Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Purpose of God – Romans 8:28-32

The Purpose of God – Romans 8:28-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 25, 2009 AM

“What is God’s purpose for my life?” I have heard this question expressed in several different forms but always it means the same thing: What is God’s will for me? However I sometimes suspect that what it really means for many of us is that what we want to know is exactly what God expects from us so that we can at do the minimum required of us! But is that truly what we should strive for in life?

If God “searches our hearts,” He then knows us pretty well. He may know us better than we know ourselves! Paul tells us that the “Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.” So we find, like Henry Blackaby writes in his book “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God,” that the proper question may not be “What is God’s will for my life?,” but rather, “What is God’s will?” Paul tells us exactly what the purpose of God is in this section of his letter to the Roman church. Let’s find out what the purpose of God is, shall we?

READ: Romans 8:28-32

Are the best things in life free? I wonder. There are those that think this should apply to God as well. That they do not need to invest their time, talent, treasure or trust in the Lord but still He should cater to their lives when they need Him. Some think that God is good only when good things happen and He is being hurtful when bad things happen. Is this true? Paul reminds us that this is a myopic view of God. In fact, we learn that the purpose of God is discovered when we realize that…

I. All things in life are for our good! (v. 28)

1. The “good” things in life must be measured by God’s standard! A lot of folks, including Christians, have a hard time with this verse, but you have to see it from God’s perspective. Paul gives us a glimpse of this when he writes, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) The truth whereby “all things” in life, whether good or bad, work “for the good of those who love” Jesus can be difficult unless we have the mind of Christ. Am I saying that an illness like cancer, an untimely death, or a freak horrendous accident works for the good of the people involved? Yes, if they “have been called according to His purpose.” Herein is the key: “His purpose.” We have an unrealistic expectation that everything in this life should revolve around us, but the Bible tells us that it does not: All things are to work to the will and way of God. When we come to Christ we replace our spiritual blindness with the heavenly eyesight of eternity. This is not all there is. Life is more than the sum total of weighing the good things outweighing the bad things that happen to us. Our lives in Him are “according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,” so that in “Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence!” (Ephesians 3:11-12) No matter what occurs in life we have confidence to approach God knowing He has the best planned for us! The purpose of God is discovered when we realize that all things in life are for our good!

EXAMPLE: Grocery shopping has become an adventure in of itself. You have to look not only at the expiration date, but the contents as well. Especially if you have someone in your family that hates coconut, or you are concerned about trans-fats, MSG, sugars, cholesterol count, calories, glutton and on and on it goes. I guess it is important for us to be aware of what we put into our bodies, but sometimes I just want to be able to buy food without caring if it is good for me or not! Don’t you? They will tell us something is bad for us, then they will say it is great. How great is it then to realize that the purpose of God is discovered when we realize that all things in life are for our good? Maybe not all foods, but anything that comes our way has to be measured by what God is doing with us.

How can we be sure that all the things that happen in our lives as believers does indeed work together for our good? Paul goes on to explain how we can rest assured that God has our very best interest at heart. He relates that the purpose of God is enjoyed when we comprehend that…

II. God has chosen us as His very own! (vv. 29-30)

1. Christians are chosen but not “frozen!” Paul writes that those “God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.” Wow! That is a pretty startling statement for those who do not understand its implications. This incredible statement does not merely mean that God foreknows what believers will do, because he does – he is all-knowing -- but that God “foreknows” them! He knows us! He knows our lives because He is involved in them as we walk with His Son Jesus. Why? Paul says it is so that we “might be the firstborn among many brothers!” Point in fact God “chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) He told Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart!” (Jeremiah 1:5) God has a plan for those He chooses! The Christian’s destiny is to be like Jesus: “to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!” Paul understood that “those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.” Believers are called, justified, and then glorified for the Lord’s sake! Believers are to live and move and have their being in Him! We may struggle with the idea that God picked us because we feel uneasy in thinking that there are those He did not pick, but folks, God’s ways are not our ways! In His power, authority, and control God truly knows His plan and how we fit into it to glorify Him! If you have said “yes” to Jesus, you know you were chosen of God. Paul wanted his readers to know that the purpose of God is truly enjoyed when we comprehend that God has chosen us as His very own!

EXAMPLE: We have to remember that God is not some super duper coach in the sky who is hand-picking His team, and some of us just do not measure up. In fact, we learn that it is God “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) However, God being who He is already knows who will and will not follow Him. He is eternal and we are not. We live a linier existence and have a beginning and an end. God therefore has provided a way for us to choose Him within our existence, but He, in His foreknowledge, has predestined those He has “chosen” or predetermined who would choose Him. We therefore cannot sit back and wait, we must respond. This is why the writer of Hebrews would tell his audience “As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:15) Paul wrote that this is why God says, “‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) the purpose of God is enjoyed when we comprehend that God has chosen us as His very own!

We might struggle with the theological truth that God is the One who ultimately chooses, but we would do well to remember it is His creation and we are part of it. Paul would remind us that the purpose of God is made real in our lives when we grasp that…

III. God willingly gave us the very best He has! (vv. 31-32)

1. God cared enough to give His very best! In our spiritual weakness we may struggle with the fact that God has chosen us, but Paul would ask us “who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:20-21) And we would have to humbly reply, “Yes the potter has the right to do with the clay what He desires.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary relates that “It is astounding to realize that God’s plan of salvation for people is a program that reaches from eternity past to eternity future which God will carry out perfectly.” I like that. Paul immediately asks, “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” I do not know about you but my response is “Yahoo! Hallelujah! Praise God!” We can therefore say nothing negative about God’s purpose for our lives because “If God is for us, who can be against us?” No one! What Paul means here is that no argument can stand up to the fact of God’s truth that He has loved us for all time and has chosen us! Satan may try but he will ultimately fail! It is because of this truth of the Lord that Paul asks and answers his own rhetorical question: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” The answer is: “He already has!” The purpose of God is made real in our lives when we fully grasp that God willingly gave us the very best He has!

EXAMPLE: A quote in George MacDonald’s book David Elginbrod speaks to those who wonder, at times, why God has made them the way they are—and who wish they were someone else. Lady Emily muses: “I wish I were you, Margaret.” Margaret answers: “If I were you, my lady, I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of. For to have been thought about—born in God’s thoughts—and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest, most precious thing in all thinking.” Christians are not the mistakes or leftovers of the Lord. How do I know this to be true? Paul would remind us that the purpose of God is made real in our lives when we grasp that God willingly gave us the very best He has!

What is God’s purpose? Paul reminds us that the purpose of God is 1) discovered when we realize that all things in life are for our good! 2) It is enjoyed when we comprehend that God has chosen us as His very own! And, 3) it is made real in our lives when we fully grasp that God willingly gave us the very best He has!
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Power of God – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

The Power of God – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 18, 2009 AM

Have you ever heard foolish talk? Have you ever received foolish advice? This is the realm of atheist’s thinking. Usually it rests on a circular argument like this: Religion is only mythic speculation, therefore, God does not exist. Why? We find no proof he does. What about creation? It is a random series of events. How? Evolution of molecules like RNA. Where did these come from? They occurred randomly. How? We aren’t sure. If you aren’t sure isn’t that speculation? Yes. If it is speculation, isn’t that “faith” and therefore we have to accept your speculation by faith in how these random events all came together to form life? Yes. Then isn’t this “faith” a religion? Like I said, foolish arguments.

For those who say there is no God, I have found it is usually an excuse for them to live an ungodly lifestyle. To do whatever they want, whenever they want, without feelings of guilt, which they blame on humanity’s misguided view of there being a God. Yet the overwhelming ontological, physical, and scientific proof is overwhelmingly on the side that there is indeed a creative intelligence – God. In fact the historical evidence of eyewitness accounts in the Bible have held up under some very severe scrutiny over the centuries. However, belief in Christ boils down to an individual’s willingness to place their faith and trust in Jesus. Paul writes that the proof is the power of God. Let’s find out how…

READ: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

A Christian cannot be “all things to all people.” When Paul made this declaration he was not excusing his sinfulness nor that of others. Rather what he meant was that he was willing to share Christ anywhere, anytime, and with anyone. Not that he would acquiesce his faith like so many do in our day. Too many want to be “friends with the world” rather than been seen as a friend of God. Paul knew that as soon as you trust Christ, you are an enemy of the world. (James 4:4) Why? Because…

I. The power of God is intellectually and spiritually divisive! (vv. 18-19)

1. Faith is not taking a leap, it is securely found in certainty! Jesus never asked anyone to “take a leap of faith.” He always wanted them to trust what they saw and knew to be true. Why? People cannot blindly believe because that is an insincere and insecure faith! The “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” not because they cannot think things through, but because they have not trusted in God’s provision. The power of God, the message of the cross, is immediately divisive because of this and always has been. A suffering and dying Savior seems “foolish” to a material world. Like much of the world today, the Bible Knowledge Commentary states that the Corinthian believers “were trying to live their Christian lives on the basis of unsanctified common sense which has self-preservation as its ultimate goal. This kind of life is self-seeking, self-serving, and ultimately self-destructive!” Jesus reminds us that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:24) The message of the cross cuts to the quick of our self-centeredness. It destroys our “wisdom” and “frustrates” us. We want to be the ones to secure our own salvation, but the cross says we cannot. We must trust in that which we cannot see, have no power over, and cannot argue through. The power of God is intellectually and spiritually divisive.

EXAMPLE: If you are spiritually and physically dying because of your sin, you will not want to admit your error for non-belief. First you would have to admit that you personally are not in control of your ultimate destiny. Secondly, you would have to admit that there is a God who has provided a way for you obtain eternal life. And, finally, you would have to admit that your practical pragmatic wisdom cannot give you all the answers for your life! You would have to admit that you need to depend on something other than yourself. This can be personally disturbing. Dennis De Haan writes that “An illusion is defined as ‘an erroneous perception of reality.’ Magicians depend on it to trick their audiences. But some illusions can be fatal. If I chase a mirage in the desert, thinking it's water, I could die of thirst. The most dangerous illusions of all are spiritual.” This is certainly true. For those who do not want to admit their sin and only rely on practical proof are running a dangerous race. Proverbs reminds us that “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” (Proverbs 28:26) And David declared, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalms 14:1) The power of God is intellectually and spiritually divisive.

There are those who find it disturbing to trust in Christ because they know they have to admit their own need in someone other than themselves. This takes humility where pride rules and reigns. Yet, Paul reminds us that…

II. The power of God is discovered in personal humility! (vv. 20-21)

1. You can either be full of yourself or full of God – there is no in between! Paul mockingly asks, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” He remembers that God tells us “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” and in fact God relates that, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts!” (Isaiah 55:8-9) The “wisdom” of mankind: philosophies, speculations, and learning are no match for the wisdom of God. If you try to find the “proof” of God in all His fullness in these you may fail. Why? God has to be first spiritually recognized in a person’s life before finding Him in other ways. Paul would write, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) In fact “whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son!” (John 3:18) Jesus’ own words! James writes, “That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up!” (James 4:6, 10) We have to come to the realization that “since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” The power of God is discovered in personal humility.

EXAMPLE: Two Florida men charted a course and drove their fishing boat out into the Gulf of Mexico. Using the boat's compass, they headed to deep waters 60 miles offshore where they hoped to catch grouper. When they arrived at what they thought was the right place, they turned on their depth finder and realized they were nowhere near their target. They discovered that one of them had laid a flashlight near the ship's compass, and the attached magnet had affected the reading. We can be so focused on where we are headed in life intellectually that we get lost spiritually. We can be so concerned for our own needs of the moment we fail to see God working around us. We can be so full of ourselves that we cannot see God. It is a matter of pride clouding our view of God. Paul, a very prideful person, only found God after he was literally made blind. He knew without a doubt that the power of God is discovered in personal humility.

There are those who will try to adjust Biblical teaching with the latest scientific reasoning. While many things in our natural world can be explained through Scripture we would do well to remember that it is not to be the natural world that dictates what we believe, but rather our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When we try to make all the things of the world jive spiritually with what we are to believe we run the risk of diluting the Word of God and heresy. This is why Paul teaches us to never forget that…

III. The power of God is declared as God’s foolishness! (vv. 22-25)

1. Proof is not always in the pudding, but found in the believing! Paul related that “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom.” There are those who say they will not place their trust in Jesus until He does something for them to make them believe. They are the “show me” folks. Then, there are those who want to philosophize their way into God’s good graces. They will not only argue with you about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, they will argue with you about whether or not the pin really exists or what constitutes “dancing!” However, the simple message of “Christ crucified” is the “power of God and the wisdom of God.” It is the only thing that matters. From this all other questions in life are asked and answered. What will you personally do with Jesus who died for you and proved it by coming back from the dead? There is only two answers: “I will believe,” or “I chose not to believe.” That’s it. Why? Because “the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.” Your faith is not dependent upon the wisdom of the world. It is not found in what you can personally do. You cannot be smart enough, good enough, wise enough, or even physically capable. You have to be willing to “confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, (and) you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) The power of God is declared as God’s foolishness!

EXAMPLE: Why would a prison inmate escape from prison the day before his scheduled release? That's what a Rhode Island prison spokesman wondered as he answered questions from reporters. He said, “For the life of me, I don't know what possessed him to leave with only one day of his sentence left to serve.” Once captured, the escapee would be arraigned on charges that could land him back in prison for up to 20 years. We would say that this was stupidity and we would probably be correct. In our world today there are those who would try and tell you that your faith is Jesus is just as foolish. But your faith does not depend on man’s wisdom or concrete proof. Your faith is to solely rely on your trust in who Jesus said He was and what He did. Therefore be satisfied in your faith that those in the world do not fully understand it because remember that the power of God is declared as God’s foolishness for you!

The power of God is intellectually and spiritually divisive; the power of God is discovered in personal humility; and the power of God is declared as God’s foolishness!
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Presence of God – Matthew 28:16-20

The Presence of God – Matthew 28:16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 11, 2009 AM

The disciples had the presence of Jesus with them every day for a little over 3 years. They walked, slept, ate, argued, laughed, questioned, and discussed with Him everything in life concerning friends, family, enemies, politics, finances, and religion. We often wonder how in the world could they have been so dimwitted concerning who Jesus really was, but we forget that we enjoy the hindsight of the gospel narrative. They had the very presence of God with them daily and they did not understand its significance for their lives until after He was taken from them and had completed His mission. And, herein lies the truth of knowing the presence of God in our own lives as well.

After seeing so many miracles, partaking of so many discussions on hillsides; meals together in houses of the rich, famous, and insignificant; watching people’s sins forgiven; folks healed, restored and made whole or brought back to life -- it makes one wonder at being able to walk with Jesus daily. I know it does me. Yet here in these last remaining verses of Matthew’s gospel we discover the truth of just how we can also enjoy the presence of God in our lives. Jesus teaches His followers, and us, the truth of being able to have the presence of God. Let’s discover it anew today, shall we?

READ: Matthew 28:16-20

We all desire the presence of God in our lives but few of us truly enjoy it. Why is that? I believe we have forgotten or have not been taught how this is possible. It is more than following a set of guidelines, applying certain steps, or trying to bring back that Godly “feeling” in our lives. Here in Matthew we find that if we want to enjoy the presence of God, we have to…

I. Trust Jesus even when we doubt Him! (vv. 16-17)
1. Obedience to God doesn’t demand that we have a brain freeze! God desires that we use our brains to critically think. He does not desire Homer Simpson-like robots that are blindly in search of a spiritual doughnut. (Oh… doughnuts!) You know what I mean. The disciples were obedient in that they went to Galilee and they worshipped Jesus, yet some of them “doubted.” Why? It does not necessarily mean that they did not believe in Jesus, because they could see Him! In fact, they were more than willing, like I said, to worship Him! I believe they doubted because they were not exactly sure of who Jesus was and what this meant for them personally. Sound familiar? Like many of us, perhaps some of them wanted more “proof.” Seeing, was believing for them. But for those who want to discover the truth of the gospel, believing is always seeing. Many Christians today want “proof” from God before acting in faith. They want God to give them a “sign” or some sort of reason for them to invest their time or effort in Him. It does not work that way. This is profane. Jesus told the crowds that it was a “wicked generation” that “asks for a sign.” (Luke 11:29) Why? To ask for a personal proof from God so that you will begrudgingly give Him your faith is in fact trying to bargain with God! It is not faith. It is a sin. Faith is acting even when you do not see God in the circumstances. For the Christian “believing is seeing.” You “see” when you are willing to trust Jesus in every area of your life. The disciples had to trust the Lord even when they doubted. You want the presence of God? Trust Jesus even when you doubt Him!
EXAMPLE: Doubting God is nothing new. It began in the Garden of Eden when Satan got Eve to doubt God when he asked her, “Did God really say?” His implication was that God had not told Eve the entire truth of her situation or that God deliberately left out part of it for her to make her decision all on her own. God had abandoned her. Haddon Robinson writes that “We may not think we doubt God. But when events happen in our lives that make us question Him, that's exactly what we do. We seldom stop believing in Him, but we do stop believing in His goodness. And that is a faith-poisoning idea!” Here in Matthew’s gospel the final closing verses show us that if we want the presence of God in our lives, we must trust Jesus even when we doubt Him!

Remember, faith is acting even when you do not see God in the circumstances. For the Christian “believing is seeing.” The disciples had to trust the Lord that He was who He said He was. If we want to enjoy the presence of God, we also have to…

II. Remember who Jesus is! (v. 18)
1. Jesus is more than the original “answer man” for all our problems! How do you view Jesus? It is a simple yet profound question and your answer reveals a lot, not only about your spirituality, but your faith as well. Jesus asked this question of His disciples as they were walking along one day. It is that famous section where Jesus asks, “Who do the people say I am?” and His disciples respond with differing opinions and answers. Then He gets to the heart of the matter and asks them, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) Interesting isn’t it? Notice that to those who “doubted” Jesus, He reminds them of who He is: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” All authority, all power, and all truth. “All” means everything that is at God’s disposal is at Jesus’ as well because He is God in human flesh! He is the Messiah in every sense of its connotation. He created all things and nothing existed before He spoke it into being. (John 1:1-3) There is no other name given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) None. Jesus is not another spiritual truth among many. He is the only way, and the only truth, and the only life, and no one comes to the Father without believing in Him as their Savior and Lord. (John 14:6) If you do not believe in Jesus as God’s one and only Son, you are condemned to an eternity in hell already because you have not believed in the One whom God sent. (John 3:18) You want the presence of God, remember who Jesus is.
EXAMPLE: There are a lot of folks who see Jesus as a ethereal kind of figure going about doing good who was simply misunderstood. Some see Him as a mystic who taught “deeper” truths that were misconstrued or deliberately edited by His followers who only wanted “their” specific teaching about Jesus to come out. Then there are those who simply do not care and only know “Jesus Christ” as a swear word or punctuation point in their sentences. However, there are also those who call themselves “Christian” who still do not fully understand who Jesus is. They have reduced and morphed Jesus into being an answer man for all their problems. Want financial freedom? Come to the ultimate financial planner Jesus. Want a better marriage? Come to the marriage counselor Jesus. Want to be a better parent? Come on to the family man Christ! Want to be socially accepted as a teenager and get rid of those acne problems forever? Put on the skin cream of Christ! Want to be a better spiritual warrior? Be all you can be in the Jesus Army! I was therefore not surprised when I found a televangelists proclaiming Jesus was better for sex than Viagra®! Ugh! Matthew reminds us that if you desire the presence of God, remember who Jesus is.

Many believers love to moan and groan about the state of the church, the world, or our society in general but few, very few, are willing to tell others about Jesus, grab a new convert, and then see them through until they are completely trained in the Lord. Few do it because it demands time, devotion, responsibility, and it is doggone hard work, but it is what we as disciples of Jesus are called to do! If we want to enjoy the presence of God, we have to…

III. Do what He has commanded us to do! (vv. 19-20)
1. Are you a spiritually lazy bum? This is kind of a difficult question for some of us to answer. Jesus had just reaffirmed for His listeners, and us as readers, that “all authority in heaven and earth” had been given to Him. We recognize this when we pledge our allegiance to Him as our Savior and Lord. It means we not only trust Him to eternally save us from our sin condition and prepare a place in heaven where He is, but that we accept Him as our sovereign liege. You cannot say you know Jesus, love Him, and want to live for Him without accepting His command to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Be careful with your quick excuses: “Too busy, not enough time, don’t know Scripture, not my thing, let the “hired” help do it, I’m too afraid, shy, or… well, lazy.” Let me ask you a question: When God asks you to do something, when should you do it? For hundreds of years the early church did exactly what God told them to do and it was only after they began to focus on other things that the laity allowed it occur. But God’s marching orders have not changed. When was the last time you told someone about Jesus? When was the last time you personally discipled someone in Christ? You want the presence of God? It is time for believers to get off their bums and “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything (Jesus has) commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a) You want the presence of God in your life, do what He has commanded us to do!
EXAMPLE: I was taught to respect authority as a child. When my parents told me to come, I came, and when they told me to go and do something, I went and did it immediately. Well, usually… however, I knew that if I lollygagged around too much about whether to immediately follow my parent’s instruction, I would suffer the consequences of my lackadaisical attitude. We have forgotten as Christians that we have been given marching orders that are to be followed immediately. There are those that claim to be within the Christian faith that in fact disdain any notion of adhering their loyalty to the marching orders that are given in every Gospel and The Book of Acts that have been given to them! This is spiritually immoral and bankrupt and deserves eternal punishment. If we desire the presence of God in our lives then we must do what He has commanded us to do!

If we want to enjoy the presence of God, we have to trust Jesus even when we doubt Him, we have to remember who Jesus is, and we have to do what He has commanded us to do.
This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Peace of God – Philippians 4:4-9

The Peace of God – Philippians 4:4-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 4, 2009 AM

What advice do you remember from your parents? You know what I mean. Things like: Button your coat, wear your hat, say “please, thank-you, and you’re welcome.” All of these are great but there are deeper truths that are garnered from life as well. We learn to save for a “rainy day,” to be a little more like ants than grasshoppers, and to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. During this coming new year, what advice will you follow?

In a world of spiritual and physical strife we often do not find the spiritual serenity we seek. The reason is that we often depend upon ourselves instead of the wisdom and advice we find in God’s Word the Bible. In today’s passage we see several nuggets that if we take them to heart and act upon them in our lives we will find the peace of God we so desperately seek. Let’s find the calm in the midst of the storm that Paul writes about as we seek the peace of God today in our lives.

READ: Philippians 4:4-9

Paul tells the Philippians that “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) What did they receive or hear from, or had seen, in Paul’s life that they could put into practice whereby they would know the peace of God? If we take a close look at the few verses before Paul’s statement we will discover how his advice can give us the peace of God in this new year. Paul says that the peace of God comes when…

I. We rejoice in God! (v. 4)
1. Rejoicing in God is not putting forward a false front! A “happy face.” Too many believers think that they rejoice in the Lord by mouthing words of praise or by appearing content in the Lord when in fact they are not at all. The word for “rejoice” means to be of good cheer. What? You mean we have to be of “good cheer” when everything is falling apart around us? Yes! Notice Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In fact, he repeats himself: “I will say it again: Rejoice!” Is Paul stupid? NO! What Paul means is that we need to be of good cheer because no matter what occurs around us, our faith is firm in Christ! Rejoicing in God is an act of our will! Our faith is not found in putting up a good front for folks. Remember that Jesus said that we were to “rejoice and be glad” when other folks persecute us, insult us, or falsely say evil things about us! (Matthew 5:11-12) Why? Because our reward and happiness is not found in the things of this world! Our reward is found in heaven! (v. 12) Rejoicing in God is an act of our will that comes from knowing this world and the things it contains is not what we live for. You want a great new year? You want to discover the peace of God? Rejoice in God!
EXAMPLE: I wonder at believers who claim to know the Lord but live like they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know what I mean? It is as if they want to fool themselves and everyone else that they love God, but in their heart of hearts they are not sure God wants them to be blessed. The inner joy of God comes from the inner trust of Him as well. You cannot rejoice in what you cannot trust. How in the world can you rejoice in the Lord when you cannot trust the Lord with your life? I am reminded of the short story by O. Henry where a young woman, Johnsy, was gravely ill. She determined that when the last leaf fell off the ivy outside her window she would die. One leaf never fell. It tenaciously clung on. Slowly the young girl grew stronger and she lived. Later she discovered that the leaf, unbeknown to her, was hand-painted onto the window pane by an artist, old Mr. Bherman, who died of pneumonia from painting it on her window pane in the cold. Like Johnsy, far too often we put our trust in the stupidest things and not the Lord. Rejoice and be glad in the Lord!

Paul reminds us that the peace of God comes when…

II. We allow our Godly gentleness to be obvious! (v. 5)
1. Gentleness is not a limp-wristed wussiness! The word for gentleness refers to an appropriate and restrained response from the individual. It suggests a forgiving, non-retaliatory spirit. The inner quality of the believer’s faith in relation to their circumstances may not always be seen, but the way the Christian reacts to others will “be evident to all.” Some translations use “meekness” or “humility” instead of “gentleness.” Why? Paul knew that every Christian “will give an account of himself to God,” (Romans 14:12) and therefore we as believers are to “stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13) Paul knew that a person who was forgiven by God through Jesus would reflect that forgiveness toward others and especially those caught in sin! But notice exactly the reason Paul says believers are to be gentle. Paul writes, “the Lord is near.” Jesus is not only near us daily but He is also near in that He could return anytime. No one knows the day or hour. (Matthew 24:36) We are to therefore “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13) This is how Christians “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15) You want peace in your life this new year? Then dear bother or sister of God, let your gentleness be evident to all!
EXAMPLE: Godly gentleness is measured with inner strength. It is not found in acquiescing our faith or by being spiritual wimps. When Jesus related we were to turn the other cheek, He did not mean we were to take abuse or a beating in order to find God’s peace. In godly gentleness there is found great strength because it comes from God Himself. It is a certainty of what you believe and in whom you trust. It is kind of like pears. If you pick pears while they are green they are hard, tasteless, and not worth eating. However, if you allow them to stay on the tree and ripen, they are wonderfully sweet and well worth eating. So is the life of the person who allows God to ripen them in Him. Gentleness is often learned and comes from an inner strength that can only be ripened by developing on the vine of God. Want the peace of God? Allow your gentleness to be obvious.

Paul continues his advice by writing that the peace of God comes when…

III. We are not anxious about anything! (v. 6-7)
1. The distractions of this world can take away a believer’s inner joy! The idea here is not just one of worry but also includes that of being overly concerned with things. A person can selfishly worry so much about getting things that they lose their peace with God! The getting in life is not what life is about. Jesus was very blunt when He reminded His listeners to “not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Then He finishes His counsel with: “do not worry about your life… Is not life more important?” (Matthew 6:25) “Pagans,” the unbelieving perverts of the world, Jesus said, “run after all these things,” instead the Christian is to “seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33) Paul writes that it is by the believer’s “prayer and petition, with thanksgiving” that we are to present our “requests to God.” You want peace in the coming new year? Stop worrying about the things of life and present your prayers and petitions to God with true thanksgiving! Then “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!” Trust God and do not be anxious about anything!
EXAMPLE: Go to any cemetery and look at the gravestones there. How many were poor or rich? Good looking or ugly? Fat or thin? Tall or short? They are all the same now: Six feet under! Even the headstone or casket does not matter when you are covered with the dirt of the world! Everything you acquire you will leave behind on the trash heap of the world! Be satisfied with what God provides. Why then are we anxious? Perhaps it is because we are not in control of our lives and we know it. Hannah Whitall Smith wrote, “It is not hard, you find, to trust the management of the universe, and of all the outward creation, to the Lord. Can your case then be so much more complex and difficult than these, that you need to be anxious or troubled about His management of you?” If you desire the peace of God, do not be anxious about anything, trust God in the coming year!

Finally, Paul tells us that the peace of God comes when…

IV. We focus on what matters most in life! (v. 8)
1. Good advice is only good if you follow it! Paul concludes this section by stating six qualities of a godly lifestyle that are “excellent or praiseworthy”. He writes that if the Christian wants to enjoy the peace of God, he should set his mind on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” These are the things that a Christian should think about and use in their walk with God. The truth of God, the dignity of God, the holiness of God, the grace of God, and whatever is worthy of God, these are the things in our lives we are to focus on. As Clarke writes in his commentary that the believer should “Esteem them highly, recommend them heartily, and practice them fervently.” This is why the writer of Proverbs advises: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4) If more Christians focused their lives on these things, God’s church would be more effective and our lives in Him would find a peace that would transcend all understanding! Focus on what matters in life!
EXAMPLE: They say that the reason so many State Troopers are hit by drunk drivers when standing beside pulled over vehicles is because the DUI focuses so much on the Trooper they get fixated on them and end up stirring into them. Kind of like a moth drawn to a light. You know what, that can be true of our lives as well. We can get so fixated on things that do not matter in life that we charge headlong into trouble. Paul writes that the Christian is to fixate on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” The peace of God comes when we focus on what matters most in life.

When we rejoice in God, cast our concerns on Him, allow God to worry for us, and focus on the important things of life, we are following what we “have learned or received or heard from” Paul. Now, are you going to do this in the coming year or not?----This article is copyrighted © 2008 by Lee Hemen and if you reprint it, reproduce it, or want to use it in any way, you must do so in its entirety or get the written permission of its author.