Saturday, August 29, 2015

Humility! - John 13:1-17

Humility! - John 13:1-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 30, 2013

There was an old country western song by Mac Davis called, "It's Hard to be Humble." The chorus went, "Oh Lord it's hard to be humble, when you're perfect in every way. I can't wait to look in the mirror. Cause I get better looking each day." I wonder if our world today truly understands what it means to be humble. Humility is more than being nice or acquiescing your moral standards to be liked by others or being soft-spoken. 

Jesus was humble but he was not weak or effeminate. He willingly displayed his strength in his personal humility. Here in John's gospel we find Jesus actively displaying for his inner circle of disciples what real humility is all about. He would teach, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35 NIV) and that "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14:11 NIV) And here he not only teaches by his words but through his actions. Let's discover what true humility is all about…

READ: John 13:1-17

Humility is not something you necessarily practice because it first and foremost must come from the heart of God. It is forged in the love God displayed for us in Jesus and is acted on when the love of God overwhelms you to show his love to the world. I believe…

I. We discover true humility when we realize God's purpose is bigger than our life! (Vv. 1-5)

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

  1.  The final Passover feast for Jesus with his disciples was beginning and Jesus had so much more to share with them. His time was short now and John begins relating with us what occurred during this meal and it is so important for him that he takes the next five chapters sharing with us. John writes that "It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father." Here we discover again that Jesus knew his Father's plan. It speaks of God's predetermination and the working of his kingdom. It was time. Therefore, "Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." Love for the believer is to be more than emotional feelings. Love is a sacrifice of one's time, talent, or treasure. In fact, love can demand your very life! The word John uses is agapaō, meaning an active love and it also means that Jesus had shown his love for his disciples, was showing his love for them, and would do so in the future as well. The "full extent of his love" would be his death on the cross, but his full display of it was now going to be shown to them, even to the one who had already betrayed him -- "The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus." How could Jesus do this? How could he show his love? John relates, "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist." God's purpose was bigger than Jesus' life and while he lived he was willing to serve. He dons the simple clothing of one of the lowliest servant's jobs there was, a towel. "After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." It is one thing to teach humility through one's speech but quite another thing to show it through one's life. We discover true humility when we realize God's purpose is bigger than our life!

  EXAMPLE: We know that God loves us. We know he sent his Son to die for us on a cruel cross. We know these things but do we understand their purpose? Therefore believers should be more than willing to display their love for God and others by actively serving even those who do not love Jesus, those who would betray him. We know that the most important commandment of God is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength", but we often forget the second one which immediately follows which is "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:29-30 NIV) Jesus taught, "There is no commandment greater than these." This is why Jesus "poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." Whose feet are you willing to wash this week? We discover true humility when we realize God's purpose is bigger than our life!

Folks are always embarrassed by displays of God's love and often act in different ways. Some are humiliated themselves, some are surprised, and some are angered. I believe…

II. We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness! (Vv. 6-11)

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.

  1. Jesus begins to work his way around his disciples and "He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?'" Herein Peter's words we find the embarrassment of those who think of themselves as following God all of a sudden shown what that discipleship means. Peter, like many who are ignorant of what discipleship means is shocked that his master, his rabbi, his teacher, would stoop and wash his filthy feet! He knew in his heart of hearts that it should have been him who was washing Jesus' feet! Jesus tells him, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." And what is Peter's response? "NO!" "You shall never wash my feet!" In Peter's response is the seed of personal pride and thereby rebellion. He could not imagine Jesus washing his feet, he knew it should have been him, and so he responds in pride. Jesus tells Peter, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." What did Jesus mean? Some incorrectly think Jesus is referring to baptism and that this supports the false doctrine of baptism being part of salvation, but it does not. Jesus is referring to the washing of his blood in Peter's life. John would later write that it is Jesus "who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood!" (Revelation 1:5 NIV) Peter's pride gets in the way as it often does in the lives of those who are embarrassed by humbleness. "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Perhaps Peter sees his sin and all of sudden realizes he needs a through washing. Maybe this is why Jesus responds in the way he does by telling Peter, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." Jesus saw Peter's heart, just as he saw Judas'. While Peter would deny Jesus, he would not betray Jesus. "For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean." We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness!

  EXAMPLE: I have found it kind of humorous when those who find themselves the recipients of the love of God through the actions of others, are often embarrassed by it. We live in a country where many of us were taught that we are to depend solely on ourselves. We are more than willing to help others that need it but often refuse help when it is needed. When we find ourselves in need of help it is often hard for us to accept it. When Tillamook, Oregon experienced flooding quite a few years ago it was difficult for many of the farmers and their families to accept the help of our Disaster Relief Team and the Red Cross. Covered from head-to-toe with mud they would often at first decline our assistance, but then realize their predicament and accept a hot meal or a shower. The reason for this is pride and it is misplaced. We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness!

Realizing we need forgiveness of our sins begins the process of developing true humility in our lives. However, after our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior we are to imitate him, in fact we learn…

III. We discover true humility when we do as Jesus did! (Vv. 12-17)

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

  1. After showing his disciples how they were to be servants; "When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place." "A place for everything and everything in its place!" as my Mama would quip. Jesus knew his place and it was about seeking the lost and teaching his followers to do the same through their service. So, after giving his object lesson in humility the Lord questioned the disciples in order to draw out the significance of his lesson: "'Do you understand what I have done for you?' He asked them." He wanted them to realize that as his disciples they were to do as he had done and in fact this would become increasingly important after Jesus ascended and they would become the leaders, the teachers of the early church. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet." They would have to model Jesus in a sin-fallen world.  Jesus bluntly tells them, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." In fact, this is to be our understanding as well. Jesus set for us an example by what he did with his friends. For Jesus the truth is the fact that "no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him." If Jesus stooped to wash his follower's feet, we should be willing as well. We should be willing to serve others in order for the kingdom of God to be established. In order for others to come to know the Lord, we who are the followers of Jesus are to be servants of all. "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."  The truth for our lives today is that we discover true humility when we do as Jesus did!

  EXAMPLE: Humility is not necessarily found in the act, it is displayed in one's life. He was one of the humblest people I ever knew. Was it because he was soft-spoken? Nope, because he could be very verbally penetrating in his assessment of others and he was never afraid to let you know how he felt. Was it because he was sweet and often expressed concern for others? Not really. It was because he was willing. Willing to allow others to ask him questions and was never condescending in his answers, willing to serve when others needed him, and willing to come along side of you when you least expected it. He had the capacity to love others even when they did not love themselves. He never asked for a thank you. His name is Jesus. We discover true humility when we do as Jesus did!

Conclusion:

We discover true humility when we realize God's purpose is bigger than our life! We discover true humility when we realize our uncleanliness! We discover true humility when we do as Jesus did!

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, August 23, 2015

Believe! - John 12:44-50

Believe! - John 12:44-50
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 23, 2015

There are those who try to tear apart the theology of the Trinity, but when they do they do so at their own spiritual and eternal peril. While there are spiritual concepts we may never understand until we are face-to-face with Jesus in heaven, there are those that we must appreciate in order to realize who God is, why he sent Jesus, and how he acts in his creation that includes his relationship with us.

When I was little I thought that girls were gross; when I was a bit older I was tongue-tied and embarrassed to even speak to the opposite sex; when I got even older I knew I wanted one; and now that I have been married for forty years to the best of the best, I realize I could not live without her. All of this is to say that when I was younger and more immature I did not fully understand the relationship between guys and gals. Not that I fully understand it now, but I can honestly say I am a whole lot more informed than when I was little. Girls are not as gross as I through them to be. The theological notion of who Jesus is and why we must believe in him is also a process, especially when it deals with his relationship to us, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and his creation. Spiritual maturity comes with belief. Let's see what Jesus teaches us about this in John's gospel…

READ: John 12:44-50

The gospel is not a means by which you can have a happy life. In fact you will be condemned, judged, and hated for it. The gospel message is not a concept to be followed for five easy steps to a better life. In fact, you will find it difficult sometimes to follow Jesus where he desires. The gospel is not one of many wonderful messages given to us by ascended masters to make us realize our god-potential. In fact, many of us never realize the full potential God has created us for until we willingly submit to his purpose in our lives. Why is the message of Jesus so important? John relates that…

I. When you believe in Jesus you believe in God! (Vv. 44-45)

Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.

  1. The Proverbist asks, "Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?" (Proverbs 8:1 NIV) And that "Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares". (Proverbs 1:20 NIV) Here we find the wisdom of God in Jesus crying out in a loud voice to anyone who would listen to his words. He knew his time was short and he desired that folks would hear him and perhaps be drawn by God to listen to what he had to share with them. His words, like that of a town crier, someone who pronounced the news in olden times, were important for the crowd to hear and understand. Therefore, "Jesus cried out, 'When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me!'" Belief in Jesus is not a concept nor is it some altruistic proposition; belief in Jesus is a total commitment. Jesus was not asking his audience to make some mental acquiescence to his teaching; rather he was asking them to make a personal commitment to who he was. When a person believes in Jesus, he does not believe in him only, but in God who sent him! In fact, Jesus relates, "When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me." What Jesus was telling the crowd is that he is God and when they place their faith in him they believe in God himself! When you see Jesus you see God. When you hear Jesus you hear God. When you believe in Jesus you believe in God!

  EXAMPLE: I have often puzzled over those who struggle with the concept of the Trinity, especially when Jesus related, "When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me." And remember how the Jews wanted to stone Jesus because he emphatically stated, "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30 NIV) He also taught, "I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58 NIV) The writer of Hebrews understood what Jesus meant and reiterated, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Hebrews 1:3 NIV) The idea here is Jesus is God. This is why John would later write that Jesus "is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20 NIV) When you believe in Jesus you believe in God!

There is an old saying about when things get real in life that this is "where the rubber meets the road." Jesus did not come into the world to be a nice guy and to share with us how to be nice people. Rather, we discover that…

II. When you believe in Jesus you will not be condemned! (Vv. 46-48)

I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

  1. Jesus came into a world that was in the throes of ungodliness and sinful darkness. It was a world that loved its darkness and did not care for the things of God. It has not changed much. This is why the message of the gospel, Jesus' message is so extremely important. Jesus tells the crowd, "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." Jesus did not and does not want anyone to remain in sin. A life of sin leads to eternal death and separation from God. If we believe in Jesus, we will live in the light of life! Jesus then went on to teach that "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him." Jesus did not become a man and walk this earth to judge people's sin while he was here. They had the opportunity to decide if they would honor him as the Messiah or not and this would not bring judgment for eternal life. Instead after he suffered death on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to his former position of power at the right hand of God, then there he would judge the world. Jesus succinctly states, "For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." He came to bring salvation. However, Jesus warns his listeners, "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." The word of God, his words, his gospel message would judge the world. Later, Jesus would teach, "He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." (John 14:24 NIV) The words Jesus spoke were God's very words, his message of salvation for mankind and should not be ignored. On the last day, when you believe in Jesus you will not be condemned!

  EXAMPLE: One of the things Jesus taught was the fact of eternal consequences. He told his enemies, "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24 NIV) Jesus also taught Nicodemus, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18 NIV) John the Baptist told his disciples this truth concerning Jesus, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36 NIV) While God loves us and sent Jesus to die for us, he also hates sin and we are sinners by nature and by choice. His love is displayed through Jesus and his wrath is always against sin. This is why Jesus taught that in the final judgment, "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:41-42 NIV) This is also why Jesus taught, "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." (Luke 12:5 NIV) How wonderful to know then that when you believe in Jesus you will not be condemned!

I had a mainline denominational pastor tell me, "All you Baptists preach about is salvation!" I was at first offended, but the more I thought about it the more I not only agreed with his assessment, I wholeheartedly endorse it! The reason is simple…

III. When you believe in Jesus you have eternal life! (Vv. 49-50)

For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

  1. Christians are to be about their Master's business and his business was seeking and saving the lost. He has given us his command to share the good news everywhere and with everyone we can. Matthew relates that Jesus' last words were, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Mark wrote Peter's recollection of Jesus' command to, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15-16 NIV) Luke was told that Jesus shared with his disciples, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:46-48 NIV) And even Paul wrote in his book of Acts that Jesus' final words before he ascended back to heaven were, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8 NIV) Why? Because the message was eternal life! This is why Jesus finished this bit of teaching here in John's gospel with the caveat, "For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it." The message of God, salvation, is the most important message there is. All other messages, religious teachings, or pithy quotes pale in comparison. God commanded Jesus on what to say and how to say it! Jesus emphatically retorts, "I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." Wow! God's gospel truth! When you believe in Jesus you have eternal life!

  EXAMPLE: The truth of the gospel is found in Jesus. He told the doubting crowds, "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40 NIV) And of course when he taught Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to him at night, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV) Jesus knew that God's command, his purpose for Jesus, the gospel, leads to eternal life. When you believe in Jesus you have eternal life!

Conclusion:

When you believe in Jesus you believe in God! When you believe in Jesus you will not be condemned! When you believe in Jesus you have eternal life!

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, August 16, 2015

The Praise of Men - John 12:37-43

The Praise of Men - John 12:37-43
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 16, 2015

There's a saying that states, "Different strokes for different folks and some folks need a lot of strokes." I have always found it disconcerting people need constant affirmation for every little thing they do. The need for constant affirmation has created a self-indulgent and narcissistic generation. Of course this is nothing new; there have always been those who love the accolades of the adoring crowds, even if it is forced. It has been likened to a narcotic and those who become hooked need their fix often. Starlets, politicians, dictators, and now even the more common folk look for ways to be recognized, adulated, revered, and remembered. Instagram and Facebook postings that record our every waking moment, and the regurgitation our lives on the Tweetersphere are all part of this self-absorbed lifestyle. We love the praise of others, the praise of men.

In fact, many of us live in fear of losing the praise of others. Some in Jesus' day did. Let's find out what happened and why we should not be concerned for the praise of men…

READ: John 12:37-43

Jesus never craved nor cared for the phony praises of others in order to sooth his own ego. He came to seek and save the lost and that is exactly what he would do. Sadly, not everyone could see Jesus for who he was and in fact, we discover that…

I. The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah! (Vv. 37-38)

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"

  1. John is incredulous. He simply cannot believe that the crowds, the Pharisees, and others would be so calloused in their thinking. I believe John is referring perhaps to the miracles which were done at and around Jerusalem. Those which brought Nicodemus to Jesus, the cure of the lame man at Bethesda's pool, the giving sight to the man born blind by anointing his eyes with clay and sending him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead at Bethany, which was within two miles of Jerusalem -- and yet "Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him." However, John realizes there is more at work here than recognition by the adoring crowd, he understands "This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: 'Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'" The crowds and the religious pundits of the day could not understand the miracles because they did not understand God! There are those who think God should only work only as they see fit. Anything outside of their preconceived notions of what they think God should be or act it totally unbelievable to them! Isaiah the Prophet had remarked on this very thing! People refuse the message of God when it doesn't fit their preconceived notions of God! Isaiah asked this question when he wrote his prophecy concerning the coming Messiah after realizing that many would not believe God's message! Like many do today, Israel would not understand the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Now least you misunderstand, they deliberately decided not to believe in the message of Jesus! The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah!

  EXAMPLE: You would think that folks would use more critical thinking than they do, but they do not. People are more motivated by their emotions than their critical thinking skills and in fact, most schools no longer teach critical thinking. This is why politicians use catch phrases of hope or patriotism rather than the truth to garner votes. This is why some will promise their significant other anything just so they can get what they want out the relationship. What is truly sad is that if you sat folks down and asked them to think clearly and rationally about the choices they are about to make with their lives rather than using their emotions, most folks will still choose their emotions! I used to think if I came up with the ultimate argument or I could answer every question concerning the gospel, then everyone I came into contact with would believe. Then I realized that there are those who know the truth and simply decide not to believe it. I now realize I am only responsible for giving the message and not how it is received. The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah!

John continues to explain his nation's unbelief. As incredible as it sounds, we must never forget that the unwilling are unwilling because God desires it. And here we discover that the praises of men were so much noise because…

II. The unbelieving constantly reject God's message! (Vv. 39-41)

For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.

  1. John tells us that the reason his people could not and would not believe in Jesus as their Messiah was that they "could not believe"! We find this difficult because we think humans are the epitome of everything there is; after all it is all about "me" right? We have the ability to decide for ourselves whether or not the claims of Christ are true or not, right? Except we forget one major attribute of God, namely, he is omniscient. God is all-knowing. The Bible teaches us that God created everything, including time and space, that he has no beginning or end, and that a thousand years is like a day to him. God knows our coming and goings, when we lie down or get up, and he knows every moment of our lives before we are even born! So why is it so incredible for us to understand: God already knows who will believe in him and who will not believe in him? And in fact we know for certain that God has hardened the hearts of people like Pharaoh in the face of tremendous displays of God, he has hardened the hearts of kings, rulers, the religious, and the non-believing for his purposes. Now you may ask, "Why?" Because he already knows how these folks will respond and if these totally degenerate folks could ultimately be given some sort of second chance they would still want God on their terms! Sinful man does not like being reminded they are in need of a Savior; this is why, "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them." We learn from John that "Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him." The unbelieving constantly reject God's message!

  EXAMPLE: In flying there are those who have lost their lives by flying directly into the ground. The same holds true for some scuba divers who get disoriented and drown. What do I mean? Well, they trust what they think they see and what they think their minds are telling them, only their brains are giving them the wrong message. The same holds true for those who willingly give their lives over to the world's message of self-reliance. We think we have to "do" something in order to "earn" our way into the heart of God. The Bible makes it plain that there is nothing we can do to earn the grace of God in our lives, it is by faith we are saved otherwise we would boast about how much we did to earn it. We bore into the ground or misjudge the surface thinking we know so much more than God does. Are you one of those who do? The unbelieving constantly reject God's message!

The Apostle Paul is a good example of how a man's heart can be hardened to the point he does not believe what he hears or sees. Holding the cloaks of those who would stone to death the beautiful man Philip, he would later meet his Messiah as he went on a terror to destroy Jesus' early church. And so here in John's gospel we discover that…

III. Even the fearful of heart can find faith! (Vv. 42-43)


Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

  1. We discover that within these sad lines of John's gospel there is a tiniest glimmer of hope. A little light flickers in the darkness of the heart of the Israelite nation. The NIV says "yet" the KJV and NASB uses "nevertheless" and others simply state "even then." This small word brings such hope. Yet, yet there were some. "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him." While they were willing to give Jesus some credit for his miracles and teachings, they still held back. They believed but they also liked their positions of authority. They feared that their contemporaries would think differently of them if they publicly declared Jesus as the Messiah, so they secretly believed. Real men don’t believe in Jesus. Church is for my wife, it is her thing. Jesus is for cowards or the uneducated. How in the world did these stupid notions gain any ground in God's church? Simple, we give more value to what others think of us than what God does! The words of our so-called friends mean more than the wonderful truth of God in our lives; and the things of the world burn within our souls brighter than the truth of Scripture. We fear man more than we fear God. "But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." It is time for the fearful of faith to step out of the shadows and give their lives to Christ! Even the fearful of heart can find faith!

  EXAMPLE: The term "stand and deliver" is an old phrase from dueling whereby the combatants were challenged to "stand and deliver." It was also a phrase used by 17th century highwaymen (robbers) in the UK, when holding up stagecoaches - literally "stop and deliver me of your money". Highwaymen were also known as "bidstands". The phrase appears frequently in drama/literature and is as much a stock device of a highwayman as a parrot, eye-patch, and peg leg are for a pirate. Yet we also discover it is used for those who need to stand and give the right answer to the question asked of them. In the movie, "Stand and Deliver" is the true story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout prone students to learn calculus. When giving their answers, they had to "stand and deliver." There will come a time when all people will have to "stand and deliver" what they believe about Jesus. Today might be your day to do so, and dear child just remember that even the fearful of heart can find faith!

Conclusion:

The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah! The unbelieving constantly reject God's message! Yet, even the fearful of heart can find faith!

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, August 09, 2015

Greeks at the Feast! - John 12:20-36

Greeks at the Feast! - John 12:20-36
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 9, 2015

The comedy classic Animal House was a sex, booze-ridden, crass, and sometimes funny movie from 1978. In 1962, college freshmen Lawrence "Larry" Kroger and Kent Dorfman seek to join a fraternity at Faber College. Finding themselves out of place at the prestigious Omega Theta Pi House's party and rejected by other houses, they finally visit the slovenly and riotous Delta Tau Chi House, where Kent's brother was once a member. Larry and Kent are invited to pledge. Filmed for $2.8 million, it is one of the most profitable movies of all time, garnering an estimated gross of more than $141 million in the form of theatrical rentals and home video, not including merchandising. It was filmed at the University of Oregon in Eugene and in Cottage Grove, Oregon. In one scene they have a Toga Party, which made these types of riotous affairs ever famous afterwards.

Here in John's Gospel we discover a group of Greeks wanting to get together with Jesus. Not for a Toga Party but rather more than likely to find out if he was indeed the Messiah and what transpires is interesting. Let's discover what occurred the day there were Greeks at the feast…

READ: John 12:20-36

The Greeks at the feast precipitated several things and the first being that…

I. Jesus' time had come! (Vv. 20-27)


Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.

  1. This is a section of John's gospel that has intrigued theologians and commentators for centuries. There are three main views concerning these Greeks: That they were new converts of Judaism who came up to worship God at Passover; that they were Jews, who lived in Grecian provinces, and spoke Greek; or they were Gentiles, non-Jews who never knew God and hearing of the Temple and the miracles of Jesus, came to offer sacrifices and to worship according to the manner of Israel. I believe they were the first because we discover "They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee." Bethsaida was a city in which the tetrarch Herod Philip II was raised to the rank of a polis in the year 30/31, and renamed it Julias, in honor of the wife of Augustus. It lay near the place where the Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee. Therefore, Philip's name being Greek, the location of where he was raised, plus the inclusion of John using the term Hellane kind of points to this notion. They came to Philip because they wanted to see Jesus. "Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus." For some, Jesus responds in a curious way, however, if we look closely at what he says, it follows with these folks being Greek converts. Now the non-Jews were coming to discover who he was, so his "hour has come" for the Messiah, "Son of Man to be glorified." His glorification will be his death, burial and resurrection. "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." The kernel of Jesus dying would produce the gospel making many seeds. If they wanted to know Jesus, they needed to fully understand that "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." It was a total commitment, not just some spiritual itch needing to be scratched. Knowing his time had come, Jesus remarks, "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." Jesus' time had come!

  EXAMPLE: The American Crisis is a pamphlet series by 18th century author Thomas Paine, published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution. There are sixteen pamphlets in total. The first of the pamphlets was released during a time when the Revolution was still viewed as an unsteady prospect. Its opening sentence was adopted as the watchword of the movement to Trenton. The opening lines are as follows: "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." Thousands of years before Thomas Paine, the young teenager Esther heard from her uncle when she wanted to simply hide away and not be affected by the happenings going on around her, "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14 NIV) And now, here in John's gospel, when the Greeks come to the feast and want to find Jesus we discover that Jesus' time had come!

The Greeks at the feast also made the final act of Jesus' life coming into play and we discover that…

II. Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself! (Vv. 28-33)

Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

  1. Jesus' whole purpose in life was to honor God and now it was reaching its fulfillment. We do not understand this kind of commitment. In fact, many in our day would equate it with radical religions, which would be entirely wrong. Jesus was committed to his life's goal because that is why he came to earth in human flesh. When we decide to follow Jesus our lives are no longer ours, they are the Lord's. We have fallen into the ungodly misconception that our lives are ours to do with as we darn well please. Sure, we give God a few minutes on Sunday, but the rest of our time is our own. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is why Paul would admonish, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV) This is why Jesus prayed out loud, "Father, glorify your name!" He wanted God to be completely honored by his life. God reaffirms Jesus' commitment vocally so all could hear, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The unbelieving crowd thought it was thunder and the superstitious thought it was an angel. Jesus knew what and who it was. God had glorified himself through his Son and would continue to do so. "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out." God was going to judge his people, the Jews for their unbelief and he was going to completely destroy Satan's ability, literally, the ruler of this world, to influence God's people again. In the Rabbinical writings "prince of this world" was a common designation of Satan, as ruler of the Gentiles, in opposition to God, the Head of the Jewish theocracy and he was now driven out because of Jesus! In fact, when Jesus was "lifted up from the earth" he would "draw all men", Gentile and Jew, to himself! As Paul would later affirm, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV) Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself!

  EXAMPLE: We live in a day where the first penetrating question many want answered is, "What's in it for me?" Sacrifice is seen simply as having an emotional connection or feeling apathy for someone or something else. Getting people to be kind or simply civil has been reduced to making a myriad of laws and regulations. We no longer teach self-sacrifice but rather entitlement instead. Political correctness has replaced common courtesy and has created hypersensitivity. Jesus was not about being liked or political correctness. He lived his life for God the Father and what was pleasing to him. This is why he would tell others, "I always do what pleases him." (John 8:29 NIV) what would happen if this were the motto and lifestyle of those who followed Jesus? Perhaps we would see our world changed? If we live for Jesus shouldn't we be drawing people to him? Jesus reminded his followers that the world would know we were his disciples by the way we treated one another. Here in John's gospel we discover Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself!

The Greeks coming to speak with Jesus shown a spiritual light had come into the world and now…

III. The light of Jesus would be gone! (Vv. 34-36)

The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, "The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?" Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

  1. The unbelieving crowd was incredulous at what Jesus had just told them because they had a distorted view of what and who the actual Messiah would be. The crowd of the day was often influenced by the spiritual fad of the day, kind of like many of today's Christians. They falsely regurgitated the spiritual misconceptions that had tickled their ears, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?" There was no part of the law or Scripture that said the Messiah would not die; but rather there are several passages that say the Messiah would suffer and die, especially Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. They incorrectly thought this because God had promised the Messiah's reign would be forever so they thought he would live forever on earth as well. The Messiah remains forever because he is Jesus, the Son of God, part of the trinity. The Son of Man, the Messiah would in fact be lifted up on a cross and suffer and die for the sins of mankind. The crowd was working from a spiritual misconception, and therefore spiritual darkness, as to who the Messiah was and what his ministry would be. Jesus tells them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going." They should listen and understand now while they have Jesus with them because soon they will not enjoy the light of God in their midst and in fact they would be influenced by the spiritual darkness of their leadership. He bluntly tells them, "Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." But they would not do so, and so "When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them." The light of Jesus would be gone!

  EXAMPLE: While you didn’t see it, feel it, or even read about it in the newspapers, Earth was almost knocked back to the Stone Age on July 23, 2012. It wasn’t some crazed dictator with his finger on the thermonuclear button or a giant asteroid that came close to wiping out civilization as we know it, though — no, what nearly ended us was a massive solar storm. Over three years ago our sun kicked out one of the largest solar flares and coronal mass ejections ever recorded. And it missed Earth by a whisker. "If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," says Daniel Baker, who led the research into the massive solar storm. They are saying we are due for a big time EMP, electromagnetic pulse, hit from the sun. If there is a big enough solar flare it would disrupt communications and electronics worldwide. It would effectively make the world go dark electronically. The world was going to go dark spiritually for a bit when Jesus died on the cross. John relates that after the Greeks came for the feast, the light of Jesus would be gone!

Conclusion:
The Greeks at the feast precipitated several things occurring all at once: Jesus' time had come! Jesus glorifies God by drawing all people to himself! The light of Jesus would be gone! Now, let me ask you, are you just someone who is interested in Jesus for the moment or are you willing to make a life commitment? Are you just a Greek at the feast?

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, August 01, 2015

Jesus Enters Jerusalem - John 12:13-19

Jesus Enters Jerusalem - John 12:13-19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 2, 2015

Living in a small town like Wenatchee growing up we used to get excited when the Fair used to happen each summer, but imagine how excited we were when we found out that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus was coming to town! Sure, we had seen the Shrine Circus and the Wenatchee Youth Circus, but now there would be actual animals like elephants, lions, tigers, and bears… oh my! And they would have a big parade downtown! Everyone for miles around came to the parade.

Now imagine living in an area that has seen, heard, and some had experienced the ministry and miracles of Jesus. Can you imagine what would happen if the folks heard he was coming to the Passover in Jerusalem, especially after raising the man Lazarus from the dead? Needless to say, hundreds of thousands of people would come for the Passover in Jerusalem, and even more would try to see, hear, or experience Jesus if he came as well. However, there were those who were not as excited to see or know that Jesus would be there for the Passover. Let's discover what happened when Jesus entered Jerusalem…

READ: John 12:12-19

"And the crowd goes wild" is an expression we often hear during sporting events, but for a religious occurrence, hardly ever. Yet John describes for us that…

I. Jesus entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowd! (Vv. 12-16)

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, "Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey's colt." At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

  1. A wild enthusiasm over Jesus broke out. Thousands of pilgrims had come to the Passover, and evidently they had seen some of his miracles. Previously Jesus had rejected the role of a political Messiah but perhaps the crowd thought now was the right moment to declare Jesus their king. Jerusalem was the city of the great King and Jesus, the Messiah, was coming into it. Waving their palm branches, symbols of victory, the people were shouting "Hosanna!" “Hosanna” in Hebrew means "Please save" or "Save now". Notice they also prematurely shout, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!" Thinking Jesus would declare himself as their ruler. Of course Jesus kind of reinforced this notion by finding "a young donkey" and riding in on it to the acclaim of the adoring crowd. Jesus and the disciples were approaching Jerusalem from the east as they came up the road from Jericho. When they reached the town of Bethphage east of the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples ahead to find a donkey. All four gospels testify about this. Was Jesus actually trying to declare himself king of Israel or did he have something else in mind? I believe the latter. John related that it was a direct representation of what the Prophet Zechariah foretold which contrasted with Jesus’ coming when he declared, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9 NIV) Sadly, even his closest associated missed the point to what was occurring. Hindsight is better than foresight and they had not experienced Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection yet, so, "At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him." Jesus entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowd!

  EXAMPLE: It is exciting to go to some sporting events. At hockey games you hear the pipe organ sound play the familiar chords datta-duh-duh-da; at basketball games you get the announcer who yells, "Are you ready for this?!!!" At football games you hear the build up right before the team comes through the tunnel with smoke, fireworks, and cheerleaders! And well at soccer games you get horns blowing, people dancing the conga, and all sort so weirdness. But would you expect that at a religious celebration? I have read where Billy Sunday used to come out onstage by doing back-flips and I have heard and read where some mega-churches do some pretty weird things with tigers and live animals, but really? Can there be a false crowd-induced atmosphere? Certainly, and curiously here in John's gospel we discover a celebratory mood as Jesus entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowd!

However, not everything was as it should be with the entire crowd. In fact, we find that…

II. Jesus entered Jerusalem to the disdain of the leadership! (Vv. 17-19)

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"

  1. Not everyone was so enthusiastic over Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. In fact, some saw it as a threat to their way of life, their power structure, and their own personal influence. The crowd, like most herds, was oblivious to the machinations of the Jewish leadership. John writes, "Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word." Not the word of God, the gospel, but rather the word that Jesus, the one who had raised Lazarus, was coming to town! That perhaps Jesus was indeed the proclaimed Messiah coming true! The size of the crowd kept growing. The news that Lazarus rose from the dead spread through Jerusalem and the area, and others surged out to see Jesus and proclaim him king of the Jews. It was a moment of great popular and emotional acclaim, but sadly like many of the people today they had little spiritual perception or depth. Rather motivated by the crowd mentality and the emotion of the moment, they readily rushed out to meet Jesus. Crowds are easily swayed and the Jewish leadership knew this, just like many dictators, politicians, and preachers. John comments, "So the Pharisees said to one another, 'See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!'" When one who enjoys their prestige loses their influence they always lament in the extreme. However they knew that the crowd would emotionally follow for the moment the one they wanted and their hard won schemes were getting them "nowhere." Now they lament, "Look how the whole world has gone after him!" In the immortal words of Snidely Whiplash, "Curses, foiled again!" Jesus entered Jerusalem to the disdain of the leadership!

  EXAMPLE: It is hilarious to watch some people and how they respond to different things. The expressions folks get on their faces over things they do not like or do not want to see. There are whole YouTube videos devoted to babies, children, and adults and how they respond to different situations. The Fine Brothers have created a whole plethora, which means a large variety, of these popular videos. Go figure. I like the ones where kids react to old computers or dial phones. You should see what I see sometimes on Sunday mornings and how some the congregation reacts. Not all of these reactions are good. And we discover that John related that Jesus entered Jerusalem to the disdain of the leadership!

Conclusion:

Jesus entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of the crowd! Jesus entered Jerusalem to the disdain of the leadership! Now how will you react to Jesus this morning, with disdain or acclaim?

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.