Saturday, January 31, 2015

Nothing in life is free! -- John 6:22-33

Nothing in life is free! -- John 6:22-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 1, 2015

There is a tale that the great circus promoter P. T. Barnum once quipped, "There's a sucker born every minute." There is a lot of doubt as to whether he actually said this or not, but one thing I have heard over and over again is the old truism "nothing in life is free." This is true of anyone who wants to sell you the latest get rich scheme, diet pill, or quick spiritual fix. Nothing in life is free. However, the Apostle Paul wrote, "This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24 NIV)" In other words, we receive the gift of salvation freely from God because of Jesus' death and resurrection. Nothing in life is free, except salvation from God through Jesus!

And here in John's gospel we find that there were those during his day that wanted something for nothing as well. Some things never change.

READ: John 6:22-33

Here in John's gospel we discover that…

I. Some folks just want free food! (Vv. 22-25)

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"

  1. Following Jesus and his disciples getting miraculously to the far side of the lake we discover that the very "next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone." Some people look far and wide for the wrong things in life in order to find themselves or the answer for their lives. Often, it is right in front of them but they do not recognize it. Kind of like the crowd and Jesus. Later on in John's gospel we discover that when the "chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. Jesus said, 'I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.' (John 7:32-34 NIV)" It is too late to look for Jesus when you're looking for the wrong things in life or when your life is over! The crowd, afterwards "realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus." They diligently searched for Jesus for entirely the wrong reason, free food! There are still people who follow Jesus for the wrong reason. They follow him in order to make themselves happy; they follow him in order to be more spiritual; or they follow him in order to have a spiritual safety net. We are to follow Jesus because he is the Savior, the Messiah, of the world! Notice what the crowd's first reaction is after they find "him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, 'Rabbi, when did you get here?'" They were not interested in Jesus' welfare, they were not interested in where the disciples were, they were only interested in their bellies. Some folks just want free food!

  EXAMPLE: Like I stated before, some folks today seek Jesus only for the freebies they think he offers them in life. Joe Stowell writes in Strength for the Journey, " Each year over 3.5 million people visit Yellowstone National Park. The park is loaded with signs that read, “Don’t feed the bears,” but visitors are constantly doing just that. As a result, bears become too lazy to look for food. So, sadly, some of them starve to death in the woods—which are full of nourishment—when the tourists aren’t there to give them handouts. Ever wish you could get a few spiritual handouts from God? A lot of us are like those bears when it comes to walking with Jesus. We’d like to have everything handed to us, straight from God—no questions asked. We keep looking for those divine snacks of His direct involvement in our lives. It’s tempting to measure the quality of our relationship with God by the frequency and intensity of those times when we see Him reach into our lives and change things. This leaves us prone to the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” attitude. When God doesn’t live up to our expectations, we get bogged down in discouragement, doubt, and even a dysfunctional view of Him. Admittedly, it’s easy to feel cheated by the absence of those spiritual freebies. If I hear Bob talk about how God provided an anonymous donor for his mortgage payment just in the nick of time, I begin to wonder why God never does anything like that for me. Sound familiar?" Some folks just want free food!

We also learn that…

II. Some folks will work for the wrong food! (Vv. 26-29)


Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

  1. We find that Jesus knows exactly why they followed him around the lake and so, "Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.'" What these folks said with their mouths did not match with what they believed about Jesus in their hearts. All they wanted was free food! Jesus confronts their hypocrisy. Often we show up to worship only desiring that Jesus "fill us" in some kind of way that will make us happy for the moment so we can get through the day or the rest of the week. This is a horrendous view of who we believe Jesus is and what he was sent to do. All we want is a quick fix from God and not something that will last for eternity. Jesus warns his listeners, "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." Now Jesus was not, as some incorrectly conclude, endorsing good works for salvation. Rather, he was trying to focus their attention where it needed to be, on their need to be cleansed of their sin. The loaves and fishes would eventually mold and decay, the real food Jesus offered "endures to eternal life." which only the "Son of Man" could give them. Only Jesus gives us the food that matters and lasts forever, eternal life. In fact, only "On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." Jesus, in Matthew's gospel would declare, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' (Matthew 4:4 NIV)" Notice, "Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?'" God did not require that they earn their salvation, he requires that they only believe in the one he sent! This is why Jesus bluntly responds, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." Some folks will work for the wrong food!

  EXAMPLE: Cults and heretical religions are attractive to some because it soothes their guilty conscience when they can earn part of their spirituality. However, we discover the wonderful truth when Paul wrote, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV)" In other words we are saved for the works we are to do after salvation! We do them because we love God! Our good deed do not save us for if they did, Jesus did not have to die on the cross and rise again to give us eternal life. Yet, sadly, some folks will work for the wrong food!

And finally, we find that…

III. The only bread we need is freely given by God! (Vv. 30-33)

So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

  1. These people just seem not to get the picture and we find them asking Jesus, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?" Like people at an accident scene, they simply cannot get over their preoccupation for the unbelievable or inexplicable. They wanted Jesus to sing and dance for them! Jesus would later remind his listeners, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Matthew 12:39 NIV)" The crowd wanted more than manna from heaven, like the Israelites of Moses got. This is why they said, "Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Perhaps, they thought Jesus' miracle was less significant because manna fed the whole nation for 40 years. However, they missed two things. First, the Israelites who were fed 40 years did not believe! They blew it and suffered for their unbelief!  They failed to understand the significance of their being fed by the hand of God. Second, both Moses and Jesus were absolutely validated by God and therefore both should be listened to and believed. So, Jesus remarks, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven." In fact, Jesus continued, "For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Jesus is the life-giving bread they needed in order to survive for eternal life! In fact, the only bread we need is freely given by God!

  EXAMPLE: "In cultures with an abundance of food choices, like our own, bread is no longer a necessary part of the diet so some choose to live without it for various reasons. In the first century, however, bread was viewed as an essential staple. A diet without bread was a foreign concept. One day a crowd of people sought out Jesus because He had performed the miracle of multiplying loaves of bread. They asked Him to perform a sign like the manna from heaven that God had provided for His people in the desert (Exodus 16:4). When Jesus said He was 'the true bread from heaven', the people didn’t understand." (Our Daily Bread, Marvin Williams, Oct 9, 2013) The only bread we need is freely given by God!

Conclusion:


Some folks just want free food! Some folks will work for the wrong food! The only bread we need is freely given by 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, January 25, 2015

The short cut! -- John 6:14-21

The short cut! -- John 6:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 25, 2015

Why is it there is always a certain segment within society that is willing to take short cuts in life. Whether it is deliberately tearing through the underbrush instead of staying on the marked trail or trying to get by with the least amount of effort in order to get their job done, there are those who think the short cut is the best way. There are even those who think that by simply applying simple scriptural steps to their lives will insure them a short cut to God's blessing. Nothing could further from the truth.

We discover here in John's Gospel that there were those who thought they could take the spiritual short cut of making Jesus their king. And even some of Jesus' own disciples were open to this proposition. Interestingly within the next few verses we discover Jesus taking a short cut of his own, but rather than trying to make life easier, he does so in order to teach his disciples whom they were to depend on in the storms of life. From what occurs we can find hope for our own lives and the danger of not depending on Jesus when the winds of life blow foul. Let's discover what happened when Jesus took the short cut…

READ: John 6:14-21

Here in Johns Gospel we find that…

I. There is no short cut to the king of Kings! (Vv. 14-15)


After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

  1. There are God's prophets and there are false prophets. God had told Moses, "If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." (Deuteronomy 18:19-20 NIV) Why are folks so quick then to follow charlatans who claim they come from God and not judge them by their results? We find no shortage of prophetic phonies who claimed spiritual insight but have been proven incorrect in their prophecies; Joseph Smith (LDS), Charles Taze Russell (JW), Mary Baker Eddy (CS), or Ellen G. White (SDA) to name just a few. And here we discover the crowds who had just experienced Jesus' miracle of feeding them wanting to make him their political and spiritual leader! "After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, 'Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.'" Of course they were referring to the prophet God tells Moses about several thousands of year before when he promised him, "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him." (Deuteronomy 18:18 NIV) God promised to give Israel another prophet even better than Moses who would have power over men and intimacy with God! However, "none would be like Moses until the Mediator of the New Covenant, Jesus Christ, came. Moses set the standard for every future prophet. Each prophet was to do his best to live up to the example of Moses until the One came who would introduce the New Covenant." (Bible Knowledge Commentary) This prophet of God would be much more than a mere prophet, he would be the Messiah, the Savior of the world! John writes, "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." Jesus knew they did not truly want a prophet of God, they wanted a king who would rescue them from their present Roman predicament. In this we discover that there is no short cut to the king of Kings!

  EXAMPLE: James McConkey was a well-known Bible teacher in the early 20th century. While traveling through Europe, he went on a hike with a group of tourists in the awe-inspiring Swiss Alps. Their experienced guide led them cautiously through dangerous gorges and across treacherous ice fields. At one point he was leading the hikers on a wide detour to ensure their safety. One weary tourist, though, decided he would take a short-cut. He left the pathway and started out on his own. The guide raced after him, tackled him, and dragged him back to the path. Then he explained that the snow over which that tourist intended to walk was a thin crust of ice covering a giant crevasse. That short-cut would have meant a long and deadly plunge deep into the glacier. (Radio bible Class) There are no spiritual shortcuts in life, no easy believism, no easy way to God without faith in Jesus. There is no shortcut to the king of Kings!

We also soon discover that…

II. There is no shortcut through the storms of life! (Vv. 16-19)


When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.

  1. Jesus had withdrawn to the mountainside to be by himself, away from the crowds of demanding people, and his disciples were left to their own devices. Perhaps he told them to go ahead, or maybe they decided on their own to head across the lake. I do not believe as some suggest that they did not know where Jesus was, John tells us otherwise, he was up on the mountain, alone. In fact, Mark relates in his Gospel that "Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray." (Mark 6:45-46 NIV) And, we find here from John that "When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum." They do as their Master, their Rabbi, instructed them. Mark tells us that "When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land." (Mark 6:47 NIV) John states that "By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough." Again, Mark tells us that Jesus "saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake." (Mark 6:48 NIV) John relates that the disciples "had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified." Mark tells us that "when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost." (Mark 6:49 NIV) There is no one who can walk on the surface of a stormy lake and they certainly did not expect Jesus to do so! And isn't this the way we are as well? When the storms of life toss our little boat about we begin to fear for our lives and then when God sends us the way to calm the storm, we become afraid! Picture the scene, from out of the gloom, the rain, and the rough sea comes one lone figure walking on the water! Perfectly calm, secure in who he is, and headed straight for them! For those of us who are fearful of the storm, the wind, and the rains of life sinking our precious vessel, Jesus is near. The storm is but a breeze and the watery deep but concrete for the creator of the wind and the waves! In this moment of time we discover for ourselves that there is no short cut through the storms of life!

  EXAMPLE: When our youth group years ago took a mission trip to Nebraska, we experienced the wonder of a huge thunder and lightning storm. We had parked out near a huge corn field as the thunder rolled and the lightning streaked across the sky. The youth were thrilled until one huge bolt boomed right overhead. I turned around and all of them were now huddled inside of our van! The storm had been exciting and fun until it affected them personally, then they feared for their lives! Sometimes we can view our lives the same way. We are just fine until it affects us personally. Far too often we try to gain a shortcut through life's storms, but here in John's Gospel we learn that there is no short cut through the storms of life!

And finally, we discover that…

III. The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm! (Vv. 20-21)


But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

  1. Here in this final passage is a wonderful and delightful ending. It is more than the cavalry riding to the rescue at the last moment before the attack. It is more than the wizard showing up in the east when the hoards of the Dark Lord's orcs are at Helm's Deep's door. This is the Messiah walking on the water to the rescue of his little flock! This is the one who would not be made king being the King of kings and Lord of lords and displaying all of his ability to rescue the perishing! So many want to row their own course in life. They want to do it their way and take no thought to their creator. And then when life throws wind, rain, the dark of night, and the wild waves rushing over the gunnels of their little leaking boat of life, they cry out, "Save me!" It is here in the wind, it is here in the rain, it is here in the shadows of being overwhelmed God has given us a lifeline, and his name is Jesus. He is the one who calmly says to the silly sailors who try to sail life's seas without him, "It is I; don't be afraid." Literally, "I am." "I am" the one you can cling to, "I am" the one you can depend upon, "I am" the one to rescue you. John succinctly states that Jesus "said to them, 'It is I; don't be afraid.'" It was "Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." It is only when we are willing to get over our distrust or fear of Jesus that we can willingly take him into our lives. It is then we discover that he takes us safely to the far shore! Jesus later teaches his disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me… I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:1, 6 NIV) We find here in John that the short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm!

  EXAMPLE: Bill Crowder writes, "Eric Liddell, memorialized in the film Chariots of Fire, won a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics before going to China as a missionary. Some years later, with the outbreak of World War II, Liddell sent his family to safety in Canada, but he remained in China. Soon Liddell and other foreign missionaries were interned in a Japanese detainment camp. After months of captivity, he developed what doctors feared was a brain tumor. Every Sunday afternoon a band would play near the hospital, so one day Liddell requested they play the hymn "Be Still, My Soul." As he listened, I wonder if Eric pondered these words from the song: Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on / When we shall be forever with the Lord. / When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, / Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. / Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past / All safe and blessed we shall meet at last. That beautiful hymn, so comforting to Eric as he faced an illness that led to his death 3 days later, expresses a great reality of Scripture. In Psalm 46:10, David wrote, "Be still, and know that I am God." In our darkest moments, we can rest, for our Lord conquered death on our behalf. Be still, and allow Him to calm your greatest fears." The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm! (Our Daily Bread, November 3, 2013)

Conclusion:
There is no short cut to the king of Kings! There is no short cut through the storms of life! The short cut is by faith in the one who calms the storm!

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, January 18, 2015

Over 5,000 Served! -- John 6:1-13

Over 5,000 Served! -- John 6:1-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 18, 2015

When the Super Bowl happens or there is a big college football game radio stations often have contests for their listeners in order for them to compete to get tickets for the game. I find it interesting that folks who never cared a thing in the world about football all of a sudden will do some of the most outlandish things for something that is free. But, I suppose, that is the way of the world. As someone once quipped, "Free is a very good price!"

It is also interesting how some people will follow others for their fame, others for their fortune, and then there are those who follow someone for the free food! Food? Yes, food. We find Jesus ministering to a group of folks who were only interested in being fed for free. Kind of like many modern day believers who attend church simply to be "freely fed". Like a McDonald's of our day, we find Jesus feeding a whole lotta folks with very little food. You could say there were over 5,000 served! Let's discover what occurred and how Jesus and his disciples served over 5,000…

READ: John 6:1-13

Here in the preserved words of John the Apostle we find that…

I. Jesus attracts people! (Vv. 1-4)

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.

  1. "Some time after" Jesus had healed the man at the pool and then had the lengthy discussion with his detractors, he "crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee." This means he went north from Jerusalem and then across the huge lake known as the Sea of Galilee. And "a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick." The people were eager to see more miracles, they followed Him round the head of the lake, and, as they went, their number was increased by those who were headed to Jerusalem for the Passover. We now have been following Jesus for over a year. The only reason folks were there was for the show they thought they would see from Jesus or perhaps they wanted him to heal someone or themselves. Whatever the reason, Jesus needed a place away from the pressure of the crowd and so we discover that "Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples." This is not like the mountains we have in the Northwest that are thousands of feet tall and have snow year round, this probably was more like what we would consider a hillside. Jesus would often go up on a "mountainside" to pray, choose his disciples, or simply to be alone in his own thoughts. He usually did so when something important was about to happen in his ministry. We learn that there were a lot of people perhaps because "The Jewish Passover Feast was near." Big important events draw large crowds and the Passover is the biggest event on the Jewish calendar. However, they were not here for the Passover, they were out there on a mountainside because of Jesus. We find large crowds often following Jesus, but isn't this the way of Jesus? We discover that Jesus attracts people!

  EXAMPLE: Like a moth drawn to a bright flame, people are attracted to Jesus. The real Jesus, not some phony televangelist huckster weeping and groaning to a crowd of unsuspecting dupes. The simple truth of Jesus is attractive to those who are in need of salvation. It is heard in the urgent plea of a desperate father of a convulsing boy who cries out, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24 NIV) It is found in the drug addict, the homeless man, the rich Wall Street analyst who all share in the one need we all have -- the need of forgiveness! Whether it was the miracles, the food, the show or curiosity the crowds were attracted to Jesus. In our daily witness of the one who saved us we must never forget this beautiful truth, Jesus attracts people!

We soon also discover that…

II. Jesus uses personal sacrifice! (Vv. 5-9)

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

  1. Herein these few verses is hidden a most delightful story concerning Jesus and his willingness to use that which we are ready to sacrifice. We will learn that if we want to be considered first in his kingdom, we must be willing to be the very last or servant of everyone else. (Mark 9:35) This is truly a hard concept for many in our day and age. There are those who are willing to sacrifice if it doesn't cost them anything, there are those who willingly sacrifice for family or friends, but few would do so for strangers unless there is some emotional reward in return. Why else would we readily help a child with cancer but not a senior adult? Why does the loss of a home in a fire elicit compassion, but not a small business? Whether we want to admit it or not we are often more willing to sacrifice if we think the need is greater in one instance over another. Here we find a great crowd who selfishly followed Jesus now in need of food. Jesus' response is to ask his disciples, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" Jesus was not concerned for why the people came, he was only concerned for people. His question was to help his disciples to discover within themselves whether they were willing to find the answer. If they were willing to sacrifice what they had to help. Jesus had in mind what he was already going to do. Incredulous, Philip, one of Jesus' disciples answers him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" Philip was a realist, pragmatic in his response. However, Jesus is the Messiah and was never practical in his approach to meeting people's needs. And here we discover the wonderful golden nugget of personal sacrifice, one little boy's lunch. "Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'" The food did not belong to Peter or any of the other disciples of Jesus, it belonged to one willing boy whose name we never learn, and isn't this the way of true sacrifice? Sacrifice never asks for attention, it only gives and goes. And here we find that Jesus uses personal sacrifice!

  EXAMPLE: I will never forget Ron. He was one of those wonderful people of God. He came to Christ during the time when those who were in the counter drug culture of the 60s and 70s were finding their way out through the Jesus movement. Jesus Freaks we used to call them. Long hair and a quiet soft-spoken pot induced haze was Ron's demeanor. Yet he found Jesus. I should say, he fell in love with the Lord. Deeply and utterly. God changed him through the power of the Holy Spirit now living in him. Ron was so poor he could not afford a car so he often rode the bus. One day, while sitting waiting for his ride to come lumbering up, he needed something to eat. He remembered his morning devotion that had focused on the Lord's Prayer. Specifically the "give us this day our daily bread" part. he kept repeating the words over and over and decided he would depend on God to provide something for him to eat. He opened his eyes and noticed there beside him on the bench was a newly made sack lunch. He looked around, no one was in sight. He opened up the neatly folded bag and there he found some potato chips, a baloney sandwich, and an orange. For Ron there was no doubt in his mind that someone else's sacrifice became his meal. Jesus uses personal sacrifice!

III. Sacrifice often results in great outcomes! (Vv. 10-13)


Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

  1. A little boy's lunch was about to become food for thousands! Can you imagine it? How delightful would it have been to be there and to see the little boy standing nearby now quietly hand Jesus his basket of food. All that he had. To see his eyes grow big as Jesus performs one of the most dramatic miracles in the Gospel narratives. Jesus simply asks his disciples to "Have the people sit down." Soon every eye would see what was about to occur. "There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them." I am not going to discuss the ratio of men to women and children, because John and the other gospels only record the number of male men over a certain age. This does not matter because whether it was only 5,000 men or 8,0000 men, women, and children, for me it does not matter. Would it have not been just as wonderful or any less of a miracle if it had been only for a family of five? Yet we see that Jesus willingly uses the sacrifice of one who tenderly and innocently gave it. As the little boy and Jesus' disciples watched and as the crowd looked on, "Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted." Mark writes that Jesus had the crowd divided up into groups of hundreds and fifties, and that he looked up to heaven and gave thanks. John's account is simple in its accounting and beautiful in its uncomplicated nature. "He did the same with the fish." And in that moment of trust, expectation, and personal sacrifice, everyone had all they wanted to eat and more! That's how Jesus works, he gives us more than we deserve. Jesus leaves nothing to waste and I believe he knew the crowd would have to head back to where they came from or they would have to continue on to Jerusalem and they would not have food then either, so "When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.'" In my own way of thinking, I honestly believe a little boy returned home with way more than he had before! What a delightful outcome for when "they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten." Sacrifice often results in great outcomes!

  EXAMPLE: At 7-years-old, Tyrel Wolfe's mom suggested that he participate in Operation Christmas Child. The recipient of Tyrel's shoebox was a girl named Joana in the Philippines. Tyrel had included a photo of himself, as well as his name and address in the box, and so Joana was able to write him a thank-you letter expressing her gratitude. For most, that would be the end of the story but ten years later, with the use of Facebook, Joana decided to hunt down the boy who had sent her a package. She took a chance on a profile in a rural section of Idaho. The photo she'd received showed a young boy in a cowboy outfit. Back in the U.S., Tyrel logged into Facebook to see a curious friend request from, "a random girl in the Philippines." The two spent a year exchanging not only Facebook messages, but letters and photos, catching up on all the years they'd spent apart. The more they talked, the more they realized they had in common. They were both big fans of music, and liked to sing and play instruments. They were also both devout Christians. Tyrel decided to visit her. "Once I saw his face, an amazing feeling came over me,” Joana said. "I was so happy I cried." Joana and Tyrel began dating. Tyrel mustered up the strength to pop the question. Finally, after many years of no communication and several more of reconnecting, the seemingly star-crossed couple were married on Tyrel's parents' 400-acre ranch in Midvale, Idaho. "I remember as a little boy, I was so excited to know the toys and other items I put in the box would bring joy to another child somewhere else in the world," Tyrel said. "I just didn’t know the joy it would bring back to me one day." Sacrifice often results in great outcomes! (www.viralnova.com)

Conclusion:
Jesus attracts people! Jesus uses personal sacrifice! Sacrifice often results in great outcomes!

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, January 11, 2015

What do you know about God? -- John 5:39-47

What do you know about God? -- John 5:39-47
by Pastor Lee Hemen
January 11, 2015

I have known a lot of folks who were penny-wise but pound foolish. They knew a lot about a lot of stuff but did not have wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are two different things. Kind of like those who say they know God, but what they think they know and what they actually know are two very different things. And what many actually think they know about God is what they actually feel about God rather than the real truth of who God is. So, let me ask you, what do you know about God?

The Jewish people thought they knew a lot about God, but what they thought they knew was not true! They forgot what God had actually said and promised them and how he works within his creation and with his people. Jesus had just gotten through accusing his detractors that they had "never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor [did] his word dwell in [them], and the reason for this was simply that they did "not believe the one he sent." They refused to believe Jesus, God's one and only Son! What they thought they knew about God therefore was incorrect. This is why today we need to discover for ourselves what we know about God. Let's find out what John writes…

READ: John 5:39-47

Jesus reminds us in the gospel of John that…

I. The Scriptures help us to know God! (Vv. 39-42)

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.

  1. The Hebrews held the Word of God in high regard. So much so that they thought that by constant study of them they could deduce some secret or hidden meaning that would impart some kind of eternal blessing. There are those today who view the Bible in almost a cultic way in it becomes something they worship instead of the subject it is written for! The Bible contains the words of God and it points us to a greater understanding of who God is and how he communicates and works within his creation and with his people and why. Jesus retorted to his listeners, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life." However, simply studying the Bible or memorizing a multitude of passages does not give anyone eternal life. In fact in may not even make the learner any more close to God than if they had studied a encyclopedia or dictionary! If we memorize the Bile or study the Bible but it does not lead us to a knowledge of Jesus something is wrong with our due diligence. The reason was obvious for Jesus because " These are the Scriptures that testify about me." Every passage, every verse, and every word testifies to the Messiah, to Jesus Christ! "Yet" they refused to come to Jesus to have eternal life! Their myopic view of the Scriptures kept them from looking closer at Jesus and to come to him for eternal life! They loved to hear the praise of men who would tell them, "Wow, you sure know a lot about the word of God!" Or that "You sure can quote verbatim a whole lot of the Bible!" Jesus did not need or accept such praise and by their own example of how they worshipped Scripture instead of God, Jesus knew that they did "not have the love of God in [their] hearts"! How overwhelmingly sad. Yet there are folks today who want you to think they know a lot of Bible by their memorization, their adherence to ungodly teaching, or their misinterpretation to Scripture, but if they truly knew Scripture they would know Jesus! The Scriptures help us to know God!

  EXAMPLE: We can be so intellectually-minded or theologically-blinded that we are no heavenly good! Years ago when I was attending seminary I had a professor who was trying to complete his second doctorate in New Testament Studies and had written a book that focused on the philosophy of the New Testament. While this sounded interesting at the time he proved to be so intent on his book that he forgot what the Bible and the New Testament taught us. He had us reading so much material and discussing things that did not pertain to the New Testament, that I had to lead a group of student to protest his methods. He had been so intellectually-minded he lost all perspective of what he was supposed to be teaching! The Scriptures help us to know God!

There is more than just having fuzzy feelings about God, in fact we learn that…

II. Knowing God comes from following him! (Vv. 43-44)

I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

  1. How is it that folks are more than willing to listen to or accept the words of some "expert" talk about something they truly know nothing about? It is like listening to the late Carl Sagan talk about God when in fact he knew nothing about God! And in fact many of the things he believed about the universe are being proven wrong as well! Yet there are those who give way too much credence to someone simply because they have a PhD or some other initial in front of their name. Now I am not saying education is not a good thing, because I truly believe it is, but those educated in one area would do well to listen to others who know more about an area they know little about. This was the case in Jesus' day. He told his listeners, who thought they knew everything there was to know about God, that he "had come in [his] Father's name, and you do not accept me." The one who knew more about God, because he was God, than they did they were unwilling to listen to him! However, "if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him." We do the very same thing when we allow people into our homes, through the front door, TV, books or movies who say they know about God but their knowledge is suspect, ungodly or wrong! The Jewish leaders loved to give one another praise because of their position in life, their knowledge, or even because of their age. Yet, they did not desire what truly mattered. Jesus bluntly asked them, "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?" Those who say they love God should seek the love of God. Remember Jesus told Nicodemus, "I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? (John 3:11-12 NIV)" They should not be so concerned with the accolades of people but rather the praise of the one who created them in the first place! Knowing God comes from following him!

  EXAMPLE: It has always baffled me that people are willing to say they know God but they do not know the first thing about what the Bible teaches us about God. Far too many today want an easy believism or a quickie spirituality without any personal investment. Jesus would say that when we come to know him we must be willing to give up our life in order to follow him, "anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38 NIV)" In fact he told a man who declared he had kept all the commandments since his youth, " One thing you lack, go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Matthew 10:17-21 NIV)" Knowing God comes from following him!

Reading the Scriptures, the Bible, or walking with God help us to know him better, but we are to understand that…

III. Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus' words! (Vv. 45-47)


But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?

  1. Listening is more than just acknowledgement or nodding our heads in agreement. Listening comes when we actually act upon what we hear and apply it to our lives. One of the major problems the Hebrews had was the fact they refused to listen and acknowledge Jesus' words. So, John relates that Jesus tells them, "But do not think I will accuse you before the Father." He had already told Nicodemus that he had not come "into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world" instead (John 3:17). It was needless for Jesus to accuse the Jews. Moses, whom they claimed to follow and honor, would condemn them because they had broken the covenant of God he had established. In fact, Jesus tells them, "Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set." The Jewish leaders would say that their father was Abraham, meaning that was where their people came from, and that Moses was their spiritual leader where they had gotten the commands of God. Yet they had set their hopes on a false premise that if they diligently and methodically studied the commandments Moses received from God they would be blessed. Salvation for them came from their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, yet nothing could be further from the truth. Because of their spiritual blindness for thousands of years their people lived and died under a false premise. Jesus tells them, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me." Jesus did not come to do away with the law or the prophets, he came to fulfill, finish, and complete them (Matthew 5:17). Paul would teach that "it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Romans 2:13 NIV)" In fact he would later write, " "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV)" This is why Jesus would ask, "But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus' words!

  EXAMPLE: When I was young I had a hard time focusing on listening to what people were saying to me. I cannot tell you the number of times my mother would ask me, "Are you even listening to what I am telling you?" or she would declare, "You haven't heard a single word I have said to you!" For years I thought I was the only child who had this problem of focusing in this way, but then one evening we watched a Peanuts special and depicted there was exactly what I had experienced all of my youth! In the Peanuts cartoons when the adults would speak all one heard was, "Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah!" Perhaps this is what the Jewish leaders heard when Jesus spoke! If they did it was because their lives were not focused on who he was nor did they know God! Knowing God comes from listening to Jesus' words!

Conclusion:

The Scriptures help us to know God, knowing God comes from following him, and knowing God comes from listening to Jesus' words!

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, January 03, 2015

The testimony of the truth! -- John 5:30-38

The testimony of the truth! -- John 5:30-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 4, 3014

For a lot of folks, truth is relative. In other words truth is only true when it benefits them personally, however, this is not true! Truth is not defined by the moment, the era, social definitions, or our own desire to be happy. Truth is truth, period. In the movie Mary Poppins the main character sings a song to her charges to make things easier for them. The song is "A Spoonful of Sugar." The lyrics relate that anything, even hard work is better with the right attitude, however, far too many think that the truth should be delivered in the same manner, with a spoonful of sugar. They often sugarcoat it in order for it to be more palatable for their listeners.

Jesus knew that truth was relative as well, so-to-speak. In fact, he knew it because his Father was the author of the truth. But he did not change the truth to suit his needs or to make people feel better about themselves. The truth was who Jesus was because his Father was the truth. Jesus here in John's gospel gives us the testimony of the truth, let's discover what he teaches us…

READ: John 5:30-38

My father had so instilled in me that lying was one of the worst things a person could do that I never even attempted to do so. In fact, I was horrible at it. He often said that "the truth will find you out." We learn here in John's gospel that…

I. The truth is the will of God! (Vv. 30-32)

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. (John 5:30-32 NIV)

  1. Jesus continued on the theme he had begun with that by himself, as the Messiah in human flesh, "I can do nothing." And even though he has the authority to judge (v.27), he relates three things concerning his judgment: 1) he judges only as he hears from God, 2) his judgments are always just, and 3) he never seeks to please himself but only seeks to please his Father concerning the judgment he gives. Jesus' will is to do the Father's will. "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34 NIV)" What sustained and satisfied Jesus in his ministry was the fact that he was completely in God's will for his life. We can rely on this truth as well for our lives because when we are in the will of God, we can be confident in all we do with our lives. We know when we are not in the truth of God when we begin to cover up our faith, are embarrassed by our faith, or make excuses for our faith. Jesus would also relate, "The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him. (John 8:29 NIV)" Jesus knew that God never leaves us or forsakes those he loves. Jesus knew that if what he said about himself was only from him, it might sound like boasting, "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid." He also understood that the Jews wanted more than one source when someone was giving evidence about themselves and he bluntly remarks, "There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid." God testified concerning his Son, Jesus. Jesus was content to submit to the Father’s will and to let the Father authenticate Him. The truth is the will of God!

  EXAMPLE: David Roper writes concerning the will of God: "We’re often looking for God’s will—especially when we’re in a difficult situation. We wonder, What will happen to me here? Should I stay or does God want me somewhere else? The only way to know for sure is to do what He asks you to do right now—the duty of the present moment—and wait for God to reveal the next step. As you obey what you know, you will be strengthened to take the next step and the next. Step by step, one step at a time. That’s how we learn to walk with God. But you say, 'Suppose I take the first step. What will happen next?' That’s God’s business. Your task and mine is to obey this day and leave the future to Him." Jesus looked to his Father and allowed him to lead him. He did nothing without God's leading. He could do so because he lived in the truth and the truth is the will of God!

I have one of those new flat screen TVs where they measure the resolution in 780p, 1080p, or HD. I have come to the realization that the truth of my resolutions are often in sub-standard definition! Yet, through it all I have discovered that…

II. The truth is the light of God! (Vv. 33-35)

You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. (John 5:33-35 NIV)

  1. Jesus did not just depend on the testimony of himself or that of God the Father, he also reminds his listeners that John the Baptist’s function was that of a witness. He tells them, "You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth." A good witness tells the truth. John’s witness about Jesus had integrity. However, Jesus immediately relates, "Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved." Human testimony is dependent upon human frailties. We cannot see everything, we cannot hear everything, and we certainly do not know everything; but God does! Jesus knew that his listeners respected John the Baptist because of who he was, but Jesus did not necessarily need John's acceptance to be who he was or to say or do what he did. John's gospel began by telling us that John the Baptist "came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:7-8 NIV)" It was through the light of God that all men would believe and be saved. Jesus mentioned John's testimony about himself so his listeners would "be saved." Jesus' truth, his light burns eternally, but "John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light." John's light, his testimony, only burned for a little while and then Herod ended up killing him, but Jesus' testimony, his truth shines forever! John the Baptist was sent for the people’s benefit, however sinful people are in such darkness that they need someone to tell them what is light! "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5 NIV)" How interesting is it then when Jesus is in front of Pontius Pilate, who accuses him of declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (John 18:37 NIV)" The truth of God shone brightly in front of sinful man, but they were blinded to its truth! The truth is the light of God!

  EXAMPLE: One of the things we like to do when we go into the nearby Ape Cave is to turn off any lights. We are immediately engulfed in complete and utter darkness. You cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Just as it is hard to see in utter darkness, it is difficult for us to see the truth when we are in the darkness of personal sin. Sin blinds us to the light of the truth in our lives. Jesus would teach, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NIV)" We learn here that the truth is the light of God!

The problem with a new year is that it goes in one year and out the other! Kind of like our New Year's resolutions. We make them only to break them. How wonderful to know then that there is something and someone we can utterly depend on and that is Jesus. The reason is simply because…

III. Seeing is believing the truth of God! (Vv. 36-38)

I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. (John 5:36-38 NIV)

  1. Not only did Jesus have his own testimony, God's testimony and the testimony of John the Baptist but he also had " testimony weightier than that of John." Sometimes we are trusted and known not just by what we say about ourselves but in what we actually do with our lives. Our actions speak louder than our words. Jesus was also justified by the things he did. He relates, "For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me." The very miracles the Jews had such a hard time with because Jesus was willing to display God's compassion instead of their legalism, spoke volumes to who Jesus was. Jesus would later tell Philip, one of disciples who wanted Jesus to prove who he was, "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:10-11 NIV)" Earlier Jesus told his detractors, "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NIV)" When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and then died on the cross and rose from the grave, he testified to the truth of who he was! Isaiah the Old Testament prophet would declare concerning the coming of Jesus, "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:5-6 NIV)" Sadly, the Jews of Jesus' day were so calloused and hardened by sin they could not recognize who he was, but those of who do recognize Jesus for whom he is are blessed! Jesus retorted, "For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17 NIV)" This is why he said to those Jewish leaders, "You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent." The question this morning would be, "Do you see, hear, and recognize Jesus for who he is and will you give your life to him?" For Jesus, seeing is believing the truth of God!

  EXAMPLE: My Uncle and I were working in my grandmother's garden. I had been entrusted to weed it while he had worked on the other side of the house. When he came back he asked me how in the world I had gotten done so fast, then he realized I had just cut the tops off all the weeds instead of pulling them up by their roots. He informed me that a real man is not only seen by their words but by their work ethic as well. I learned that day that simply saying I did something carried little weight, but instead I was judged by what I had actually done. The legacy we leave in life is not just with our words but in what we do with our lives. We may struggle with believing in Jesus by what he said, but when we look intently at his life seeing is believing the truth!

Conclusion:

The truth is the will of God, the truth is the light of God, and seeing is believing the truth of 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.