Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Servant Life! – James 1:1-8

The Servant Life! – James 1:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 27, 2014 AM

I have discovered that those who often have personal problems with fellow believers or with their churches are usually the ones who all of sudden have been confronted with their insincerity of faith. What many American’s think is biblical and scriptural concerning how to deal with fellow believers or a church that suddenly does not meet their needs has absolutely no basis in correct theology. Far too many do not read and study their Bibles but rather use them to justify their sin, their immaturity of faith, or to excuse their disobedience. Sound harsh? Then you will fit right in with those who have had problems with the “right strawy epistle” of the Book of James. As the Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Few books of the Bible have been more maligned than the little Book of James. Controversy has waged over its authorship, its date, its recipients, its canonicity, and its unity.” Yet, there is no denying that James teaches us how to live the servant life that his brother Jesus desired us to.

How do we live the servant life Jesus commanded, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”? (Mark 9:35 NIV) This teaching follows on the heels of Jesus stating, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 NIV) Few followers come anywhere near what Jesus commanded us to do. A life in Christ that is healthy, happy, and whole is one founded on being a servant! James gets right to the point in teaching us the servant life; let’s discover what he teaches…

READ: James 1:1-8

Notice that James immediately writes, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. He has already qualified himself not only as a “servant of God” but also “of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He wanted his readers to understand that he did not place himself above God or his Master, Jesus! And James is addressing the entire church and therefore all believers when he writes, “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” For James his life in Christ began and ended with Jesus! Therefore, for James…

I. Being a servant means personal perseverance! (Vv. 1-4)


  1. One of the most played songs is the one by Pharrell Williams called “Happy.” One of the stanzas goes, “Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah, Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah, Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah, No offense to you, don’t waste your time… Here’s why… Because I’m happy!” Yet, we often find it tough to persevere in a world full of sin, disease, and sadness. Singing a little song ain’t gonna help when the rent is due! Yet, James remarkably writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”! (Say what?) Interestingly, Pherrell’s little ditty follows on the heels of a songster named Bobby McFerrin, who wrote, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. McFerrin wistfully sang, “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note; don’t worry be happy. In every life we have some trouble. When you worry you make it double; don’t worry, be happy!” Wow! Who would have thought that all we have to do in life is not worry and be happy! Sadly, while this may sound hip, it is far from reality. James places one’s happiness squarely where it should be, in Jesus Christ. Why? James reminded his readers that “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Far too often we gripe and complain about what we are going through, and we even blame our circumstances on God. But we forget one universal truth: sin exists. This is why bad things happen to good people, or at least to the people we think are good. Believers all too often forget that God does not test us like some malicious ultimate being, but he does allow us to go through the mess we have created, including the affects of original sin. Now we can either curse and complain or discover what James is teaching us, namely, that “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” More than our escaping hard times, God desires to mature us in our faith. James was not some masochist who liked beating up on himself or others. He knew believers needed to be discipled in their faith walk with Jesus. He did. It is important to note that James did not say that a believer should be joyous for the trials but in the trials. The verb translated “face” might more literally be expressed as “fall into,” peripesēte, like falling off a precipice or cliff! We mature in our faith when we realize that the trials we face are part of life and how we handle them says a lot about our walk with God. James taught that being a servant means personal perseverance!

  EXAMPLE: CNN wrote, “It’s hard not to get swept up in the emotion of singer/rapper/producer Pharrell Williams as he breaks down while discussing his hit song ‘Happy’ with Oprah Winfrey.” Pharrell tearfully related during an Oprah Winfrey interview, “It’s overwhelming because it’s like I love what I do,” he continued, “I just appreciate the fact that people have believed in me for so long, that I could make it to this point to feel that.” Winfrey responded, “I so now get why it's so infectious, because it came from such a clear space that the energy was absolutely uninterrupted by anything other than allowing it to flow from heart to heart.” Okay? Whatever. Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” caught the attention of the entire country in 1988. He believes in the healing power of music. And some studies have shown the positive or negative effects music can have of folks, however, when “the music fades, all is stripped away.” Christian song writer Matt Redman, wrote in his chorus, “Heart of Worship”, “I'll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required. You search much deeper within. Through the way things appear, you’re looking into my heart.” James taught that being a servant means personal perseverance!

Where do you go when you are looking for advice? Often we go to feckless friends, reclusive relatives, or pathetic peers and or the exalted “experts” such as teachers or counselors, but we should look first into the Word of God. There are many who claim to seek God’s wisdom through his words, but few who actually do; especially when it may counter what we had already decided was God’s wisdom for our life! However, James teaches us that…

II. Being a servant means following your Master! (Vv. 5-8)


  1. Much of the world is confused by what constitutes good wisdom, it isn’t knowledge. Knowledge comes from facts, events, or studying while wisdom comes from using those facts, events, or studies in the real world. Wisdom often comes from our experiences coupled with our knowledge. This is why having more education does not necessarily make one wiser, just perhaps more knowledgeable! Facts are useless unless you know how to use them. James knew this to be true and why he wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Anyone, anywhere, can ask God at anytime for greater wisdom and this is the key, the wisdom James refers to is the wisdom that comes from God. It isn’t the wisdom of the world which often leads believers astray concerning spiritual matters. However, James says there is a caveat, “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.” Now James is not saying you can never have doubts concerning your faith what he is referring to is an individual doubting that God can give them the wisdom they need when they ask! The problem arises when we are uncertain we can trust God! When we doubt we are like “a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Often we do not recognize the answer given from God because we have doubted we would receive one in the first place or we only look for the answer we desire and ignore everything else! Too many believers have fallen into the false doctrine of thinking God is involved in every minute detail of their lives, when in fact he is not. Now do not misunderstand what I am saying, God does know what you are about after all he is omniscient – all knowing. He does know the hairs on our heads and when a sparrow falls to the ground, but he does not necessarily get personally involved in every detail of our daily lives where it truly does not matter what choice we make or when we know the choice we should make! In our hurried lives we often want answers in our timing and not in God’s. We therefore willingly forget that God can answer yes, no, wait, or not at all! Contrary to what Copernicus taught and many Christians think; the universe and creation does indeed revolve around the Son! His plan does not revolve around you personally. Jesus related to his disciples what James is teaching here when he taught, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) The problem is that too many sheep do not recognize the voice of their Master because they are so busy listening to their own wisdom or that of the world instead. They are trying to get God to agree with the answer they desire so that it will justify their ungodly wisdom. James teaches us that being a servant means following your Master!

  EXAMPLE: Lisa knew she shouldn’t date a boy who did not share her faith. She did everything she could to justify her decision to date him. She lamented to her friend, “My parents just don’t understand me! He promised to go to church with me! He said he believes in God! He says he loves me! I prayed about it and God did not say not do date him! What should I do?” So her friend replied, “Your parents have raised you for 16 years, don’t you think they know you by now? Don’t most boys promise anything in order to get what they want when in fact they often do not follow through? Since when is just believing there is a God the same thing as placing your faith in Jesus? And don’t you know God’s answer is probably ‘no’ because he is an unbeliever and not good for your life.” Lisa dried her eyes, blew her nose, looked at her friend and responded, “Well who asked you!?” We discover that James teaches us that being a servant means following your Master!

Conclusion:
Being a servant means personal perseverance! Being a servant means following your Master!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Do you share the Good News? – Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20

Do you share the Good News? – Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 20, 2014 AM

“What a wonderful Easter service we had this morning,” gushed a mother as she and her family drove home. “So, what do we do about Christ’s resurrection,” asked her older daughter. “What do you mean, honey?” “I mean Christ’s resurrection supposedly changed everything. We say it changed our life. It seems to me we should be doing more to indicate Christ has made a difference in us and He wants to make a difference in others.” It made the mother realize that she needed to share the good news with others joyfully and more consistently. Let me ask you, “How does your celebration of Easter influence your daily service for Christ?”

As Sunday morning dawned, two women went to visit the tomb of Jesus. Suddenly an earthquake occurred, and an angel of God rolled back and sat on the stone at the entrance of the tomb. He told the women not to fear because Jesus had been raised from the dead. The angel then instructed the women to tell Jesus’ disciples He was alive and would meet them in Galilee. Later, the disciples met Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus told them all authority had been given to Him and instructed them to share the good news with the world. Their resurrection experience changed their lives. It caused them to desire to share the Good News, let’s see why…

READ: Matthew 28:1-10, 16-20

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

I. Share the Good News Eagerly! (Matthew 28:1-7)


After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Sunday, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you.” (Matthew 28:1-7 NIV)

  1. After Jesus died, He was buried in a new tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-60). Visiting the tomb on Saturday was forbidden by Jewish regulations; but as soon as Sunday began to dawn, two women went to the tomb. All of the Gospels mention Mary Magdalene as being among the women who visited Jesus’ tomb and saw the resurrected Jesus. The other Mary may refer to the mother of James and Joseph. Luke relates that the women came to anoint Jesus’ body (Luke 24:1) and perhaps to mourn and pray at the site of Jesus’ burial. When Jesus died, an earthquake had shaken Jerusalem (Matt. 27:51). As the women arrived at the tomb, another earthquake shook the area. In the Old Testament, earthquakes sometimes indicated God’s presence. Through this earthquake and the descending angel, God announced His presence to the women at the tomb. The angel rolled back the stone that sealed the tomb, not to let Jesus out but so the women could enter and confirm the tomb lay empty. Jesus had already risen from the dead. The angel simply assured the women of Jesus’ victory over death. The angel then triumphantly sat on the stone. Humans had rolled the stone before the tomb’s entrance to seal the crucified Jesus inside forever, but neither stone nor death could contain Him. God raised His Son Jesus from the dead. Victory and joy replaced death and loss. The angel’s appearance reflected God’s glory. In fact, “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” How ironic the soldiers assigned to guard a dead body became like dead men themselves while the corpse they guarded was raised to life! The angel tells the women, however, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.” The angel brought news of great joy, not of condemnation. The angel told the women they would not find Jesus in the tomb because He had been resurrected from the dead. The angel encourages them with, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay!” The invitation indicated the women had the correct location. Then they are instructed to go tell the disciples Jesus had been raised from the dead and would meet them in Galilee as He had said. They were instructed to share the Good News eagerly!

  EXAMPLE: We all have experienced events in life so wonderful and joyous we could not wait to share them with everyone we saw. We eagerly knocked on doors, made telephone calls, and sent e-mails. We need to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection in the same way with others, knowing their lives can be changed by Jesus even as ours have. Why is the good news of Christ’s resurrection exciting to you? We discover that the women were instructed to share the Good News eagerly!

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

II. Share the Good News Joyfully! (Matthew 28:8-10)

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10 NIV)

  1. Although the angel invited the women to enter the tomb and see for themselves Jesus was not there and Matthew does not indicate whether they did. Instead, he specified they obeyed the angel’s command to go quickly and tell Jesus’ disciples. The angel’s words had not completely removed their fear, but his announcement of Jesus’ resurrection had given them a joy they had not possessed and enabled them to obey his instructions. As the women ran to tell the disciples the good news, Jesus suddenly met and greeted them. The word Greetings translates a Greek word that served as a typical greeting in Jesus’ day, much like our greeting hello. Yet the Greek word can also mean rejoice. Both meanings fit the account beautifully. Jesus greeted the women as devoted friends but also encouraged them to rejoice at His resurrection. The women immediately recognized Jesus and rushed to Him. The statement they clasped His feet emphasizes Jesus’ physical body. As the women grasped Jesus’ feet, their hands did not pass through a ghostly apparition. Their hands touched flesh supported by underlying muscle tissue and bone. Jesus rose from the dead not as a disembodied ghost but as a person with a physical body people could touch and hold. Seeing Jesus led the women to worship Him. Through Elijah and Elisha God had raised individuals to life. In each case they were an instrument for God. Jesus also had raised the dead during His ministry. Yet no human stood before Jesus’ tomb and called Him forth. God raised His Son to life, indicating Jesus’ Deity and authority. Earlier the women would have reserved worship only for God; but here they worshiped Jesus, whose resurrection clearly indicated His oneness with God. Jesus repeated the angel’s instructions but chose the significant word brothers to describe His disciples. In His greatest hour of crisis just a few days earlier, the disciples had abandoned Jesus. One had denied Him. Rather than condemn them for their lack of faith, Jesus forgave them, referring to them as part of His family. Jesus invited them and invites us to join Him in the work of sharing the Good News joyfully!

  EXAMPLE: How can you help others to experience the joy you have as a Christian? The disciples had failed and would fail again just as we fail to be the people God calls us to be. Yet Jesus stated, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50 NIV), inviting us to work with Him in helping individuals find faith and life in Him. Despite the women’s fear, joy overwhelmed them when they saw the risen Jesus. We share our faith out of joy, not out of guilt. Through our confession of faith Jesus has saved us and has made us part of His family! God’s great gifts to us through Christ lead us to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection so others might experience the joy we know. We should share the Good News joyfully!

Our resurrection experience should cause us to…

III. Share the Good News Everywhere! (Matt. 28:16-20)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20 NIV)

  1. By mentioning the eleven disciples Matthew reminds us of Judas’s betrayal and suicide. Despite Judas’s tragic rejection of Jesus, the remaining disciples had a task to do (just as we do). Matthew did not record the specific mountain, they knew where to go. Just as mountains like Sinai served as sacred meeting places between God and humans in the Old Testament, so Jesus used mountains as places where people could encounter Him. It provided a fitting place for Jesus’ final instructions. When the disciples saw Jesus, they worshiped Him just as the women had done earlier; but some doubted. It refers not to unbelief but to hesitation or uncertainty. Why would some of the disciples have been hesitant or uncertain at seeing Jesus? Perhaps Jesus looked somewhat different (as He had at His transfiguration), and the disciples at first could not positively identify Him. Perhaps they feared Jesus’ response to their failure to stand with Him. Perhaps the reports of Jesus’ resurrection and then His appearance overwhelmed them since they did not expect to see Him again. We may suppose if we had been there, we would have been among the believers rather than the doubters. Yet we need to admit we too sometimes hesitate and doubt Jesus. Events sometimes overwhelm us, and the challenge of following Christ can prove daunting. Jesus did not berate them but invited them to join the work of spreading the kingdom of God. Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus’ resurrection validated His teachings and miracles, Jesus is the Messiah! “Therefore,” Jesus tells them, “go and make disciples of all nations”! The Greek term make disciples serves as the main verb of verses 19-20. Go and baptizing, as well as teaching are participles and subordinate to make disciples. Jesus commands followers through the ages to make disciples, which involves going, baptizing, and teaching! We need to go as Jesus commanded us to help others become maturing, committed disciples. We do not do it on our own, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus’ authority and presence empowered His disciples then and still empowers us today! Jesus’ first disciples did not evangelize and disciple based on their strength. Following Christ requires us to share the Good News everywhere!

  EXAMPLE: Matthew began his Gospel declaring Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, the prophecy for a virgin to bear a son named Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Matthew ended his Gospel assuring us Jesus will be with us until His return at the end of history. The resurrection of Jesus continues to fill us with joy and hope today. Jesus’ resurrection also requires a response from us. We need to let others know salvation and new life are possible through Him. Let me ask you, “How can you participate in making disciples in your community and around the world?” Easter is a wonderful time for Christians to recommit themselves to share the Good News everywhere!

Conclusion:
We need to eagerly share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
We need to joyfully share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.
We can share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with all peoples.

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What God Requires! - Micah 6:6-8

What God Requires! - Micah 6:6-8
by Pastor Lee Hemen
04-13-14 AM

Jesus was preparing to go to the cross and He only had a few days left to impart some last instructions to His disciples. Already He had planned how He would celebrate His last Passover meal with them. He already knew the significance of the bread and the wine He would share. He also knew what He had to do to provoke the Jewish leadership by going to the temple and driving out their wretched money changers. But before all that He would have to make His entrance into the City of David. He knew that some in the crowds that cheered Him today would cry for His crucifixion in a few days. Neither the leadership nor the common crowd understood just how far they had wandered from God and how He would provide a way back to Him. They did not understand what God required.

The same could be said of what Micah teaches concerning Israel's wandering from the Lord and how they needed to return to Him. Israel misunderstood what God required of them. They were depending upon their own way instead of God's. Sound familiar? Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians. Micah prophesied in the eighth century BC during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. His one statement on what God required of His people stands the test of time as a pillar of what God requires of His people. Let's discover what Micah teaches…

READ: Micah 6:6-8

Ashes placed on our foreheads cannot bring about the change God requires. Micah's first question helps us to put a personal perspective on what many of us think concerning our own relationship with God. Micah wondered…

I. How in the world do I come before a holy God?

  1. Micah takes on the roll of someone who is coming to worship the Lord and he asks, "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?" He immediately begins to question his ability to be seen in the presence of God. Why? You see, he views himself differently than many believers view themselves. Micah saw himself as unworthy of coming before the Lord. There was a reason for this. Like Paul, Micah would agree, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)! Micah understood who he was and the nature of God. God was holy! This truth is often lost on some of us today where we think we are the most important thing in the world! In truth, the world does not revolve around you, nor does the plan of God. It revolves around His Son, Jesus. God related early on to Abraham, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless." (Genesis 17:1 NIV) The connotation was that God is holy and Abraham needed to be as well in order to walk in relationship with Him! In fact, we find God telling His people, "I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy." (Leviticus 11:44 NIV) So, the worshipper asks, "With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?" It is a question we should ask. How do we dare come before a Holy Lord this morning? How can we bow down before Him? Remember, we know that God's ways are neither our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. A Holy God is so far removed, exalted, from us, how dare we come before Him at all? So, the next thought of the worshipper is, "Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?" The notion here is perhaps that which has been purified in the fire on the altar of God or that which is completely innocent would please God. We forget that a burnt offering was completely burned away and all that was left was ashes. And perhaps we discover that this is how we approach a holy God. Perhaps when we are totally burned away and all that is left is noting of us we can come before His throne?

  EXAMPLE: In order to approach a holy God we have to have our sin burned away and become innocent. Sadly, there are those of us who arrogantly think we have the right to approach God. We forget the innocent sacrifice that was required for us to do so. Now we may think if we just feel burnt up enough, dried out in our emotions, we are a burnt offering before God. Or if we are simply saddened by our sin it is enough. Yet we discover that God requires us to be completely His. After all a sacrifice cannot crawl off the altar, it is burned up. Let me ask you, "How in the world do you come before a holy God?" Have you forgotten the innocent sacrifice required for your sin?

The crowds would cheer; strip off their cloaks and the branches of nearby trees to place before Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem. They thought they had a rescuer, perhaps a warrior king, who would change their disgraceful enslavement. The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" Surely God was pleased with them! About 800 years before, Micah knew better and he would consider…

II. How in the world can I please the Lord?

  1. Micah continues as the worshipper and asks, "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Perhaps if he just brought more sacrifices, God would be pleased with him? He then could approach a Holy God. We often think by our multitude of doing things, we are honoring God. We think to ourselves, "If I just do more!" Yet we are reminded of the words of God, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." (Isaiah 66:2 NIV) David knew in his own sinful condition that, "You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalms 51:16-17 NIV) There are not enough dead animals or vast rivers of oil that could please God to excuse our ungodliness! God is not pleased with the amount of our sacrifice, but with the brokenness of our heart. However, in his insecurity, the worshipper goes on to ask, "Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" What he is doing is what a lot of folks begin to do with God when they know they are in sin; he begins to bargain with God! He ups the ante so to speak! "I promise I will do this, I promise to do better; I promise to bring an even greater sacrifice! I know I will sacrifice my firstborn!" And, sadly, many of us do that very thing when we go our own way instead of living for a Holy God. We arrogantly sacrifice those around us, "the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul"! This was sinful and wicked; but such offerings had been made by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, and this very custom was copied by the corrupt Israelites, which many of us have copied with our lives in our day! However, we should never forget that "Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people"! (Hebrews 9:28) In fact, "with burnt offerings and sin offerings [God was] not pleased" (Hebrews 10:6) and that "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all"! (Hebrews 10:10) How in the world can I please the Lord, only through sacrifice, and Jesus already did that for us!

  EXAMPLE: I like a good bargain, but we should know better than try to bargain with God, yet many of us try to anyway. Children are infamous for knowing or trying to bargain their way out of trouble. My Dad used to tell us over and over when we tried the tactic of pleading we were “sorry” and that we would “never do it again”, “I appreciate your being sorry, but you still will suffer the consequences of your actions.” Like little children caught doing what we know is wrong, some believers will try to bargain with God. We make foolish statements that we will not to do it again or that we will change, if only He will forgive us this time. When we do we often know we will not change, we are just trying to bargain with God. How in the world can we please God, only through sacrifice and Jesus has already done it for us!

Slowly the donkey colt plodded into the city along the dusty path. With great frenzy the crowds greeted Jesus. Periodically, Jesus would look at the faces, smile, and acknowledge someone in the throng. Today was a day of joy; soon it would be one of great sorrow. Jesus knew what would be required of Him. And here, we discover in the lines of the prophet Micah…

III. What is required of us!

  1. Micah addresses Israel with the words of God, reminding them exactly what they are to do, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." This advice carries over to believers today. Over and over God has shown His people what they were to do as His people. Over and over God showed them how they were to live before Him. We know several eternal truths that never change: God's ways are not our ways, He does things differently than we do and in His timing rather than in the hurried-up mode of sinful evil mankind; that we reap what we plant in life and therefore we will, or future generations will, suffer the consequences of our ungodliness; and we are to love God completely and others as our selves. Here, God through Micah reminds His people what is required of them by Him as their Creator, Father, and God. Those who say they follow God are to " act justly" no matter if the rest of the world acts unfairly; we are to "love mercy" even when the rest of the world desires revenge; and we are to "walk humbly before our God", even when the rest of the world is drenched in self-indulgence and self-gratification! Walking humbly before God means we live for Him first and foremost in our lives and we willingly place ourselves last. Jesus taught, " If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35 NIV) Christians are to place God and others before themselves. This is "walking humbly" as opposed to "walking in pride". Perhaps we need to be reminded of the words of Paul who said, "For in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) When we ask, "What does God want me to do?" In truth, we know the answer just as the Israelites did. We know if we are walking in our own self-indulgent sin or not, we know if we place ourselves first rather than the Lord and we know that we are living for the moment rather than eternity. Paul would also say, "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30 NIV) Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!

  EXAMPLE: We often go through life wondering what we should do or not do. Believers have no reason to live this way because we know what we should do. We often go through making New Year resolutions that we hardly ever keep. We begin with good intentions but before long old habits take over. It may start out just once in a while not following through with our promise to change, then it gets worse and we soon have forgotten what we promised to do. Instead of making goals we never truly intend to keep or that we cannot keep, perhaps we need to follow the advice of Micah and walk humbly before our God! Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance. Micah succinctly teaches us what is required of us!

Conclusion:
  1. In order to approach a holy God we have to be burned away and innocent.
  2. How in the world can I please the Lord, only through the sacrifice of Jesus!
  3. Walking in humility before God begins in personal repentance

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Get Real! - Isaiah 58:3-14

Get Real! - Isaiah 58:3-14
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 6, 2014 AM

Like poor fitting underwear, our sins can creep up on us without our ever noticing and then we get frustrated when it begins to bind! This can happen with our worship of God as well. When we go to worship to feel better about ourselves; to gain some kind of happiness for the moment; as a requirement, or to try to please others or God are all examples of subtle sin that has crept into our worship. As a child I remember going to worship in fear, not knowing what God expected from me and that perhaps somehow in some way if I worshipped Him, He would be pleased with me. Nowadays there are those whose worship is all about anything but God.

God pointed out a subtle sin in Israel. The people worshiped but only for the purpose of getting what they wanted from God. God called them back to center their worship on what He desired of them. And, after having punished His people, God then would restore them, creating a new heaven and new earth of beauty and peace. After a final judgment God would restore Israel, bringing all nations to have faith in and serve Him with true worship. However, their first hurdle was to get real about their worship of God! This has not changed, Christians today need to get real about their worship also. Let’s discover how…


Like the old saying goes, “Denial is more than a river in Egypt!” So too is our denial of…

I. Self-Focused Religion! (Isaiah 58:3-5)

“Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is tHis the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

  1. The Israelites fasted in Isaiah’s time, assuming God would be impressed by their worship and grant their desires. When God did not act according to the Israelites’ timetable, the people complained, “Why have we fasted and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” Kind of like folks today who complain, “I went to worship and I still feel the same!” “I prayed to God when I made a mess of my life, but God did not answer me the way I wanted!” Isaiah declared the Israelites misunderstood fasting. The people performed the ritual, but their actions indicated selfishness. While employers fasted, they forced their employees to work, perhaps while demanding they fast as well! The employers wanted their desires satisfied, if not by God, then by their oppressed workers. Kind of like Christians who demand their church meet all their emotional needs, but offer little in return. “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.” They did as they pleased, so their piety was false. Sound familiar? Fasting should have brought the Israelites closer to God and prepared them to serve Him, but instead their fasting ended “in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists!” God rejected the Israelites’ fasting and told them, “You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” No one can continue to sin and expect God to honor their prayers or worship. Israel’s fasting focused purely on external actions, what they did as a show. They acted automatically, however, rather than from a genuine desire to repent and seek God. As wind blows a reed and makes it bow down, so their selfish desires made them go through the motions of worship. God asks, “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?” Do we honestly expect God to honor us when we give only our selfish ritual worship or prayers? Isaiah declared God would never respond to self-focused religious ritual. Such a fasting from selfishness and strife would never be acceptable to the Lord. Get real, God does not honor self-focused religion!

  EXAMPLE: The people needed to repent and demonstrate a changed life focused on God rather than on themselves. Worship, regardless of the style, that focuses on pleasing ourselves does not please God. Religion that focuses on getting what we want from God for the moment rather than on allowing God to transform us more each day into His image fails to be acceptable to God. We need to do more than just go through the motions of worship and church involvement. We need to allow God to help us focus on Him and others rather than ourselves. How has your worship and church involvement sometimes been more for yourself than for God? Get real, God does not honor self-focused religion!

Perhaps what is needed is that we forget about ourselves, magnify the Lord and enter into…

II. Other-Focused Service! (Isaiah 58:6-12)

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

  1. God tells them succinctly, “This ain’t the kind of fasting I desire!” God then listed specific actions Israel could take. The people could “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke.” They could ensure the hungry had adequate food, the homeless had adequate shelter, and the poorly clothed had adequate clothes. We do not need to turn our homes into homeless shelters complete with food and clothing closets; but we do need to find ways to meet the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of others. God relates that believers are “not to turn away from your own flesh and blood” no matter the nation, ethnic group, or background! To ignore the needs of other Christians is to ignore our families! If the people would refocus on God, they would find exactly the opposite of what they had experienced. Instead of darkness, Israel would see a new dawn as God’s special people with a special mission to the world. “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” Instead of separation from God, Israel again would enjoy His guiding presence. When the people called in prayer, God would answer. They would be His people and would worship Him as their God. Only a new, deeper understanding of and commitment to God and a resulting substantive change in behavior toward others would bring these blessings to the people. The Israelites needed to “do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk”! They needed to stop enslaving and maliciously gossiping against one another! If God’s people could practice God’s fast, the light of the nation and its righteous ways would never be dimmed or extinguished. The Israelites’ commitment to God would bring hope and abundant life to them and be a witness to others! Following God would provide all Israel’s needs. God promises that “if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.” Israel’s renewed faith and ministry to others would lead to their renewal! Perhaps you do not find renewal in your life as a believer because you have not overcome your selfishness? While the people of Israel could not undo their sins and their consequences, they needed to ask forgiveness of one another and to work together. Christians need to get real and enter into other-focused service!

  EXAMPLE: The Israelites would help right some of their ungodly wrongs and be involved in their physical and spiritual rebuilding. The work would bless people far into the future; it was not just for their momentary pleasure! Like Israel we face the temptation to give God something other than ourselves and our lives. Our faith is to be more than biblical refrigerator magnet Facebook quotes. Worship and/or Bible study is not all God expects of us, he desire more. Worship and Bible study are but the beginning of our growth in God. Worship empowers us to focus on how we can represent Christ faithfully and minister to others in God’s holy name in our daily lives. How can you faithfully minister to others this week? Christians need to get real and enter into other-focused service!

It all comes back to real worship for God’s people and here we discover our lives should be founded on…

III. God-Focused Worship! (Isaiah 58:13-14)

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

  1. God shifted from the ritual of fasting to the ritual of keeping the Sabbath. He gives them some specifics that he knew they had not done, “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words” then they would be honorable. However, the Israelites had desecrated the Sabbath by working, which showed the false belief they could supply their needs and desires better than God. They needed to cease work, reflect on God’s goodness, and recognize God supplied their needs. God suggested the proper way to honor the Sabbath. The Israelites needed to refrain from their normal work and reflect on God and their relationship with Him. They needed to treat the Sabbath as a “holy day” a day of “delight”, meditating on God’s goodness and joyfully committing to serving Him who provided their needs. They needed to “honor it by not going (their) own way and not doing as (they) please or speaking idle words”! How do you honor God on your day of worship? Is it just another day of fun for you to enjoy and please yourselves or do you use it to honor God? God’s kingdom is more than the fulfillment of our eternal happiness or daily gratification. His kingdom is developed in and through us as we honor and worship him. The people needed to focus their lives on God rather than on their selfish wants. By developing their relationship with God, the Israelites would find a fulfilling life that abounded in righteousness, selflessness, and service. If the Israelites could delight in God and live for Him and others rather than pursue their selfish desires, they would find new life. God would bless His people by fulfilling the promises He made to Jacob. By losing their lives in God they would find more satisfying lives, not in material wealth, power, and fame but in God’s presence, the joy of service, and reconciliation with God and others! Wow! What a concept! God’s people need to get real and return to God-focused worship!

  EXAMPLE: We cannot serve others as God wants if we do not maintain intimate fellowship with God. When we try to deceive ourselves and God, we are just going through the motions, and we will suffer the consequences of our actions. However, when we actually do maintain our intimate fellowship with God we find completeness. Remember, Jesus taught that loving God totally and others are the two greatest commandments! Worship leads to service; and service requires continued refueling through prayer, praise, Bible study, and worship. When we link genuine worship focused on God with loving service given in His name, we please God and experience the abundant life. What steps can you take to link God-focused worship with ministry in His name? God’s people need to get real and return to God-focused worship!

Conclusion:
1.     Religion focused on pleasing ourselves is not genuine.
2.     Religion focused on meeting others’ needs is genuine and receives God’s blessing.
3.     Worship focused on God is genuine and pleasing to Him.