Sunday, June 29, 2008

Celebrating Our Independence! - Luke 4:15-30

Celebrating Our Independence! – Luke 4:15-30
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 29, 2008 AM

What does independence mean? For some it is the ability to do what you want, when you want to do it. For others it means the ability to vote, to peacefully protest or assemble. Still others see it as a means to be able to speak your mind openly and honestly about any issue or the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. And there are those that see it as a means to worship as one desires without the government telling you where to go to church, what to believe, or by taxing you to support a state-run church. No matter how we view independence it could not have been possible without one man, and that is the man Jesus. Why would I say that?

When we as Americans celebrate our independence we are celebrating our nation’s decision to free itself from the tyranny of a king and to have a government that was of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is why the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Where did our forefathers get the crazy notion that this ideal was true? From the Bible and specifically from Jesus’ own words and the words of those who He spiritually changed. Independence for the Christian means so much more than a free government of the people. It means a celebration of spiritual freedom! Let’s discover what this means as we celebrate our independence…

READ: Luke 4:15-30

How would you like to follow a strict set of rules in order to try and please God? The clothes you wear, the food you eat, the way you wear your hair, the very steps you take and the offerings you make would all be bound by a strict code. And if you broke just one of the least of the rules, you would be held accountable for all of them! The weight of the legal system would fall on you like a ton of bricks and you would feel its burden day in and day out. You would live your life in fear that perhaps you had not done enough for God to love you or that you had somehow someway broken or displeased Him. Welcome to the horrible world of legalism. However, here in this passage of Luke, Jesus teaches us about independence from all of that. In fact we learn that in celebrating a believer’s independence it means…

I. Independence from legalism!

1. Liberty is secured not in the rules you follow, but in the One you believe in! Jesus proclaimed that God had sent Him “to preach the good news to the poor.” What does He mean by this? (The words “heal the broken hearted” are not found in many manuscripts and this is why the NIV and others do not retain it as the KJV does.) The “good news” the gospel was a message of hope to the impoverished souls of the day. Those who were caught up in Jewish legalism that had left them begging at God’s door for freedom from all the rules and regulations the priests and scribes had tied around their necks. Jesus offered a new hope. A hope that was based on the grace of God. Which He had already planned in Jesus and not on what man could do for Him. Legalism binds men’s souls to the false system of trying to appease God. Of making sure every jot and tittle is accounted for and that every “t” is crossed and every “i” dotted of manmade spiritual law. People in our day and age still think that by somehow following a set of rules they will please God. Jesus related that “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse.” (Mark 2:21) After all “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) Jesus said that those who the rules to be followed instead of believing in the grace of God, “tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (Matthew 23:4) Liberty is secured not in the rules you follow, but in the One you believe in! Celebrating a believer’s independence means independence from legalism!

EXAMPLE: H. W. Robinson wrote that “We are all accustomed to contracts. We are often required to sign them, whether we're closing a business deal, taking out a bank loan, buying a car, leasing an apartment, or purchasing a major appliance. Contracts, formal or informal, specify what happens if one of the parties fails to live up to an agreement. When we put our trust in Christ for salvation, however, we do more than sign a contract [or by following a set of rules.] We enter into a binding relationship with God whereby He makes us His children by the new birth and by adoption (1 Peter 1:23; Ephesians 1:5). Because of this close family relationship, we are permanent heirs of an eternal inheritance reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). Contracts can be broken if one of the parties fails to keep his part of the promise. Fortunately for us, our eternal destiny is based on more than some legal agreement we make with God. Rather, we are secure because of our family relationship with Him. If a youngster fails to show up for dinner, the parent's obligation isn't canceled. The parent starts a search for the child. One member's failure doesn't cancel the relationship. How thankful we can be that eternal life is based on our relationship with God through Christ.” Liberty is secured not in the rules you follow, but in the One you believe in! Celebrating a believer’s independence means independence from legalism!

There are those in our world who actually think that good looks, brains, or brawn make them better people that others around them. Some believe that because of their ‘talent” they have arrived. The idea of celebrity has so influenced our world, conversation, and outlook on life that even children as young as preschool use it to get what they want. However, let me share with you something, God sees everyone in sin. It does not matter to Him how fast, strong, smart, or good looking you are – you are in sin. The Bible teaches, as does reality, that all mankind is depraved and full of sin. When Jesus stood up in that synagogue and read the passage from Isaiah He was proclaiming mankind’s freedom. He knew that celebrating a believer’s independence means…

II. Independence from sin!

1. Freedom is found when your sins are forgiven! The NIV relates that Jesus came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” All people everywhere are prisoners of sin. Paul would say, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one… for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!” (Romans 3:10-12, 23) However, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (v. 24) When Jesus proclaimed freedom for the prisoners, He meant that sin no longer held its sway over mankind! We had a choice! Jesus told those who refused to believe in Him, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24) We now can choose: Freedom or slavery! Paul would declare, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Choose this day whom you will follow is the echo from the past to the present. It is the choice every freethinking individual must make for themselves. No one can make it for you. Not a parent, politician, or professor. The choice is yours and yours alone. You will stand on your word of faith or you will die for lack of it: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) Freedom is found when your sins are forgiven! Celebrating a believer’s independence means independence from sin!

EXAMPLE: Julie A. Link writes that “After being kidnapped, held hostage for 13 days, and released, New Zealand news cameraman Olaf Wiig, with a broad smile on his face, announced, “I feel more alive now than I have in my entire life.” For reasons difficult to understand, being freed is more exhilarating than being free. For those who enjoy freedom every day, Olaf’s joy was a good reminder of how easily we forget how blessed we are. This is also true spiritually. Those of us who have been Christians for a long time often forget what it’s like to be held hostage by sin. We can become complacent and even ungrateful. But then God sends a reminder in the form of a new believer who gives an exuberant testimony of what God has done in his or her life, and once again we see the joy that is ours when we are “free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). If freedom has become boring to you, or if you tend to focus on what you can’t do, consider this: Not only are you no longer a slave to sin, but you are freed to be holy and to enjoy eternal life with Christ Jesus! Celebrate your freedom in Christ by taking the time to thank God for the things you are able and free to do as His servant.” Freedom is found when your sins are forgiven! Celebrating a believer’s independence means independence from sin!

Why is it we can look right at something and not see it? I do it all the time. Perhaps there is a disconnect between my brain and my recognizer or something. As funny or sad as that can be, it is a horrible thing to look at the truth of God, recognize it and yet refuse to believe it. It is called spiritual blindness. Jesus related to His listeners that day in the synagogue that they had been looking intently at the Scripture and were now blind to its truth standing right in front of them. Were they glad to be given the spiritual spectacles they needed? Nope. Quite the opposite happened. Jesus relates that celebrating a believer’s independence means…

III. Independence from Spiritual blindness!

1. Independence is found in the sovereignty of God! Most people would never choose to be blinded, yet this is exactly what many do. Jesus came not just physically heal people, that really was a secondary occurrence in His ministry. Rather, he came “to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (v. 19) The favor of the Lord shown on the darkness of mankind. Light had come into the world, but the world loved darkness instead. Jesus related that He came to “proclaim… recovery of sight for the blind.” Why then would people love the shadows? Jesus said that “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) Why would they continue to love darkness after seeing the truth of God in Jesus Christ? John wrote that “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4-5) The idea here is that they deliberately misunderstand it because they love the darkness instead! WOW! How stupid is that? This is why John would later declare that “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” (1 John 1:6) However, the wonderful truth is that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) when Jesus stood up in the dusty stuffy little synagogue and spoke this truth it startled the people who heard it. He calmly rolled up the scroll of Isaiah and told them “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) From this day on they could be free from spiritual blindness. Celebrating a believer’s independence means independence from Spiritual blindness!

EXAMPLE: We will be taking a trip to Ape Caves in August. There in the complete darkness of the cavern one little match lights up the entire darkness, but the same light of a small match would be lost in the brightness of the sun’s light. That is the way it is with spiritual blindness. When the light of the truth of the gospel of Christ shines even a little, many run from its glare. They fear their lives will be exposed for what they truly are, darkness. They do not realize that the One who shines the light also knows their lives. Every intimate detail. Every word, action, and thought is exposed in the light of the Savior Jesus. Yet, when we come to the light, as he is in the light then the truth floods our soul and overpowers the darkness and in that light thee is no fear. Celebrating a believer’s independence means independence from spiritual blindness.

Conclusion:
Celebrating our independence means, independence from legalism, independence from sin, and independence from spiritual blindness!
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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, June 22, 2008

The Church, Part Four – 1 Timothy 5:17-22

The Church, Part Four – 1 Timothy 5:17-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 22, 2008 AM

I have to be honest with you because it is difficult for me, as a pastor, to share with you exactly what Paul was trying to teach Timothy. Why? Because I do not want you to think I am saying our church does not treat me well as your pastor. I believe our church does a fine job. However, not every church does such a good job in making sure their pastor is cared for, and this is a disgrace. Sometimes, churches are run by the pastor and the congregation has no idea what the pastor earns or how he is paid. This too is ungodly and is not taught in Scripture. For the church to be the church, it is supposed to hire and care for its pastor, and if that pastor strays biblically, the church is supposed to discipline him as well.

We spent some time talking about what the qualifications are for a pastor, but now Paul delves into some areas that some would rather ignore. However to be the church that God has established this part of the lesson cannot be ignored as a church. Let’s discover what Paul teaches Timothy about churches and their pastors.

READ: 1 Timothy 5:17-22

If a church is not actively praying daily for their pastor they fail themselves, the Lord, and their pastor. Pastors face all kinds of temptations, spiritual attacks, and the daily hardships and blessings of life. However, if you want your pastor to be well equipped, ready to preach the word in season and out, then as a church you had better make sure you take care of your pastor and his family well. In fact, Paul related to Timothy…

I. How a church should take care of its pastor! (vv. 17-18)

1. Great preachers require great congregations! Pastors and their families live in a fish bowl where Church members often scrutinize everything from the color of their leaders’ socks to their children’s behavior. Yet there are some pastors that remain untouchable, aloof, and separated from the congregation they are supposed to serve, seeing themselves as kind of spiritual CEOs. The word for “pastor” is derived from the word for a shepherd. The sheep are to hear and know their leader’s voice. He is to be among his sheep. Many pastors remain on call day and night, they carry burdens and secrets they cannot tell anyone, and they often do so with grace and compassion. Churches far too often take advantage of a pastor’s availability and misuse his servant heart. They should be ashamed of their ungodly behavior. Paul writes that “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” He was speaking about those who work hard at their job. Pastoring is not just a calling, it is also a job. If some churches were to take a serious look at the compensation levels of their pastors and contrast them to the compensation levels of other professionals, many pastors live a sacrificial lifestyle! This should not be! The job of pastor has received both praise and condemnation in our day and age. Why? Because churches fail to be the churches they should be. As Paul related, “For the Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages.’” A hard-working, honest, holy man of God is worth double honor and worth the salary a church pays him!

EXAMPLE: The oxen of Paul’s day were tied to a post where they would literally walk around and around in circles, hour after hour. Deuteronomy, God’s law, made provision for even this beast of burden to be able to eat a little of the grain he helped to produce. Could a church do any less for a man of God who had sacrificed everything in order to lead God’s people? While pastor’s work can often be just as tedious as that of an ox going around and around in circles, especially with a congregation that fails to learn the biblical lessons he is trying to impart, they need to be both honoring to their pastor and to the Lord who placed him there. A church should take care of its pastor.

Paul encouraged Timothy to lead the church in honoring pastors who work hard. What a difference it makes when a church appropriately honors its pastor and staff! Such honor can be given in various ways, including the provision of an ample honorarium. But when a pastor needs to be disciplined, often churches are embarrassed to do so because often they were the ones who picked him in the first place! Instead, they do not do the godly thing and resort to foolishness by either ignoring the problem or trying to leave it for someone else to fix. We find here that Paul related to Timothy…

II. How a church should treat a pastor who has strayed! (vv. 19-22)

1. While correction does much, encouragement does more! Before a church gets to the point of having to discipline its pastor, it should have spent time investing in his life. However, Paul gives us four guidelines to consider if discipline is necessary: First, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” Make sure that when you accuse a servant of God of doing something wrong that you have witnesses to back up your accusation! Remember, you chose him in the first place to be your leader! It is not a light thing to discipline those whom God has chosen for leadership. Remember what happened to those who thought that they could speak for God just as well as Moses could! They and their entire families were swallowed up! When you accuse one of God’s leaders falsely, you are also accusing God if you are wrong. Secondly, “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” If the pastor is guilty of doing something evil enough to be rebuked, do it publicly. Why? The church elected him publically and shouted to the heavens he was “God’s man” for your church, now rebuke him publically as well. But remember to do it with humility, grace, and mercy, always looking for redemption. And thirdly, Paul says do not hold favoritism above spiritually in doing the righteous thing: “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.” Picking pastors or rebuking them should not be done like a popularity contest. And finally, help your pastor and church to “not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:19-22) Too many churches are quick to pick pastors, deacons, or elders that are not morally, spiritually, ethically, or familially qualified. To pick someone that is immature spiritually or ungodly ethically brings disdain to the church and to the Lord. In fact, all of the members of the church of Jesus, His body, should “keep yourself pure.”

EXAMPLE: Often a church has a poor pastor because they were willing to settle for a poor pastor. Sometimes, they ignore the warning signs. If you have visited Alaska, you have no doubt seen warnings about the bears that roam the wilderness. Experienced old-timers who know the habits of bears offer these suggestions for safety: 1) Don't climb a tree. Bears climb. 2) Don't run. Bears can run faster. 3) If the bear is brown, curl up and play dead. If it's black, move wildly and make lots of noise. 4) Never, never offer food to a bear. 5) Above all, don't get between a mother bear and her cubs. Here are some suggestions for a church and their pastors: 1) Don’t climb all over your pastor if he makes a mistake. He is human too. 2) Don’t run your pastor down in front of others. Support him just as you would want him to support you. 3) If your pastor is young help him to mature through prayer and encouragement. If your pastor is older and gray, help him to continue being mature through your prayer and encouragement. 4) Always offer food to your pastor, especially if you are a Baptist church! 5) Above all do not get in between a pastor and his family. Give him time alone and unhindered with his family and insist that he take days off and vacations. Do these things and you probably will not have to end up disciplining your pastor.

Conclusion:
We learned from Paul how a church should take care of its pastor and how a church should treat a pastor who has strayed. Let me ask you something this morning: Are you praying for your pastor? How do you encourage him and his family?
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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, June 15, 2008

What Love Means to a Real Man - 1 John 4:19

What Love Means to a Real Man - 1 John 4:19
by Pastor Lee Hemen
June 15, 2008 AM

In a world where love has been reduced to rutting and acting like mere animals, we have lost sight of what this word truly means. Oh, I have heard the myriad of sermons that discuss ad nausea the different Greek words for “love” in the Bible and in Greek culture, but let’s not go there. Let’s instead talk about what this word is supposed to mean right here, right now, in the verse of Scripture we are studying today.

John wrote earlier that sometimes a believer looks forward with apprehension to the judgment seat of Christ, because God’s love has not reached its fullness yet. The word “perfect” that John uses is the idea of “completeness” as he expressed it in 1John 2:5 and 1John 4:12. He writes that the matured experience of God’s love (loving one another) is incompatible with any fear and expels fear from the heart of the believer. John’s use of the word “fear” has to do with punishment and is literally, “fear has punishment.” But those who live in love, know God. Why? John knew that “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 4:10) Today, since it is Father’s Day, I thought we should look at this verse and see what God’s love means to a real man.

READ: 1 John 4:19

I have discovered that for the real man of God…

I. God’s love is more than an emotional response!

1. Love motivates a man to be man! Jesus was motivated by his willingness to do the tough thing even when it was not popular. He willingly stood out in the crowd and spoke the truth of God. He was sensitive when He needed to be, but it was not a ‘weakness” with Jesus. He willingly spoke to a woman at a well, when no one else would have. He stopped to bend down and speak with a woman who touched the hem of His garment. He was amazed at a Romans soldier’s response and loved children crawling all over Him. It is interesting that a lot of people want to focus on Jesus’ tears as if this will make Him more “sensitive” in their perspective: How He wept over Jerusalem, His friend Lazarus’ death, His own fear in the garden. I find this rather odd and I believe they somehow want to make Jesus seem smaller and more susceptible and thereby feminize Him more. Jesus’ tears were never offered that way. No real man’s tears ever are. It had nothing to do with not being afraid to cry in public as a man. Men, like Jesus, know what to shed tears over. Love of country, friends you love, family, and those you sacrifice yourself for. Isn’t this what Jesus did? And, folks, this is why real men love Jesus. God’s love is more than an emotional response!

EXAMPLE: My father was not one to say the word “love” out loud. He was raised during a time when men were men and not some mannequin with coiffed hair, a shiny suit, and flashy pearly white teeth. It was a time when men were measured by their word as it was followed up in action, not in a “I feel your pain” phoniness. Love of country was shown by the sacrifice of hearth and home and of self if necessary. Love of family was demonstrated by hard work, telling the truth, being faithful and having integrity. Love for God was shown in loyalty to church, attendance, and selfless-giving of time, talent, and treasure. Excuses were not made, never uttered, and were seen as weakness for those who would rather whine than do what was expected of them. They saw love as an active thing. It was more than an emotional response. You did what you knew to be the right thing even when it cost you personally.

I have also found that for the real man of God…

II. God’s love was expressed in Jesus the man!

1. Jesus shows us what a real man is to be like! He is the epitome of manliness and the demonstration of what I just described above. When I looked at Jesus and His life for the first time without having some priest or pastor tell me who Jesus was, I was astounded. Astounded that they never described for me the actual man, Jesus. He always came across as some wimp who went about being a goodie-two-shoes, soft-spoken, thin, kind of all knowing ethereal human being. Ugh! Double ugh! I was shocked to learn that Jesus was a lot like the real men I grew up with and admired. He was loyal, full of integrity, always spoke the truth, was bold, strong, had a great sense of purpose and self worth and loved to laugh at Himself and others. Sadly, much of Christianity has lost who Jesus truly is: Love! Love just like these men were and are that I described earlier. I read a popular book about Christian men, and I will not give out the name of it nor its author in order to graciously protect him. While it had some good things within its pages, it was full of a lot of Christian psychobabble. I ended up throwing the book away, because I did not want anyone else to ever read the copy I owned. Why? Because I have found that real love is found in the man called Jesus as discovered within the pages of the Bible. John knew this as well. He had heard Him, looked on Him daily, touched Him, and proclaimed his words of life. (1 John 1:1) John knew that real men know that God’s love was expressed in Jesus the man!

EXAMPLE: When my father died, my mother got both of us boys together and she told us something. She said, “Boys, you are now the men of the family.” We knew what she meant. This was not some Hollywood line uttered in a mushy movie script but the unadulterated truth of life. We were the “men” of our family now that our father had died and it was expected of us to act like it. We would be the ones who would be expected to sacrifice our selfishness and make sure the house was taken care of, money was earned to help pay the bills, and food was cooked and prepared for when Mom got home. We were now the “men” of the family, not by choice, but by circumstances. We now had to express it in what we did from that moment on. Today in many homes, children have lost what it means for men to be men. Children are not taught self-discipline. Boys are seen as something to quiet down and make into masculine girls. Never forget that Jesus lost His father at an early age and became “the man of the family.” He was the oldest. Some of His last words uttered while dying on the cross was His concern for His mother, whom He entrusted to his best friend John! (John 19:26-27) Jesus showed us what a real man is to be like. God’s love was expressed in Jesus the man.

For me, I know that for the real man of God…

III. Jesus displayed love!

1.Jesus had the audacity to first love me! When I was truly unlovable, a sinner, depraved, and utterly contemptible in the sight of God, Jesus loved me. How do I know this to be true? Well look at His actions. Look at His oneness of purpose. How He kept His word, joked, laughed, and boldly did the hard task without whining and expected His followers to do the same and even more! (John 14:12) Notice how He spit on some dirt and rubbed it in the eyes of a blind man. How He willingly went into the homes of and ate with sinners and publicans. How He spoke with prostitutes, soldiers, priests, beggars, fishermen, teachers, lawyers, men, women, boys, and girls of every social class and stripe. And how He resolutely turned His face toward His death and boldly took the steps in that direction to follow God’s plan for His life. This was no “I feel your pain, so I guess I will die for you,” kind of selfishness. It was a unwavering act of will whereby His total life lead to one moment in time that He knew He would have to face alone, where even those who followed Him would desert Him. Yet Jesus, the man, followed through to the end. He took the hill, He kept His word, He bore the mean-spiritedness of people, the shame, the unjustified anger of others, the pettiness of politicians, and the ungodliness of religious men. He willing did the tough thing and did it without analyzing it to death. Real men of God love Jesus because He displayed love by dying for them and forgiving them!

EXAMPLE: Recently there has been a lot of talk about the “Great Generation,” meaning the WWII generation. Why is that? Did you ever wonder why people are so fascinated by it and its people? My father was part of that generation. He was a little too old to join the military but was able to train Army Engineers and Seabees how to run heavy equipment in Alaska during the War. I believe it is called this because in that generation you discover people who displayed the true character of what it means to sacrifice. No excuses, no whining attitude, no “me first” glamour and glitz of this pathetic generation of narcissistic introspection where a movie about city women and sex is a box-office hit. It speaks to the kind of leadership we want as a people. Do we want those who are motivated by self-loathing as to who they truly are as an individual, or those who willingly went and sacrificed and displayed their devotion to their nation? Do we follow a real man like Jesus or someone who spends time in constant aversion to display God’s love? Real men love Jesus, because He displayed love.

Conclusion:
I love Jesus because as a man He first loved me and showed me just what a man truly is. Not through words alone, but in His life and how He lived it. My love for Him is demonstrated in my own life through my actions of being a Godly man. I follow my leader who was and is a real man. Do you? Happy Father’s Day, men of God.
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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, June 08, 2008

The Church, Part Three - 1 Timothy 5:8-15

The Church, Part Three – 1 Timothy 5:8-15
by Pastor Lee Hemen
June 8, 2008 AM

When is the church, the church? No, this is not a trick question nor the beginning to a joke about the church. Rather, it is a straight-forward question in regards to what the church truly is supposed to be. Contrary to popular opinion, we do not find the church in the New Testament involved in inviting the unsaved into its midst. Surprised? In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Christian was not to have anything to do with the non-Christian activities that could lead them astray. Instead the church was to go into the world, but never attract the world into the church! Paul addresses these very issues.

The church today has become something of a mere shadow of its former self theologically, spiritually, and vibrantly. Why? I believe it is because it does not do the hard stuff anymore. We have relegated church to being a Sunday morning spiritual moment. Now, that is not to say that churches do not have great people in them that are doing the work of the Lord, but if the Christian Church in America was truly following and experiencing God, we would see a dramatic change in America that we do not see. Paul, gives Timothy some tough lessons on the church, let’s see what they are…

READ: 1 Timothy 5:8-15

There were a lot of widows in Paul’s day. That was because people did not live as long as they do now and that most men died long before their spouses. Because of this we find the Lord making provisions for widows clear back in Exodus. Jesus had compassion on widows during His earthly ministry and his own mother was probably a widow by the time he went to the cross for our sins. Here, we find Paul telling Timothy that the church should…

I. Create some guidelines!

1. People who do not follow the rules, get eaten! – Sign at the beginning of an African tour. Welfare is the governmental answer to what the church is supposed to be doing. Paul gets pretty tough when he lays down some guidelines for Timothy concerning widows in his church! He lists three criteria for widows to be “put on the list of widows.” A widow must be “over sixty,” “faithful to her husband,” and “well known for her good deeds!” Notice, Paul even has the audacity to name what good deeds they could be doing: 1) bringing up children, 2) showing hospitality, 3) washing the feet of the saints, 4) helping those in trouble and 5) devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds! How many widows, who belong to any church, meet these kind of guidelines? Paul also has guidelines for “younger widows.” He relates, “do not put them on such a list.” Why? Because Paul knew that younger women are more concerned for other things such as “their sensual desires,” and these normal desires could “overcome their dedication to Christ,” for the simple reason they might “want to marry” again! It was often the only way for these women to take care of themselves in his day! Paul wanted Timothy to create some God-given guidelines so that no one would “bring judgment on themselves.” These guidelines would help widows not to break “their first pledge” of committing their lives to Christ completely. When a church is the church it creates some guidelines to help its people be what God desires them to be.

EXAMPLE: In his book Lessons Learned Early, Jerry Jenkins tells a story about his freshman year in college. It was 1968, a year of tremendous political and social upheaval in the US.

Riots had broken out in many major cities. From the rooftop of his dorm in Chicago, Jerry heard sirens and saw fires burning. Students had been told to stay on campus, but Jerry wanted to see what was happening.

As he ran toward a store that was blazing a few blocks away, a police car pulled up beside him. “Don’t go down there,” the officer warned.

Jerry waited till the car pulled away and then kept walking. The officer returned. This time he made it more clear as he repeated, “Don’t go down there”—and leveled a shotgun out the window.

Why is it that people, including Christians in the church, need guidelines? Because we all want to do our own thing. Paul taught Timothy a lesson about pasturing his church: Creates some guidelines!

Paul wasn’t trying to be mean-spirited here, nor was he being sexiest. He sincerely wanted Timothy’s church to be aware of what it should do. Evidently they were not taking care of their people like they should. In fact, many churches are more than willing to go somewhere else to do missions and ministry to the outside world, but ignore their own congregation’s needs. So here, we find Paul telling Timothy that the church should…

II. Maintain some ministries!

1. Helping others means setting aside your desires first! Paul was not trying to help people feel good about themselves! He wanted them to “provide” for their families. If they did not they had “denied the faith” and were “worse than an unbeliever!” He wanted Timothy to seek God’s will with “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving,” (v. 2:1) to see where God wanted his church to minister. That was the only way they would be effective! Paul knew that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” but not all men would. Ministering to widows in his church would show the outside community it cared for its own. But to be a little more blunt, Timothy had a problem: Women! They were not dressing with “modestly, with decency and propriety,” and instead of showing “quietness and full submission ,” they were boisterous and crass. They evidently assumed teaching roles over men that they should not have (2:9-12). Paul was not giving Timothy or future churches absolute guidelines for all time, but he was addressing specific ministry concerns for Timothy’s church. Evidently new female converts needed to be ministered to appropriately. The male leadership also had not been the godly examples they should have been! They needed to be “the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money,” and able to “manage his own family well!” All churches, like Timothy’s in Ephesus, need to maintain some ministries!

EXAMPLE: People around the world instantly recognize Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from the children’s TV show Sesame Street. But Caroll Spinney is not a well-known celebrity, even though he has brought both characters to life on the popular program since 1969. A skilled puppeteer, Spinney has been content to work behind the scenes. I believe God calls every follower of Jesus to take a similar approach in making Him known to the world.

Ministry should be done by the church so that the community benefits from the influence of Christ. Far too often ministry is done to enhance the church instead of Jesus. Oswald Chambers reminds us: “Goodness and purity ought never to attract attention to themselves, they ought simply to be magnets to draw [others] to Jesus Christ.” The church should draw people to Christ by maintaining ministries.

I believe Timothy had allowed some of the women in his church to begin to control the spiritual and emotional attitude of the church in Ephesus. They were causing more harm than good. Enough of them evidently had way too much time on their hands. Timothy needed to take control again and the church there needed to do what it was called to do in the first place. This church had become a social club instead of the body of Christ it was meant to be. Sound familiar? Far too many churches fall into this category today. Here, we find Paul telling Timothy that the church should…

III. Keep its members involved!

1. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop! People left to themselves without something Godly to do often get into trouble! Paul said that younger widows with nothing better to do had gotten “into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house.” They had “become idlers,” “gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” People certainly get into trouble when they are not involved in the cause of Christ in His church. Paul was pretty succinct when he counsels them to do several things: These “younger widows” needed “to marry,” they needed “to have children,” “to manage their homes,” and finally “to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” Why? To keep them busy in the work of the Lord instead of getting into trouble. Paul knew that some in Timothy’s church had “in fact already turned away to follow Satan.” Can you imagine any pastor getting up in church today and saying such things to the congregation? In our day we have to show heartfelt concern and compassion for anyone, even the ungodly in our midst! Do you see Paul directing Timothy to do such a thing? Absolutely not! He would say, “Keep busy-bodies, busy in the work of the Lord!” The church should keep its members involved!

EXAMPLE: There was a stressed-out woman who was tailgating a man as they drove on a busy boulevard. When he slowed to a stop at a yellow light, the woman hit the horn, cussing and screaming in frustration and gesturing angrily. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a police officer who ordered her to exit the car with her hands up. He took her to the police station and placed her in a holding cell.

An hour later, the officer returned and said, "I'm sorry, Ma'am. This has been a big mistake. When I pulled up behind you, I noticed your 'What Would Jesus Do?' license plate holder and your 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper sticker. I assumed the car was stolen!"

Satan doesn't care so much if you're a Christian as long as you don't act like one. If he can get you to live by his signals, he can damage and disarm you every time and dishonor the name of Christ in the process. Paul knew this to be true and told Timothy to keep the members of his church involved.

Conclusion:
Here, we find Paul telling Timothy that the church should create some guidelines, maintain some ministries, and keep its members involved.
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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.