-18)

1. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation!” The word “image” for us can mean a copy of something, the term used here however conveys the meanings of both “representation” and “manifestation.” Jesus is the only One capable of making peace between sinful man and a Holy God. How? Here, Paul affirmed Christ’s deity as well as His lordship over all creation. Jesus is the visible expression of God. You see Him, you see God. Jesus in fact told Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” And He affirmed that “I and the Father are one.” (John 14:9; 10:30) But more than that, it is also because “by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him!” Jesus is Creator God! He manifests God to us and He is preeminent over all creation! In fact, all that Christ has created is moving in His direction, for He is indeed its goal: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together!” WOW! Jesus has “supremacy” in all things, including the church, His body in the world! Just as Jesus is the manifestation of God, His church is the manifestation of Him! He is to direct it. It is His body doing His will in the world! Praise God that our reconciliation is established because of who Jesus is!

EXAMPLE: Scientists say there is an invisible force that holds all things together. In fact it is so powerful that when you break the bond between atoms it creates a huge energy surge known as an atomic blast or nuclear fusion. The same is felt when you fall in love for the first time and then do something stupid like tease her to death. The resulting blast can harm you. Christ is the spiritual and ultimately the physical bond of all things. He is the One who binds creation together and holds it fast. From the smallest particle of matter in the universe to the largest galaxy, He gives coherence and maintains order. He not only is the Creator but also the Sustainer of the universe. He is the invisible God made visible and perfectly expresses who God is. How wonderful to know then that the One who created all things and holds all things together, chooses us, draws us to Himself, and holds us fast in His mighty creative hands! How marvelous to also know that our reconciliation is established because of who Jesus is!

Little doubt exists as to the thrust of Paul’s message here. Jesus Christ is supreme in His church as well as in all of creation. Because of this, we are to worship Him and offer the reconciliation that is available through Him to lost people everywhere. In statements about Jesus and God, the creation, and the church, Paul affirmed the full deity of our Savior. People need to know that reconciliation with God is available and possible because of who Jesus is. However, Paul continues and relates that...

II. Our reconciliation is possible because of the cross! (vv. 19-20)

1. “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in” Jesus! The key word in this verse is “fullness.” The term refers to the full deity of Christ during His life here on earth. God was delighted to allow the “fullness” of deity to dwell in His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. The verb translated to dwell” indicates a settled, secure, and permanent place of residence. This is important for us to understand because of what this means for our lives. God displayed Himself in Jesus “to reconcile to Himself all things.” God did this through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, “by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” The term translated “to reconcile” (v. 20) refers to a change that takes place between hostile parties. They exchange hostility for peace and friendship. Although God loves us His wrath remains on anyone in sin, and while we are hostile and totally depraved toward God because of our sin, He still took the initiative to overcome our hostility toward Him through Jesus! The result is peace between God and redeemed humanity. The beauty of the concept is that although we are the offending party, God has taken the initiative in the process of reconciliation, and believers are the ones who benefit from it! Our reconciliation is possible because of the cross!

EXAMPLE: I do not think the human mind can easily grasp or wrap itself around the concept that the Creator of the universe came to live among us. He did not just simply walk around observing us, like an impartial scientific observer, but He actually pitched His tent in our midst, ate, drank, slept, laughed, cried, awoke, prayed, and wondered right along with us! In fact, He was born of a virgin woman, was raised by a earthly father, was instructed by town rabbis, and played with His siblings. He grew to be a man who took His direction from His daily moment by moment spiritual walk with His heavenly Father and placed His feet on the path to a place called Golgotha, near Jerusalem. There He died. But that is not all there is to this story. While His death on a cross obtained a sacrifice for our sins, a bloodletting we could never have obtained or endured, His resurrection from the grave assured our eternal existence with Him! “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” (1 Corinthians 15:21) Never forget therefore that our reconciliation is possible because of the cross!

God has set forth Christ and His cross as the agency through which sinful humanity can come to Him. The verb translated “making peace” is a synonym for reconciliation. This reconciliation not only involves humanity as the crown of God’s creation, but it involves things on earth as well as heavenly things. People need to know that reconciliation is available and possible only through the death of Christ on the cross. Paul tells us this spiritual fact when he finally relates that...

III. Our reconciliation in Jesus makes peace possible with God! (vv. 21-23)

1. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior!” How in the world then could we as the “enemies” of God make any reconciliation toward Him? We could not and we cannot! Nothing we could ever do or say would be good enough to pay the price of our rebellion. The term translated “alienated” refers to the condition of being estranged or in active revolt. In this instance that Someone we defy is God. We are in desperate need of what only God can provide! Paul next set forth the purpose of this reconciliation. The term translated “to present” contains the idea of purpose. It is often used in sacrificial as well as in legal contexts. God did this through Jesus in order that we may be 1) holy in His sight, 2) without blemish, and 3) free from accusation! We may not realize it but when we trust Jesus, we become a sacrifice as well in the sense that we are dying to ourselves and trusting Jesus to make us holy, without blemish, and thereby free us from all accusation! This is why Paul would ask, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” and he would quickly answer that “It is God who justifies!” (Romans 8:33) God justifies us through Jesus. “Therefore,” Paul would also declare, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) “For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”(Colossians 1:13-14) “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:1) Our reconciliation in Jesus makes peace possible with God!

EXAMPLE: Remember that little blonde headed girl I angered? Well, I tried to send emissaries to her girl camp, but she would have none of it. I lived therefore in mortal fear of what this would mean for me and just how she would get her revenge. As the days lingered into weeks, I began to think I was “safe.” Then one day while I was taking an unsuspecting sip from the drinking fountain, she appeared right behind me. My heart jumped into my throat, I trembled with fear, not knowing just how the wrath of an unhinged third grade girl could utterly disseminate me. “Hi,” I weakly croaked. She looked at me through narrowed eyes and then she asked, “Why did you tease me the way you did?” “Because I like you,” I murmured, sweating profusely. “Oh,” was all she said. She took my hand and we walked across the playground together. Reconciled. At peace. Later, she developed a crush for a fifth grader and I was toast, but I know what it means to be reconciled and not fear anymore. That is why I am so glad our reconciliation in Jesus makes peace possible with God!

Conclusion:

Our reconciliation is established because of who Jesus is! Our reconciliation is possible because of the cross! Our reconciliation in Jesus makes peace possible with God.

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.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Transformed! -- Colossians 1:1-14

Transformed! – Colossians 1:1-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 16, 2008 AM

A man who is in jail for robbery has been stealing since boyhood. He says he cannot stop and he knows he will be in trouble again. Liars say they cannot stop lying. Alcoholics say they cannot stop their addiction. Some psychiatrists relate that telling someone to repent is “like telling a person to change the color of his skin.” The prophet Jeremiah would agree that it is sometimes impossible for people to change their conduct -- but for a different reason. It is not because they cannot change; it is because they do not want to change. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil,’” God related to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13:23). However, there is good news! The Bible relates that people can be transformed!

Paul wrote his fellow believers in Colossae around 60-62 AD, while he was imprisoned in Rome. One purpose was to correct the heresy of Gnosticism, a form of mysticism, that had sprung up within the church and was affecting new Christians. These false teachers were urging people to blend other cultic religious ideas with Christianity. Though Paul did not know these believers personally, he was still concerned for their spiritual welfare. He knew that their lives were transformed by the power of God and they did not need to get mixed up in ungodly and false doctrines that would confuse them. The same is true for us in our day and age. Many want to rewrite what the Bible teaches about God’s transforming power through Jesus Christ. These are but false doctrines and we need to get back to what it means to be and live transformed lives in Christ. Let’s discover what this means for our lives today...

READ: Colossians 1:1-14

Paul knew that the power of the gospel to transform lives is evident when people hear and understand the truth of God’s grace, put their faith in Jesus Christ, and display love toward God’s people. Therefore spiritual...

I. Transformation begins in a believer with Jesus Christ (vv. 1-8)!


1. Change comes through Christ! Paul’s and Timothy’s prayers of thanksgiving for the Colossians were prompted by the fact that they had heard several things about them. First, they had heard of their faith in Christ Jesus. Until there is that personal acceptance of Jesus Christ in faith, there can be no salvation for the individual. Their faith was also displayed by “the love [they had] for all the saints.” Their old way of living had changed so much that they now cared for others. Such love is the proper outgrowth of an individual’s salvation experience. When a person becomes properly related to Jesus Christ by faith, a love for others will always follow. Faith and love are described as dependent on hope (v. 5), the goal of the Christian’s expectation. Observe the use of the triad of faith, hope, and love as in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Hope is one of the great words in the vocabulary of the New Testament! The true gospel message of hope had been proclaimed to the Colossians when they placed their faith in Christ. As a result growth and fruit-bearing had been occurring among them since the day they accepted the true gospel message (v. 6)! And in fact they had “learned it from Epaphras” a fellow believer! A Christian’s transformation begins with Jesus and is displayed to the world around them in Christlike love. So much so that others can learn from your example. What a wonderful thing to learn that spiritual transformation begins in the believer with Jesus Christ!


EXAMPLE: Mart De Haan writes that “For a long time the old church sat empty and abandoned in a Detroit neighborhood. The decaying building blended naturally into the whole area. Storefronts were boarded up. An old school building was padlocked. Party stores flourished, but little else. Grim, unswept, forgotten—that's how it all looked.
Then one night things changed. The old church sparkled with light. Parked cars lined the streets. The sound of music filled the air. What had been dead and abandoned had come to life.
I've seen people like that. For years they were dark and empty like that old church. There was little inside except anger, selfishness, and pride. Then one day all was changed. Suddenly the darkness was gone. It was as if someone had turned on the lights.
And that Someone is God. He forgives those who come to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. He specializes in giving new life to those who seem to be beyond hope—those who are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).
If all this sounds unfamiliar, it may be because we've lost sight of the transforming power of Jesus Christ.” What a wonderful thing to learn that spiritual transformation begins in the believer with Jesus Christ!

Paul also understood that people who have experienced the gospel’s transforming power in their lives through salvation need to move toward maturity by learning more about God’s will. We learn that...

II. Transformation will grow through Spiritual maturity (v. 9)!


1. Spiritual maturity develops wisdom that comes from Godly knowledge! Paul continued to reveal the content of his and Timothy’s prayer for the Colossian Christians. Since Epaphras had reported to Paul in Rome about the situation of the church in Colossae, Paul’s and Timothy’s prayers had been fervent and constant. They were concerned. Although Paul expressed great joy regarding the Colossians’ faith, he recognized the dangers in the theological heresy that was threatening the church. Paul’s prayer clearly reflects his concern about this church’s future. The apostle desired that the Colossians should continue moving toward maturity in their Christian experience. When people have experienced the gospel’s transforming power in their lives through salvation, they need to move toward maturity by learning more about God’s will. Such growth is precisely what Paul wanted for the Colossians, and he was praying to that end. He prayed consistently that the Colossians’ lives would be transformed further through the gospel, and he specifically prayed for them to have complete knowledge of God’s will. The Greek word Paul used for knowledge sometimes is translated “full knowledge” or “full discernment.” This is not some Gnostic mystical knowledge, but one that was full and complete. Spiritual understanding for the Christian includes biblical wisdom: acquiring godly knowledge and applying that knowledge to specific situations in our lives. Jesus said that “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) Our transformation will grow through Spiritual maturity!


EXAMPLE: Herbert Vander Lugt writes: “How difficult it is for some highly intelligent people to admit that in their own wisdom they can't answer life's ultimate questions.
The well-known astrophysicist Fred Hoyle said: "A common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature." Yet he remains an unbeliever.
The late Carl Sagan spoke of "some kind of force or power" that enabled the universe to create itself. But he was "opposed to any kind of revealed religion."
The majority of us as Christians may feel unqualified to debate such intellectual giants. But it's not God's purpose to refute human wisdom with intellectual arguments. Instead, He confounds human wisdom and power by displaying His greater wisdom and power. He does this by saving ordinary people like you and me through the "message of the cross" (1 Corinthians 1:18). The truth that Jesus died for our sins and rose again is viewed as foolishness by the world.
God's best evidence to refute worldly wisdom is a transformed life. What a privilege to bear this message! What a challenge to live it!”

Paul realized that those whose lives have been transformed through the power of the gospel are to live by God’s will, thus pleasing Him and giving evidence of further changes. He knew that...

III. Transformation continues as the believer lives for Jesus (vv. 10-14)!


1. Spiritual strength comes through exercising our faith muscles! Paul continued his petition for the Colossians. The term translated “live a life,” when used in such contexts as here, regularly refers to a person’s walk with God. Paul prayed that the Colossians would conduct their lives in a manner worthy of the Lord. Paul described what he meant by walking worthy of the Lord. Bearing fruit is not an option for the believer. It is that which accompanies the faith relationship with Jesus Christ. The verb construction here indicates that this activity was to be an ongoing process. Jesus said, “This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.... You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:8, 16) In other words, it was to be a continuous activity as they grew “in the knowledge of God.” As Paul’s petition progressed, he asked that they would be “strengthened with all power” so that they might have “great endurance and patience,” with joyful thanks to God the Father! Paul related that God’s attitude and actions toward us are characterized by grace, and our response to Him should be characterized by gratitude. Christians should be “giving thanks” to God! Why? Because “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (vv. 13-14) The believer’s life has been transformed and is being transformed. We need to exercise our spiritual muscles! Transformation continues as the believer lives for Jesus!


EXAMPLE: Vernon C. Grounds relates that “One night a woman dreamed that she was having a conversation with God. She was angry about all the suffering and evil she saw around her, so she complained to the Lord, ‘Why don't You do something about all this?’ God gently replied, ‘I did. I created you.’
God could send another flood, as He did in Noah's day, to cleanse away the wickedness of the world. He could, but He won't. He has promised never to do that again (Genesis 9:11). Instead, He chooses to work through human beings like us, changing them, then enabling them to function as His agents of change.
He changed Paul from a persecutor of the church to "His witness to all men" (Acts 22:15). Paul's life and letters taught, inspired, and comforted the church in its early days, and they still do today. It was the power of God that changed Paul, then used him to change the world around him.
What about you? Have you been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ? Are you now obediently serving Him to change the lives of people around you?” We need to exercise our spiritual muscles! Transformation continues as the believer lives for Jesus!

Conclusion:
Transformation begins in a believer with Jesus Christ! Transformation will grow through Spiritual maturity! Transformation continues as the believer lives for Jesus! Have you been transformed? You can be.

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.



Sunday, March 09, 2008

Freedom – Colossians 2:6-10

Freedom – Colossians 2:6-10
March 9, 2008 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

How did you come to Christ? Perhaps a better question would be: How did you receive Jesus? Some will relate their “salvation story” whereby they “accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord,” while others would say it was a gradual process of coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus. This is fine but this is not what I actually mean. In our Christianity we have reduced faith to an act that we have performed in the past. Faith is more than a past act, it is the daily acknowledgment of who you are, what you need to do, and thereby realizing that you cannot do it on your own, and that you moment by moment must trust completely in Jesus, whom you cannot see, with all that you are!

When Jesus said, “Trust in me,” He was not saying we can depend on Him to be nice to us but rather that we are to give up all that we know, think we know, and set our complete faith in Him alone. We are to literally set aside everything we hold near and dear and give it all to Him to use as He wills. Christianity is more than feeling good about one’s self and being nice to others. If you do not understand what it means to place your faith in Jesus, you will never discover the freedom Paul relates in these verses in Colossians. Lets discover what freedom truly means for the Christian…

READ: Colossians 2:6-10

If we receive Jesus by “simple faith,” then why do we not continue in “simple faith?” Children trust their parents, knowing that a loving parent seeks only the best for them. The same is true for the believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ. Why then do so many live unproductive lives in Jesus? We find the reason in these words of Paul to the Colossians. Freedom in faith is found when…

I. Believers continue in Christ! (vv. 6-7)

1. The Christian life is to continue just as it began! Paul relates that “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.” Making someone “Lord” of your life means they are in control of it! Since a Christian’s rests solely on the good news of the gospel, Paul tells his readers not to relinquish its divine authority for any human philosophical sophistry! Christians are to be “rooted” in Jesus alone! They are to be continually “built up” and “strengthened” in their faith! The sad fact is that too many allow their faith to depend on their emotions instead of their trust in Christ! If they relied on their faith they would not be “blown to and fro with every wind of doctrine” that comes along! (Ephesians 4:14) “I am afraid,” Paul lamented over some of his weak brothers in Christ, “that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough!” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4) Too many folks are willing to follow whoever comes along with fine sounding words rather than rely on the faith they first believed in! This is why Christians need to be “built up” and “strengthened” in the faith that they were initially taught! As believers are “built up” in Christ, they become more grateful and overflow with “thankfulness” for what they have continued in! Freedom in faith is found when believers continue in Christ!

EXAMPLE: There was years ago a man who spent most of his spare time planting trees. The man seldom watered the young trees because he thought that too much watering spoiled them. “Pampered trees,” he said, “made for shallow roots, and deep roots were something to be treasured.” Those tree are rugged, strong, and durable now. Tall and tough. Adversity and deprivation seem to have benefited them in ways that being sheltered and pampered couldn’t. It made me think about how I pray for others. I'm inclined to pray that God will spare people from hardship, but lately I've changed my praying. I don't ask for the easy way. Instead, I try to echo the prayer of the apostle Paul: “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) I now ask that their roots will go deep in the love of God, so they will grow up sturdy and strong. Then when the winds of adversity blow, they won't be swept away but will stand tall as a testimony of faith. Freedom in faith is found when believers continue in Christ!

Recently several teenagers were mauled and killed when they were antagonizing a caged tiger. He escaped, hunted them down, killed one of them and severely injured others. That happens when you foolishly do something as stupid as prod a wild animal that can kill you. The same is true for those who foolishly dabble in false spirituality. Peter would warn: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Paul reminds us that freedom in faith is found when…

II. Believers avoid spiritual captivity! (v. 8)

1. True wisdom is actually knowing what it truly important! Paul was concerned that no false teacher take the Colossian believers “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy!” True Christian philosophy takes “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Philosophy is the love of wisdom, but if one loves wisdom that is not of Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” (Colossians 2:3) then it is simply worshipping an empty idol! Such people will be “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). This kind of philosophy “depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” or as the RSV states: “elemental spirits” of this world! The idea refers to the evil spirits who inspire such heresy and over whom Christ triumphed! Paul reminds us that “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). “For our struggle,” he relates, “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) Such a philosophy is demonic and worldly, not godly or Christlike. Unless believers are careful, such philosophy may ensnare them, taking them “captive.” Believers are to avoid spiritual captivity and trust Christ alone!

EXAMPLE: I read about some slave-making ants of the Amazon that illustrate man's predicament of following a false spirituality. Hundreds of these ants periodically swarm out of their nest to capture neighboring colonies of weaker ants. After destroying resisting defenders, they carry off cocoons containing the larvae of worker ants. When these “captured children” hatch, they assume that they are part of the family and launch into the tasks of their enemies! They never realize that they are forced-labor victims. Just as these little creatures are captives from the time of their birth, so we enter the world enslaved to sin and Satan. But there is a solution. By turning to Christ in faith, we are released from the lie of sin. Then by the Holy Spirit's power we can begin serving the truth. In order to remain free though, we have to be willing to stay free in Christ and “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Believers are to avoid spiritual captivity!

It is sad when people think that simply by being practical they are spiritually smart. It is dangerous and can lead to a false sense of self-sufficiency. Then there are those who seem to place their trust in the latest science or recent discovery only to later realize that all of the test results were not in yet. So many people are asking that we trust them, yet few come through on the promises they hold out to us. Whom or what then should we trust? Freedom in faith is found when…

III. Believers trust in what is true! (vv. 9-10)

1. No one ever got lost on a straight road! There is no “fullness” found in a philosophy based on vain human reasoning. For in Christ “all the fullness of the Deity lives.” Hence only in Christ can an individual have true fullness in life! Apart from Jesus is emptiness. The philosopher Jean Paul Sartre related that “Life is an empty bubble on the sea of nothingness.” Jesus would say, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) “…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) He would say that “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44) The wisdom of God is worth all you own or could ever have! This is why the Teacher in Ecclesiastes would moan, “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:17) Solomon found out that wisdom worshipped is just plain vanity, whereas only in Jesus do we find real treasured truth! Why? We know that Jesus was God in human flesh! Fully God and fully man: “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form!” And, as believers, we have “been given the fullness of Christ!” This fullness of life comes from Christ’s fullness. We partake of the divine nature through Jesus who “from the fullness of His grace we have all received” (John 1:16). Jesus taught that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they [Christians] may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) We can trust Jesus because of Who He is and what we receive by faith in Him! Freedom in faith is found when believers trust in what is true!

EXAMPLE: At the highest levels of government, military leaders carefully monitor events in their region and around the world. As they evaluate troop movements, missile placements, and possible responses, they try to answer the question, “Where is this going to lead us?” About 600 BC, Jeremiah the prophet asked his countrymen to consider where their action was taking them. The biggest threat to their well-being, however, wasn't an enemy army but their own spiritual and moral decay. People who professed to believe in God were sexually immoral, godless, and cruel (Jeremiah 5:7-28). Even more troubling was the people's preference for religious leaders who said politically correct things rather than the truth (5:30-31). The prophet, knowing that their way of life would ultimately bring down God's judgment, asked them to think realistically, “What will you do in the end?” (v.31). It was a good question then, and it's a good question today. We need to evaluate carefully our relationship with God. Do we stop long enough in our busy lives to ask, “Where is my life headed?” Freedom in faith is found when believers trust in what is true!

Conclusion:
Freedom in faith is found when believers continue in Christ, when believers avoid spiritual captivity, and when believers trust in what is true!
----
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.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Being Wise About Finances and Money – Proverbs 6:6-11; 21:20; 11:24-25

Being Wise About Finances and Money – Proverbs 6:6-11; 21:20; 11:24-25
by Pastor Lee Hemen
March 2, 2007 AM

Major financial decisions, such as buying a house, require careful thinking. Multitudes live under financial pressure, some through no fault of their own. However, many are under pressure because they have not managed their money and finances well. By adopting a lifestyle beyond their means, they not only spend all they make but also use credit, spending money they do not have. Thus they have no funds for those who seek their help. God does not want His people to be victims of poor financial management. The Lord wants His people to be good managers and generous givers.

I grew up in a family situation where my parents could not afford to buy games, toys, or comic books outside of Christmas or birthdays. In fact, there were times when we did not have much for these either! It taught me to be wise about finances and the money I earned. Today’s sermon is going to deal with something a bit different, we will look at three practical issues: work, debt, and generous giving. God has provided instructions for us from the Bible designed to enable His people not only to meet their own needs but also the needs of others and His church. Being wise about finances and money is a biblical principal. Let’s discover what this means for us this morning.

READ: Proverbs 6:6-11; 21:20; 11:24-25

There are a lot of sermons given on the love of God, being a Christian, or how to receive a blessing, but few on how God wants His people to be responsible with what they earn. It is a taboo subject that few pastors tackle anymore out of fear of offending someone because you have to use the word “money” in a sermon. Would it surprise you then to learn that Jesus spoke more about stewardship than anything else? Why? Because stewardship, a life lived under the influence of God’s wisdom whereby time, talent, and treasure -- glorify God! Being wise about finances and money should be one hallmark of a Christian’s life. In fact, we discover that Proverbs tells us to…

I. Work Diligently (Proverbs 6:6-11)

1. It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t! This verse is one of my favorite in the Book of Proverbs. I probably like it because I was raised with a strong work ethic. Rather than pointing to a human example of diligent work, the writer noted the industrious ant. They seem to work diligently. A slacker or sluggard, by contrast, does little work. Wisdom literature, such as Proverbs, often uses moral lessons learned from nature. Without any apparent chain of command, that the writer could see, ants work hard. Some people today work hard only when their boss or supervisor is in sight. When the coast is clear, however, they slack off. Ants demonstrate the wisdom of planning ahead as they prepare for cold weather. For us such foresight might include planning for retirement or disabilities. We should take responsibility and be proactive rather than reactive in our financial planning and not depend on others to take care of us. Notice that the slacker, by contrast, is lazy. The writer was not criticizing the legitimate need for sleep, and we know that some people are “morning people” and others are “night people!” The writer’s concern was personal laziness, which leads to ruin. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…” (6:10) almost sounds like a Serta sleep commercial! A lazy person typically will experience poverty in life rather than prosperity. A person who sleeps on the job or who is chronically late for work will probably be fired or demoted. God relates that being wise about finances and money begins with working diligently.

EXAMPLE: David Roper writes that the apostle Paul had some tough words for shirkers: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Some circumstances may make it impossible for us to work. But if we're able-bodied and can find work, we must work with energy and diligence. This is not just good advice but a command from an inspired apostle and from our Lord Jesus Christ (v.12). Sloth is sin. Paul also had a word for workers: “Do not grow weary in doing good” (v.13). Our work may seem mindless, offering little challenge or stimulation, but we can do it "heartily, as to the Lord" (Colossians 3:23). We get weary in our work at times and want to give up, but we can stay the course if we understand that we're working for our Lord and ultimately for His eyes only (Ephesians 6:7). He is an employer who sees and knows all we do, and He values what we do and why we do it. Knowing that God cares about our work gives meaning to all our actions, even those no one else notices or appreciates. Michelangelo, painting in some obscure corner of the Sistine Chapel, was asked by one of his helpers why he lavished such attention on a part of the ceiling no one would ever see. He replied, “God will see.”

According to the Book of Proverbs, people who are able to work should do their jobs well. However, the Bible does not teach that all poverty is due to laziness or that all wealth is a result of hard work. Some people are poor due to circumstances beyond their control, and others are wealthy because they inherited it. We find that Paul urged believers to “do everything for God’s glory” (1 Corinthians 10:31). A job well done glorifies the Lord! We may work just to pay our bills, however, in being wise about finances and money we should also…

II. Avoid Debt (Proverbs 21:20)

1. A wise person plans for their future! Notice that the person who does their house will be full of treasure and oil. A wise person’s diligence and restraint allows them to save resources for future needs and to give generously. In contrast, a foolish person consumes their income. Many families spend all they make as rapidly as they make it. If more money comes in, they raise their level of consumption! Such families may never plan ahead. They lack a contingency plan for emergencies. Paul would remind us to “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8) It is estimated that individual credit card debt is around $9,000 for those who have at least one credit card, according to CardWeb. The news is full of stories on the huge default on home loans right now. In fact, some folks are finding they owe more on their loans than their house is actually worth! Paul reminds us that we are to “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5) Notice Paul equated greed with “idolatry!” Greed is simply the desire for more of what you do not have. This is why many get into heavy personal debt. We are to avoid debt because it enslaves us and tempts us to sin. God would say that this is simply being wise about finances and money.

EXAMPLE: Almost every week someone in my family receives a credit card application. We even got one for our old dog Brownie! Usually the person is “preapproved” for the credit card. Signing the application or making a phone call will activate the card. Not all debt is avoidable. A medical emergency, for instance, could force someone to take out a loan. Some people lose their jobs due to circumstances beyond their control. Major purchases, such as a house or a car, typically require indebtedness. Nevertheless, much debt could be avoided if people managed their money more wisely. In being wise about finances and money Christians should avoid debt.

Christians need to work to minimize their indebtedness. If we follow the principles laid out in the Book of Proverbs, we will be less likely to incur unwise debts. We also need to recall James’ advice to consider the transience of life when we make financial decisions: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14). Spending all we earn and unnecessarily going into debt is not wise. In fact, one of the major hindrances to generous giving in the church today is excessive personal debt. In being wise about finances and money the Christian should also…

III. Give Generously (Proverbs 11:24-25)

1. Some people in our society are oriented to getting instead of giving! Such individuals view giving money away as foolish. The writer noted that when we give freely, we will prosper. Why? It is an attitude of the heart. It reflects who we are in Christ. Believers must also remember that there are rewards for giving that are intangible. The Apostle Paul encouraged Christians at Corinth to share out of their bounty: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:11). God is most certainly concerned about both the rich and the poor: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22:2). Rich and poor are on an equal level before God; one is not favored over the other. God expects every believer give with a generous spirit. He does not look at your checkbook. This is why the writer states: “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (v. 11:25) It does not say a “rich” generous man. This verse reinforces our responsibility to be generous with our resources. Our contemporary mind-set tends to view generosity can only come when we can afford it. God entrusts some of His people with wealth that they might use it to help others, yet He does not excuse our meager means as a reason not to give! Remember the widow’s mite? (Mark 12:41-44) In fact, nowhere in this incident does Jesus say she was wrong to give or that she should not have given! We learn that in fact she was praised for giving all she had from a devout heart! Jesus taught: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) In being wise about finances and money Christians are to give generously out of love for God, no matter what their financial circumstances.

EXAMPLE: I have heard and read many stories about the Great Depression of the 1930s. Few families had a car, plumbing, or electricity! However, most had a house, a well, an outhouse, wood for fuel, adequate clothing, and enough food. I grew up poor but never realized it, until much later, just how poor we actually were. How much money does a person need to be considered rich? And how much money does a person have to give away to be considered generous? It's hard to say, isn't it? In fact, it may be impossible to give a specific answer to those two questions. The apostle Paul did not set a percentage as a rule for giving, nor did he say that only the rich should give. Instead, he challenged the Corinthian Christians by telling them about the Macedonian believers who gave out of their “deep poverty” and “beyond their ability” because they “first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5). He reminded his readers of their Savior, the Lord Jesus, who exchanged the riches of heaven for poverty on earth so that they might be rich for all eternity. In being wise about finances and money Christians are to give generously out of love for God, no matter what their financial circumstances.

Conclusion:
In being wise about our finances and money, Christians are to: Work diligently, avoid debt, and given generously.

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.