Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Pastor’s Prayer - Philippians 1:9-11

A Pastor’s Prayer - Philippians 1:9-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 22, 2009 AM

What is prayer for you? Is it a way to gain the attention of God? A means to gripe about your latest ache or pain? Perhaps a means of simple meditation or conversation with the Lord? In the letters of Paul we discover that Paul prayed a lot. He prayed for the churches he helped establish, he prayed for those he had won to Christ, he prayed for the leadership of the church in Jerusalem, and he prayed for the lost to come to Christ as well. But one of the things Paul mentions specifically and generally over and over is that he prayed that his fellow Christians would grow in their knowledge of God. He prayed this way because at his core, Paul was a pastor and he had a pastor’s heart.

As we look in the passage this morning from Philippians we discover a pastor’s prayer that is both beautiful and grand in its insight and gives us a look inside of pastor Paul’s heart for those he discipled. It is a wonderful example of a pastor’s prayer. Let’s discover why…

READ: Philippians 1:9-11

Paul was a powerful intercessor for those he cared about. We find him constantly praying for the churches he established because he wanted them to grow not only in numbers but also in their understanding of their love for God through Jesus. This is the prayer every pastor has for his church. In looking at the words Paul wrote to the Philippians we begin to appreciate that…

I. Pastors pray that their churches will grow spiritually! (V. 9)

1. A Christian is a work in progress! Paul wrote: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3) This is what a Christian is to be known for: Growing more and more in their love of God and their love for one another! It reflects what Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) This love however is not an emotional feeling, it is an act of will that comes from complete faith in Jesus, who is the supreme example of God’s love. This is why Paul prayed that the Philippians’ “love” might “abound more and more”! He wanted them to grow “in knowledge and depth of insight” of the love of God as found in Jesus Christ. Any pastor would. Any pastor should! Interestingly, however, many believers are stagnant in this area of their spiritual lives. Literally, Paul was writing that he desired his fellow Christians superabound in a greater in-depth knowledge of God. To go beyond their limited understanding of who they thought God was. He was more than commands and following the letter of the law. God had shown Himself in the fullness of Jesus the Messiah. All there is to know about God is found in Jesus. Paul wanted his readers to abound in this “love” knowledge and go past their old understanding of God. Can you? It is a pastor’s prayer that their churches will grow spiritually.

EXAMPLE: Paul was not talking about some mystical bellybutton approach. No becoming one with creation claptrap. He wanted his readers to buck up and get growing in their knowledge of Jesus because by doing so they would understand God’s love a whole lot better! Sadly, in our day and age, many folk think their greater understanding of Jesus is revealed by how they feel at the moment so they rely far too much on others to give them a “holy moment” rather than spiritually growing “more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” of the love of God! The story is told of an accomplished artist who was applying the finishing touches to a bronze sculpture. He kept filing, scraping, and polishing every little surface of his masterpiece. “When will it be done?” asked an observer. “Never,” came the reply. “I just keep working and working until they come and take it away.” Much the same could be said of the children of God. We are saved by grace and declared righteous in Christ. Yet when it comes to the matter of Christlikeness in our everyday living, we must keep working at it until Jesus comes and takes us away. Pastor Paul prayed that the Philippians would grow spiritually.

When you look at the world around you what do you see? I am not just talking about the natural world but the spiritual world you are a part of daily. Many believers do not give one thought to the forces that are at work around them to thwart their walk with God. Paul understood this and is why he prayed the way he did for the Philippian church. We discover that…

II. Pastors pray that their churches would perceive what is best! (V. 10)

1. While the good of the world is fine, the best of God is better! Over the years, as a Pastor, I have been surprised at the fairly shallow reasoning some folks use to excuse their sinful lives. Especially Christians. Now I know no one is perfect, including Christians, that is, until they see Jesus face-to-face! But believers are to be striving to live “pure and blameless”’ lives until Jesus comes back or they are called home. This is one of the reasons so many in the world struggle with Christianity because they simply do not see Christians living this kind of lifestyle. Paul wanted his readers to have spiritual sight so that they would “be able to discern,” examine for themselves “what is best” in life. For Paul, it was not settling for what was good for the moment, but rather what was “best” so they would be “be pure and blameless until the day of Christ!” This is the duty of a pastor, to help his congregation go for the gold, so-to-speak! He would write the Colossian church, who was having spiritual troubles, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.” (Colossians 2:18a) He would also bluntly write them: “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” (Colossians 2:2-4) Pastors pray that their churches would perceive what is best!

EXAMPLE: We love to make up excuses as to why we sin forgetting that there is coming a day of reckoning. In a materialistic world like ours, we are tempted to conclude that the only real things are those we experience with our five senses. Yet C.S. Lewis wrote that “there are things we cannot see: things behind our backs or far away and all things in the dark.” We live in a fallen world that desires to pull us back down into its pitiful realm. With every breath we take we breath in the air of a sin-fallen creation. David Roper writes that “Faith is the means by which we are able to ‘see’ this invisible world. That is belief’s true function. Faith is to the spiritual realm what the five senses are to the natural realm.” Paul desperately wanted his readers to understand this truth. David Egner writes that “the better we can see with the eye of faith into the invisible, spiritual realm of God, the better we will see the visible world for what it really is. Understanding our hope of eternal life and realizing the wealth of our riches in Jesus Christ will enable us to maintain a proper perspective of this visible world. It will also keep us from being too focused on all the stuff it has to offer.” Pastor Paul prayed that the Philippians would perceive what was best!

Righteous living is not inherited. It is not something that is automatically given to the individual who comes to the Lord in faith. It is acquired moment-by-moment as the repentant believer walks in humility with his Lord and Savior. This is why Paul would dramatically write: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2) Here in Philippians we discover that…

III. Pastors pray that their churches will be holy! (V. 11)

1. Holiness comes when you learn to let go and live for God! Notice that Paul prayed that his disciples would be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Filled? Yes! Paul wanted them full of Godly graciousness! You know, things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!” (Galatians 5:22-23) Paul understood that if Christians were “filled” with the “fruit of righteousness” that these “fruits” could only come “through Jesus Christ.” Holiness is more than something to “long for.” It is something that believers are to strive for moment-by-moment in thought, word, and deed. It is the “soul” purpose of the Christian’s life to live for God. Why? Paul told the Philippians it was “to the glory and praise of God!” You see, the life of the believer is more than just doing the right thing or living a good life. Holiness demands so much more. Paul would declare that it is “in Him we live and move and have our being!” (Acts 17:28) Therefore, our lives demand that we “cast our cares on him,” that we “not worry about tomorrow,” that we “take up [our] cross” and follow Him moment-by-moment. Churches now more than ever need to be holy and that can only come when the body itself, the individual believer in the pew, is “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God!” Pastors pray that their churches will be holy!

EXAMPLE: I once read about an interesting method used by people in North Africa to catch monkeys. A hunter hollows out a gourd and makes a hole in its side just large enough for a monkey to insert his open hand. The gourd is then filled with nuts and tied to a tree. The curious monkey is attracted by the smell of the nuts and reaches inside and grasps them. The hole in the gourd is too small, however, for the animal to withdraw his fist as long as it is tightly closed around the nuts inside. Because he refuses to release his prize, the unsuspecting monkey falls easy prey to his captor. Unwilling to relax his grasp, he actually traps himself! The Christian who holds onto the sin of the world and makes excuses for it, is just like those monkeys that become entrapped by their own greed. They fall prey to the scheme of the world. Paul says, for us to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Pastor Paul prayed that the Philippians would be holy!

Conclusion:

Paul definitely had a pastor’s heart. We discovered that pastors pray that their churches will grow spiritually, pastors pray that their churches would perceive what is best, and pastors pray that their churches will be holy! This is my desire as a pastor as well.
---
This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.

A Pastor’s Prayer - Philippians 1:9-11

A Pastor’s Prayer - Philippians 1:9-11

By Pastor Lee Hemen

February 22, 2009 AM


What is prayer for you? Is it a way to gain the attention of God? A means to gripe about your latest ache or pain? Perhaps a means of simple meditation or conversation with the Lord? In the letters of Paul we discover that Paul prayed a lot. He prayed for the churches he helped establish, he prayed for those he had won to Christ, he prayed for the leadership of the church in Jerusalem, and he prayed for the lost to come to Christ as well. But one of the things Paul mentions specifically and generally over and over is that he prayed that his fellow Christians would grow in their knowledge of God. He prayed this way because at his core, Paul was a pastor and he had a pastor’s heart.

As we look in the passage this morning from Philippians we discover a pastor’s prayer that is both beautiful and grand in its insight and gives us a look inside of pastor Paul’s heart for those he discipled. It is a wonderful example of a pastor’s prayer. Let’s discover why…


READ: Philippians 1:9-11


Paul was a powerful intercessor for those he cared about. We find him constantly praying for the churches he established because he wanted them to grow not only in numbers but also in their understanding of their love for God through Jesus. This is the prayer every pastor has for his church. In looking at the words Paul wrote to the Philippians we begin to appreciate that…


I. Pastors pray that their churches will grow spiritually! (V. 9)


1. A Christian is a work in progress! Paul wrote: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3) This is what a Christian is to be known for: Growing more and more in their love of God and their love for one another! It reflects what Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) This love however is not an emotional feeling, it is an act of will that comes from complete faith in Jesus, who is the supreme example of God’s love. This is why Paul prayed that the Philippians’ “love” might “abound more and more”! He wanted them to grow “in knowledge and depth of insight” of the love of God as found in Jesus Christ. Any pastor would. Any pastor should! Interestingly, however, many believers are stagnant in this area of their spiritual lives. Literally, Paul was writing that he desired his fellow Christians superabound in a greater in-depth knowledge of God. To go beyond their limited understanding of who they thought God was. He was more than commands and following the letter of the law. God had shown Himself in the fullness of Jesus the Messiah. All there is to know about God is found in Jesus. Paul wanted his readers to abound in this “love” knowledge and go past their old understanding of God. Can you? It is a pastor’s prayer that their churches will grow spiritually.


EXAMPLE: Paul was not talking about some mystical bellybutton approach. No becoming one with creation claptrap. He wanted his readers to buck up and get growing in their knowledge of Jesus because by doing so they would understand God’s love a whole lot better! Sadly, in our day and age, many folk think their greater understanding of Jesus is revealed by how they feel at the moment so they rely far too much on others to give them a “holy moment” rather than spiritually growing “more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” of the love of God! The story is told of an accomplished artist who was applying the finishing touches to a bronze sculpture. He kept filing, scraping, and polishing every little surface of his masterpiece. “When will it be done?” asked an observer. “Never,” came the reply. “I just keep working and working until they come and take it away.” Much the same could be said of the children of God. We are saved by grace and declared righteous in Christ. Yet when it comes to the matter of Christlikeness in our everyday living, we must keep working at it until Jesus comes and takes us away. Pastor Paul prayed that the Philippians would grow spiritually.


When you look at the world around you what do you see? I am not just talking about the natural world but the spiritual world you are a part of daily. Many believers do not give one thought to the forces that are at work around them to thwart their walk with God. Paul understood this and is why he prayed the way he did for the Philippian church. We discover that…


II. Pastors pray that their churches would perceive what is best! (V. 10)


1. While the good of the world is fine, the best of God is better! Over the years, as a Pastor, I have been surprised at the fairly shallow reasoning some folks use to excuse their sinful lives. Especially Christians. Now I know no one is perfect, including Christians, that is, until they see Jesus face-to-face! But believers are to be striving to live “pure and blameless”’ lives until Jesus comes back or they are called home. This is one of the reasons so many in the world struggle with Christianity because they simply do not see Christians living this kind of lifestyle. Paul wanted his readers to have spiritual sight so that they would “be able to discern,” examine for themselves “what is best” in life. For Paul, it was not settling for what was good for the moment, but rather what was “best” so they would be “be pure and blameless until the day of Christ!” This is the duty of a pastor, to help his congregation go for the gold, so-to-speak! He would write the Colossian church, who was having spiritual troubles, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.” (Colossians 2:18a) He would also bluntly write them: “My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” (Colossians 2:2-4) Pastors pray that their churches would perceive what is best!


EXAMPLE: We love to make up excuses as to why we sin forgetting that there is coming a day of reckoning. In a materialistic world like ours, we are tempted to conclude that the only real things are those we experience with our five senses. Yet C.S. Lewis wrote that “there are things we cannot see: things behind our backs or far away and all things in the dark.” We live in a fallen world that desires to pull us back down into its pitiful realm. With every breath we take we breath in the air of a sin-fallen creation. David Roper writes that “Faith is the means by which we are able to ‘see’ this invisible world. That is belief’s true function. Faith is to the spiritual realm what the five senses are to the natural realm.” Paul desperately wanted his readers to understand this truth. David Egner writes that “the better we can see with the eye of faith into the invisible, spiritual realm of God, the better we will see the visible world for what it really is. Understanding our hope of eternal life and realizing the wealth of our riches in Jesus Christ will enable us to maintain a proper perspective of this visible world. It will also keep us from being too focused on all the stuff it has to offer.” Pastor Paul prayed that the Philippians would perceive what was best!


Righteous living is not inherited. It is not something that is automatically given to the individual who comes to the Lord in faith. It is acquired moment-by-moment as the repentant believer walks in humility with his Lord and Savior. This is why Paul would dramatically write: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2) Here in Philippians we discover that…


III. Pastors pray that their churches will be holy! (V. 11)


1. Holiness comes when you learn to let go and live for God! Notice that Paul prayed that his disciples would be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Filled? Yes! Paul wanted them full of Godly graciousness! You know, things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control!” (Galatians 5:22-23) Paul understood that if Christians were “filled” with the “fruit of righteousness” that these “fruits” could only come “through Jesus Christ.” Holiness is more than something to “long for.” It is something that believers are to strive for moment-by-moment in thought, word, and deed. It is the “soul” purpose of the Christian’s life to live for God. Why? Paul told the Philippians it was “to the glory and praise of God!” You see, the life of the believer is more than just doing the right thing or living a good life. Holiness demands so much more. Paul would declare that it is “in Him we live and move and have our being!” (Acts 17:28) Therefore, our lives demand that we “cast our cares on him,” that we “not worry about tomorrow,” that we “take up [our] cross” and follow Him moment-by-moment. Churches now more than ever need to be holy and that can only come when the body itself, the individual believer in the pew, is “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God!” Pastors pray that their churches will be holy!


EXAMPLE: I once read about an interesting method used by people in North Africa to catch monkeys. A hunter hollows out a gourd and makes a hole in its side just large enough for a monkey to insert his open hand. The gourd is then filled with nuts and tied to a tree. The curious monkey is attracted by the smell of the nuts and reaches inside and grasps them. The hole in the gourd is too small, however, for the animal to withdraw his fist as long as it is tightly closed around the nuts inside. Because he refuses to release his prize, the unsuspecting monkey falls easy prey to his captor. Unwilling to relax his grasp, he actually traps himself! The Christian who holds onto the sin of the world and makes excuses for it, is just like those monkeys that become entrapped by their own greed. They fall prey to the scheme of the world. Paul says, for us to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” Pastor Paul prayed that the Philippians would be holy!


Conclusion:


Paul definitely had a pastor’s heart. We discovered that pastors pray that their churches will grow spiritually, pastors pray that their churches would perceive what is best, and pastors pray that their churches will be holy! This is my desire as a pastor as well.

---

This article is the copyrighted 2009 © property of Lee Hemen and may not be copied or reproduced in any way shape or form without using the full text of this entire article, and getting the permission of its author.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Thank My God! - Philippians 1:1-8

I Thank My God! - Philippians 1:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 15, 2009 AM

I have attended many memorial services for folks over the years where people stand and share about how they were thankful for the person they came to remember and how that person had impacted their life with their presence. As I have sat in these services over the years I have often begin to wonder how many who have come could boldly stand and publicly declare their thanks for the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives? Could they stand and thank those who were dynamic witnesses for the Lord? What many in these crowds do not understand fully is the reality of the graciousness of God in their lives whether they believe in His Son or not. Paul understood this. He knew where he had come from and he knew what God had done in his life because of Jesus. He could confidently write or stand in the front of strangers and boldly declare, “I thank my God!” Can you?

On his second missionary travels Paul came through Philippi and had won several people to faith in Christ. From a woman named Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth” to a jailer and his family, Paul had publicly proclaimed his faith. Because of this, a small group of believers formed a church there and it became a “joy” and personal blessing to the Apostle throughout his life. He “thanked God” for them. Why? Let’s discover this morning how each believer can become the kind of person whereby others would be willing to stand up and bear witness and say, “I thank my God” for you.

READ: Philippians 1:1-8

There is nothing like being able to depend upon someone whom we can trust in completely with our concerns in life. Someone whom we know will pull for us and always stand by our side in the good times and the bad times. A partner for life. Fellow Christians are to be these kind of people as well. People in whom we as believers can “thank God” for in any situation. Sadly, far too often this may not always be the case. Paul therefore reminds us to…

I. Thank God for those who partner in the Gospel! (Vv. 3-5)

1. Birds of a feather flock together! Christians will associate with one another for the sake of the Gospel message. Paul pauses in the opening sentences of his personal letter to dramatically write, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (V. 1:3) “Every time” he remembered them? Wow! How could he write such a thing to them? Would someone say this about us? Paul sincerely thought about them “because of [their] partnership in the gospel from the first day [he began to preach it] until now.” He remembered them in “all” his “prayers,” and when he was reminded of them he “always prayed with joy” when he did! Their partnership had created a strong bond of fellowship and love between Paul and this little church. When others did not support Paul, they did, and not just with mere words! This is the Gospel message as well. It creates a new sense of community in the body of Christ that is both sacred and special. What Ananias and Sapphira could not buy, and died because of their unrepentant lie for (Acts 5:1-10), true followers of the Gospel share in. Paul would write that Christians should never forget that “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” (Colossians 1:21-23) When you pray what partner in the Gospel do you thank God for?

EXAMPLE: Have you seen the huge flocks of starlings that flock together? They do this only when they are not individually mating, but will join up together even afterwards for protection. They will fight off threats together, but they also intrinsically know that if there are large numbers of them then a predator is more likely to go after a weaker one or one that straggles. Why is it then that Christians are often willing to throw one another under the bus, so-to-speak, rather than rally around each other during times of need? We forget that if one stumbles in the body of Christ, it affects all of us. If you sprained your leg would you cut it off because it needs attention? Rather than cutting of the offending appendage, should we not rather try to wrap it, heal it, and bring it back to health in the body it belongs to? Paul would write, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) He stressed this attitude throughout his letters. Paul passionately remembered the Philippian church with joy because of their partnership in the Gospel. We are to thank God for those who partner in the Gospel!

Do you have friends who will always say good things about you even when you are not around? Christians are called to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Yet we easily forget this when we begin to stab at the sliver in another’s eye while we ignore the piece of lumber sticking out of our own. It then begs the question: Are there others who would “thank my God” for you? Paul reminds us to…

II. Thank God for those who proclaim the Gospel! (Vv. 6-8)

1. The Gospel knows no boundaries! Paul was “confident” that the same God who [had] began a good work in [every Christian would] carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”! The proclamation of the Gospel began with Jesus but continued in those who trusted in Him by faith! Peter remind us: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Paul would tell his fellow Christians: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.” (Acts 20:24) Proclamation of the Gospel message is the most essential communication people can hear! It is a matter of life or death! Paul would write the Philippians that “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart.” He could feel a special connection to the Philippian church because of the Gospel they both shared in and that they willingly shared with others. Paul reminded them that “whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.” Did you know that this is true for those we support on the mission field? It is true! The writer of Hebrews would use some great language about this when he wrote, “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” (Hebrews 3:1) Holy brothers? Heavenly calling? YES! All Christians share in the heavenly calling of proclaiming the Gospel! The Philippians had joined Paul in proclaiming the gospel and they shared in all his troubles and persecutions they had made it a common cause with him, so it followed that they would also share the same blessings from God for doing so! Paul thanked God for those who proclaimed the Gospel with him.

EXAMPLE: I will never forget the huge hug I received from a Korean pastor. Usually Koreans are like other Asians in that they are more reserved when meeting people for the first time, but he quickly explained to me why he was so happy to see me: “We share the same Gospel!” And isn’t this what the life of a church and the individual Christian is to be about? When I attended seminary this hit home in a dramatic way because in several of my classes there were men from Libya, Kenya, Korea, China, Japan, Romania, Russia, Canada, the Philippines, America Samoa, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Mexico! We all shared in the same Gospel! And isn’t this true as well for each of us who have trusted Jesus Christ this morning? Those who have placed their faith in Him? Young or old, male or female, single or married, and no matter our ethnicity? YES! Paul was passionate for the Gospel’s sake and so should we be as well. Thank God for those who proclaim the Gospel!

Conclusion:
As we walk in the Lord we need to thank God for those who partner in the Gospel and we need to thank God for those who proclaim the Gospel!
----
This article is copyrighted © 2009 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, February 08, 2009

The Passover Made New -- Luke 22:1-23

The Passover Made New -- Luke 22:1-23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 8, 2009 AM

There are several terms for the last meal Jesus shared with His followers. Some call it “Communion,” others “the Eucharist,” “the Lord’s Supper” or “the Last Supper.” Each carries with it a perception of what this meal was supposed to mean and what it is supposed to relate to those believers who observe it. The pathos of the meal and what occurs strikes a chord with anyone who happens to understand what is taking place, the characters involved, and the setting. As we look at this meal what Jesus shared, not only with His followers then but with all of us who claim Him as Savior and Lord, we can be renewed in our faith, in its significance for our lives, and what it means.

Luke introduces his section concerning the meal by telling us: “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.” (Luke 22:1-2) Both names, Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover were interchangeably used, but they were two separate celebrations that were interlinked one with the other. Passover came first on Nisan 14-15, while the Feast of Unleavened Bread followed on Nisan 15-21. These dates were set by the phases of the moon and is why Passover is celebrated on different months and days each year. (In the spring in March or April.) Within the observance of the Lord’s Supper we discover three portions of our lives that we can reflect on. Let’s discover what they are…

READ: Luke 22:1-23

We live in a society that loves to think that what we do as individuals is no one else’s business. We use this excuse to justify our ungodly behavior. However, within the body of Christ, each member is responsible to the other in holy community. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) It is therefore extremely important for us to present ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” as His body. In order for us to join together in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper we are commanded to examine ourselves before we partake of it. (1 Corinthians 11:28) Why? Paul says that “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:29) How do we do that? We must first look at…

I. Our Preparation for the Supper. (Vv. 7-13)
1. Do you know Jesus as Savior and Lord? Jesus continually asks us to prepare ourselves for Him! Here in Luke we discover a beautiful picture of the believer’s walk with the Lord. Jesus, knowing His time to die is coming quickly, turns to His disciples and tells them to “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” Jesus wanted to celebrate a new Passover and His followers had to make preparations in order to do so. They ask, “Where,” and in doing so are actually asking “how” as well. It is what every believer of Christ is to do in preparation. Jesus then gives them specific instructions that they have to follow: 1) find a man carrying a jar of water, 2) follow him to his house, and 3) they are to tell him that “The Master asks, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’” If we want to partake of the Lord’s Supper we too must be willing to find a man, Jesus; we must be willing to follow Him wherever He goes; and we must be willing to ask of Him, “Can I partake of this celebration with You?” Preparation is everything in this meal of the Lord’s. So, just as “they prepared the Passover,” we must as well in our own lives. In order for us to partake of the Lord’s Supper, our preparation is important.
EXAMPLE: A person must recognize the “body of the Lord,” Paul says, because if you do not and partake of something set aside only for those who do, you are drinking “judgment on” yourselves. You must recognize who Jesus is and what He has done and “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) When a person becomes part of the body of Christ you must continually prepare yourself! Paul writes that “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) We are “to be made new in the attitude of [our] minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) We must be the holy people of God He has called us to be. John reminds us that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” but “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) We must prepare by asking ourselves: “Have I trusted Christ with my life, and if I have, am I walking in holy fellowship with Him?” It is our preparation for the Supper.

There is an old saying that states, “What you see is what you get.” You know what? That is true for the Lord’s Supper as well. Let me explain: What do you expect to find at the Supper table of the Lord? A renewal of your spiritual self? A spiritual blessing? Perhaps mercy or a special kind of grace? You may find none of those things, and here is why: It all depends upon…

II. Our Perception of the Supper. (Vv. 14-20)
1. How do you see Jesus? The new covenant is written on the body and in the blood of the Messiah! Each disciple sat down to enjoy a traditional festive Passover meal with their rabbi Jesus. What they were actually participants of was a new contract, a new covenant, of God’s making through His Son Jesus. Perception is everything. Some at that table saw Jesus as a teacher, some saw Him as a Messianic figure who would save Israel from the Romans, and some saw Him as simply a good friend. Few saw Him at that moment as He truly was. Hindsight is always 20/20. None of them understood why Jesus “desired to eat this Passover” with them. “Suffer?” What in the world did Jesus mean, “I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God… I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes”? The bread had signified the Hebrews rush to leave Egypt and a portion would be tucked away, hidden, and taken out at the end of the meal and shared to remind them of the coming Messiah. The cup was the toast to the blessings of God. Now, Jesus placed a new meaning on each. Old perceptions of Jesus were cast aside for the real meaning of who Jesus was: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’” (Luke 22:19-20) We dare not come to the Lord’s Supper with our own preconceived notions about Jesus. He is more than a friend, a mystic teacher, a good person. He is the Savior of the world, the Messiah, and on His body and in His blood are written the new covenant for us. What is your perception of the Supper?
EXAMPLE: “What do you see? My father asked. I could not see anything but a lot of underbrush. “Look again and notice if there is anything different with the brush,” he replied. And, there, I saw it. A baby deer. A little fawn with spots hiding camouflaged with her mother in the underbrush. There are many who willingly camouflage Jesus. They dress Him up the way they like Him rather than who He truly is. When we observe the Lord’s Supper we dare not camouflage Jesus because if we do our perception of the Supper is as skewed as our view of who Jesus truly is. The Supper becomes sacred when we as His body come together in unity of faith, confessed of our sins, made righteous in Him, realizing what He did for us through His sacrifice on the cross. As Paul rightly put it: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8) What is your perception of the Supper?

We have so many appetites as people. We want what we want when we want it and we want it our way or not at all. While this might be okay for ordering a meal at a fast food restaurant, it is not suitable for the Lord’s Supper. Our faith and where it is placed says a lot about our trust in Christ. In fact in these verses from Luke it should begin to help us look at…

III. Our Proclivity During the Supper (Vv. 3-6, 21-23)
1. Where is your faith? Betrayal is found in misplaced faith! Judas saw Jesus as an means to an end. Perhaps Judas wanted a warrior or an insurrectionist whereby His followers would rise up and crown Him king. More than likely, however, Judas saw Jesus as a means to make some quick coin. What this speaks to is where was Judas’ faith? Judas “consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over” to those who wanted to destroy Him. Do you see Jesus as a means to an end this morning? How do you see Jesus “fitting into” your life? How sad for Jesus to know exactly Judas’ intentions when He related that “the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table!” The deception was known by the Lord as is ours when we have a deceptive faith. We hate Judas for what he did to Jesus, but think nothing of our own hand in His as we are disloyal as well. Jesus sighs, “woe to that [one] who betrays” me! We question among ourselves which one of us might do such a dastardly thing, but just as any at that table so long ago were capable of the deed so are any of us this morning! When we desire our faith to be produced and packaged for us we fall short of the glory of God. We would do well to beware least we fall into the same proclivity of Judas. Where is your heart this morning dear child of the Lord? Are you here ready to worship or are you trying to deceive the Lord that your love is still just as deep as it was when you first came to Him? Partaking of the Supper will not make it so. Come back to Him who eats with you. Where is your faith? What is your proclivity during the Supper?
EXAMPLE: The other night we went out for a good meal. We had saved and managed to set aside enough to go to a little bit better restaurant. We were quickly seated and served. The meal was tasty and well done. We left a nice tip because the service was done well also. We went expecting a good meal and we got what we expected without putting any effort into it at all. After all, that’s why you go out to eat, right? Sadly, there are those who come to worship with the same attitude of heart as in entering a restaurant. They come with a proclivity, and expectation, a tendency to expect to be served, enlightened, uplifted, and taken to the throne of the Lord when they have not prepared themselves at all. They want the good service without the effort of putting any worship into it themselves. They want the worship well done for them. It cannot and it does not happen that way. Perhaps you thought that by participating in the Lord’s Supper this morning you would experience a deeper sense of God, but if you did without first coming into this building wanting to worship the Lord, you entered into the observance with perhaps the wrong attitude and motives. Who would do such a thing? Judas? What is your proclivity during the Supper?

Conclusion:
Today, as you get ready to observe the Lord’s Supper, the Passover made new, have you taken a moment to prepare, to perceive it properly, and to make sure your proclivity of faith is right? Oh, I pray you have!
----
This article is copyrighted © 2009 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, February 01, 2009

The Perseverance of God’s People -- James 1:2-12

The Perseverance of God’s People -- James 1:2-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 1, 2009 AM

Why is it we like to hear bad news? Now you may say, “Pastor, I like to hear good news,” but if this were really the case then why does the news media focus on the bad news so much? Study after study has shown that folks like to hear about bad news. You know, the “gloom, despair, and agony on me” kind of news! In fact this is why people will slow down and gawk at accidents. And how many times have you shared that you were going into the hospital for something minor and folks always have to share with you how so-and-so “went in with the same thing and got their leg cut off instead!” Ladies, who are pregnant for the first time have to suffer through the horror stories of other women’s lengthy labor pains and discomfort. Why? We like to hear and share bad news.

I think this is why we also like to grouse about our own aches, pains, and sufferings so much in life to the Lord as well. We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world that love to focus on how bad things are instead of seeing God’s handiwork in our lives. James addresses this for us in the verses we will look at this morning. But James gives us new insights as to how the believer is to persist in living, loving, and praising the Lord no matter what the world may throw at them. It is simply a matter of our heart’s focus. Let see what James writes about in the perseverance of God’s people, shall we?

READ: James 1:2-12

What is your happiness dependent upon? Now be careful before you answer because if you immediately say, “The Lord,” you had better make sure this is true. Far too often we measure our spiritual happiness by whether or not our life is going easy or hard. If it is going good, then we are experiencing God’s blessing, but if it is going bad, well then we must be hurting because God is not blessing us. Right? This is a spiritually myopic view of how the Lord works. James related that in the perseverance of God’s people…

I. We are to be joyful in the temptation because of Jesus! (vv. 2-3)

1. Pretending that we are not going through difficulties in life, does not make them any less real! James is not asking us to think this way nor to live our lives in the Lord this way. James understands what we go through because he has as well. This is why he calls us “my brothers.” We are “brothers” with him in the Lord and also in the life we experience. However notice that he says for us to “consider it pure joy.” Is he irrational? No. The word used in the NIV “consider” is an accounting term that means for someone to do it just once. Also the word for “trials” in the NIV should really be “temptations.” James is speaking about a Christian going through various temptations in life or quite literally “testings” of our faith. In other words, we must realize immediately that when we are tempted that we are because of our faith in Christ! Why would I say that? James writes that it is “because you know that the testing of your faith develops” something that every believer needs: “perseverance!” Paul writes that it was so “you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:10-12) WOW! We as believers will face many trials and temptations in life, but when we do we can be joyful in the temptation because of Jesus! It is our faith in Him where “the testing of [our] faith develops perseverance.”

EXAMPLE: There are those who claim that when Paul wrote that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it,” (1 Corinthians 10:13) that God provides for us an “Easy Button” to push during difficult times. A way we can bail out of the problem or whereby the problem will disappear! But this is not what Paul is relating at all. In fact, he is agreeing with James! Paul’s “way out so that you can stand up under it” is Jesus Christ and not an easy out button. We may well go through the trial or temptation, but Jesus is right there with us as well! The believer is to rejoice in the fact that they face temptations against their faith because if they did not, they may not have faith! The Christian faces various temptations simply because they are the Lord’s children and in this realization you should “consider it pure joy!” The Christian will face many trials and temptations in life, but when they do they can be joyful in the temptation because of Jesus! It is “the testing of our faith [that] develops perseverance.”

Maturation in the Lord is not always easy. It deals with us rewiring our brains to the way we have always thought and acted about what happens in our lives in the past. Instead of the “me first” attitude we used to think, we are to live for the Lord. As the old classic rock song goes, “This is not always easy and not always kind,” but we definitely do have to make up our mind on how we are going to live for Jesus! In fact, we discover that James writes that in the perseverance of God’s people…

II. We are to persevere so that we might mature! (vv. 4-8)

1. It all depends in the how and on the why we are truly asking God for help! Perseverance is only the beginning of the benefits a believer develops. James says that this is “so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” as a Christian. We discover that the word “mature” is often translated “perfect” or “finished,” and is frequently coupled with “complete” to convey the idea of being perfected or fully developed as a believer. A Christian’s temptations can be faced with joy because when it is steeped in the stew of faith the outcome is perseverance. The result is a thoroughly complete Christian. He will be all God wants him to be! If you “lack wisdom” in this, James advises that you should, “ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to” you. Jesus taught, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) James cautions his readers however by advising: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” In asking for God’s wisdom during times of temptation the Christian needs to be wise in his asking. The believer should not think he will get the answer he desires, but rather the one God gives, and that God will answer! If you enter into your asking by placing your own qualifications on the answer you want, or thinking that God does not hear you, then you are already displaying a undermined faith. James says for us to be careful and not think that way because if we do we are “a double-minded man, unstable in all” we do for the Lord! We do not have the mind of Christ but are only looking out for ourselves! James says we are to persevere so we might mature!

EXAMPLE: Many a parent has been asked for help in with school work, only to discover that the child really wanted them to do the work for them. The wise parent knows that when you do your child’s homework for them that they do not learn what they are supposed to learn if they did it on their own. In fact, a child who comes to a parent with ulterior motives with a request for help is not just lying but is being sneaky. It shows a lack of character. Now I am sure that none of your children have ever done this or if they did you as a parent immediately helped them to see the error of their ways, right? Why? A child needs to learn godly character traits and to do the work themselves. Often when folks go to God to ask for “help,” they are really asking God for a different answer than the one He has already given them. Or they are asking for a way out of a situation they put themselves in, in the first place! So if we come to God and ask him with these kind of wrong motives, are we being “double minded” and “unstable in all we do” as believers? James would say, “Yes.” We are to persevere so that we might mature! It all depends in how and why we are truly asking God for help!

Dear Child of God have you forgotten the one all important fact of the gospel message for you? Namely, that God loves you and desires the best for your life in Him. We cannot measure our position with Christ by the things in life we go through. If we do, we will have a faulty understanding of life and the Lord. James writes that in the perseverance of God’s people…

III. We are to remember our standing in the Lord! (vv. 9-12)

1. Our perseverance depends a lot on how we view ourselves and the Lord! James related that personal humility goes a long way with God: “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.” His “high position” with God. If we are well off in this life we need to “take pride in [our] low position, because [we] will pass away like a wild flower.” Jesus reminded His followers to “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30) James graphically reminds his readers that “the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” And dear Child of God, it is the same with those who have little as well. Even the poor can become conceited and forget their standing with God. In fact, sometimes even more so! Far too often in our day and age we think we deserve what others have worked for, thinking that it is fair that wealth should be redistributed, that is, until we earn a little more ourselves! Then, we want to keep what is ours! James writes that the believer is not to glory in his wealth or lack thereof, but rather, happiest, “blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” We are all nothing before God who created all things. Everything in life will fade, including us, just like the flowers of the field, but if we have faith in Jesus we will “receive the crown of life” God has promised us. In the perseverance of God’s people we are to remember our standing with the Lord!

EXAMPLE: We are not to go to God as a servile beggar, Igor-like, nor arrogantly and flippantly think we deserve God’s graciousness simply because we have begrudgingly agreed to follow Him. What parent loves to answer their child’s plea for help when the child comes with a begging whining attitude or arrogantly thinks they deserve something for nothing from them? My father used to tell us, when we came to him with the wrong motives or attitude, “Now ask me like a human being.” He hated it when we tried to be puppy dogs, begging for a favor or when we thought we deserved something for nothing. Especially when we wanted him to get us out of a jam of our own making! As a head cook told me one time, “You made your stew, now peel your own potatoes!” However, make no mistake, God does desire that His children come to Him for answers, but we want to be sure of our standing in the Lord. Have we truly trusted the Lord with our lives by humbly submitting to Him? Our perseverance depends a lot on how we view ourselves and the Lord!

Conclusion:
In the perseverance of God’s people we are to be joyful in the temptation because of Jesus, we are to persevere so that we might mature, and we are to remember our standing in the Lord! Do you?