Saturday, March 26, 2016

Resurrection! - John 20:1-9

Resurrection! - John 20:1-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 27, 2016

We are at a spiritual crossroads in history. We live in a day and age whereby folks do not use critical thinking but rely on their instinct or passion. This is dangerous because we are then motivated to think that what we feel is more important than facts. Or worse, that we can distinguish what is right or wrong in life simply by how it feels to us. From personal relationships, what we believe in, or to whom we vote for is a matter of feelings and not what we truly know. We end up hurt and confused when our emotions have steered us in the wrong direction.

The resurrection is not a matter of emotion or personal feelings. It is a historical physical fact. This is why later when Mary is crying by the empty tomb and the angel rebukes her by reminding her of the facts, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" (Luke 24:5-7 NIV) And later here in John the angel bluntly reminds Mary to stop relying on her emotions by asking her, "Woman, why are you crying?" (v. 13) As believers or seekers we must come to the realization of the fact of the resurrection because if we do not we are still standing outside of an empty tomb that has no effect on our lives. Therefore this morning let's look anew at the resurrection.

READ: John 20:1-9

When people die and you put them in their graves, contrary to any TV fiction, they do not get up and walk around! The dead stay dead! Except in the truth of the resurrection! In light of what occurred we must first ask…

I. Why is the tomb empty?! (Vv. 1-2)

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"

  1. Now there are some pretty nifty sleight of hand arguments concerning which Mary was where at what time. However, I believe we have to take each one as they were written realizing that the authors were remembering the event as it was told to them or as they saw it for themselves. John relates what he remembers that "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance." It was early Sunday morning, probably right before the sun rose and the sky was still dark but the dawn of the new day could be seen. We discover that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb first. We know from other accounts that she was with other women who wanted to finish the burial preparation of Jesus' body. Her gratitude and devotion to Jesus came from her deliverance from bondage to Satan. She had been an observer at the cross and now was one of the first folks at the empty tomb. She saw Jesus die and evidently knew where he was buried; now the heavy stone had been removed from the entrance! Mary does the first thing she could think of, "So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!'" Mary knew the tomb was empty but did not realize why and could only think of the logical answer, someone had taken Jesus' body! Why is the tomb empty?

  EXAMPLE: Go into any grocery store and Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, or WinCo and you would find aisles of Easter eggs, cards, candy, baskets, bunnies, chicks, Peeps, and chocolate this or that. Yet you would not find the one thing that is most important part to all of Easter: the empty tomb! Easter is not found in bunnies, eggs, baskets, or Peeps. It is discovered in the fact that several thousand years ago folks found the tomb where Jesus' dead body was laid empty. It therefore begs the question for us every Easter, "Why is the tomb empty?" Paul knew full well that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead"! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20 NIV) The tomb is empty!

Hindsight is always 20/20 but when you're in the thick of it one's vision can become very myopic indeed. As the facts of the empty tomb just keep coming and what is revealed makes one wonder…

II. Where is the body? (Vv. 3-7)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

  1. Whether Peter is bewildered or he simply suspects what has happened is not at first clear, but he does the one thing most of us would do, "Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb." Peter and John "Both were running." Both understood the importance of the news Mary had brought them and as they head to the tomb where Jesus' body was laid to rest, the younger John, "the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first." Being younger perhaps John was fearful of defilement of entering a tomb or perhaps he was afraid of what he may or may not find inside. John therefore, "bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in." Whatever the reason, "Simon Peter, who was behind him," and being older and more impulsive "arrived and went into the tomb" while the hesitant John waited outside in bewilderment. Peter also "saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head." In fact we know this is an eyewitness account because of the detail described by John. Peter saw exactly how the burial cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head was lain aside and how neatly "The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen." The burial cloths were there but the fact remained, where is the body?

  EXAMPLE: Where is the body? It was a natural question to ask. The Radio Bible Class relates, "No element in the Easter story is more troubling to unbelievers than the report that the followers of Jesus found the tomb empty that Sunday morning. Some simply deny it, saying that the women and others went to the wrong tomb. Others think that Jesus was not quite dead when He was buried, and somehow He revived and got out of the tomb—even though the Roman soldiers had declared Him dead (John 19:33), an eyewitness saw blood and water flow from the pierced body (v.34), and His body had been wrapped tightly with strips of linen containing 100 pounds of spices (v.39). In the first century, even Christ’s enemies agreed that He had died and the tomb was empty. They bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole His body (Matthew 28:11-15). Jesus rose from the grave in a real body, and that means everything to us. When a Christian friend or loved one dies, we can be confident that we will meet again. The body may turn to dust, but God will not forget it. It will be transformed into a body perfectly designed for heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-50). This is not wishful thinking. It is an expectation based on solid evidence." Where is the body? Happily it was not there!

Courage is often found in the strangest of circumstances. Here we discover John found his and…

III. Believed! (Vv. 8-9)

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

  1. John in succinct fashion relates how he had gotten to the tomb first but was either too fearful or awestruck to go inside. What he had seen from the outside of the tomb was curious and so he just had to go in as well. "Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb, first, also went inside." What he saw inside of that tomb changed his life forever. John had run to the tomb out of curiosity, concern, or fear that someone had stolen Jesus' body. John had run to the tomb merely as a disciple of an itinerant rabbi, but came away a true follower of Jesus. Believing there was a Jesus and believing in Jesus are two different things. John had loved Jesus' teaching, he had loved and followed Jesus the man, but now he had to believe in Jesus the Messiah. And not just in a Messianic-type person but in the actual resurrection of Jesus the Messiah! The Living God! The first born! The King of kings and Lord of lords! Jesus was no longer just a good teacher; he was John's Master and Savior. However, John's personal notation tells us that both he and Peter "still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead." But now they did! They believed!

  EXAMPLE: When the dark day of Jesus’ crucifixion drew to a close, it seemed that the most wonderful of all lives had come to an end. For a few brief years, Christ had astounded the crowds and His followers with the wisdom of His teaching and the wonder of His miracles. But Jesus chose not to save Himself from the cross, and now His life was over. It seemed that nothing more could be expected of Him. Hope returned, however, on that first resurrection morning. A painting by Eugene Burnand portrays Peter and John running to the tomb. Shortly after dawn, Mary Magdalene had told them that she and her friends had found the tomb empty. In Burnand’s painting, the faces of Peter and John show contending emotions of anguish and relief, of sorrow and surprise, of despair and wonder as they race toward the tomb. Their gaze is eagerly fixed forward, turning the viewer’s attention to the sepulcher. What did they find? An empty tomb—the Savior was alive! Christ still lives. But many of us go from day to day as if He were still in the grave. How much better to look beyond the empty tomb to the One who can fill our lives with the power of His resurrection!  (RBC, Living With Expectation, March 27, 2004) They believed!

Conclusion:

Why is the tomb empty? Where is the body? They believed!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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, March 19, 2016

Hosanna! - Matthew 21:1-11

Hosanna! - Matthew 21:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 20, 2016

We all get excited about different things. For some it is sporting events where the crowd is worked up over the home team; for others it is rock concerts, musicals or plays while still others get excited about a newly released movie and campout overnight just to be the first in line to purchase a ticket. Whatever the reason we can get excited over different things. But what if you had heard that someone was coming to your town that had the ability to cure disease, raise the dead, walk on water, or turn that water into the finest wine? What if you had heard that this man could be the answer to all your prayers and the fulfillment of prophecy and thousands of years of longing? (And no it is not Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders!) What would your anticipation be like then?

Jesus has reached the final days of his earthly ministry and everything from this point on builds to a final crescendo like the final movement of a symphony where each group is playing their part of the musical score, or in this case, the plan of God. As Jesus enters into Jerusalem the crowd goes wild and exclaims, "Hosanna!" Let's discover what this means for us this morning…

READ: Matthew 21:1-11

While Robert Burns wrote a little ditty to a field mouse lamenting that the best laid plans of mice and men often go "a-gley", meaning wrong, we can rejoice because…

I. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God! (Vv. 1-3)

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."

  1. The time had come and the final acts of the grand theater of Jesus' life were coming to a quick ending. Now he and his disciples head toward Jerusalem, now they are on the road to his final destination, and now he is accomplishing the plan he set forth since the creation of the world. Matthew relates "As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples" on ahead of him for a specific task. Jesus had told them over and over what would occur and why, yet they still did not comprehend their part. They did not understand that the plan of God would be fulfilled no matter what and they were to be a part of its climax. Jesus and the disciples were approaching Jerusalem from the east as they came up the road from Jericho. They come through the town of Bethphage on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives and though all four Gospels share about Jesus' Triumphal Entry, only Matthew mentioned a donkey's colt. Jesus tells them their part is to "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." Interestingly we discover that there are those whose names we never hear about who had minor roles in the plan of God as well. Who owned the donkey and its colt and who were those who spoke to the disciples? We are never told. Yet, all of these folks were part of the final act of God's perfect plan! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God!

  EXAMPLE: During this time of political prognostication there are those who plot and plan and scheme in order to garner our votes. They promise the moon, a fence, or free college education but what they truly want is the power and recognition of the position they seek. They try to buy our votes with a promise and a prayer of hope. They would take from those who have something and give it to those who did not work for it. They would hope to abuse our good nature and our desire for answers to further their own agendas. How totally different then is the Son of God as he rides into the city of Jerusalem. The Prince of Peace wanting to bring the peace of God to all who would accept him as savior and Lord. The schemes of man cannot compete with the plan of God! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God!

If we are told what we are to receive as a present beforehand, it kind of spoils the surprise. Here we read that the Israelites were told over and over what God had planned all along and still they were surprised when it occurred. Matthew reminds us that…

II. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets! (Vv. 4-7)

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, "See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.

  1. Matthew, in hindsight, knew why it happened the way it did: "This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" It was from Zechariah, "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) This was not the normal manner in which conquering kings arrived, for usually they came in riding on horses or in chariots. A little colt was a symbol of peace. The phrase having salvation denotes that he would come as a Deliverer, as the one to give salvation to his people. Jesus' peaceful entrance was fulfilled when he presented himself to Israel in triumph as he entered Jerusalem just as the prophet foretold! Perhaps some of the disciples at the time understood the significance of this gesture of Jesus; however we find that they were still kind of clueless as to why Jesus had come and why he came in peace. Luke describes how even after Jesus' resurrection and right before his ascension they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6 NIV) He came to bring the peace between mankind and God, not between men and men. He tells them, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." (Matthew 24:6 NIV) Whatever was going through their minds at the time no one knows, but we see that "The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them." Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets!

  EXAMPLE: "I will come home", he had told his family. Over and over as he prepared for his tour of duty he reminded them that he would come home -- after all, he promised. However a promise is not a promise kept until it is fulfilled. His wife knew and his children sensed that this might be one promise he could not keep. It was dependent upon so many factors: The violence of war, the uncertainty of life, and the hatred of mankind toward one another. And yet, months later, almost a year had gone by, and a dark-colored car pulled up outside of their home and out of the vehicle stepped their father and husband just as he had promised! As he hugged their necks and kissed their cheeks he exclaimed to them, "Didn’t I promise you I would come home?" And he did just as he promised. Since the time of Adam and Eve God had promised to send mankind the answer to their sin condition. And now he had. Unlike the uncertainties of a manmade promise, God's promises are always sure. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets!

Hope against hope the folks had longed for an answer from God for their condition. But what they needed and what they wanted were two different things. God saw their need, not their want. In this we discover that…

III. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people! (Vv. 8-11)

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

  1. As I said before, when something exciting happens a large crowd often forms and gets excited about what is going to occur. People talk and gossip spreads like wildfire. It was the biggest festival of the Hebrew calendar in their holy city of Jerusalem and now the one who claimed to be the coming Messiah was headed into Jerusalem! And not in some sneaky backhanded way, he was riding in on the foal of a donkey! Was he the coming king? Was he the Messiah? Who knew, but no one wanted to miss the spectacle! So we discover that "A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road." The disciples brought the animals, threw their garments on them to make simple saddles, and people in the large crowd spread their cloaks and tree branches on the road! So caught up were the people that "The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Hosanna in the highest!'" It literally means "Save (us), we pray!" Interestingly it is from the Psalms, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar."(Psalms 118:22-27 NIV) So, in light of the crowds and excitement they brought with them; "When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, 'Who is this?' The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee!'" They were not sure who Jesus was but they were hopeful of who he might be! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people!

  EXAMPLE: It looked like a bicycle from the way it was wrapped and she thought it might be a bicycle because she had been asking and asking for one for such a long longtime. Could it be, was it a bike just for her? In anticipation she unwrapped her gift, she threw aside the wrapping paper, the pretty bow and ribbon, and there before her eyes was a bicycle! Her hopes and dreams were fulfilled. While the shouting crowd did not fully understand the significance of this event, they seemed to be acknowledging that this Jesus is the promise of the prophets who had come to grant them salvation. Both their actions and words display their hopes for this one coming into the city presenting himself publicly as their King. Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people!

Conclusion:

Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the plan of God! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets! Hosanna, Jesus fulfilled the hopes of the people!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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, March 12, 2016

The life of Christ - Philippians 3:7-17

The life of Christ - Philippians 3:7-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 13, 2016

The Game of Life, also known simply as Life, is a board game originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley, as The Checkered Game of Life because the game board was set up like a checker board. The Game of Life was America's first popular parlor game. The game simulates a person's travels through his or her life, from college to retirement, with jobs, marriage, and possible children along the way. You spun a six-sided top; dice were seen as gambling, to move to your space. Two to six players could participate in one game. The modern game was introduced in 1960 and consists of a track on which players travel by spinning a small wheel (in the center of the board) with spaces numbered 1 through 10. You collect a spouse, kids, jobs and cash as you head around the board.

Of course the real "game of life" which one lives is a lot more complicated. However God has given us a way to live our lives in Jesus. As easy as it sounds it is a whole lot more difficult than we often imagine because good and bad things still happen to those who live in this sin-fallen world. Faith in Christ does not do away with the day-by-day effects of sin in creation. Paul describes for us how believers can live the life of Christ. Let's discover what this means for each of this morning…

READ: Philippians 3:7-17

Human beings can become so captivated by their successes in life that they lose sight of what life is all about. Paul brings us back to earth, so-to-speak when he teaches us about our life in Christ. Paul teaches us that…

I. A life in Christ begins with faith! (Vv. 7-9)

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

  1. Paul, as a believer in Christ, was not only a pragmatist he was also a faithful realist. He knew whom he followed and why his life had been changed so dramatically. This is why he wrote, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." Paul did not dwell on his past life. This is good advice for all believers. Far too many of us stay spiritually stunted because we either stay focused on our past flaws or think we should elevate our past life in order to elicit some kind of spiritual notoriety. Shame on us! Paul reinforced this by stating "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." When we come to Jesus we sacrifice ourselves, all that we are past, present, and future. "Everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Now that Jesus is our master and king everything in our life is to be considered "rubbish", literally human waste, that we "may gain Christ and be found in him". This is extremely important. We often forget who and what our focus in life is to be and it isn't to be ourselves. Why, because when we focus on ourselves, what we gain, what's in it for us; we become self-centered and myopic in our lives. Everything begins to revolve around us and our happiness and it becomes a shallow reflection of what we are to be as God's children. We are "not to have a righteousness of [our] own" that comes from following a set of rules or regulations, like "the law" but rather "that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." A life in Christ begins with faith!

  EXAMPLE: What is faith? Is it a wish I may, a wish I might? Some in our world today think so and equate it with wishing upon a star or believing in fairies, but this is not the case. The Christian's faith is squarely placed in the facts of history and the assurance of who Jesus was and is. Jesus is not some made up person nor a myth based speculation or supposition; his life, death, and resurrection were seen by hundreds of folks, testified to by his enemies and friends alike, and written about by those who followed him and those who wrote about the contemporary history of his day. This is why those who walked with him, saw him, and were changed by him can say with absolute certainty, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see… Let us 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 11:1; 12:2 NIV) Where is your faith is placed this morning? A life in Christ begins with faith!

Shinning like stars in a sin-darkened world is impossible if we are trying to do so through our own effort or resolve. We will fail. Paul understood that…

II. A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! (Vv 10-14)

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

  1. Paul's answer was that "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." We all want the "power of his resurrection" but few of us desire the "fellowship of sharing in his suffering". This is understandable; few folks want that kind of suffering in life. Yet, God came as a man to experience our hardships himself and to suffer and die for us. In this we know God now intimately understands our sufferings in this life. Peter would remind us that "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:21 NIV) We obtain our resurrection through our faith as we live our lives for him who saved us. Paul was well aware that in this life we are often weak in our will to totally follow Jesus, so he confesses, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." While his life in Jesus was imperfect, he knew he was perfect in Jesus and he could therefore "press on to take hold of that which" God had called him to in this life in Christ. It was a daily effort for Paul like that of running a race: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." We can only press on as we forget what was in our past. What Paul meant here is that like a runner we do not concern ourselves with what was behind us, we look forward to the obstacles and rewards ahead. God knew we could never forget our sufferings, but do not have to dwell there with them in the past. We have a new life in Jesus that encourages us to move forward. A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God!

  EXAMPLE: A life without a goal is a life blowing in the wind of circumstances; it is blown away by whatever comes along. I often ask the fifth graders what their goal in life is. Some do not have a clue, while others already have a plan they are willing to follow. The Christian's goal in life is to be like Jesus. Paul would bluntly write, "We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." (2 Corinthians 5:7-9 NIV) A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! What is your goal this morning?

As we run life's course with Jesus we focus on what is ahead. And as we do we soon realize that there is one running ahead of us encouraging us onward to the goal of God. Paul knew that…

III. A life in Christ follows him! (Vv. 15-17)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

  1. Paul was desperately trying to get these new believers to focus on their new lives in Jesus and not their old lives nor the things they would face as they followed Christ. He writes that in fact "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things." Interestingly, Paul’s salvation experience had taken place about 30 years before he wrote these words. He had won many spiritual skirmishes. Paul had matured spiritually in those years, but he candidly confessed he was not a perfect disciple of Jesus. He also knew there would be those who while in the trenches of a spiritual battle would be at odds with what Paul was teaching them. Saying is one thing, doing is another. And so, he writes that "if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you." Paul trusted God to make it clear to those who doubted Paul as long as they followed Jesus. The greatest need among believers is to live up to what they already have in Christ. James, Jesus' brother, would write, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4 NIV) This is why Paul tells the Philippians, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Paul would also write the Ephesians, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV) Believers are to be examples to others in the world and to those we walk with in Jesus. We are to "Join with others in following [Paul's] example… and [we are] take note of those who live according to the pattern" Paul and others who are mature in Jesus gave us! A life in Christ follows him!

  EXAMPLE: I have often told the story of how when I was little, like a lot of small children, I would walk in my father's footsteps. Here's what I mean: When we would walk in deep snow or on the beach in the soft sand, I would follow my dad and try to take the same stride as he did and try as hard as I could to walk in his footprints. Later, when he became crippled and walked with a cane, I learned that while he could not take the same strides he used to, he was still the same person that I would often try to live up to. John would write, "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:6-7 NIV) Who do you follow this morning? A life in Christ follows him!

Conclusion:

A life in Christ begins with faith! A life in Christ is run to gain the goal of God! A life in Christ follows him!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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, March 06, 2016

The selflessness of Christ - Philippians 2:14-18

The selflessness of Christ - Philippians 2:14-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 6, 2016

With every weed pulled I grumbled, "Why did I have to do this today? It's Saturday, I want to go play with my friends. This stinks! I hate weeding!" My father overheard me and reminded me that I should willingly give up a part of my Saturday to do the work because my mother needed it done. By weeding I was helping her use her time better and it displayed a selfless act. Of course being eight-years-old I didn't care about being selfless; selfishness is an eight-year-old's creed! Sadly, it seems the eight-year-old credo has infected many adult Christians as well.

If we are to truly understand what Jesus did on the cross, we have to understand Jesus himself. Last week we discussed Jesus' humility and his being God. We also talked about how our attitude is to be the same as that of Jesus. Here in the next few verses we discover just how unselfish Jesus was and we come to realize what following him means for our lives as well. Let's discover how this morning…

READ: Philippians 2:14-18

I cannot figure out why we still do daylight saving time. We do not have to get up with the sun and go to sleep with it anymore and wouldn’t it be far better to just permanently switch to one hour later and leave it there permanently so we could enjoy more daylight while driving to and from work? In fact this might work for the Christian! Here's what I mean: Perhaps we need to adjust the Christian's daylight savings time as well? Paul teaches us that…

I. A disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world! (Vv. 14-16a)

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life--

  1. Discipline is a lost word in our society; whether it is disciplining our children or ourselves, it seems as if we do not care. Parents want schools to raise their kids but woe be it to any school that dares to discipline little Johnny for being the selfish, rebellious, and disrespectful little cretin they have raised. Jesus bluntly told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23 NIV) In fact later Jesus would reiterate, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26-27 NIV) and Paul would remind us that if indeed we are saved then we would understand that "It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age".(Titus 2:12 NIV) Few in our day understand this and even fewer live it. Jesus was not teaching self-deprivation or one's withdrawal from the world; rather he was trying to show us that following him costs; even sometimes our own personal desires of the moment. That is why Paul writes that like Jesus we should "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation". It is a "depraved generation" that only looks out for number one first. Literally he meant grumbling and fighting for the believer is not just unseemly; it is downright disgusting. We as believers are to be faultless innocents in a perverse world "in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life"! Wow! For Paul a true star was someone willing to live for Jesus, not some grandiose nitwit that decries global warming while holding a gold-plated tin statue, and then leaves in his personal limo and flies away in his private jet to one of his several mansions. Paul teaches us that a disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world!

  EXAMPLE: It is amazing to me that the Creator of the universe made such wonderful things as lightening bugs. These tiny little critters carry within their itty bitty bodies the ability to light up the night with their rear ends as they try to attract a mate. Like tiny little stars they shine in the darkness doing what God created them to do. Why is it so difficult for believers to do the task God has given them? I believe it is because we have forgotten what our part in God's plan is all about. And while Jesus did come to save us individually, he also left so that the world would come to know him through us. Like those lightening bugs we have a God-given purpose. We are to live such good lives in a sin-darkened world that we shine like stars! A disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world!

It used to be that when a child messed up the parents were embarrassed, especially if it was done in public or at school. Not today; in fact many want to find another scapegoat to blame other than themselves or their child for the problem. Yet, whether you like it or not your children, to some degree, are a reflection of you. Sure they can make their own choices, but they did learned how from the likes of you. This is why Paul taught…

II. A disciplined life brings joy! (Vv. 16b-18)

--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

  1. There was an old rock song that went, "It's my life and I'll do what I want!" It has become the personal anthem for most in our nation. We live in a day and age where we actually think that a bellicose billionaire with a bad hairdo is a rebel or a self-aggrandized wife of a womanizer socialist elitist can sympathize with the common man! The reason is because people are frustrated with those who make promises but never deliver. Paul desired that believers shine like stars in a depraved sin-darkened world because folks needed to see the difference between a life lived for Jesus and one lived for the moment. He wanted to be encouraged by them when he wrote, "in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." Paul did not want his work in their lives to be in vain nor did he want the world to see that a life in Jesus meant nothing! Paul understood that the only gift he left behind in his life was one of mentorship. This is why he told the Thessalonian Christians, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19 NIV) Like Isaiah he did not want to confess to God when he saw him face-to-face, "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing." And like Isaiah, Paul knew that his "reward is with my God." (Isaiah 49:4 NIV) His joy was first and foremost found in his faith in Christ and then those he had discipled! The wording here means either to "hold out" or "hold firmly." The former fits better here. It was used in secular Greek of offering wine to a guest at a banquet. As the Philippian believers held out the word of life to others, Paul would then be able to boast that he had not labored in vain. In fact, Paul knew that even if he was "being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from [their] faith", he could be "glad and rejoice with all of" them! A disciplined life brings joy!

  EXAMPLE: When I was struggling with a certain piece of music during orchestra practice our conductor would rap his wand on my music stand and declare, "Discipline Mr. Hemen, disciple!" Later when I was attending boot camp our chief drill instructor would yell at us, "Discipline, gentlemen, is the first step to order in life!" The idea of discipline in the life of a musician or sailor is so that every member of the orchestra or unit will function as they should; each doing their part so that the whole piece can come together or so that the entire ship can function smoothly. Too many believers in our day and age have forgotten that we are not just individuals in Jesus; we are to function as the body of Christ -- His church. This is why Paul would write the Corinthians, who were a selfish lot, that "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:26-27 NIV) A disciplined life brings joy!

Conclusion:

A disciplined life shines in a sin-darkened world! A disciplined life brings joy!

This article is copyrighted © 2016 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.