The Blessing of Brokenness

THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS by Pastor Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Blessing of BrokennessWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and as of last week we are in our miniseries on the Sermon on the Mount called “Salt and Light.” Today we will look at the first Beatitude and our message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF BROKENNESS.”

Matthew 5   1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Overall Background: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The first beatitude is very important for us to understand. It sets the tone for the rest of the Beatitudes. To be honest, it sets the tone for the Christian life. The principle behind that verse is “the way up is down.” It goes contrary to everything in our human nature. We think that the way up is up. As Emerson said, “Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star…” As a naturalist, he was talking about harnessing the power of nature but the point still stands that we as human beings think that the way up is by hitching our wagon to a star. Not so in God’s eyes. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Men and women throughout the ages who got this truth got the heart of God and lived a life of blessing.

Application: Which way is up for you? If you want to go with God, the way is down. Do you want God’s blessing in your life? Are you willing to be broken? That’s good not bad.

By the way, this principle is not only true in our relationship with God but also in our relationships at home, church, and community. Men and women, boys and girls who truly live by the principle “the way up is down” bring blessings every where they go. In fact, they become the salt and light in their circle of influence. They season and brighten their world for the better. If there’s anything our nation and our world needs right now is a healthy dose of “the way up is down.”

Three important questions we will ask about this beatitude:

1. WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN? 

Background: Several times in Matthew we see Jesus using the term the “kingdom of heaven.” Ay the way, it’s no different than the “kingdom of God” in Mark, Luke, and John. For some people the kingdom of heaven/God was an earthly rule by the Messiah – something that would set them free from their Roman rulers. For other people the kingdom was the ultimate rule of God in the end of times. It was a future ideal rule of God with his people. When Jesus used that term He was talking about something quite different. It was something more internal than external. It was something right now and not just out there in some distant future. It was something that was more eternal than temporal. In Matthew 13 Jesus gave many parables to explain it’s meaning –

  • 24 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
  • 31 “…The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
  • 33 “…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
  • 44 “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
  • 45   “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…”
  • 47   “the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind..”

Even though Jesus tried again and again to explain the meaning of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples they still didn’t get it. In fact, even after his resurrection in Acts 1:6 they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” I can picture Jesus shaking his head when he said in verse 7 “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But then he made the statement that holds the clue to the meaning of the kingdom of heaven – 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The kingdom of heaven/God has to do with the Holy Spirit.

Why didn’t Jesus just come out and say it during his ministry? As John 7:39 says, “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” They were not ready for the Holy Spirit. It would’ve been too confusing for them. He said a few things about the Holy Spirit – the comforter – the focus was still the cross.

So what is the kingdom of heaven/God? It is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior.

Romans 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you in the kingdom of heaven/God? Are you living in the power, control, and direction of the Holy Spirit? How do you get into this kingdom? Matthew 18:3 “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

2. WHO ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT?

Background: When we hear that phrase “poor in spirit” we immediately think of someone who is down on life, downcast, melancholy, and gloomy. Someone kind of like Eeyore – “Good morning Pooh Bear, if it is a good morning, which I doubt.” “It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.” As someone said, “People like that brighten up a room just by leaving it.” They’re always fishing for sympathy. That’s not what this is.

I think to truly understand the meaning of “poor in spirit” you have to think the opposite of “rich in spirit” – someone who is rich in self or full of SELF – self-confident, self-assured, self-reliant, self-made, self-centered, self-righteous, self-seeking, self-preserving, and self-sufficient. In other words, they are SELFISH. It may be a lot or a little but they are rich in their spirit.

“Poor in spirit” is just the opposite. These are people who have very little of self. They’ve come face to face with their abilities, weaknesses, and limitations. They’ve come to realize that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. They truly believe that they are unworthy and undeserving. Please don’t misunderstand – it’s not that they have a poor self-esteem; they just have a proper esteem of self. It’s not that they’re insecure but they realize that their security is not in self. In fact, many of them are very rich, very talented, and very successful. It’s not about that. The poor in spirit are simply grateful that God and people think as well of them and treat them as well as they do. Just like the poor when they get that dollar they’re grateful.

How do people get this way? It’s the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s called the breaking process – breaking our self down and replacing it with his self. He does it in many ways –

  • He does it through the teaching of the Bible. In Matthew 18:4 Jesus said “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Messages like this remind us of how much we are to humble ourselves before God and how much we are to let him control our lives.
  • He’s does it through our pain and our circumstances. Not always but sometimes he uses our needs and suffering to remind us of our poverty. 2 Corinthians 12 Paul said 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  • He does it through the examples of other people. I remember growing up and missionary by the name of Dr. Fred Schelander. He was a mentor to my dad. He lived next door and would eat with us almost every day. He was a scholar in biblical languages. He translated of the Bible into Marathi. I used to sit on his lap and he would read books to me. I’ve never met a man so “poor in spirit.” One time a man came to him begging for some shoes. Keep in mind – the British used to rule India and some of the officers were quite hateful. But when this man asked Dr. Schelander he immediately began to take off his shoes. The man thought that he would beat him with his shoes for daring to ask and he took off running. Dr. Schelander had to chase him down and beg him to take his shoes.
  • He does it through our sin life. In his prayer of repentance, David said in Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.”

Application: Are you rich in spirit or poor in spirit? Has God taking you through the process of brokenness? If the kingdom of heaven is about the Holy Spirit, how much is he controlling in your life?

3. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

Background: The Greek word for “blessed” is “makarios.” It comes from the Hebrew word “asre.” We are more familiar with the Hebrew word “baruk,” which means “blessed by God.” If it was “baruk” here then the Greek word would have been “eulogetes.” But “makarios” from the Hebrew “asre” is not restricted to just being blessed by God. It has a wider meaning. Yes – it does carry the connotation that God looks at you favorably but it doesn’t stop there. I think the best translation may not be literal but it communicates the sense best. It is something like “You’ve got it good” or “You’ve got it made.” You bring blessing to others. When people come across you they’re not threatened by you or your self. Instead, they are drawn to you and they want to know the secret of the hope that is within you. They want to know how they can have a life that is not controlled by circumstances. They want to know how they can have a life that is directed by God. They want to know how they too can be blessed.

Our brokenness not only blesses us but also blesses those around us. By the way, this has always been God’s way as Paul says in I Corinthians 1 27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

The way up is down so that God gets the glory.

For e.g. I remember as a little boy going to a small village in India where we had planted a church. Those Christians lived in these tiny huts, no bigger than 10X10. They had hardly anything. Then in the evening we would have worship and preaching and it was amazing to watch them sing. They sang from their hearts. They sang as if they had it made!

For e.g. I also remember a very wealthy man in our church who sat on the floor with those village Christians and worshipped with them.

Application: How do you look at your life? Are you looking down at yourself because things don’t seem to working out as you wished they would have? Have you lost hope and become skeptical because it’s not all sunny in your life? Are you surrendered to the Holy Spirit and His work of brokenness in your life? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you being the Salt and Light to people around you?

Salt and Light: The Myth of a Secular Nation

SALT AND LIGHT: THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

saltandlightWe are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we come to Matthew 5 to what Augustine called the “De Sermone Domini in Monte” = Sermon on the Mount – the passage in which Jesus gave the Beatitudes, the Six Antithesis, the Lord’s Prayer, the Golden Rule, and other important principles of the Christian life. With that in mind, today we will begin a long miniseries titled, “SALT AND LIGHT – THE MYTH OF A SECULAR NATION.” There is something in this series that is very vital for our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, and our nation.

Matthew 5:13-14 (Click to watch video of reading by the Mount of Beatitudes)   13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: You may not know but the Sermon on the Mount has been discussed and debated ever since it was first written. As early as the first century we know of a document called the Didache that tells us that the early church struggled with how to obey such high standards that Jesus gave to His disciples and to the multitudes. People throughout the centuries have questioned if it was even possible to apply these rules and could it be that they were meant for another time and another place. Some people claimed that this passage was only meant for those who lived before the cross and that Jesus did not expect them to obey them but was just showing them how God’s standard of holiness was too high and how much they needed His grace in their lives. Others claimed that the list of righteousness and holy living has nothing to do with the past or the present but with the future millennial kingdom. In other words, there has to be an ideal environment for this high standard to be achieved.

So what do we do with the Sermon on the Mount? Do we just skip over it? I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is for every Christian of every generation. When you truly study this passage in its context you realize that Jesus did not give this sermon just to make us feel helpless before the holiness of God or to make us feel hopeful for some future Kingdom of God. He meant this sermon to be obeyed by all believers of all ages. There are some powerful truths embedded in these verses – truths that will change the way we live the Christian life, truths that will bless our homes and our families, truths that will change the way we function as a church, truths that will transform our community, and truths that will change the direction of our nation.

The Sermon on the Mount is a kind of Christian life that not only brings personal blessings but it also transforms the world around us. It’s not a life that runs from the world or a life that compromises with the world but a life that seasons and brightens the world around us. Daily I come across people who are either fed up with the world or fearful of the world. The Sermon on the Mount challenges us to live in such a way that the world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in heaven.

Application: Do you think we need this kind of a Christian life? Do you think our community needs this kind of a life? Do you think our nation needs God’s blessing? Are you being the salt and light in this world? Let’s ask a deeper question – are you saved?

This morning we won’t look at just one passage but several passages from the Sermon on the Mount. We will set the foundation for the rest of the series. If we get this message, we will get the rest of the series. 3 things stand out in this Sermon:

I. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF ISOLATION FROM THE WORLD. 

Matthew 5 1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them…

Background: Some people think that this proves that Jesus did not want the multitudes. “He saw the multitudes and went up the mountain with His disciples.” Not true. Let’s go to the end of the sermon in 7 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 8:1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. This was not a private lesson just for the disciples.

How did the multitudes find Him? Let’s go to the verses immediately preceding the sermon on the Mount – Matthew 4 23 And Jesus went King of Kings Sermon on the Mountabout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people…25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

Bottom line: The multitudes did not find Jesus. He went and found them. One of the problems in our churches is that we are either running from the multitudes or we are waiting for them to find us. We like to talk about how bad the world is and how far we have come and how things are not what they used to be. Sometimes we’re doing everything we can to keep the world out. Make no mistake – we need to stay away from worldliness but not stay away from people. There’s a big difference. Jesus was not worldly but He loved people. He went out and met the needs of the people and then people followed him.

This does not mean that He was naïve about the multitudes. What kind of people were in the multitudes? Matthew 4:24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, (What do sick people do? They moan and groan and complain.) and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Do you think some of them fussed with each other? Do you think some were greedy, lustful, critical, and demanding? Of course! Ministry is messy. Jesus did not consider the crowd to be a burden. Sometimes we tend to think that the crowd is a burden. You’ll hear things like – “We got too many people here now.” “I don’t know every body anymore.” “It’s hard to keep up.” “I liked it when it was small.” Jesus loves this! It’s for the people that He came.

If Christianity is going to survive in America, it will have to go to the multitudes and that will be messy but that’s all right. God has not called us to isolation. He wants us out there seeking and saving that which was lost.

For e.g. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, learned from George Whitfield that if change were to come in England, they would have to go outside the church to fields and the docks and the markets. At first Wesley didn’t like it. He was too traditional. But on April 1, 1739 Wesley preached to a group gathered on Nicholas Street. Guess which passage? The Sermon on the Mount! He was chastised by church leaders but listen to what he wrote in his journal on July 11, 1739: “Permit me to speak plainly…God in Scripture commands me, according to my power, to instruct the ignorant, reform the wicked, confirm the virtuous. Man forbids me to do this in another’s parish; that is, in effect, to do it at all, seeing I have now no parish of my own, nor probably ever shall. Whom then shall I hear, God or man? “I look upon all the world as my parish…” England was riddled with immorality, skepticism, atheism, and the coming of Wesley saved it. He went to the people. We’re looking for new ways to grow our churches. Maybe we need to try the Jesus way!

Application: What do you think about the multitudes? Do you run from them? Do you spend your time criticizing them? Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and save them? If not, step out of the way and let others do it.

II. JESUS DID NOT CALL US TO A LIFE OF COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD 

2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Background: Just when you think that Jesus would laugh over sin, He raises the bar. Sometimes we think that in order to win the world we have to become like the world. Nothing is further from the truth. In the weeks ahead I’ll be preaching on each of these beatitudes. Let me just tell you – the Standard is high, very high!

Here’s more – 4 Blessed are those who mourn, (Some were complaining) For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, (Some were proud) For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (Some were hungering for the things of this world) For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, (Some were bitter and hateful) For they shall obtain mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, (Some had hidden sins) For they shall see God.

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If we want God’s blessing in our lives, it has to be the way of holiness and righteousness. We can’t go around that. In fact in Matthew 5:20 Jesus says to them, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees and the scribes at a high standard but Jesus said – “Your standard better be higher then theirs if you want to get to heaven.” Then He goes through a series of “You’ve heard it said… But I say to you.” Regarding Anger – 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Regarding Lust – 5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Nothing destroys our testimony before the world than hypocrisy and hidden sin.

Application: How is your sin life right now? Is there hate in your heart? Is there anger in your life? Is there unforgiveness towards someone? Is there lust? Is there greed? Are you having trouble seeing God? Could it be because “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”

III. A LIFE OF BLESSING AND RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT TRANSFORMS THE WORLD.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

Background: Just when you think Jesus is only interested in our personal spiritual lives He makes a statement that I feel is one of the greatest passages in the entire Bible. Salt seasons our food. It makes it worth eating. But if the salt loses its flavor then it is worthless for the food. It has to be thrown away. People just walk over it.

Christianity is being trampled upon in America. It’s because Christians have lost their flavor.

Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

For e.g. As you know, Nicole and I went to Israel in January. One thing that really got me were the ultra Orthodox. They reminded me of the Pharisees and the scribes, maybe not in every aspect but regarding tradition. These people wear black robes, black hats, and black shoes. They have long sideburns and they’re constantly doing their Torah reading and mumbling their prayers. They are an oddity. They’re different. They’re strange. They’re judgmental. I asked our guides about them and both of them had some not so nice things to say. Both our guides were Jewish but secular Jewish.

I thought about our churches in America and Christians in America. In some ways, we have become an oddity. We have become different and strange. By that I’m not saying that we are different as in God’s people different but different as in old, outdated, harmless, naïve, flavorless, and “matter of time before they’re extinct people.”

Jesus went on to say in verse 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt. He notes that “Christianity and Christian influence on the government was primarily responsible for outlawing infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); outlawing the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); outlawing the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); instituting prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); stopping the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; outlawing pedophilia; granting of property rights and other protections to women; banning polygamy in the Western world; prohibiting the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlawing the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuading government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advancing the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlawing slave trade and slavery.

I’m amazed at how some Christians have been backing away from the public square when we should be the ones taking the public square. The reason we have the freedom we do and the blessings we do is because this nation was founded to be the salt in the light of the world. The reason we are compassionate towards people, animals, the less fortunate, the ones who are sidelined, and abused is because of Christianity. We have been beneficiaries of someone else’s faithfulness. Much has changed. Either we are hiding our light or we have a false light or we have no light.

When you and I begin to live the way Christians were meant to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the life of Christ in us, with the word of God on our lips and in our hearts, we become the salt and the light of the world. Do you want to know why the world and America and our community is in such a mess? Stop blaming Hollywood. Stop blaming the politicians. Stop blaming the atheists and the sexually immoral. They’re just living by their nature. Start looking in the mirror. If our Christian lives were what they were supposed to be, this world would be a better place. If we were teaching our children how to live the blessed life, they would be the change makers in our society today.

It’s not too late. Today’s the day to begin. First, if you are not saved, you need to get saved right now. Let’s go a step further – what are you doing right now to impact our community? What are you doing to make this 30-mile radius the best place on earth? Are you praying for our nation? Are you getting involved in politics? It’s not enough to preach the gospel. It’s also important to impact the culture. This is not just so we can keep preaching but also so that our society will remain civil, kind, compassionate, and blessed.

By the way, what did Jesus say in the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Meaning: The very first thing that we are to pray for after glorifying God is for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

How To Beat Death

HOW TO BEAT DEATH? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtobeatdeath-page-001Today we are celebrating Easter Sunday. It commemorates the day Jesus rose from the grave. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “HOW TO BEAT DEATH.” Unless Jesus comes for us first, death is coming to all of us.

Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Overall Background: If you ever want to kill a conversation, mention death. If you ever want people to avoid you, bring up the subject of death. Most people are afraid of death. One evidence of that is the number of euphemisms we have come up with for death – Bite the dust, kicked the bucket, passed away, is in a better place, R.I.P., etc. Bottom line: people don’t want to face the great unknown, the great beyond. The Bible has the most balanced view of death. On the one hand, it deals with the reality, finality, and brutality of death but, on the other hand, it also reminds us that death doesn’t have to be an enemy, it’s not final, and it is in fact the beginning of another life that never ends and its wonderful! It does that not by giving us cute euphemisms but hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that through Jesus we can beat death.

Application: Are you afraid of death? If you don’t know Jesus, you should be. Saying – “What will be will be” is not enough because God has provided a way to decide how you will spend your life on the other side. To ignore what God has to say about life after death is to insult Him, reject His work, and bring His judgment upon us. Are you saved?

Three questions we will answer in this passage that will teach us how to beat death.

I. DID JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH?

Background: When you start talking about the resurrection of Jesus to people who don’t believe the Bible, you get the following responses:

  • It’s an ancient myth found in various religions (Gnostic redeemer, Mithras, or fertility cult) and Christianity is no different. The problem with that is that there is zero parallel in ancient history of a human being to have died and come back to life and reappeared to people who knew him.
  • Some since the nineteenth century have claimed some rationalistic explanations for Jesus’ resurrection – Jesus never truly died. He just swooned. When someone says that, I like to say “How about if we were to flog you 39 times and then drive nails through your hands and feet, hang you on the cross which would dislocate your shoulders and you go into a hypovolemic shock. Then after you die pierce your side with a spear and break your legs. Then take you down and wrap you in a burial cloth, place you inside a tomb, and roll a big stone over it. What are your chances of getting out?!!”
  • Yet others claim that it’s a bunch of stories the disciples made up to cope with Jesus’ death or the church is behind it? The disciples themselves stole His body or they went to the wrong tomb or it was just a case of mass hallucination or it was just a spiritual experience. How do we answer that? Let’s just read the text and see if there are any clues that prove that the Bible is telling the truth and the disciples didn’t make this up and that Jesus actually did beat death. There are many.

Let’s look at a couple:

  • Luke 23   50 “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member…”
Garden Tomb 3

Garden Tomb Outside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

This is referring to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem – the supreme court of the Jewish people made up of 70 members and one High Priest.

“…a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, (Maybe Northwest of Jerusalem) who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.”

What a great risk? Not just for Joseph of Arimathea but for the gospel writers to mention this man’s name, position, and the town he came from! All I have to do is prove that he is not a member or from the town of Arimathea.

  • Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them…

If I were making up the story of the resurrection, I would have chosen the high priest who happened to be in the area or Pilate who was out for an early morning ride or even one of the male disciples who were the first to witness the empty tomb. Instead, verse 10 “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.” Women were not considered a legitimate and credible testimony.

  • Luke 24 1 “…came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”

The disciples were not even expecting the resurrection. They came early to probably avoid any confrontation with those who had killed Jesus. They brought spices to embalm Him because as far as they were concerned, it was over.

  • Luke 24 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And Matthew adds in Matthew 28  2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

Earthquake? It means everybody in the vicinity felt it. You are setting your self up big time if it didn’t happen.

We can go on and on from other passages but the point is clear – something extraordinary happened to the dead body of Jesus. It came back to life. The proofs are too many! The evidence is leaning heavily towards the fact that Jesus beat death. The disciples died believing that Jesus had risen. Nobody does that for a hoax, not a group.

Application: Do you find it hard to accept that Jesus beat death? Is it because you have examined the evidence or are you just repeating what you heard on TV or in a class or read in some magazine article? It’s too important to dismiss casually.

II. COULD JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH? 

Background: This is a deeper question. Although the written evidence shows that Jesus beat death and came back to life, the greater question is – “Is this even possible?” “Can human beings come back to life?” The overwhelming evidence says “No.” People die and that’s final. That’s why we have cemeteries and graveyards. Muslims have their “kabaristans,” Hindus have their “shamshan ghats,” Parsis have their “Tower of Silence,” and Native Americans have their “Burial Mounds.”

Death is universal unless you’re not human. Then, you’re not bound by death.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Who was Jesus? We know that He was a human being because He died. But He was more – Listen to verse 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. (Matthew tells us that they were angels.) 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

The key phrase here is “Son of Man.” Some people think that Son of God refers to Jesus being God’s Son, fully God, and Son of Man refers to Jesus being Mary’s Son, fully Man. Although, that sounds pretty good, there’s more in that title than that. You have to go to the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament to understand the true meaning of that title. Daniel 7  13  “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. What He was claiming was deity. He was claiming that He was God. Just a few chapters earlier in Luke 21:27 Jesus said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Judas came to betray Him, He said in Luke 22:48 “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Then in Luke 22 66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” 70   Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” 71   And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

Here’s the point – If Jesus was the Son of Man, then He was God and as God who created life and gives life and sustains life, death has no power over Him.

On the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached, He said in Acts 2 that even though they had crucified Him, God raised Him – 24 “…having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Then in Acts 3:15 he called Him the Prince of life.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of Man? If so, then the Resurrection is not a problem, the Virgin birth is not a problem, and walking on water is not a problem. Miracles are not a problem. By the way, the greatest miracle is none of them. It is the resurrection of a dead soul to life everlasting. Have you been resurrected?

III. WILL I BE ABLE TO BEAT DEATH? 

Let’s go back to verse 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Garden Tomb 2

Garden Tomb Inside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

When did Jesus say that? Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Was this just casual information? Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” Meaning: He really wanted them to get the reality of the resurrection. Why? It had a tremendous implication for their life! When we receive Jesus as our Savior, His life begins to flow through us. It’s the life of God. It’s the life that death cannot conquer. When I die, because of the life of Jesus in me, I am coming back to life just like Him. In other words, I am going to beat death like He did.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

1 Corinthians 15 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an old folk tale titled as the “Appointment in Samarra” (retold by W. Somerset Maugham [1933]) – “There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

Invitation: Are you ready to beat death? Through Jesus you can!

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH (ARTICLE)

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 28, 2015)

Secret to Growing a ChurchNow that I have your attention, let me confess – it is no secret. In fact, it’s been lying in plain sight for two thousand years! History shows that whenever men and women, boys and girls actually put it to use, churches were filled and the kingdom of God grew by leaps and bounds! But before I reveal it, let me clarify what IT IS NOT:

  1. It is not the Programs – Programs are wonderful but they all have a life cycle. Sooner or later they become dated and end up in the church storage room.
  2. It is not the Location – Although location helps, many churches are sitting empty at some of the best locations in their community!
  3. It is not Money – Some churches have empty pews but full bank accounts. Hudson Taylor said it best – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
  4. It is not the Children and Young People – We need to reach the next generation. That’s the goal not the secret to reaching the goal.
  5. It is not Friendliness and Fellowship – Sometimes they only result in superficiality and cliques.
  6. It is not the Organizational Structure – Some people endlessly debate over deacon led versus elder rule, as if the missing link to the next Great Awakening is in how you run the business meeting!
  7. It is not Discipleship – It is essential to help people grow in spiritual maturity. Sadly, many just become well-adjusted people with a lot of bible trivia.

Let’s go a step further—

  1. It is not the Preaching – As much as I believe in the importance of expository preaching and life application, I know many guys who are doing it with no growth in their churches.
  2. It is not Prayer – Those you know me will testify to the fact that I believe in the power of prayer. But there are many praying saints of God in declining and dying churches.
  3. It is not the Pastor – God has ordained the pastor to lead the church but it’s foolish to think that the church rises and sets on any one man.
  4. It is not the Holy Spirit – It is vital to live a life surrendered to Him but I know many wonderful Spirit-filled Christians in empty churches.

And, oh yes—

  1. It is not even the Style of Music – Many sincere people actually believe that if they just went to contemporary worship, it will fill their church up. Don’t misunderstand – we definitely need an upgrade in our worship styles. I am shocked when people think that one musical style is more sacred over another. If you really want to try biblical music, how about giving your choir a shofar, a harp, a lyre and a sistrum this Sunday?!! Bottom line: Music matters but it’s not the answer.

So what is it? Jesus said it plainly in John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Peter applied it on the Day of Pentecost when he preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37) Paul explained it best in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Isn’t it obvious that the cross of Jesus is God’s open secret to growing His church?!! It’s no secret that when the message of the cross is preached and shared in everything we do, the Holy Spirit uses it to draw people to salvation and the church grows. Every major revival and awakening in history can be traced to Calvary.

“O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.”

No Turning Back

NO TURNING BACK – by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

noturningbackToday we are celebrating what is known as Palm Sunday. It commemorates the start of the final week in the life of Jesus. The time had come for Him to do what He had come to do – go to the cross. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “NO TURNING BACK.”

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away. 6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. 7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Overall Background: The two passages we just read are about 800 years apart but they are both describing the same final stage in the life of Jesus. They are both talking about His final journey to Jerusalem – the journey that would take Him to the cross. This was why He had come. He was God’s Lamb slain before the foundation of the world and the time had come for Him to give His life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins and save us from the wrath of God. All we would have to do is believe on Him and we would be safe.

What is interesting at this point is that both Isaiah and Luke talk about His face. Isaiah 50:6 says, “I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” and again in 7 “Therefore I have set My face like a flint.” Then in Luke 9:51 – “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” and 52 “and sent messengers before His face” and 53 His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Our face says a lot about how we are feeling inside. There are all kinds of faces: happy, sad, content, angry, defeated, confused, tired but here it says that His face was like a flint, which is a hard sedimentary rock used to make tools, sharpen knives, and start fires. Meaning: It was an intense, determined, resolute, unafraid, unflinching, unwavering, unshakeable face. In our contemporary language we would say – “He had His game face on” but it really doesn’t do justice to it.

What’s the point? There was a seriousness, intensity, and urgency to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that we have lost. Somehow we have turned this “battle imagery” into a walk in the park or a Sunday afternoon drive or a little window-shopping at the mall. No wonder that we have watered down the gospel to this casual, non-essential and non-urgent option. Jesus didn’t see it like that.

Application: Do you realize the seriousness of the cross? Have you considered the battle Jesus went through for your soul 200 years ago? What’s keeping you from getting saved? If you are saved, how are you following Him? Have you set your face like a flint towards God’s purpose? Why do you keep turning back?

Two major things we will see in this final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem: Destination and Distractions. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to your spiritual condition and the spiritual condition of those around you.

I. DESTINATION 

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,

Jerusalem

Jerusalem (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Jesus did not set His face to go to Galilee or Rome or Memphis but to Jerusalem. As you know, we were in Jerusalem just two months ago. I’ve seen many cities in my life – Bombay, London, and New York but none of them can compare to Jerusalem. The first thing that gets you are the walls of the city. They are big but they are not intimidating. As one writer put it – “the city is not a fortress and its walls are not a barrier but a veil.” (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor) The next thing that gets you is that everything is limestone, even the newer structure. When the British controlled Jerusalem between 1917-1947, they made a law that all buildings had to be faced with the Jerusalem stone. It was to maintain its ancient look and it’s heavenly glow.

Eastern Gate

Eastern Gate (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

We’re not sure exactly what the city looked like when Jesus came to Jerusalem but He wasn’t admiring the walls or the Jerusalem stone like us. He was seeing something else. In fact, he saw 3 views of Jerusalem:

  1. HOSTILE view of Jerusalem – He saw the faces of the Pharisees and the scribes, the Sadducees, the high priests, and the religious leaders. He saw the faces of the people who were waiting to killing Him. He saw the face of Pilate and Herod, archenemies but would become friends over Him. He saw the faces of the multitudes gnashing their teeth at Him and shouting, “crucify Him.” He had preached them and did signs and wonders and healed their sick but it did not matter.

Luke 13 34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”

Application: Have you ever been in a hostile environment? Have you ever been in a place where you knew that you were not wanted? Some of us are afraid to step out and speak out for the gospel. We are afraid of hostility. If you are lost, do you realize that you are hostile to Jesus? Do you see the end of people who keep refusing Jesus?

  1. DESTROYED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present of Jerusalem but also the future. He saw the impending judgment that was going to come over Jerusalem.
Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Luke 19 41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

The fulfillment of this prophecy began in AD 66 when the taxes were running low and the Roman procurator Gessius Florus decided to steal the silver from the temple. The Jewish people were obviously angry and revolted. So he sent his troops and killed about 3,600 citizens. The Jewish people reacted by stopping their sacrifices to Caesar and killed some Romans. So Nero sent General Vespasian against them. Nero died and Vespasian became the emperor and appointed his son Titus to continue the fight. After a siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, his soldiers broke through the walls of Jerusalem and killed over a million people and captured and enslaved 97,000 more. Josephus, the Jewish historian wrote that, “The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.” The Roman soldiers were so angry that (some say in spite of Titus’ orders) they burned down the temple of Jerusalem. Josephus writes again, “Jerusalem … was so thoroughly razed to the ground…that nothing was left that could ever persuade visitors that it had once been a place of habitation.” In fact, in AD 131 the Roman emperor Hadrian turned the Roman colony into a city by the name of Aelia Capitolina.

Is it any wonder that Jesus wept when He saw Jerusalem? He saw what was coming. How? He was fully God as well as fully man and as fully God He was not bound by time but as fully man He was living out the drama of the cross.

Application: Do you see the destruction of people who reject Christ? Can you visualize what happens to people (men, women, boys, and girls) who reject the gospel? Does that move you to tears?

  1. GLORIFIED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present rejection and the future destruction of Jerusalem but also the ultimate glorification.

Revelation 21 1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel…22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light…”

We don’t have time to deal with all the details of prophecy here but this much is clear – God is not through with Jerusalem. There is a day coming when He will build a city with His own hands. He Himself will lay the foundations. He Himself will erect the walls. He Himself will build homes for us. But, the name will still be Jerusalem – New Jerusalem.

Application: What a promise of hope! What a promise that He will make all things new! Have you received that promise in your life? Are you saved? Do you see that hope for others? Do you see that hope for our community? Do you see that hope for our nation?

II. DISTRACTIONS

Background: As Jesus headed to Jerusalem, several distractions stood in His path but He did not lose His focus. Isaiah helps us to see these distractions.

  1. FAME AND FRIENDS

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.

The multitude wanted to take Him by force and make Him their King but He did not consent to them. It would have been so much easier but that wasn’t God’s plan. Neither did He let His only disciples talk Him out of it, like Peter.

Application: Are you letting fame and friends keep you from following God’s will?

  1. PAIN AND SHAME

6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.

He knew that His back would be torn to shreds. He knew that He would be falsely accused, mocked, and spit upon.

Application: Are you letting the fear of pain and shame keep you from following God’s will?

  1. SIN AND SEPARATION

7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

The biggest distraction was the fame or shame or pain. It was the burden of sin being put upon Him. It was the separation from the Father that He experienced. You hear that when He cried from the cross – “My God My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Application: What is keeping you from following Christ? Why do you keep turning back? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Receive Him and follow Him today.

Winning With God and Men

WINNING WITH GOD AND MEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

winningwithGodandmenThis morning I’m preaching a special message from Proverbs titled: WINNING WITH GOD AND MEN. We will actually read 4 verses from 4 different books of the Bible. Hopefully you can identify the common elements.

Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.

1 Samuel 2:26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.”

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Acts 2 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Overall Background: All of us want to win. We especially want to see our children and grandchildren win. Won’t that be something if we could teach them how to win with both God and men (people)! Won’t that be something if both God and men looked at them with favor, with a smile of approval. Won’t that be something if both God and men took pride in them! Won’t it be awesome if they could win in this life and the one to come! Won’t that be something if they could have the blessings of God and men!

People have all kinds of false ideas on what it takes to win before God and men. Some people think it is education. That’s important but that’s not it. Some people think that it’s talent or hard work or some other quality. All those things are important but they do not ultimately help us to win with God and men – Sometimes they do just the opposite!

The answer to how we can win with God and men is given in plain sight in the Book of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs was written by the wisest man who ever lived. Some people mistakenly think that Solomon wrote some of these proverbs and put the others together to teach us how to be wise like him. Not true. That may have been his second purpose but initially he wrote the first part of the book as series of letters (10 to be exact) to his son Rehoboam, teaching him how to live a successful life. In his 3rd letter, Solomon is trying to warn his son that the path to wisdom is not easy. There are several stumbling blocks on the way. Here he clarifies how he can win with God and men.

Application: All of us need to hear this message. As it stands our young people are losing terribly. I was doing a funeral in New Jersey yesterday and as I was getting ready to leave, I saw this young man (mid 30s) and the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart to talk to him and so I did. When I guided the discussion towards spiritual matters, all he could say is that he is not into the god thing. If there ends up being a reality, he may just call it God. How sad! That young man is losing with God and men. By the way, the principle is the same if we want our work and business to be successful and if we want our church to be successful.

3 things we will see in this message:

 I. TWO ESSENTIALS

Proverbs 3 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.

Background: Mercy = “Hesed” and does not have a real equivalent in English. It could be translated “kindness” or “help to the needy.” The best you can describe it is that someone is in great need and they cannot get out with your help. You help the person not because you will get any kind of gain out of it but only out of your own heart.

Truth = “Emet” and again it is a tricky one to explain. It can refer to “faithfulness” or “being trustworthy” or “living by truth.” It’s a life lived by the truth or the Word of God – the Bible.

We can spend a long time looking at these individually but that won’t help us much. We need to understand what happens when they are brought together. Many times in the Old Testament they are brought together:

  • It’s an old time tested principle passed down from father to sons. Genesis 47:29 When the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt,
  • It describes the nature of God. When Moses saw God, this is what he said – Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,
  • After Rahab the Canaanite woman helped the 2 spies in Jericho, listen to what they said in Joshua 2:14 “…And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
  • In 2 Samuel 2 we read that Saul and his 3 sons (Jonathan included) were killed by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa. Then they hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shan. Some of the valiant men of Jabesh Gilead travelled all night and got their bodies and gave them a proper funeral. We went to this site in January. When David learned the good they had done he said 6 And now may the LORD show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.
  • David used those two words several times to describe the ways of God – Psalm 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
  • Again Psalm 61 6 You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. 7 He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!
  • Again Psalm 86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
  • Now in Proverbs again – Proverbs 14:22 Do they not go astray who devise evil? But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good.
  • Again Proverbs 16:6 In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity;
  • Again in Proverbs 20:28 Mercy and truth preserve the king, And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.
  • I can go on.

For some reason mercy and truth are mentioned side by side more times than we realize! What does Solomon say in Proverbs 3:3 onwards? “Bind them around your neck” = make them a necklace. “Write them on the tablet of your heart”= make it your identity. When God and people see you they should see these two qualities.

What is the result? 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.

Application: What kind of a reputation do you have? What are you teaching your children to be like? Are they full of mercy and truth?

II. TWO EXAMPLES

Twice in the Bible this is mentioned – one in the Old and one in the New.

In the Old Testament – 1 Samuel 2:26 And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.”

Background: This was a rough time in the history of Israel. The priest Eli had turned a blind eye towards his sons Hophni and Phinehas who were stealing from the sacrifices and bullying the people and raping the women who were coming to the tabernacle of God. The enemies were getting stronger. There was no unity in the land. A woman named Hannah prayed for a child and promised to give him back to God. This was Samuel. He travelled the length and breadth of Israel uniting God’s people. He preached to them and admonished them. He helped lead the transition from the order of the judges to the order of the kings. He was the one who found King David. Samuel was full of mercy and truth. Remember, he had to deal with Saul!

We are living in tough times. God is looking for men and women and boys and girls who would be full of mercy and truth.

In the New Testament – Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Background: He challenged the Pharisees and the scribes of trying to act spiritual. Listen to Matthew 23 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments….14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 15  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves…23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

I can give many examples where He demonstrated it perfectly but the best one where mercy and truth came together is in the Woman caught in adultery in John 7 and 8. He said to her in verse 11 “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

What the world needs desperately is not just Mercy or Truth but both.

Application: Are you a person who has both? Are you teaching your children to have both.

III. THEY ARE A GIFT TO BE RECEIVED

Galatians 5 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

As you surrender your life to the Holy Spirit, He conforms your life more and more to the person of Jesus Christ. That’s how your bear the fruit of the Spirit.

The similar phrase is heard again in the book of Acts. Acts 2 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

For e.g. When I think of someone who is selfish and untrustworthy, I think of Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He is heartless, cold, apathetic, and downright evil man.

Do you want your children to have favor with God and people? They need mercy and truth. In other words, they need kindness and faithfulness.

We want our children to be loved and appreciated by people. We like to hear that they are being admired and adored. Unfortunately, some of our ideas actually cause them to be resented. We think favor comes when they are best at everything or win a lot of trophies or be in every activity. Instead what they need are eyes, mouth, hands, feet, heart, and mind full of mercy and truth. The place to begin is by bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus?

Can You Handle the Truth About Jesus?

CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Can You Handle the Truth About JesusWe’re in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and today our message is titled, “CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS?” When Jesus began His ministry, the first place He went to was His hometown. After all, He knew the place, the people, and the culture. What better place to begin than with your own?

Luke 4 16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”…21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”…28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.

Overall Background: The passage we just read was very disturbing for me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a sight where a mob of people has gone after one person. I have seen it many times and it is very ugly. I remember this one time I was coming home from a friend’s house and I saw this angry crowd of people. From what I could gather, they had caught a thief and they were letting him have it. Everyone who could was trying to slap, punch, or kick this guy. His clothes were torn and covered in dust. One of his eyes was swollen and his mouth was bleeding. I’m sure he was guilty but it was a horrible sight.

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Now imagine that person is Jesus. Listen again to verses 28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things…” It was fine that Jesus, the local boy had come home. They had heard that He was doing some wonderful things. He was at the synagogue on the Sabbath. They even let Him stand and read a passage from the Bible. All that was fine until Jesus claimed that He was the Messiah. At that point the whole mood changed. 28 (They) were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Why were they so angry? Because Jesus had disturbed their perception of Himself. They were all right with Jesus the local boy coming home but they could not accept Jesus the Son of God who had come to save them.

Application: Many of us are comfortable with our personal idea of Jesus. Jesus the little baby in the manger – I can deal with that. Jesus blessing the little children picture hanging on the wall of the Sunday School room – that’s alright. Jesus helping the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and preaching to the multitude – that’s alright too. But Jesus, God’s Son, who came to save you – a hell bound sinner, condemned to die – I don’t know about that. Jesus – once He is my Savior, I have to make Him my king and I have to obey His every Word – that’s taking it way too far! We’re no different than that mob in Nazareth that wanted to push Jesus off a cliff. We also try to kill the truth about Jesus when it doesn’t suit us, when it’s too costly, when we have to give up something.

The problem is – we want a Jesus we can manage, not a Jesus who manages us. As we walk through this message, ask yourself “Can you handle the truth about Jesus?” – Would you have pushed Jesus off the cliff? 5 reactions we will see in this passage:

 I. INDIFFERENCE

16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up.

Background: According to Luke, the first place Jesus went to when He began His ministry was his own hometown. Now let me clarify something – If you read Matthew and Mark, they bring up this episode somewhat later – Matthew 13 and Mark 6. Scholars have argued over who is correct and who is not and sometimes those on the outside have used that against us – “Oh, your Bible has obvious mistakes.” As I mentioned to you last week, when you study the life of Jesus systematically, the hardest thing to keep straight is the chronology – calendar of His life – when did He start His ministry, what did He do first, how long was He there, where did He go next, and so on. It’s easy when you are looking at just one gospel but when you put all four (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) side by side it quickly becomes complicated. Keep in mind that Luke is like a newspaper editor. He puts the headline right on the front page. This does not mean that it was the first incident of the week but it’s the highlight or the main topic of what’s coming up.

I used to ask God – “Why didn’t you make things more plain in Your Word?” “Why did You allow these questionable, debatable, grey areas?” “Why not just give a calendar of Jesus’ life?” God showed me a verse in Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Let me illustrate – think about our Easter Egg Hunt – Why don’t we just give the eggs with candy to the kids? Why do we parents and adults hide them? Because its fun to watch them look for them! So also God wants us to dig into His Word. It brings Him great joy to see His children search after and discover the truths in His Word. That’s called Bible Study. It is very unique! No other religion has it. You’ll never hear of a Quran Study or Gita Study or Lotus Sutra Study. They may have readings but nothing like our Bible studies.

Either way, it was somewhere in the early part of his ministry that Jesus decided to go to his own hometown of Nazareth. But did you notice – nothing is said about their reaction to His coming. They neither restrict Him from coming nor did they send out a welcome wagon. In other words, they didn’t care. That’s how many people are – they are indifferent to Jesus. It doesn’t really matter. Jesus is not the most pressing issue on their minds. They have career, relationships, sports, hobbies, and entertainment on their minds. They don’t lose any sleep over Jesus.

Application: May I ask you? Are you indifferent to Jesus? Is He a priority to you? Sadly, the more familiar you are to Him, the less you think of Him. People like that care a lot about church, denominations, and values, just not Jesus. Here’s a test – how much do you read His Word? How much do you talk to Him? How much do you obey His voice?

II. CURIOUSITY 

16 …And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day,

Ancient Village of Nazareth

Ancient Village of Nazareth (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, as was his εἰωθὸς = habit. For us Christians – he went to church on Sunday. I often hear “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” May I ask you – “If Jesus gathered regularly with God’s people, are you better than Him?” Just like baptism He laid out a pattern for us to follow.

Listen to what happens next“…and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

Those verses are from Isaiah 61 and 58. Isaiah 61 was the message of God’s deliverance to the exiles. They were about the year of Jubilee when debts were cancelled and slaves were set free. Isaiah 58 was God’s rebuke against those who were being cruel towards those in need. Again, in the year of Jubilee if people did not set the captives free, God would not accept their fast and sacrifices. Hint! Hint! The Messiah had come to set the cancel the debts, set the captives free, and where Israel failed, He would do right.

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. They still did not run up and hug Him or worship Him. They were intrigued and fascinated by Him. They were just checking Him out.

Application: There are a lot of people out there who are just intrigued by Jesus. They are just curious about Him. Let me ask you a question: Are you just fascinated with Jesus? That’s wonderful but that still does not mean that He is your Savior?

III. CONDESCENSION 

21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.

Grotto of St. Joseph, Nazareth

Grotto of St. Joseph, Nazareth (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Now Jesus went a step further and claimed Isaiah 61 and 58 for Himself. This was the moment of truth. Their initial reaction was one of amazement but when those words sank in, they realized what He was really saying. They were the POOR, BROKENHEARTED, CAPTIVES, BLIND, and OPPRESSED in sin. Now listen to their response: “And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” There is a tone of derision and disdain in that statement. Isn’t He that illegitimate boy whom Joseph adopted? They were being condescending to Him. They were talking down to Him. They were insulting Him to His face. WOW!

When the Holy Spirit begins to convict our hearts, it can go one of two ways – either receive the words with humility or reject the words with some excuse.

Application: How do you receive the truth about Jesus? Are you humble? Are you willing? Are you arrogant? Are you looking for some excuse? Do you look down on the presenter? Does this church offend you? Does this pastor offend you?

IV. ANGER

Luke 4 23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” 24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.

Background: Seeing the hardness of their heart, Jesus lays out their future. It will only become worse. One day some of them will stand at the foot of the cross and mock Jesus.

Every time you reject the Holy Spirit, your heart is hardened and your destiny is sealed.

But Jesus goes on tells them something else25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Meaning: You look down on the Gentiles. Guess what – they will come to know the truth but you won’t. Show me a person who looks down on someone because of their skin color or background, it’s just an evidence of a deeper problem.

28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.

Application: How do you respond to the truth? Do you receive it with humility? Do you receive it with joy? What emotions rise up when you hear about Jesus?

V. REJECTION

30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

One of the saddest verses in the Bible.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,

Hear my humble cry;

While on others Thou art calling,

Do not pass me by.

Refrain

Savior, Savior,

Hear my humble cry;

While on others Thou art calling,

Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy

Find a sweet relief,

Kneeling there in deep contrition;

Help my unbelief.

Refrain

Trusting only in Thy merit,

Would I seek Thy face;

Heal my wounded, broken spirit,

Save me by Thy grace.

Refrain

Thou the Spring of all my comfort,

More than life to me,

Whom have I on earth beside Thee?

Whom in Heav’n but Thee?

 

Help! I’m Losing My Faith in the Bible.

HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

bible-with-question-mark copy You should know by now that we are in our series on the Life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning I’m preaching a message titled “HELP! I’M LOSING MY FAITH IN THE BIBLE.” Instead of just one passage, we will be reading two passages – one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21; one from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the other towards the end of Jesus’ ministry. When we read them, you will notice that they are both describing how Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem from the money changers and their animals.

John 2 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. 12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days. 13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.

Matt. 21 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.” 12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

Overall Background: Lately I’ve heard (more times than I would like to count) about another young man or woman who has given up on Christianity and turned to atheism or agnosticism. Let me give you a recent example – In January 2015 an article made news. It was written by someone named George Perdikis who called himself the cofounder of the Christian group Newsboys. In this article he wrote about how he had become an atheist.

Listen to his words: “I left the band in 1990 and went back to Adelaide. There, I got married, taught guitar, played pubs and clubs, built homes, and had two beautiful daughters. As I carved out a life for myself away from the church, I began my own voyage of inquiry into what I believed. My perceptions started to transform when I became interested in cosmology in 1992. I soon found myself fascinated by the works of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox, and Richard Dawkins. I learned so much and was blown away by all the amazing scientific discoveries and facts. When my marriage dissolved in 2003, I turned my attention to human psychology. By 2007, I renounced Christianity once and for all and declared myself an atheist.”

Sad, isn’t it? But what I found sadder were some of the comments that followed:

“As a long-time Christian, I did take a long, hard look at Christ and his teachings, and became a convinced atheist.”

“I spent the better part of my life being a Christian. I sought desperately for evidence that would demonstrate that Christianity was true, and the thousands of other religions that mankind has invented over the centuries are false. In the end, though, I found absolutely nothing to distinguish Christianity from the rest of the pack, and found no real evidence to support the truth claims of any them.”

“Sorry, but there really is no evidence that anything in the Bible is other than story…There are literally hundreds of contradictions in the Bible.”

Just last week I heard that one of my good friends who inspired me to do a PhD died. He was one of the smartest men I knew and very knowledgeable about the Bible, history, and philosophy. I have books in my library on apologetics that he helped write. But that’s not the sad part because he is with Jesus right now. The sad part is that two of his oldest children have nothing to do with God and one of them is an atheist. I wasn’t able to sleep that night, not because my friend had died, but because of where his kids are today.

My heart breaks every time I hear such reports. To me, nothing is more painful than knowing that our children are no longer walking in the truth. The question is WHY? Why would someone who claims to have grown up in church, went to Sunday School, VBS, and Youth group give it all up? Why would someone turn their backs on the faith of their parents and grandparents? Why would someone discount that moment when they prayed to receive Christ as Savior? The reasons are many:

  • Maybe they were never truly saved.
  • Maybe they were holding onto rules and regulations rather than faith in Jesus.
  • Maybe they were never truly grounded in God’s Word. They are like the ones who received the seed that fell on stony places – heard the word and immediately received it with joy but since there was no root, they only endured for a while. For when tribulation or persecution came because of the word, they immediately stumbled.

Meaning: We did a poor job in grounding our young people in the word of God.

I often ask God what is my task as the pastor. Is it just to get up and give a three-point sermon on how to do better at something? Is it just to help people understand and apply the Bible? Is it just to lead us as a church to win the lost and grow? Or, is it more? The Holy Spirit pointed me to Titus 1:9 where Paul is giving the requirements of a pastor –holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. Meaning: I need to hold fast to the faithful word the Bible and exhort others to do the same and convict those who contradict it.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we need to spend our whole time defending the Bible. As Charles Spurgeon said to the meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1875 – “Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.” No, we don’t need to spend our whole time defending the authority of the Bible but we do have a mandate to teach our children to hold fast to the faithful word. If we don’t, our young people will very well succumb to the idle talkers and deceivers.

This morning I only want to focus on the claim that “I cannot be a Christian anymore because there are contradictions in the Bible.” We don’t have time to look at every alleged contradiction in the Bible but we’ll look at one.

We read two passages this morning, one from John 2 and the other from Matthew 21. Some people consider them to be aHenry Ian Cusick Visual Bible - The Gospel of John contradiction. Both passages describe the event when Jesus came to the Temple, was appalled by the desecration of the moneychangers and their animals, and he made a whip of cords and drove them out. The problem comes in because Matthew 21 and also Mark 11 and Luke 19 mention the incident in the last week of Jesus’ ministry. In fact, after He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (which we call Palm Sunday) that he went into the temple and began to clean it. On the other hand, John 2 mentions the incident at the beginning of his ministry, right after the wedding in Cana of Galilee, which was the beginning of signs. How could that be?

  • Some people have taken this example to claim that the Bible has errors. If that’s the case then it’s no longer the Word of God. If it’s no longer the Word of God, then it’s no longer binding on our lives. If it’s no longer binding on our lives, then it’s no different than other “holy books” of other religions. In other words, Christianity is one among many ways to God.
  • Some Christians have tried to defend the Bible by claiming that Jesus actually cleansed the Temple two times – one in the beginning of his ministry and again towards the end of his ministry. The problem with this view is that there are too many similarities between the two incidents to be anything but the same incident. Also, if there were two different incidents, John could have mentioned it again in chapter 12 when he talks about Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding on the donkey but he doesn’t.

So what’s the answer? These are one and the same incidents. John has put an incident from the end of Jesus’ ministry at the beginning of his gospel. 3 things we need to understand:

  1. Positive not negative – Some people claim that the church has manipulated and corrupted the Bible. If I we’re trying to make the Bible look like God’s Word, this is one passage that I would definitely fix. This proves that people did not try to mend the Bible as is often claimed. It also proves that if people did not try to mend it then it must not have been a problem. We might have a problem with it but the early readers did not.
  2. Style of John – John repeatedly says “the next day” in John 1:29, 35 or “the following day” in John 1:43. But in John 2:1 he says “On the third day.” Is it the day earlier or is it three more days later? Actually, John is not trying to count the days. Instead, that’s just his style. It’s another way of saying “another day” or “the other day.” For e.g. Like people saying “the other day I was talking to my doctor or my mechanic.” You mean yesterday or day before. “Oh, actually a year or two ago.”
  3. Purpose of John – Towards the end of his gospel, John gives us the reason why he wrote this gospel. First, in John 19:35 “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.” Second, in John 20 30 “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke who were laying out Jesus’ entire biography, John’s purpose from the beginning is to get you to the Passion Week. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus’ trial begins in the last week. In John, the entire gospel is Jesus’ trial before the Jewish religious leaders. Right from the start in John’s gospel, Jesus begins talking about His hour. If you remember in the first part of John 2 at the wedding in Cana when Jesus’ mother says to Him, “They have no wine,” Jesus responds by saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

Did you notice the word “signs?” Signs are more than just miracles. They are pointers towards the most critical week – the Passion Week.

In a sense, John is writing his biography of Jesus but he has a greater concern. It is to get to the Passion Week so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

INVITATION:

  • Are you saved? I think we made our case that the Bible doesn’t contradict. But please don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean that we need to answer every contradiction before you can become a Christian. If that’s the case, then you’ll never give your heart to Jesus.
  • Do you know that the Bible is unlike any book in the world?
  • Are you reading the Bible?
  • Are you allowing the Bible to be translated into your life?
  • Are you passing along the Bible to your children and grandchildren?

IS THERE SOMETHING MISSING IN YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE?

IS SOMETHING MISSING IN YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

istheresomethingmissing-page0001

John 15 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Upper Room

Upper Room (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Road to the Garden of Gethsemane

Road to the Garden of Gethsemane (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Overall Background: The passage we just read was spoken by Jesus just a few hours before He was betrayed. It was probably somewhere between the Upper Room and the Garden of Gethsemane by the Mount of Olives. We were there just a month ago and I tried to imagine what it might have been like for the disciples. They had just left the upper room where they heard their Master make some of the most bizarre statements ever! As they were celebrating the Passover, He held up the bread and the cup and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you…This cup is the new covenant in My blood…drink it…” That’s cannibalism! No Jewish person in his right mind would ever say that! But, that wasn’t all! He went on and said things like – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (Which your pastor explained last week). Again, John 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” Again, John 14:19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Now, if they walked past the Temple, they probably saw the golden vines above the gate of the Temple. You can imagine Jesus stopping there and pointing to them and saying, “I am the true vine. You are the branches. Abide in Me.” That was heavy! Is it any wonder that the disciples fell asleep when they got to the garden?

Listen very carefully this morning – the passage we just read and the verses I just quoted are the very heart and essence of Christianity.

Application: If you feel that something is missing in your Christian life, then this is the message for you. If you are tired of trying to live the Christian life, then this message is for you. If you are tired of religion with all its traditions and rituals and rules and obligations, then this message is for you. If Christianity has lost its joy and purpose, then this message is for you.

Three things we will see in this passage. Let the Holy Spirit bring you to Christ in a way you’ve never seen Him before.

I. THE TRUE VINE 

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Background: The imagery of the vine was often used in the Old Testament to refer to the Nation of Israel. Psalm 80:8 “You have brought a vine out of Egypt” referring to the Hebrews. Jeremiah 2:21 “I had planted you a noble vine.” His disciples were familiar with this imagery. Even Jesus had used this imagery in His parable of the vineyard, where He referred to Himself as the son of the vineyard owner who was rejected by the vinedressers – referring to the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the scribes. But in the wee hours of the night, Jesus gave that imagery a whole new twist. No longer were the people the vine living under the control of the vine dressers, but now Jesus Himself was the true vine, and the vinedressers had been replaced by God the Father Himself.

You can imagine the look on the faces of these disciples. They’d never heard stuff like this before. What’s more? Listen to verse 2 “Every branch in Me.” Meaning: Now, they were no longer the vine but just the branches on the vine. Their job was to simply abide/remain/be connected to the vine and they will have all the necessary nourishment – food, water, and nutrients to survive. Everything they needed will be supplied to them. They are to feed upon Him – the bread and the cup.

By the way, this was not a new concept. This was always God’s plan. Even the Old Testament saints were eagerly waiting for this promise. Listen to Paul in Colossians 1 26 “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Nothing has done more damage to Christianity than the false idea that we need to live a good life for God. He’s up here and you are down here. Just do the best you can for Him. That’s Hinduism and Islam and religion. Jesus came to turn religion up side down! It’s no longer God up here and you’re down here and never the twain shall meet. Now, it is the Living and True God coming to dwell in you and living out through you what you could never live out by yourself. Now God is pleased not because of you but because of the One who lives in you. In fact, you are dead! Listen to Paul again in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Nothing will so revolutionize your life than realizing that Christ is your life. You have to admit that you don’t have it. You will have to make sure that your lines of communication are open with Him. You will have to make sure that you are available to Him.

Application: What is Christianity? What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it just a list of dos and don’ts? Is it just your self-effort? Is it just trying to do the best you can to please God? If you are saved, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes of faith to who you are in Christ. If you are lost, you are not in Christ. You need to be grafted – saved.

II. THE CASTAWAY BRANCH

2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Background: Just when you think that such a life is too good to be true and that people will abuse it or take advantage of it. This is just a life of passivity. Jesus goes on to clarify. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit…” What are these fruits?

  • Christ like temperamentGalatians 5 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
  • Winning the lost – Romans 1:13 “…I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also…”
  • Sacrificial Giving – Romans 15 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem…28 Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.

Did you notice how the fruits benefit other people? Have you ever seen a branch eating its own fruits? They are for others. Victory is when the world says of you what this book has said of you. You don’t have to go around advertising who you are. It is obvious. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

What happens when there is no fruit? 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; What does that mean? Some people have built big theological schools on just a few verses. I don’t believe that at one o’clock in the morning, trying to walk down in the dark towards the Kidron Valley, Jesus is trying to discuss the fine points of theology! Who He is thinking of is Judas. Just a couple of hours ago Jesus had said to His disciples – “One of you will betray Me.” Immediately, they began to question – “Is it I? Is it I?” Even Judas asked and Jesus answered, “You have said it.” That would’ve been a good time for Judas to fall on his face and repent but he didn’t. Jesus gave him a piece of bread and Satan entered him. “He then went out immediately. And it was night.”

It is possible to be in church all your life and do all the stuff and be active and still be fruitless. Those people just get taken away.

For e.g. During the fall, dry leaves just fall off the trees. Imagine if you had to go and pluck them. How does that happen? The sap (the life of the tree) just pushes them out. People who do not have Jesus in their lives, they are not connected to Him, they are not saved, they are pushed out by the truth of Jesus.

Do you know the only time the leaves keep hanging on even though they are dead? If the entire tree itself is dead.

You can hang on to your emptiness like dead leaves to a dead tree and you’ll remain dead. Christianity is Christ. Taking Christ out of Christianity (as someone said) is like taking notes out of music, numbers out of mathematics, and blue out of the sky. It’s dead and empty.

Application: What kind of a branch are you? Are you a living branch? Are you a fruit-bearing branch? Are you connected to Christ? Is His life flowing through you? If you feel like the castaway branch, today is the day of salvation.

III. THE FRUITFUL BRANCH

2 “…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Background: If you like gardening, you understand this very well. I remember watching my dad going through the garden with a pair of shears. I didn’t understand why that was necessary. In fact, it looked almost painful. But he knew what he was doing. He was cutting away the dead wood that only bred insects and worms. Not only that, He was even cutting away the live tissue. Why? To keep the life of the plant from dissipating. Sometimes even clusters of grapes are cut so that the rest of the crops will be better.

So also, God prunes us to bring out the best in us – Sometimes it comes in the form of messages like this. Sometimes it comes in the form of trials. Sometimes it comes in the form of discipline. Sometimes it comes in the form of weakness or thorn in the flesh. Praise God that like a parent He knows what is best for us. He cuts off only that which has been draining strength from us. One thing we have to realize is that the pruning shears are in the hands of our Heavenly Father. He is never closer to us than when He is pruning us. It’s a sign that we belong to Him. Don’t believe the Devil’s lie that God is holding out on the best for your life or God is not giving you what you deserve or if you follow God, bad things will happen.

Listen to this promise – verse 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Two Questions:

1. Is Jesus your vine? Are you saved?

2. If He is your vine, are you connected to Him this moment?

3. Are you bearing fruit?

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