Sunday, December 27, 2015

Prayer for the Disciples! - John 17:14-26

Prayer for the Disciples! - John 17:14-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 27, 2015

If you knew your life was going to be cut short, how would you pray for those you care about? Perhaps you do not know what you would pray, but it is a good question to consider. I believe it is because so many of us say we will pray for others but few of us truly know what to pray or how to pray for others. Often we fall back into the trite and simplistic prayers we have often voiced. I have learned over the years that prayer is so much more than we realize. We should stand in awe of the fact that our prayer is our conversation with God himself. It is not some psychological or mystical crutch we use to sooth our guilty conscience.

Here in John's gospel we find Jesus intimately praying for his disciples and for us! Why would Jesus pray if he was God? We have learned that although Jesus is God he willingly placed himself in human form, developed and taught by his example what it meant to walk closely with God. Prayer for Jesus was more than a means to ask for rescue or answers, it was a conversation. We discover some very interesting things concerning prayer as we listen anew as we study Jesus' prayer for the disciples…

READ: John 17:14-26

Prayer is not the least thing we can do, it is the best thing we can do when we ourselves cannot actively help. Prayer is not for those who do not know God because it is like whistling in the wind, one cannot expect answers from someone they do not know. We discover that…

I. Jesus' prayer was for the other worldly! (Vv. 14-17)

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

  1. This prayer of Jesus is interesting because it shares with us his deep concern he had for those he had chosen to follow him. Jesus knew he was headed home and now he relates in his prayer, "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." Jesus had taught the disciples the word of God, the good news concerning the Messiah and the kingdom of God and because of this the world hated them. When one hears the words of God, believes them, and follows Jesus you are no longer part of this world, you belong to God. Jesus chose each one to follow him, they decided to go with him and learn God's words and therefore they were no longer part of this world anymore than Jesus was. Now Jesus did not mean his followers were to be otherworldly, but rather his disciples were no longer part of that which is dying, fading, and lost! John would later write, "For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:16-17 NIV) When one trusts Jesus they are not taken out of the world but rather they no longer belong to the world and what it longs for. Jesus continued, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." Jesus was asking that his followers would be protected from the schemes of Satan like what Judas fell for. Jesus understood what it meant to follow him and asks that his disciples be sanctified; that is made holy by the truth, the word of God! Jesus was not praying for their success, to be kept from sickness, or even to be kept from death; none of these things actually matter in God's kingdom. What matters is that we remain in Jesus! This is what Jesus prayed for! He was praying for those who knew the truth concerning the kingdom of God. Jesus' prayer was for the other worldly!

  EXAMPLE: Believers are to pray in the will of God! We waste a lot of words, time, and effort pleading with God concerning things that are of this world and not for the kingdom of God. We often already know the answer before we pray. I have heard the circular argument over and over where some are quick to ask, "Don't you believe God can answer prayers?" My reply is always, "Yes, but he will never answer prayers we already know not to pray." When Jesus remarked, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." (Matthew 21:22 NIV) he did not mean that God is some kind of special genie who grants our every wish. We forget that Jesus qualified that when we pray, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:7 NIV) We are to ask as we remain in Jesus; Jesus' prayer was for the other worldly!

We were warned that "when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." (Matthew 6:7 NIV) In fact, we are to pray " your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10 NIV) Why is this so important? Jesus knew that prayer is more than a list of things to recite; we learn that…

II. Jesus prayed for our sanctification! (Vv. 18-21)

As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

  1. We are not part of this world just as the one we follow is not part of this world. We now belong to God; therefore we are to live and pray like it! However, we still live in the world and we have a job to do. Jesus prays, "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world." As his followers we are his ambassadors just as the disciples were. We are to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [Jesus] commanded". (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Jesus was leaving them physically but asked God to watch over them spiritually. Jesus was already set apart for his mission but now he was dedicated to complete it on the cross. The purpose of the death of Christ was to bring believers to God's kingdom! Jesus' prayer was "not for them alone" but he also prayed "for those who will believe in me through their message"! That's us, "that all of them may be one, father, just as you are in me and I am in you!" While some erroneously think this means all Christians are to agree with one another in ecumenical unity; when heresy creeps in we are to reject it, period. Jesus was praying for the spiritual unity we enjoy and the unifying nature of adhering to God's truth! Paul would admonish we are to put on the love of God "which binds [all virtues] together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:14 NIV) "Your attitude," Paul writes, "should be the same as that of Christ Jesus"! (Philippians 2:5 NIV) Jesus continued by praying, "May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" because he knew his mission would not be completed until he returned again. He was leaving his disciples and their disciples, us, to complete the task. Jesus was praying we would remain holy in him; Jesus prayed for our sanctification!

  EXAMPLE: It should be gratifying to realize that the Messiah, the Savior of the world prayed for our sanctification! He prayed we would remain holy in him! How sad is it then when there are those who erroneously think they have to continually do good deeds in order to garner God's grace. They forget that by the will of God "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10 NIV) Paul told Titus that Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:14 NIV) We do good things because we love God. Jesus prayed for our sanctification!

There is a false notion that persists in our day that Jesus exists for our enjoyment and happiness. Therefore when we pray we should focus on ourselves instead of what God truly desires for us instead. In his prayer here in John's gospel we discover that…

III. Jesus prays to glorify God! (Vv. 22-26)

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.

  1. Jesus continues by praying something that we may find difficult to believe, "I have given them the glory that you gave me". What does Jesus mean? Well, he is speaking about the honor God incurred by sending Jesus as the Messiah. God did this that "they", meaning anyone who follows Jesus, "may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me." When we believe in Jesus the Holy Spirit comes to reside in each of us and when he does, we are one, united, in God. Jesus relates, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." He desired everyone would know he had come from God and that the love of God was completely expressed through Jesus' coming! In fact, Jesus' strongest desire was that those the father had given him would be with him where he was and that they would "see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." The fellowship we will enjoy with Jesus will increase in its wonder, joy, and awesomeness! Jesus is also praying about his eternal nature and ability to do what he is praying for! He wanted the world to know exactly who God was and why he came, "though the world does not know you, I know you, and they [his followers] know that you have sent me." Jesus had in fact "made [God] known to them, and [he would] continue to make [God] known in order that the love [God had] for [Jesus] may be in them and that I myself may be in them!"  Jesus wanted the world to know the love of God and that he displayed it completely by his death and resurrection. Now, he also does it through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit which resides in those who trust him, the presence of God's love abides in those who place their faith in Jesus, God's Son. All of this was to bring glory to God. Jesus prays to glorify God!

  EXAMPLE: We can forget that Jesus "being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11 NIV) If Jesus did everything in life to bring glory to God, shouldn't we also? This is why Peter would admonish us to "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." (1 Peter 2:12 NIV) We forget that even our prayer is to glorify God!

Conclusion:

Jesus' prayer was for the other worldly! Jesus Prayed for our sanctification! Jesus prays to glorify God!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, December 20, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent - Love! - Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29

4th Sunday of Advent - Love! - Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 20, 2015

There is a lot of confusion concerning love in our day and age where far too many think it is sexual act or an emotion instead of what it truly is meant to be. Love is more than a feeling or a Hallmark® card moment. Love is the most revealing and intimate attitude and action a person can choose to do. It comes from the inner core of who someone is and lays bare who we are and lets down any personal guard we might possess. The Apostle Paul defined love by relating, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV) Of course he meant this as defined by Jesus who is the very definition of love in action and truth.

Here in the Psalms the writer paused to share with his readers what God meant to the Jewish nation and its people. Jeremiah the Prophet had reminded them that, "The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.'" (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV) Psalms 113-118 form the Hallel, a collection of songs sung at the great festivals of Israel — Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles — as well as on other holy days. At Passover Psalms 113-114 were sung before the meal and 115-118 after it. Today, on this 4th Sunday of Advent we look again at what love truly is…

READ: Psalm 118:1-4, 22-29


In our day and age many have become cynical concerning love and it is because too many misunderstand what true love is all about. It is not the emotional rollercoaster ride of the Victorian novel, nor is it the shallow media version as seen on TV or in movies. I find it refreshing to discover that instead of these hollow versions that…

I. God's love endures forever! (Vv. 1-4)

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let Israel say: "His love endures forever." Let the house of Aaron say: "His love endures forever." Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever."

  1. Immediately the Psalmist declares, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!" In what way is God so good that we could possibly give thanks to him? He knew something that some have forgotten, that God's "love endures forever"! This is a bold statement by the writer but one he knew about personally. David, the writer of these verses had experienced the love of God even though he had not been very trustworthy, loyal, or righteous before the Lord himself. However, David steps it up a notch by relating God's love is not momentary, it continues on and on. It is long lasting and endures. It is not like the fickle nature of human emotion so many of us have experienced; temporary, brief, fleeting and contingent upon how we feel or how others treat us. This is a reoccurring theme for David and Scripture. We find this notion in Psalms 103:17; Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; and Psalms 136:1 as well as 1 Chronicles 16:34! God told Jeremiah the same thing (33:11) and that in fact Jeremiah reminds the Israelites that "The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.'" (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV) This is why he writes, "Let Israel say" and "Let the house of Aaron say". And now in Jesus we find this love of God displayed for all to see and know! Paul would marvel, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." (Ephesians 1:4-8 NIV) Now "Let those who fear the LORD say" because of Jesus, God's love endures forever!

  EXAMPLE: The term love in our day and age is often used as the answer for every ill known to mankind. However, this is a false notion because it is based on the idea that if we simply express our love by doing good things for one another then we will have world peace, enough food for everyone, and climate change. The problem is that the love the world displays is dependent upon how one feels instead of the intrinsic eternal attribute of God. The Apostle John understood this and wrote, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:8-10 NIV) God's love endures forever!

The love of God as shown through the sacrifice of his Son displayed for the world what real love was all about. Yet it did more than that because God's love finished his work; this is why we discover from these verses that…

II. God's love completes all things! (Vv. 22-24)

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

  1. Jesus told the parable of a landowner who planted a vineyard. He rented it to some farmers and went on a journey and when it came time to collect the harvest, he sent his servants. "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third." He sent another group of servants and the same thing occurred and finally the landowner sends his son, thinking "They will respect my son." However they plot to kill him and take his inheritance for themselves and that is what they did. The whole sordid tale is about Israel and how it treated God's prophets and finally his only Son. Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." (Matthew 21:42-44 NIV) Jesus quoted this verse from Psalms. Jesus was the capstone that Israel rejected. The capstone was the final stone laid in place to hold together the entire structure of the roof or archway. John would write that "we know and rely on the love God has for us." Why, because "God is love." John knew that "Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete (or is finished) among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment". (1 John 4:16-17 NIV) Jesus' love completed and finished the plan of God! This is why Jesus proclaimed as he died on the cross, "It is finished!" Complete is the final capstone of God's grand design! And just as it was "marvelous" in the eyes of David, it is truly wonderful for our eyes to behold! "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" What David could only long for we now know for certainty; God's love completes all things!

  EXAMPLE: Over the years I have heard couples say that they were incomplete without the other person and often they did not realize it until after they had met and then had to be apart. God designed our most intimate relationship this way on purpose; it reflects, in a way, the relationship we are to experience with God. After we come to know Jesus as Savior we begin to understand that we were incomplete without Jesus in our lives. Interestingly as we look into Scripture we discover that God's plan was deliberately designed this way. In fact, we discover that God's love completes all things!

How wonderful to know that the love of God is not transitory and that it completes all things that exist. It is able to do this because of the sacrifice involved. It was willingly done and it had to be. The reason is that the plan of God was to rescue us from sin; not just the affects but the consequences. It restores our relationship with God. We learn that…

III. God's love saves us! (Vv. 25-29)


O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

  1. David immediately cries out, "O Lord, save us!" and then follows this cry with O Lord, grant us success!" He desired the salvation of his people from their enemies and success in battle against them, however, God had already planned something far more than a rescue or triumph, he intended to save those who trusted him eternally and have them triumph over death itself! David turns to asking God to praising him for the answer he already had in store for his people. So he declares, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD." It is the same cry that was proclaimed at Jesus' entry into Jerusalem by "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!'" (Matthew 21:9 NIV) "Hosanna" is from the Hebrew hôšı̂âh nā;, "Save (us), we pray!" It comes from verse 25 here in this Psalm and the crowds may have put down branches because of the prophecy of this Psalm concerning the Messiah. "From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar." Later, the Jews would wave their hands in the air as they recited this Psalm to signify their waving boughs as they praised God. When the Messiah came God's light would shine on his people. It is therefore significant that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem they did not just wave their hands but took up palm branches and laid their cloaks in his path. David's final two verses signify how much he loved and honored God for the promise of the coming Messiah, "You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." (Psalms 118:28-29 NIV) God's love saves us!

  EXAMPLE: God's love and compassion would no longer be fleeting; it would last forever. It would no longer depend upon how mankind followed his commands but rather would squarely rest on the promise of salvation through Jesus' atonement. What rules and regulations could never do, the love of God displayed through Jesus' willing sacrifice has done for us! Paul would write, "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him." (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 NIV) God's love saves us!

Conclusion:

God's love endures forever! God's love completes all things! God's love saves us!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, December 12, 2015

3rd Sunday of Advent - Joy! - Jeremiah 31:11-13

3rd Sunday of Advent - Joy! - Jeremiah 31:11-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 13, 2015

Joy for a lot of people depends upon their physical state instead of their state of mind; they want to be happy all of the time through material things and this is impossible. We can never achieve the convoluted ideal of a perpetual happy nirvana in life. Trying to say to one's self over and over that every day in every way I am getting better and better does not make one joyful, especially when others remind you just how incompetent you might be. Joy comes from inner peace and contentment which can only truly be found in Jesus Christ. The reason is obvious; his joy is not just internal it is eternal and cannot be taken away by outside circumstances.

When the Messiah was promised by the prophets of God people began to realize that his coming would mark a new era not just in the way things were done here on earth, but his coming would affect all of creation. There would be the joy of the Lord in the midst of his people and it would not depend upon government, finances, personal relationships, or world peace; it would come from and be given by God. Let's discover this day of Advent what that joy means for us today…

READ: Jeremiah 31:11-13

Jesus is not some trinket or talisman we can place on our dashboard or hearth for personal security. He is not some entity we mutter incoherent meandering prayers to either; he is the coming of God to the world that brings us eternal life and in doing so we also discover that…

I. The joy of Advent brings God's protection! (v. 11)

For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

  1. In our day and age and because of where we live we may not fully understand what it means to be delivered. Jeremiah is not referring to a UPS package at Christmas here. The Israelites had experienced hundreds of years of bondage to other nations and now were experiencing that same bondage from their own leaders! And added to this was the threat of war with a very aggressive and violent nation, Babylon. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that "Jeremiah was the premier prophet of Judah during the dark days leading to her destruction. Though the light of other prophets, such as Habakkuk and Zephaniah, flickered in Judah at that time Jeremiah was the blazing torch who, along with Ezekiel in Babylon, exposed the darkness of Judah’s sin with the piercing brightness of God’s Word. He was a weeping prophet to a wayward people." Not everyone in Israel was willing to hear Jeremiah's words and in fact he was oppressed by his own people and leaders for telling them the truth! However, as negative as Jeremiah's words were to their ears he was also giving them the promise of God's joy. He tells them, "For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they." Even though God's people had fallen into sin they had hope and they would find ultimate joy in him again. In fact, God would deliver them and redeem them from their enemies. Not just the Babylonians, who would be used by God to punish his people but eternally from those who would seek to do them eternal harm. Their joy would be more than a momentary morning sunrise; it would last forever and God's powerful hand would protect them! The joy of Advent brings God's protection!

  EXAMPLE: After Jesus had sent out 72 of his disciples to heal the sick and proclaim the good news of his coming, they returned full of pride at their actions, he warned them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:18-20 NIV) Far too often we treat our relationship with Jesus as a magic pendant to ward off the evil of the world or as a means to try and garner God's guardianship as some mystical warrior to do battle with Satan for us. This is spiritual hogwash. When we have Jesus we have the full armor of God. His coming to earth, dying on the cross and rising again insures our spiritual security. We do not need to be frightened or insecure in this world. The joy of Advent brings God's protection!

We are safe and secure in Jesus, but there are those who experience the distress and sadness of the world around them. Jesus reminded his followers that in this world we would always have trouble, but we were to rejoice because he had overcome the world! (John 16:33) In fact we learn that…

II. The joy of Advent does away with sorrow! (v. 12)

They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord — the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more.

  1. In an arid climate the one thing that matters most is water. With the amounts of rainfall we have been receiving lately here in the Northwest it can be hard to understand this concept but in Israel, where the ocean clouds sweep easily across the mostly flatland and low mountains ranges, mere foothills compared to the Cascades or Rockies, rain meant a lot. It brought bigger and better harvests; grass for herds which meant more lambs being born. And all of this was important to a society where food was a daily concern. There was no refrigeration and few ways to keep food stocks fresh for more than a day. Daily shopping for food was the normal way of life. Therefore anything that brought about abundance in harvest or flocks was seen as a time of rejoicing. People could eat well, be healthier, and have more children. This is why Jeremiah proclaimed earlier, "He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd." (v.10) The rains would come in abundance when the Messiah came. "They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord — the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more." However, the promise of living water was for the coming of the Holy Spirit to the children of God. Joel would say, "In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the LORD's house and will water the valley of acacias."(Joel 3:18 NIV) And John writes in Revelations, "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:16-17 NIV) This is why the coming of the Messiah was seen as a time of abundance and thereby rejoicing!  The joy of Advent does away with sorrow!

  EXAMPLE: In life we can often feel like those who held the fortress of Helm's Deep in Tolkien's novel Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. They had fought the evil forces for days and were at their lowest ebb physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But then dawn occurred as it always does in the east and they remembered that Gandalf had told them that on the fourth day they were to look to the east for their rescue. The light was dawning, it was a new day, and help had arrived! In the midst of their deepest sorrow and suffering, help had arrived. In the midst of our deepest suffering help has already come and is already waiting for us in Jesus. In this we know that the joy of Advent does away with sorrow!

I did not understand it when I was younger but now I truly do. What I mean is that old adage that life is what you make of it. Our life is not dependent upon what others do for us; it is fulfilled in how we live it. And the life we live in Jesus is the happiest, easy, relaxed, and contented calm there is. In fact…

III. The joy of Advent brings lasting comfort! (v. 13)


Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

  1. When the Messiah comes things would change not only for Israel but for all people everywhere. The Messiah would be a priestly king, godly and regal, wise and wonderful. Jesus would later quote Isaiah when he stood up in the synagogue and related, "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn." (Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:18 NIV) Jesus was letting the Jews know that the words of Jeremiah, Isaiah, and all the Prophets had come true; the Messiah had come! The advent of God had arrived! John would declare, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 NIV) The Apostle Paul would also state concerning Jesus and the eternal security he gives those who trust in him, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV) Wolford would write that "One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that the grace of God is most keenly experienced not in the best but in what seem to be the worst of times." And it is in these times whether the worst or the best we find the comfort of God through Jesus. Jeremiah could only dream and envision such a thing. To him and his people it would be a time of joy and everlasting comfort when the Messiah came. He was correct; the joy of Advent brings lasting comfort!

  EXAMPLE: I have an old easy chair that is very comfortable. In fat at the day's end you can often find me there reading a book, watching TV, or simply sleeping. It is filled with the memories of cuddling little boys, unwrapping the gifts of Christmas or birthdays, special and ordinary occasions, and the sorrows and joys of life. It fits me. It is comfortable. Yet it does not compare to the knowledge of knowing Jesus and security and utter comfort he brings in life. How can Jesus do this? Paul would marvel, "Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." (1 Timothy 3:16 NIV) Jesus brings the comfort of God because he gives us the eternal promise of God that because he lives we too will live always. The joy of Advent brings lasting comfort!

Conclusion:

The joy of Advent brings God's protection! The joy of Advent does away with sorrow! The joy of Advent brings lasting comfort!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, November 29, 2015

Sunday of Advent - Hope! - Isaiah 9:1-7

Sunday of Advent - Hope! - Isaiah 9:1-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 29, 2015

Sometimes we can be like the old song from the TV show Hee Haw that lamented, "Gloom, despair, and agony on me; deep, dark depression, excessive misery! If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all; gloom, despair, and agony on me!" Some us understand the lament of this song while others sing it simply because things are not going the way they expected. Life hardly ever does. Yet on the Sunday of Advent we light the candle of hope.

Hope is more than wishful thinking; it is the outcry of the human heart and the certainty of God's promise. We as his children hope in him because we know who he is and what he has done. The Israelites of Isaiah's day had no such experience. They should have been able to trust God and the promises he made from knowing their own history, but in the midst of war, famine, and the threat of enslavement it can be tough to see God or his promises. Perhaps this is where you are today. Take heart, there is hope. Let's discover what Isaiah tells us during this day of Advent concerning hope…

READ: Isaiah 9:1-7

In a world where we find self-centerness at the forefront of the human condition it is often hard to find hope in the world. But today we can discover anew just what it means to have hope in what may seem a hopeless situation. Isaiah tells us that…

I. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! (Vv. 1-3)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan--The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

  1. There would come a time in Israel's history when instead of asking God they would consult with "mediums and spiritists" to seek what the dead had to say concerning the living. Because of their fickle nature concerning the word of God and not following him alone they would go hungry both physically and spiritually. Things would get so bad they would become bitter and blame God for their own faithlessness!  The coming Messiah would be their hope of joy and "there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress." The Israelites could now look forward to the Messiah's coming which would bring renewed joy. In fact even the non-believing gentiles would find the joy of God and so Isaiah tells them that "In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan--The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." The wonderful truth would be that something good would indeed come from Galilee of the Gentiles. He would be from there and out of what the Jews considered to be an area of spiritual darkness, there would be the light of life, Jesus Christ! Death was an ever present shadow in the life of those who could not or would not trust God; however, a new light would dawn. God would "enlarge the nation and increase their joy" because of those who would now trust in the one coming. Isaiah foretells that the nation of Israel would "rejoice" before God "as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder." What a wonderful time Isaiah spoke about! The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

  EXAMPLE: Christmas is that time of year when children began making wishes and wants made known. They long for something wonderful to unwrap on Christmas Day. With excitement and anticipation their longings turn into hope and when the day arrives, it turns into joy! When Jesus came as a baby in a feeding trough the world did not know that the hope it had long awaited for had arrived. Yet all of creation paused on that one moment as a child was born and the hope of the ages came true. Matthew fittingly applied this passage to Jesus, who began His preaching and healing ministry in that region. The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy!

As Islam raises its ugly snakelike head in the world we may wonder what is in store for future generations. Islam has always brought enslavement wherever it is introduced, most often by force. The word means "submit". Throughout the history of the world sinful mankind has used whatever means, including religion to force others into slavery. However, Isaiah tells us that…

II. The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! (Vv. 4-5)


For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

  1. We truly do not understand what it means to be enslaved; even those who would like to riot or feel justified in their marching against racism, do not know the injustice of enslavement. Yet, we are all enslaved until we are set free from the bonds of sin. And sadly, even fewer folks understand their enslavement. However, the Israelites did and they longed for their freedom from not just physical oppression but from their bondage to sin. Here, Isaiah proclaims to them they have hope because just "as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor." The Messiah would bring an end to their bondage! Midian had been a thorn in the side of the Israelite's flesh for years. Because of the Israelite's own sin God allowed the Midianites to so oppress them that they had to prepare "shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds" and "Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help." (Judges 6:1-6 NIV) God rose up Gideon who would resoundingly defeat thousands of them with only 300 men, but now they would have a new Deliverer. He would completely shatter their yoke of slavery that burden them and the rod of their oppressor would be gone! In fact, the hope the Messiah would bring about would do away with the reminders of war! "Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire." These things would now only be good for the flames of a funeral pyre; the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

  EXAMPLE: Some think that it was Christians who began the Crusades; this is an outright boldface lie. The Crusades began as a response by believers for the decades of war and enslavement the forces of Islam brought to the Christian world. Wherever the armies of Islam marched, you either submitted or died. When they finally came to the shores of Italy and had forcefully taken over most of Europe, the Mediterranean and Middle East, the Pope responded by raising armies to fight the threat. Many of the areas Paul and the other disciples had won to Christ fell under the boot of Islam and never returned to the truth of Christ. Isaiah's nation now faced similar circumstances and longed for real freedom. He tells them that the coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom!

True freedom is found in trusting Jesus, but freedom without peace is little freedom. However, the freedom Jesus brings is spiritual first, which influences the physical nature of the world around it when it is applied to the lives of those he influences. But Isaiah now turns to a new truth concerning the coming Messiah. He would be more than just a king or leader; Isaiah tells us that…

III. The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! (Vv. 6-7)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

  1. Now Isaiah proclaims to them such a wonderful thing that many found it hard to believe. They were now living much as their ancestors did; under the oppression from their own rulers like Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh and the threat of coming annihilation from Assyria and finally Babylon. They were not to trust in others like Egypt to save them, but instead rely on God alone. However, here Isaiah goes beyond their current circumstances and looks to the future of his people. He foretells that "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders." The one to come would be their ultimate ruler; but more than being simply a king or monarch, the one to come would "be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, [and] Prince of Peace." These are not the common titles or monikers for cruel kings but the wonderful names for one who would be concerned and care for his people! The Messiah would be the "Wonderful Counselor" of God (Holy Spirit), he would be "Mighty God" (God himself), the "Everlasting Father", and the "Prince of Peace" (the Son of God)! All three personalities of the trinity are named and actively involved! However, the peace the Messiah would bring would not be like the world gives, Jesus would declare, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." (John 14:27 NIV) In fact, Isaiah declares that the ministry of the Messiah would be different from any earthly ruler: "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." His rule and reign would not last just a lifetime, it would be forever! His rule and reign would bring a lasting peace no one had ever experienced before! The coming Messiah would be God in human flesh and "The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

  EXAMPLE: It amazes me that whenever someone is faced with the truth of a situation they often get angry. I was speaking with someone the other day about how the healthcare system has been destroyed; how it has affected me and my brother as well. His retort was not just confusing, it grew louder as he spoke. I have learned the volume of your response does not mean you are right. The frustration of one's soul is calmed by the presence and power of the Spirit. As the saying goes, "No God no peace, know God know peace!" The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace!

Conclusion:

The coming Messiah would be the hope of joy! The coming Messiah would be the hope of freedom! The coming Messiah would be the eternal hope of peace! That is what this day of Advent is all about; hope.

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving! - John 17:1-13

Thanksgiving! - John 17:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 22, 2015

The early Pilgrims understood thanksgiving. In fact, after surviving the first years in the American wilderness, they deliberately set out to print a song book of praise taken from the Psalms. The Bay Psalm Book is an important piece of our nation’s history. It was the first book entirely written and printed in the Colonies. When one considers the difficulties of mere survival during this time, accounting for the short time of 20 years after the first arrivals in Plymouth in 1620, the magnitude of the effort and accomplishment is even more impressive. The first printing press in New England was purchased and imported specifically to print this book in order to give God praise and thanksgiving! Why would our forefathers make such a big deal out of praising and thanking God?

We can forget what we are truly thankful for when we are faced with the difficulties of life. Jesus knew this to be true as well and when his disciples would face the coming hours and days ahead it would be very difficult indeed. So, he begins to share with them what they could be thankful for during these times in life and to help them face the future they would go through. Let's discover what we can be thankful for…

READ: John 17:1-13

The early pilgrims were neither grim nor dire in their worship or attire as some would have you believe. In fact they were very pious and joyful. This is to be true for all those who place their faith and trust in Jesus. This is why…

I. I thank God for the glory of Jesus! (Vv. 1-5)

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

  1. Right after Jesus had told his disciples that they had peace in the world because he had overcome the world, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you." This is what Jesus was all about as he walked this earth; his desire was to glorify God in everything he did. Here we find Jesus prayed first for Himself (17:1-5), then for his chosen disciples (17:6-19), and finally for future believers (17:20-26). And in the prayer for himself he asks that he would glorify God in what was about to come; his trial, execution, and burial. Notice how he prays. Jesus refers to the Father's plan and his Sonship. Again it is a reference to the fact that God is triune, three distinct personalities with one purpose; his plan: "For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him." Jesus is totally God and he has the authority to grant eternal life to all people that he chose while he followed his will here on earth. This eternal life is "that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." The idea conveyed here is that those who come to him by faith will completely understand the only "true" God there is through Jesus! This is now possible because of the Holy Spirit when one believes. It is a personal relationship that is complete, continuing, and constant. We know God because we know the glory of Jesus. In fact, Jesus gives God "glory on earth by completing the work" God gave him "to do"! Jesus finishes his prayer for himself by praying, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." He was ready to complete the plan of God that has always existed "before the world began"! I thank God for the glory of Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: The glory of Jesus is the glory of God in human flesh. He completely displayed God's glory in his willingness to be obedient to God's plan. We find God the Father publicly stating he is pleased with Jesus at his birth, baptism, and ascension. The glorification of Jesus is found in who he is, what he did, and where he resides; in the work and will of God. I thank God for the glory of Jesus!

When one considers the life they have compared to the wonder and knowledge of God we cannot help but be amazed. In fact I am amazed like Paul was that the Creator of all things would choose me as his own and therefore…

II. I thank God Jesus chooses us! (Vv, 6-10)


"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.

  1. When Jesus came his incarnation changed everything about God and what we know about the divine. He personally showed us what an unknowable God was like! He prays, "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world." There is no longer any mystery concerning who God is and how he relates to us. In fact we learn that God personally chose those who would be Jesus' disciples, "They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word." The disciples were once devout Jews, but now they were followers of a new testament, a new relationship with God through his Son! They now had a select mission to form the church and they would need all that Jesus had taught them in order to be strong in him. Because of this intimate relationship the followers now knew "everything" God had "given" Jesus came from God! How is this possible since for thousands of years only those who were found worthy could enter into the presence of a holy God? Jesus explains in his prayer: "For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me." They now knew Jesus was the Messiah sent from God. They knew he was who he said he was. Paul would remind us that "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NIV) This is why Jesus prays, "I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours." These are those he has chosen and not the mindless world that does not care and is not concerned about God! We discover that when we belong to Jesus, we belong to God! Jesus prayed, "All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them." Wow! The disciples were now God's as we are now God's because of Jesus who chose them! I thank God Jesus chooses us!

  EXAMPLE: Paul writes, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30 NIV) Paul knew God "chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Ephesians 1:4-6 NIV) I thank God Jesus chooses us!

One of the things the world cannot understand is the friendship and comradeship believers enjoy. In fact it is one reason how you can immediately tell if someone is faking their faith or not, true believers are uneasy around false piety. This is why…

III. I thank God we are one in Jesus! (Vv. 11-13)

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.

  1. Now Jesus begins to get very personal concerning those he chose as his disciples. This is exciting to me because it reveals just how much Jesus cared and loved those men who decided to follow him. These were the ones who would build his church after his ascension. For me, I can almost picture the disciples listening intently as Jesus softly prays, "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you." He was leaving soon, his mission done, and now he was concerned for their safety and personal lives. He would leave but they would remain. Jesus was headed back home where he belonged but the disciples would remain to begin a new project for God. Jesus knew they would need spiritual strength and encouragement and so he prays, "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one." The simple power of the person Jesus protects and gives us a new relationship with God! We are no longer separated; we are one in him because of Jesus! In fact, the disciples would now enjoy the same relationship with God that Jesus did; they and we are now one in God! Jesus knew just how important this was, "While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled." Jesus had protected them by his presence while he had been with them and now they were eternally safe in God because of Jesus! One was "doomed" because of his choice to betray Jesus, but the rest were safe and secure. This occurred to fulfill all of Scripture. Jesus finishes this portion of his prayer by saying, "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." Jesus prayed this so his disciples would be filled with the joy of him! The same is true for us as well when we come to Jesus by faith and walk with him as his disciples. I thank God we are one in Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: Being one with Jesus is not esoteric mysticism. Rather it refers to the fellowship we enjoy when we come to Christ by faith. It occurs because the Holy Spirit, the seal of God comes to live in us forever. It is the foundation of his church in the world. Paul would explain it for us, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV)We share a common bond of God because of this. I thank God we are one in Jesus!

Conclusion:

I thank God for the glory of Jesus! I thank God Jesus chooses us! I thank God we are one in Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, November 14, 2015

Overcome the world! - John 16:16-33

Overcome the world! - John 16:16-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 15, 2013

I have learned that the only certainties we have life are more than death and taxes; I also believe there is the certainty of our faith and that things in life will change. The radio host Paul Harvey stated, "In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these." Life happens whether we like it or not and no amount of worrying will change the outcome; however, we can overcome the world and what it throws at us.

There are those who struggle everyday in order to just get through the day, however, there are also those times when each of us wonder how we will get through another day. Jesus' disciples would face such a predicament soon and so Jesus begins to share with them not only how tough it will be but also how they can overcome the world they live in because of their faith in him. Let's see how we are to overcome the world…

READ: John 16:16-33

Life is short whether you live mere minutes or for decades. One of the greatest mysteries is that we were created for eternity and lost that existence. Yet God has given us eternal life through Jesus and because of this we learn that…

I. We overcome the world knowing Jesus lives! (John 16:16-20 NIV)

"In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and 'Because I am going to the Father'? They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy."

  1. Jesus keeps trying to be honest with his followers, but they often simply do not understand because they had never experienced what Jesus was talking about. He tells them, "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." Jesus was going to be illegally tried, convicted, and then put to death. They would not see him until after his resurrection, so "Some of his disciples said to one another, 'What does he mean by saying, "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me," and "Because I am going to the Father"? They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." What is happening here is the fact that whenever we are faced with something that does not fit the pattern in life that we are most comfortable with, we become agitated or confused. This is what is occurring with the disciples. "Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, 'Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me"?'" Jesus is trying to comfort them in their confusion. This is what God always desires to do when we are confused or frightened by what life throws our way. This is one reason why Jesus came, to make sense of God in a senseless world. Remember John related at the very beginning of his gospel that, "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." (John 1:10-11 NIV) Paul writes, "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"--but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit." (1 Corinthians 2:8-9 NIV) The tremendous truth is Jesus would not be gone forever, "I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." We overcome the world knowing Jesus lives!

  EXAMPLE: We are such emotional folks, yet God knows this because he knows us. He knew that when faced with the sinfulness of the world around us we would wonder where God might be. He knew his own disciples would wonder when faced with his illegal trial, brutal beatings, and his ultimate death. Yet in the midst of the horrors of this world is the tremendous truth that Jesus lives. Their sorrow would be turned to joy because Jesus would indeed live again! We overcome the world knowing Jesus lives!

The tough times we go through are tempered by the knowledge of knowing because Jesus lives, we too shall live. Yet we can forget this truth when we are constantly barraged by the ungodliness of the world. The wonderful truth is found here in John's gospel, Jesus related that…

II. We have overcome the world and are not blinded by our sin! (John 16:21-25 NIV)


"A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father."

  1. Confused as to what Jesus is teaching them the disciples are kind of dumbfounded. So Jesus continues by relating to them something they could understand. He tells them, "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world." One of the greatest times of agony and joy is when a woman gives birth. While the birth of a child is filled with a lot of pain, the new life, the nurturing, and the raising of the child is filled with a lot of love and joy. One far outweighs the other. Jesus explains that "So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." The joy the disciples would experience would be the resurrection of Jesus and their faith in him afterwards which would last forever. No one can take away one's faith. Remember Jesus had told them, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24 NIV) And, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:28 NIV) After Jesus' resurrection they would see him and finally know that what he said about himself was true, "In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." We forget that the relationship we now enjoy is one of complete joy. It is not based on works, blind faith, or robotic adherence. It is personal, intimate, and complete. Their relationship with Jesus would change forever after his Ascension and ours as well. In fact, "Though [Jesus had] been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when [he would] no longer use this kind of language but [he would] tell [them] plainly about [his] Father." Because of the gift of his Spirit in us we now understand the deep spiritual things of God. We have overcome the world and are not blinded by our sin!

  EXAMPLE: I had a young woman once lament, "It is so tough to be a Christian!" Yes it is and Jesus knew it would be. You see it is easy to sin because sin is just doing whatever you want when you want to do it. It is selfishness at its core. This is why much of the world in our day is so self-focused. It loves sin because sin is selfish. Yet those who have decided to give their lives to Jesus now have the blindness of sin cleared away. We have overcome the world and are not blinded by our sin!

Herein John's gospel we discover the nitty-gritty of what the gospel is and what it does. How sad is it then when believers forget what they now enjoy in Jesus. The grace of God expressed in Jesus gives us something more than just happiness for the moment or a new way of doing things, we find that…

III. Because of Jesus we have overcome the world! (John 16:26-33 NIV)

"In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God." "You believe at last!" Jesus answered. "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

  1. The world and its relationship to the Creator of the universe would change forever. There are those who think we beseech God to answer our prayers or that we do certain acts of contrition or absolution in order to gain or garner God's grace, this is patently false and heresy. Jesus tells his followers that when he ascends that afterwards "In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." Here is the key, our faith in Jesus, not some rite or ritual. God's grace is given to us not because of anything we do but because of his love for us! We do not have to ask Jesus to ask God, he is God, and he has given us his love because we have believed in him and love him! Jesus can do this because he "came from the Father and entered the world" and now was "leaving the world and going back to the Father." Paul would remind us that is the same Jesus who is "interceding for us." (Romans 8:34 NIV) We are to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2 NIV) Jesus' disciples seem to begin to have a glimmer of what he was trying to teach them and exclaim: "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God." Though the disciples thought they understood, Jesus knew their limitations and the phrase "You believe at last!" could be better translated "Do you really now believe?" I believe this is why Jesus responds to their declaration with, "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." While they would be running scared, Jesus would not. He knew who he was. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." This is why Paul would write, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2 NIV) Because of Jesus we have overcome the world!

  EXAMPLE: In C. S. Lewis’ book God in the Dock, he wrote: “Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable.” Lewis cleverly used this contrast between a hotel and a prison to illustrate how we view life based on our expectations. He says, “If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” Sometimes we expect that life should always be happy and pain-free. But that is not what the Bible teaches. For the believer, this world is a place of spiritual development through both good times and bad. France and the world right now are wondering perhaps where was God recently, however we learn that Jesus was realistic when he explained what to expect in life. He told his disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." In facing life’s blessings and bruises, we can have the inner peace that God is orchestrating events according to His sovereign plan. Christ’s presence in our lives enables us to “take heart” even in the midst of pain. Because of Jesus we have overcome the world!

Conclusion:

We overcome the world knowing Jesus lives! We have overcome the world and are not blinded by our sin! Because of Jesus we have overcome the world!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, November 07, 2015

The Spirit of truth! - John 16:1-15

The Spirit of truth! - John 16:1-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 8, 2015

Contrary to popular opinion, truth is not relative. Truth is truth and sometimes it can be hard to swallow, especially if one is caught in a lie. Yet there are those who hate the truth because it exposes them for what they are, phonies. Christians are to live by the truth no matter what the consequences. In fact, we are to be guided by the truth. Not like the mother who invited the neighbors to dinner and asked her son to pray over the meal. Being a bit shy, because he was put on the spot by his mom, the son lamented, "I don’t know what to say!" His mother encouraged, "Just say what you heard your father say at breakfast." Obediently the little boy bowed his head and repeated, "Oh Lord, we've got those awful people coming over for dinner!"

Jesus continued here in John's gospel to relate exactly what the Holy Spirit's job would be in the life of a believer. He relates that more than just a comforter or encourager, the Spirit would be the one who would help his disciples to speak the truth concerning Jesus. In fact, he would be the Spirit of truth. Let's discover what that means for our lives this morning…

READ: John 16:1-15

In today's world we discover so many who are aggressively against Christianity. Why does the world hate believers so much? John tells us that it is because…

I. Evil hates the Spirit of Truth! (John 16:1-4 NIV)


All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.

  1. Jesus knew his followers would face persecution simply because they would follow him and so he confesses to them, "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray." Jesus was not fooled; he knew it would be tough on his disciples after he had gone back to the right hand of God in heaven. And he tells them the truth that he knew as soon as they declared themselves his disciples "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God." We see this occurring today with Islam and how it treats believers in its midst and we find it socially where if a believer states they disagree with homosexuality or gay marriage they are shunned, sued, or deemed as fanatical. Evil folks want their evil to be seen as good and want to hide the truth. Isaiah prophetically told his listeners thousands of years before Jesus, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Isaiah 5:20 NIV) And Paul would later write, "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." (1 Corinthians 13:6 NIV) Jesus continued his discourse by relating to the disciples that the ungodly world "will do such things because they have not known the Father or me." Those who profess godliness but have not trusted Jesus do not know God at all and so they become angered at those who do and therefore hate them because the truth of their own disobedience is exposed. Jesus goes on to tell them, "I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you." Evil hates the Spirit of Truth!

  EXAMPLE: It has often perplexed me why those who often need God the most reject him the most. Paul reminds us that, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) In fact "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV) Paul goes on to state that "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV) We need to remember that if they hated Jesus, they will hate us as well because evil hates godliness. Evil hates the Spirit of Truth!

I am glad that when and if I ever need to go to court I can have an advocate, legal assistance to help me with my case before the court. And what is truly glorious is the fact that the Supreme Judge of all things has provided all of his children with such a heavenly advocate, especially when we are before his court! John relates that…

II. The Spirit of Truth is our counselor! (John 16:5-11 NIV)

Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

  1. Jesus was saddened because he had to go through what he had to do in order to save the world from its sin. And he was saddened because his friends, those he had chosen personally, would have to watch and experience it as well, but there was hope in what would seem a hopeless situation. And so readily confesses to them, "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'" Jesus was headed back to his rightful place and he was following the plan of God, yet none of his disciples could understand and they were filled with their own grief that they would be separated from Jesus. In a moment Jesus would tell them, "I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy." (John 16:20 NIV) And in fact no one would be able to rob them of their joy! (v. 22) Jesus relates to them the reason this has to happen, "But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." Counselor is the Greek word paraklētos used to describe legal assistants who would plead legal cases! All of Jesus' disciples, even those of us today, would never be separated from him again because his presence and power is now expressed in the existence and manifestation of the Spirit of Truth in our lives! The wonderful and gracious truth Jesus tells them is that "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned." The Spirit of Truth's presence in the lives of Jesus' followers would do the convicting of those who do not believe and would now judge the world for its sin. And now Satan and those who continue to not believe in Jesus are exposed for their lie because of the Spirit of Truth! The Spirit of Truth is our counselor!

  EXAMPLE: We often misunderstand the grace of God in our lives. It is not some mystical magical mysterious thing. The grace of God is the presence of God now manifested in our lives through the Spirit of truth. Where people had to make sacrifice after sacrifice and continually try to prove their love for God by doing good works, we now enjoy the presence of God simply because of Jesus when we trust him with our lives. That is the only sacrifice God requires--ourselves. This is why John began his gospel by telling us that "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13 NIV) Paul would say, "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:13-16 NIV) We have peace with God because of Jesus and we have the presence of God because of his Spirit. The Spirit of Truth is our counselor!

We live in a world of sarcasm and doubt. So much so we do not trust our leaders, our teachers, our parents, our bosses, or just about anyone; even God! Yet we can trust Jesus and we can trust there is a God who loves us and has provided for us. How do I know this to be true? John tells us that…

III. We know God because we know the Spirit of truth! (John 16:12-15 NIV)

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

  1. Can you imagine never experiencing the Spirit of Truth in one's life and now being told they would continually from now on? How was this possible? What would he do exactly and how would he do it? I am sure these were some of the questions that popped into the minds of the disciples. Jesus therefore tells them, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear." What they did not fully comprehend was that he would have to suffer, die, and be buried in a cold dark tomb. Yet there would follow his resurrection and his ascension as well!  However he now gives them words of hope and joy. They would not have to worry because "when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." The truth of God is Jesus Christ. The truth the world needs is Jesus Christ. The truth that needs to be shared with a sin-darkened world is Jesus Christ! And believers have the Sprit of truth to guide them in all truth! All the truth concerning Jesus, who he is, why he came, and what they are to do. In fact, "He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." We often get anxious concerning what will happen before it does happen. What if this, what if that, what if the world gets hit by an asteroid! When Jesus would die and be buried, many of his own followers would wonder what in the world is going to happen now. Yet, they would need to trust just as we do this morning, that Jesus has amply provided us with the Spirit of truth for every contingency in life.  We often forget that everything we do in life is to bring glory and honor to God through Jesus. This is why he now relates to his followers, "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." All of Jesus will be ours and we bring glory to him because of the Spirit of truth! How is this possible? Simple, Jesus tells us the truth, "All that belongs to the Father is mine." Just as the Spirit of truth proceeds from God so does he give those who have trusted him everything that is his! A godly parent always wants to share the very best with his children and so it is with God the Father through Jesus and the Spirit of truth, "That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." We know God and we know Jesus because he has given those of us who know him his Spirit of truth! We know God because we know the Spirit of truth!

  EXAMPLE: I am often baffled by believers who live in constant spiritual bewilderment. Here's what I mean: They are never certain if they are truly God's or not. Let me put your doubt and fears to rest dear child of God, if you have trusted Jesus you have the Sprit of truth in your life. This is why Paul would write, "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV) And he continued by stating that "you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV) We know God because we know the Spirit of truth!

Conclusion:

Evil hates the Spirit of Truth! The Spirit of Truth is our counselor! We know God because we know the Spirit of truth!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, October 31, 2015

Hatred and Servanthood! - John 15:18-27

Hatred and Servanthood! - John 15:18-27
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 1, 2015

No one likes to be disliked, unless they have some severe mental problems or are into self-abasement. But what if everyone around you did not like you because of your belief in God? We are seeing a noticeable uptick in the amount of aggression directed towards Christians. From public school teachers in classrooms failing those who confess a belief in God to assistant coaches who pray and military chaplains who do not agree with the politically correct and ungodly version of what marriage is. Christians are disliked because of their way of life and in whom they believe, but it is the duty of the believer to serve their Lord.

Here in John's gospel we find Jesus getting into heavier theological subjects in order to prepare his disciples for the future without his physical presence. He knew that not only would they need to understand the consequences of their discipleship, but why there would be so much fallout from the world around them. Let's discover what Jesus taught and why concerning the world's hatred and our servanthood…

READ: John 15:18-27

How would you feel if you moved to a new town and everyone there disliked you simply because of whom you were? Certainly those who have faced racism or bigotry can relate, however, what if all the folks were just like you but still they simply did not like you at all? Jesus related that…

I. The world hates Christians because it hates God! (Vv. 15:18-23)


If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well.

  1. Friendship with God results in incurring the world’s hatred. Consequently, being friends with the world is to be God’s enemy. James, Jesus' brother, would later warn weak believers, "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4 NIV) Jesus tells them, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own." However, from now on things would be drastically different. "As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." Jesus had chosen them just as he does us and now the world would hate them and us because of this. The world loves the false face appearance of being good but hates the hard hitting truth of holiness. It hates it because it can never measure up to God's standard. As Jesus' disciples we all have to remember that "No servant is greater than his master." As our master Jesus was persecuted so we shall be as well. Jesus tells them the tough truth that "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me." The world does not know, understand, follow, love, and live for God. Instead the world lives in constant guilty fear its phoniness will be revealed for what it truly is and it was laid bare through Jesus! "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin." This is the core of the problem, sin. The world likes to call it making a mistake, a minor slip, error, personal gaffe, misstep, or lapse of judgment; but what it truly is, is sin! Jesus bluntly relates, "Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well." The world hates Christians because it hates God!

  EXAMPLE: She was crying uncontrollably at recess and when I finally got her to tell me what was wrong she lamented, "They won’t let me play with them!" She was emotionally crushed. The offenders had decided to limit their game to a certain amount of people and that was it and she could not understand why they would exclude her. She was hurt and left feeling unwanted and violated. Some Christians go through the same kind of emotional upset when faced with rejection of their faith bt family, friends, or others. Yet Jesus plainly teaches us that the world hates Christians because it hates God!

Now what if you were told to go out into the town where you moved and where everyone disliked you to try to share with them a medication that could cure them of their undeserved hatred and of everything that harmed them forever? Jesus now tells his disciples that…

II. The servant of God will testify concerning Jesus! (Vv. 15:24-27)

If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.' When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

  1. Jesus walked this earth teaching only great things concerning God and the world. He focused on why so many folks were headed in the wrong direction with their lives. Everything Jesus did while he was here physically was to glorify God. He had said that "no servant is greater than his master." We are to glorify God in everything we do and when we do, we are immediately at odds with the rest of the world! The truth Jesus speaks is never understood by the world because it is spiritually discerned. They are "unable to hear" what Jesus teaches (John 8:43) because they "belong to [their] father, the devil, and [they] want to carry out [their] father's desire!" (John 8:44) In fact, Jesus tells them, "If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father." Sin is fundamentally irrational. Their hatred of Jesus was without any rational cause which also fits the pattern of hatred for all righteous people from the prophets, David, others and now them and us! This is why the world, "Hated [Jesus] without reason!" It fulfills their self-guilty law of personal survival at any cost! When faced with this kind of irrational hatred towards goodness and righteousness believers might be tempted to camouflage their faith or hide themselves in the crowd. Jesus reminds his disciples with the comforting truth that "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." We need not fear what the world does, we have God in us! In fact, when we live for Jesus we are living for God and are testifying to the truth of Jesus! This is why Jesus reminds them specifically, "And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." They had seen the miracles of God, had seen and heard the words of truth, and knew Jesus was the messiah; therefore they must now testify to what they had seen and experienced for themselves! The servant of God will testify concerning Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: The little blond freckled-faced imp in front of me readily declared, "I just don't like him!" when I asked why she was so mean to a fellow playmate. I tried to get her to find some reason and she simply responded, "I don’t have any reason, I just don’t like him!"  However, finally after several minutes of coaxing a truthful response, she confessed, "I don't like him because he always plays by the rules!" When they played their games together the little boy would always play by the rules they had established together to begin with while she often wanted to bend them to meet her needs of the moment and then he would let her know she was breaking her own rules! While it can be tough sharing with others they need Jesus, when they think they are perfectly okay, the servant of God will testify concerning Jesus!

Conclusion:

The world hates Christians because it hates God! The servant of God will testify concerning Jesus!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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, October 24, 2015

The love of God! - John 15:9-17

The love of God! - John 15:9-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 25, 2015

Selena Gomez sings about how she is sick of the same old love, but the words in her hit song have to deal with how people mistreat one another in relationships. The artist Weeknd sings about being so deep in love his face goes numb. There must be literally hundreds if not thousands of songs that deal with love in some way or another. Love is such a frustrating and baffling thing for some of us that we sometimes misunderstand what real love is like.

Here in John's gospel we discover the love of God displayed in the life of Jesus and now we learn what that loves is all about and just how truly wonderful it is. The love of God is complete, true, and open. When we see Jesus we see the love of God. Let's discover what this means for us…

READ: John 15:9-17

If we say we love someone they expect certain things from us. Our words and actions should display what we say concerning our love for them, and our relationship with God is no different. In fact…

I. The love of God means we will stay in his love! (Vv.:9-11)

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

  1. Here in these verses are some wonderful truths that Christians experience that no other religion offers, namely the promise of God's infinite love. Jesus tells his disciples, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." His disciples experienced the same love God showed towards his Son, Jesus! And Jesus desired that they "remain in [his] love", meaning that they actively abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, and stand in his love for them. The way a disciple of Jesus remains in his love is by obeying his commands. Remember, Jesus' commands were to love God completely and to love others as we love ourselves; so if we love God and others we are obeying his commands, just as he obeyed his Father's commands and remained in his love! Jesus had already told them, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15 NIV) And he had taught that "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23 NIV) This is why John would later write, "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3 NIV) The idea is for Jesus' followers to continually decide to walk with Jesus by displaying the love of God in their lives. Jesus taught this "so that [his] joy may be in [us] and that [our] joy may be complete!" Our lives are only complete and full when we walk in the love of Christ and when we do his joyfulness and delight is displayed in our lives! The love of God means we will stay in his love!

  EXAMPLE: My Dad would tell us kids, "Show your mother that you love her by doing what she asks you to do the first time." I did not fully understand that as a kid, but I do now. When we immediately did what our mom asked us to do it displayed to her and others our respect and love for her. The same is true for our faith walk with Jesus. If we say we love Jesus, we will remain in his love by displaying his love for him and others! The love of God means we will stay in his love!

Our joy is found in the love of God and our love for God is more than a feeling or state of being. In fact we learn that…

II. The love of God means sacrifice! (Vv. 12-14)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

  1. Far too often Christians want to experience the love of God without exerting any effort in the love of God. They think it should flow into their lives no matter how they live their lives. This is a totally self-centered and myopic view of God's love. Jesus' command for them was simple, "Love each other as I have loved you." Jesus was not fooled; he knew this would be easier said than done. Yet he had loved them when they doubted him, disobeyed him, and even betrayed him. He loved them in spite of themselves and all of their foibles. This truth is the same for us this morning! While he was getting ready to die for them they were busy arguing over which one would be greatest in Jesus' kingdom! This is when he taught them, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35 NIV) And then took a small child in his arms as an example and told them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." (Mark 9:37 NIV) Jesus loved his disciples far more than they realized and far more than we often realize. He loves us to death. This is why he told them, "Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus laid his life down for us and we should be willing to do the same for one another! If we truly want to be great in God's kingdom, we must learn to be the servant of all, even to death. His promise is, "You are my friends if you do what I command." We are to love one another as he loved us. The love of God means sacrifice!

  EXAMPLE: When my father developed heart disease it was devastating for our family. We all had to chip in and work in order to pay the bills, by food, and clothing. Our time, effort, and money was no longer our own. When my father left us to go work in Alaska for a year it hurt us emotionally and then when my mother went to Seattle later to earn a living that was hard for our family as well. I did not fully understand why this had to happen at the time, but now I realize that when families love one another, they are willing to sacrifice for the whole family. The same is true for the family of God. The love of God means sacrifice!

There are benefits to staying in the love of God and being willing to sacrifice our lives for him, we learn that…

III. The love of God means we are his friends! (Vv15-17)

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

  1. Jesus' relationship to his disciples was one of master and learner. He was their rabbi, teacher, and they were his disciples and pupils. In Jesus' day it was often seen as a master servant kind of relationship, he taught them and they waited on him. But we do not see this kind of interaction with Jesus and his disciples, nor do we find it in our relationship with him either. He tells them, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business." They should know what Jesus was about by now; he came to seek and save the lost through his death, burial, and resurrection. This is what his business was about. However, they were not his servants and he tells them, "Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." Master's do not share with their servants, but friends share with friends, and Jesus shared "everything" he had learned from God the Father as he walked the earth as a man. He taught them about the Father's plan and that he did only what the Father asked him. Part of the plan was that they were chosen to bear fruit for his kingdom, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last." In fact Jesus had chosen them for a specific mission and in doing this mission, "Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." Again we find God's promise to answer the requests of those he considers his own, those he has chosen, those who willingly sacrifice themselves to his kingdom plan. And Jesus finally reminds them again, "This is my command: Love each other." The love of God means we are his friends!

  EXAMPLE: Contrary to an old Christian song, friends are not friends forever. The friends we make can grow apart from us for varying reasons; distance, maturity, education, feelings, family or just the simple things in life can cause friendships to wane. However, the friendship we have with God was bought at a tremendous price; the death of his Son. His friendship is forever because he chose us not because we were nice to him, good people, or did what he liked; he chose us because that was his plan all along. And by the way, God is not our buddy; we are his friends because he decided it to be so. We are to remain in his love by exhibiting the love Jesus displayed in our lives. The love of God means we are his friends!

Conclusion:

The love of God means we will stay in his love! The love of God means sacrifice! The love of God means we are his friends! Now, do you know what real friendship with God is all about?

This article is copyrighted © 2015 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.