Sunday, November 29, 2015

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

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

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

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

READ: Isaiah 9:1-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving! - John 17:1-13

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

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

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

READ: John 17:1-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Overcome the world! - John 16:16-33

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

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

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

READ: John 16:16-33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

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

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

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

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

READ: John 16:1-15

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.