Becoming a Chain Breaker by Pastor Abidan Shah

BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

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Introduction: Many years ago Nicole and I decided to take our 3 kids at the time to our old stomping grounds in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. There is a place there called Helen, kind of a tourist town, built like an Alpine village. The Chattahoochee River winds through the town and people can go tubing. It’s beautiful. We arrived that evening and went for a walk and saw the people floating around in ankle deep water. Nicole and I had done that before and we decided to take the kids tubing the next day. We didn’t pay attention to the weather but all night it rained and rained. The next day we got to the tubing place and it was no longer a lazy river but looked like some white water rapids. Against our better judgment we decided to go for it. Nicole kept Nicholas with her, I kept Abigail, and Rebecca was by herself. It wasn’t 30 seconds into the river that I realized that this was a huge mistake. The ankle-deep river was now about chest high in places and we were being hurled through as if we were on the Colorado River. I hung on to Rebecca’s tube until a big boulder knocked her out of my hands. Before I could react she had slipped a few meters and then a few yards away. People on the banks were watching us in shock. Rebecca went around a bend and I couldn’t see her anymore. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life. We could see slippers and tubes that were abandoned by people but we didn’t want to get out because Rebecca was somewhere out there. Finally, we got to the end and she was there waiting for us. The point is this – when I made the decision to go tubing, I never anticipated what would happen. In fact, after the first 10 minutes, I lost sight of our daughter. So also in life, we make decisions but we don’t realize the consequences that follow. Most of the time we will never see what may happen in the future. The series we’re starting today is called “THE FAMILY: SOME DO’S, SOME DON’T’S, AND SOME WHO KNOWS.” People have asked me to teach on marriage, family, and parenting and I’m always reluctant because there’s so much I don’t know. But I had to remind myself that it’s not about my opinion but about the Word of God. So, we will be studying the family of Abraham and Sarah from the Book of Genesis. The advantage of this series is that we’ll be able to track the consequences of their good and bad decisions to the third, fourth, and even later generations. Today’s message is called “BECOMING A CHAIN BREAKER.”

Genesis 12   1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”…5 Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.

Question: Before we begin the first message, let me ask you a few questions. Do you feel that you have a good understanding regarding marriage, family, and parenting? How is your marriage? How is parenting working out for you? Where did you get your understanding on those subjects? Was it from a parent, grandparent, celebrity, friend, or church leader? Were those individuals truly successful in their marriage, family, and parenting? Do you have Christ in your life? Without him, you’ll never have what you truly need to be successful. Why don’t you invite him into your life right now?

In this first message we’re going to learn what it means to be a chain breaker. As we go further it’ll become clear what I am referring to.

  1. The first Chain Breaker.

When we thing about the beginning of the people of Israel, we only think about Abraham and Sarah but truly we need to go a few steps back and read the preceding verses. Listen to Genesis 11:31 “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” We mistakenly think that Abraham (Abram) was the first and only one to get the call to follow God out of the Ur of the Chaldeans. Not really. In fact, the first one to step out was Abraham’s father Terah.

Who was Terah? When we do a careful study of the genealogies in the Book of Genesis, we find that Terah is located at the end of the first age and the beginning of the second. The first age begins with Adam and Eve, goes through Noah and his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), zooms in on the line of Shem, and ends with Terah in Genesis 11:24. The second age begins with Terah in verse 27 “This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” The point is this – Terah is the transitional figure between the first and second age and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur of the Chaldeans. He was the first chain breaker. The Bible doesn’t talk about it but I can imagine the struggle he must have faced in leaving Ur. Archaeological evidence tells us that it was a large city. Being near the Persian Gulf, people from everywhere came there for business. Also, Ur was a center for moon worship. There is evidence to this day of a ziggurat dedicated to the god Nanna or Sin. He was the god of the cowherders, cattle breeders, and orchardmen. Basically, he was the god of fertility (keep that in mind), along with his consort or wife, Ningal, the goddess of reeds. Terah had to leave all this behind to follow God to Canaan.

Principle: When you see a successful person, don’t immediately give them all the credit. Look for whose shoulders they’re standing on. Someone had to step out and be the pioneer in their life. This is especially true in the Christian life. Remember Paul telling Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 that he is filled with joy every time “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

For e.g. You’ve heard me give my dad’s testimony and how he was the pioneer to follow Christ in his family but this was also true in my mom’s side of the family. It was my grandmother’s dad (my great-grandfather) who practiced medicine back in the late 1800s-early 1900s. I remember my grandmother telling me that he was the first one to follow Christ through the work of some Reformed Presbyterian missionaries from England. He became a lay preacher. He was the pioneer on that side of the family.

Question: Who has been the chain breaker and pioneer in your life? A father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, schoolteacher, Pastor, Sunday School teacher, friend, etc. Give them thanks if they’re still living. It is their sacrifice that brought blessing into your life. Sometimes, there’s no one in the past that you can thank and you have to be your own pioneer. In my early years as a pastor I used to hear, “we used to go to church as a little kid.” Now, it is, “no, our family never went to church…”

Application: Are you the pioneer in your family? It’s not easy to do what you’re doing. No one has set any pattern for you. There’s no one to look up to in your life. You have to step out of the comfort zone. You have to break the chain. You have to choose to follow God. Just like the pioneers in our nation’s history, you have to make the tough sacrifices. But if you’re willing, God will give you more than enough grace to be the pioneer.

  1. The reason for the move.

Why did Terah decide to move out of Ur? We have no indication in the text that God called Terah the same way he called Abraham. Maybe it was because of the losses in his life. First, there’s no mention of his wife, which means she must have died in Ur. Second, verse 28 says, “And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.” We don’t have any details on Haran’s death but you can imagine what effect this must have made on Terah. Maybe this was a catalyst for him to move out of Ur.

Principle: All pioneers have to go through pain to move out of their comfort zone. God doesn’t cause the pain but he uses the pain to bring something good into our lives.

For e.g. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States is one of my favorites. February 14th, 1884 was an awful day for him. He was in the NY state legislature trying to get a bill passed when he was called home. His mother had died due to typhoid fever. Few hours later, his wife of 4 years also died due to some kidney problems. She had just given birth to their daughter. Teddy Roosevelt left everything and went into the badlands for a couple of years and worked as a rancher and a local sheriff. When he returned, he was a different man who made a big impact in America and the world. Teddy Roosevelt came from a Christian home and he knew that God had used his pain to mature him.

Question: Have you been through pain in your life? You can do one of two things. Either you can sit and blame the people or situation that has brought pain into your life or you can ask God to use that pain in your to push you out of your comfort zone.

  1. The warning to the Chain Breaker.

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.

I don’t want to deal too much in speculation, hypothesis, and theory. I like to stick to the facts. But just for a brief moment, I wonder if God called Terah before he called Abraham. Terah obeyed but only partially. He could not move past the ancestral gods. Terah came out of the old country but the old country did not come out of Terah.

What was the result? Listen to what Stephen said in his sermon before the high priest in Acts 7   2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

While Terah staggered at his call, Abraham continued the journey with God. Unfortunately, he had to wait till Terah died. If I may add, because of his delay, Abraham was stuck with Lot, which was very costly. Also, it delayed the coming of Isaac and caused the birth of Ishmael, which was also very costly.

Principle: If you’re stuck in your ways and your ways are from the Bible, that’s great. But, if you’re stuck in your ways but your ways are not from the Bible, someone else may have to finish your journey.

In order to be a chain breaker:

  • Be willing to leave your comfort zone.
  • Be willing to let God use your pain for your growth.
  • Be careful about hanging on to old gods.
  • Be aware of who will be following you and what your disobedience may cost them.

For e.g. Nicole’s grandfather was a chain breaker on that side of the family.

For e.g. Kid who followed his dad to the bar by placing his little feet in the imprint of his dad’s feet in the snow.

Are you a Terah or an Abraham? Whom are you following? Do you see the significance of your disobedience? Are you still hanging on to the old gods? Are you saved?

Heart Search by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART SEARCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Heart SearchIntroduction: Couple of years ago we visited “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it or probably been there with your family. It is considered to be hallowed ground because interred below are soldiers from the various wars that were never identified. On the Western Panel of the tomb are the words, “Here Rests in Honored Glory An American Soldier Known But to God.” The Honor Guard keeps watch over the Tomb 24/7 even through bad weather. The soldiers who “walk the mat” are held to the highest standard of behavior. If they do anything that is considered disrespectful to the Tomb, their badge can be taken away if they’re no longer serving at the Tomb. Thousands upon thousands of people come each year to watch the changing of the guards. But if they get loud or sit during the ceremony, the guard will immediately step off the met and call them out – “It is requested that all visitors maintain an atmosphere of silence and respect at all times.” Why such respect? The Tomb is a reminder of the price that was paid for our freedom. It is a time for self-reflection to see if we are living up to the sacrifice that was made for us. We need a similar understanding and self-reflection when we come to the Communion. Our message is called “HEART SEARCH.” It’ll make more sense as we go further.

1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Context: Usually we tack on the Communion at the end of every Easter service. We fail to understand the true meaning and serious consequence of sin in our lives towards each other. The true understanding of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ changes the way we treat people.

Question: How are you treating each other in your life? Do you see others through the lens of the cross? When did you last search your heart? Are you saved?

In today’s message, we will see why and how we need to do a heart search:

1 Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

Background: When we went through our series on love from I Corinthians 13, we learned how Corinth was a Roman colony and it’s population was made up of former slaves, army veterans, business people, and laborers. Yes, there were people there who were original Greeks but most were Roman citizens. We have documentary and archaeological evidence that the Corinthians of the time were known for their pride, arrogance, and self-importance. Unfortunately, this attitude was also creeping into the church. Now they were treating each other with condescension and selfishness. They were divided into groups of haves and have-nots and spirituals and super-spirituals. They were even mistreating each other during the Communion service. Paul wrote the letter to rebuke, to correct them, to instruct, and to bring them to a proper understanding of how believers in Christ should treat each other.

Application: Is there a difference between how you lived before Christ and how you live now in Christ? Has there been a change in attitude and behavior in you treated others before you got saved and how you treat people now?

20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

Background: The early church used to have a love feast (fellowship dinner) every week along with the Lord’s Supper. They used to have a “better room” known as the triclinium (lit. three couches), which was a formal dining room in Roman buildings. Some of the Christians would get there early to beat the rush and get the better seat in the dining room while the latecomers had to crowd into the Atrium. “…and one is hungry and another is drunk.” While people were in the Atrium waiting to get in, many of them were taking their time eating and drinking and actually getting drunk! In essence, they had lost the true meaning and purpose of the Communion.

It’s very interesting how Paul deals with this kind of a behavior. He does not just tell them to grow up or be unselfish or be kind to one another. Instead, he takes them back to the fateful night when Jesus gave the institution of the Communion. 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread…”

Before we go any further, here’s an important principle: Nothing is more life changing and behavior altering than the cross. There’s something about the cross that has the power to bring us to our knees. It has the ability and potential to bring things into perspective. If I may add, if the cross doesn’t do it for you, either your heart is too hard or you’re lost.

Now Paul wants these Corinthians to really understand the meaning of this meal. Keep in mind that most of them did not have a Jewish background. All many of them were used to was going through their temples and taking part in the sacred food offered to the idols. Paul is giving them a crash course in what the Lord’s Supper really means. Listen again: 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

Background: People have argued over whether or not this was a Passover Meal because John talks about Passover being the next day. I believe that Jesus chose to make the meal of Thursday evening into a New Passover meal. This is important because when the Hebrews or the people of Israel or the Jewish people celebrated the Passover, they were told to include themselves in the events that took place on the night when God led the Hebrews out of Egypt. The Passover Haggadah says, “In every generation a man must so regard himself as if he came forth himself out of Egypt…‘What the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.’” The lesson here for the Corinthians was – “Don’t just do the Lord’s Supper. Picture yourself there in the upper room, watching, and listening to Jesus speaking.”

Application: What goes through your mind when you take part in the Lord’s Supper? Do you picture yourself in the upper room, sitting across from Jesus? Can you see the stress on his face, knowing that in just a few hours he would be brutally nailed to the cross for the sins of the whole world?

What’s next? 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you.” Jesus gave a whole new radical meaning to the Passover Meal where He became the bread. Then he said – “do this in remembrance of Me.” What does that mean? It has several levels of meanings: remember in gratitude; identify with the crucified Christ; return to where it all began for you; and look forward to what God has in store for you. There’s one more – remember how guilty you are in the sight of God and how much you need his forgiveness and grace in your life. The Corinthians were so focused on status and pride, this was the farthest thing on their minds.

Application: What will help a husband and a wife to forgive and love is Christ on the cross. What will help loved ones get along is Christ on the cross. What will help a divided church find healing is Christ on the cross. Have you turned to him yet?

25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.

Background: Going back to our Passover imagery, this Cup of Blessing came at the end of the meal and Jesus also recast it and called it the New Covenant. What Paul was telling the Corinthians is that under the New Covenant even God set aside his rights and was willing to pour his blood for sinful human beings. If they claim Christ, they were part of a whole new community where personal rights and free choice to treat people any way they want to is also over. Under the New Covenant, they were obligated to act the way Jesus did. And again – “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Application: Do you believe that you are part of this New Covenant in Christ? Do you actions match the actions of Christ?

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Meaning: Don’t use my name if you don’t live by my example.

For e.g. Parents reminding their children, “Don’t forget. You carry our name.”

What needs to happen? 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For the Corinthians it meant, remember that you are standing on hallowed ground. Don’t forget that someone died for your freedom. Meaning: Do a heart check and see if you are truly in Christ. Have you truly died with Christ, buried with him, and risen to walk in the newness of life in him?

What if you don’t? 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

People ask me – “Does God take the lives of people if they take the communion with sin in their hearts?” I remind them of Ananias and Sapphira in the Bible. God struck them dead after they lied about how much they had given. If that were happening today, we would need funeral directors at every service in every church across the world! They were set as an example for us to know that God takes lying and stealing very seriously. So also with how we treat each other in the Body of Christ. God takes it seriously.

Are you saved? Have you done a heart check? Are you somber and treating others in light of the cross?

The Soul-Winner’s Prize by Abidan Paul Shah

THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul-Winner's PrizeIntroduction: Imagine if sports had no goals and no finish lines. Imagine a basketball game without any baskets. You just dribble and pass the ball around but there’s no hoop and no scoreboard. Imagine a soccer game without any goals. You just do all kinds of tricks with the ball and run around on the field but there’s no goal and no scoreboard. Imagine a 100 meters dash without a finish line. You just run at any speed, anywhere, for any length of time but there’s no end. How many of you would love to play basketball or soccer or run? It would be meaningless. Now let’s go a step further. Let’s say you did have goals and finish lines but there were no medals, trophies, and rewards. It was totally unprofitable. How motivated would you be to practice and train for the game? Even if you did play for the love of the game, you’ll give your time and energy to those things that actually bring you some benefit. Today’s message will help us understand the goal and the prize of every Christian. It is titled, “THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE.” This is the third message in our series “Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means For Us.” As we go further it’ll become clear how the Soul-Winner’s Prize is connected to the Resurrection.

Daniel 12   1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Context: If you ask people “What is the goal of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To get to know God, to study the Bible more, to pray more…” If you ask people “What is the prize of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To be more like Jesus, to be a better person, to use my spiritual gifts…” In today’s message we will learn that the goal for every Christian is to be a soul-winner and our prize is the glory waiting for us at the resurrection.

Question: What do you think is the goal and the prize of every Christian? What are you aiming for? What are you running towards? What are you looking forward on the other side? If you’re not saved, you’re not even in the game. To get in the game, you have to receive Christ as your Savior.

First, the goal and then the prize of every Christian:

I. THE GOAL OF EVERY CHRISTIAN 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: In this passage God is giving a prophecy and a promise to those who are wise and to those who turn many to righteousness. In fact, the Hebrew construction there really means that the wise and those who turn many to righteousness are one and the same. Listen carefully – In God’s judgment, wisdom is turning people to righteousness. In other words, a truly wise person is a soul winner. Now we do know that Daniel was a wise person. If you remember, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken in exile young men from Judah who were without blemish, good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” Daniel was one of those wise young men.

But did you know that Daniel was also a soul winner? To me, in some ways, what Paul is to the New Testament, Daniel is to the Old Testament. I’m talking with regards to soul-winning. If you remember, in the New Testament, Paul was the ultimate soul-winner. He first went to his own people, the Jewish people, but when they rejected him, he didn’t get discouraged but moved on to the Gentiles. He went on three missionary journeys and planted several churches. He suffered terrible persecution because of his passion to take the gospel even to those who would harm him. He became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. So also Daniel, maybe not quite to the same extent and same manner as Paul, was also a soul-winner. He was away from his people in a foreign land. He tried to live a life that was pure and holy in a culture that wasn’t. God gave him the insight to interpret dreams and visions and when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel interpreted it for him. As a result, this pagan king confessed the Living God as the true god. Daniel prayed in the midst of persecution and was thrown in the lions’ den. God protected him and the next day the Mede King Darius was so moved by Daniel’s faith that he also confessed the Living God and sent a decree to the whole empire that Daniel’s God is the true god. Both under the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians, Daniel was a soul winner.

Here’s a principle: “Wise people are soul winners. Wise people make it their goal to save souls.”

Think again about the Apostle Paul for a moment – he was one of the smartest men who ever lived. What was the goal of his life? To win souls. Listen to what he said in several passages in the Bible: I Corinthians 9:22 “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Romans 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

Don’t misunderstand: You don’t need a high IQ in order to be a soul winner.

Application: Are you a wise person? Are you a soul winner? What is the goal of your life?

II. THE PRIZE OF EVERY SOUL-WINNER 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: Before we look at what the “brightness of the firmament” and “shining like the stars” means,” let’s see when this will happen. To understand this, we have to back up to the previous verses. 1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people…” Which time are we referring to? We are referring to the end of time. Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion over the timetable of the end-times but this will be sometime after the Great Tribulation. “And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.” Here we are referring to the Book of the Life. Revelation 20 12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. …15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Paul talks about this Book of Life in Philippians 4:3. The point is this – To get the benefit coming to soul winners, your soul has to be won first. You cannot save souls if your soul is lost!

Now verse 2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Now comes the Resurrection of the Dead. Again, this is not a time to create a timeline of how things will turn out. This is simply a reminder that every human being will be resurrected one day but not everyone will have the same resurrection. Now there’s a special prize for those who win souls – 3 “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” This does not mean that we will become stars in the sky like some myths and superstitions talk about. Daniel 8:10 gives us a clue – “And it (little horn) grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.” The hosts of heaven are the angels and they are sometimes referred to as stars. What Daniel is saying here is “Those who are soul winners will at the Resurrection shine with the same glory like the angels.”

Many times I’ve heard people say – “We need to win souls because that’s what Jesus has commanded us to do.” That is true but there’s a reason people are not motivated is because they are not looking forward to anything coming up in their future. What motivated Paul? Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s look at the whole context for a moment. Philippians 3   8 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead…” Then in verse 17 he contrasts his ministry of soul winning with those who are in for an earthly benefit and then listen to verse 20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Don’t think that this means that Billy Graham will be as bright as an exploding star and all of us will be like a tiny candle.

For e.g. The poor street preacher who baptized my dad. My dad was far more educated than him but this ignorant man was wiser. With every soul I win, he has a part!

Application: Are you looking forward to the prize coming on the other side to soul-winners?

Invitation: Are you saved? What is your goal? Is it soul-winning? Are you looking to the prize of a glorified body like Christ one day

Be the Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

BE THE GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Be The Gospel.jpgIntroduction: Sometime back I was fishing at a friend’s pond with the boys and one of them wanted to use a spinner bait. I thought I knew what I was doing. So I tied it and decided to give it a shot. I did catch a fish for about 10 seconds before the fish took the bait from me. Just like a good dad, I blamed them for tying the wrong knot. In today’s message we will learn how a fish caught a man. It’s not a hoax. The message is about Jonah in the Old Testament and it is titled “BE THE GOSPEL.”

Matthew 12   38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

Context: Many of you may remember that 3 years ago I preached a series of messages on the Book of Jonah called “Running from God.” (You can still access them on my blog site and podcast.) The most amazing lesson for me in that series was not that Jonah was still alive after being inside the great fish for 3 days and 3 nights. God can do any miracle. The most amazing thing for me was that the people of Nineveh repented after Jonah preached only 8 words to them (at least in English) – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Wow! Jonah must be some preacher! What was so powerful in his message that the people were willing to believe God so quickly? What was so radical in his sermon that even the king would decree that every man and beast would fast, seek God and repent? The answer is very simple – “Jonah became the gospel.”

Question: Before we see what that really means, have you heard the old adage – “You are the only Bible some people will ever read”? Let me tweak that a little – “You are the only gospel some people will ever see.” Meaning: It’s not enough to preach the gospel. We also have to live it out. We have to demonstrate in our lives the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People around us need to see the gospel of salvation in us. Can the people around you see the gospel of Christ in you? Have you ever responded to the gospel in your life? Are you a witness of Christ?

This morning we’re going to focus on how Jonah became the gospel to others:

I. It began with a wakeup call.

Jonah 1   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” The word for “arise” in Hebrew is “qum” meaning “up.” Jonah was comfortably asleep when God came to him. I believe that there is a double meaning here. Jonah was not only physically asleep but he was also spiritually asleep. The reason we can say that is because of his reaction to God’s call. 3 “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” People run from God when there is sin in their lives. Case in point: Adam and Eve hid from God after eating the forbidden fruit. What Jonah didn’t realize at that time was that this wakeup call was not just for Nineveh but also for him.

Principle: When God awakens you to do something, don’t see it as something you are doing for God. Primarily, it’s for you.

II. It unleashed a storm of troubles.

Jonah 1:4 “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.” Jonah made the same mistake that people make today – I know what God expects of me and I don’t like it. I’m going to take a break from God. I’m going stop coming to church for a while or I’m going to try some other churches because I feel like Pastor Shah is singling me out. I’m going to move to another city/state because I feel like I need a fresh start in my life. Sometimes it’s not physical relocation but mental relocation like a makeover or a new hobby or a new set of friends, anything to keep me from facing God. Jonah believed in the old cliché – “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Principle: God may be out of your sight and out of your mind but you are never out of his reach.

III. It brought discipline from God.

Jonah 1:12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah knew right away that he was the reason for the storm and that God had come to deal with him. But please don’t misunderstand – Jonah was not committing suicide. If this were the case, he would’ve just jumped overboard. Jonah was a prophet of God who knew the ways of God. He knew that God did not punish his children but he disciplined them. By the way, there is a big difference between punishment and discipline. In punishment the goal is the past but in discipline the goal is the future. God’s purpose in Jonah’s discipline was to change his mindset about the gospel. The reason Jonah ran from God was because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He felt that God had no business saving the pagans. God had to change Jonah’s understanding of the gospel. God was about to give Jonah a glimpse in the coming death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • To start with, Jonah did not just jump overboard. Instead, he asked the sailors to throw him into the raging sea. So also, Jesus was taken by lawless hands and nailed to the cross.
  • As the great fish nose-dived into the deep, Jonah cried to God “For You cast me into the deep.” (Jonah 2:3) So also, Jesus was not a victim of the cruel and the evil. He was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23)
  • Jonah felt abandoned by God and cried, “I have been cast out of Your sight.” (Jonah 2:4) So also, Jesus, at the ninth hour from the cross, cried out with a loud voice – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
  • Jonah described his physical condition inside the great fish as, “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5) So also, Jesus felt the death grip of sin rising around him. And what did he have on his head? A crown of thorns.
  • Jonah described how he was cut off from the earth – “I went down to the moorings of the mountains. The earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” (Jonah 2:6) So also, Jesus was “cut off from the land of the living…” says Isaiah 53:8
  • How long was Jonah inside the great fish? 3 days and 3 nights. How long was Jesus in the grave? 3 days.
  • What happened to Jonah after that? Jonah 2:10“So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry” What happened to Jesus on the third day? God raised him up “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:24) Just the way God told the fish to spit out Jonah, God told death to spit out Jesus.

Can you see how Jonah got a glimpse of the gospel in his discipline?

Principle: When God disciplines his children, his goal is not pain but progress. He doesn’t leave you bruised and battered. He leaves you resembling the image of the crucified, buried, and risen Savior.

IV. It led to a great outpouring of salvation.

Jonah 3   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” Before we jump to the reaction of the Ninevites, we need to say a word or two about Nineveh – It was one of the most ancient cities in the world. Its name was from the Sumerian logogram NINUA, which is fish. There was another town with a similar name “NINA” which worshipped the fish goddess Nanshe. More than likely, the people of Nineveh also worshipped the same fish goddess. Her symbol was a “fish.” Also, a Greek historian by the name of Berossus tells us that the Assyrians had a myth that a half-fish, half-man god called “Oannes” or “Uanna” had come up out of the sea and brought them wisdom, sciences, and art. An archaeologist from the 19th century tells us that outside a large chamber in Nineveh there was a bas relief of a half-fish, half-man being.

The text doesn’t tell us but I can only imagine what Jonah looked like when he approached Nineveh. They say that whales have a multilayered stomach like cows, sheep, and deer. In the first stomach, food is crushed and in the second stomach, the gastric juices break it down. I don’t know how far he made it. I picture him as totally bleached from top to bottom. He looks creepy to say the least. Plus, people must have seen a big fishing floating to the shores. As they got near, they see this man being vomited out! I believe word got out that this Jewish prophet had just come out of a big fish. He goes to a city whose very name is dedicated to the fish god. Imagine their shocker when they ask him – “What’s your name?” Jonah. Sounds very much like “Uanna.” Are you god? “Of course not. I am a prophet of the Living God. My God told your god what to do. He put me inside the big fish to show me that one day He is coming and he will be face death and sin for all, including you. You have 40 days to believe in him and if not “Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Someone might say – “That’s too much speculation.” Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 11   29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

Do you understand now that it was not 8 threatening words that turned Nineveh around? Jonah represented the gospel through his very life.

Invitation: We do not need a big fish experience to become the gospel to others. Everything we go through in life should testify to the watching world of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our obedience to the Word of God, we become a sign of the gospel of Christ to the lost world around us.

Have you received this gospel? Are you running from God?

Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means for Us

ALIVE – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

aliveIntroduction: Have you ever had a bad day? I mean, a really really bad day! There are so many funny pictures on the web of people having a bad day. Sometimes you have to be careful because they can be raunchy and some are even photo shopped. But there’s only one man I know who had the worst day of anybody in the entire history of our world and it was definitely not funny…One morning, a gang of thieves raided his farm, killed all his workers, and stole all his farm equipment. On the same day, a fire burned up his dairy farm and killed all his employees. On the same day, a rival business stole all his vehicles and killed all his drivers. On the same day, his children and their spouses were having a party at the older brother’s house and a big tornado tore through the house, destroyed it, killing his entre family. If that wasn’t enough, a couple of days later, he was struck with horrible sores all over his body like poison ivy and poison oak on steroids. He was so miserable that he went outside, sat on the ground, and scratched himself with a piece of dried pottery just to get some relief. To make matters worse, his wife told him that the only way out of his misery was to commit suicide. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I am referring to Job in the Old Testament. In this message we will learn that in the midst of his trials Job found hope in the resurrection of his Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

Trials have a way of clarifying what we really believe about God, life, and the future. Difficult seasons of life have a way of giving us a deeper understanding of God’s plan, grace, and hope in our lives.

Question: How do you see the trials in your life? Do you lose heart? Do you get angry? Do you become cynical? Do you run out on your marriage and your family? Some people start playing the blame game when trials come into their lives. They blame themselves. They blame their past. They blame someone in their lives. They even blame God. Do you see the Resurrected Christ in your trials like Job did? Do you see hope in Christ at all? If not then you need to be saved?

2 things you need to do:

I. REJECT FALSE VIEWS 

Job 2:11 “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.”

Background: Word began to travel about what had happened to Job. His friends connected with each other and decided to visit Job in order to comfort him. Thank God for true friends who come to us when we are down. But in this situation each one of them came with their opinion about why Job was going through all these trials. Unfortunately, their opinions hurt Job more than help him. Let’s look at them briefly:

  1. Eliphaz the Temanite: He was the oldest one of the bunch and seemed to have more sense than the others. Even though he showed Job respect, he didn’t have much compassion on him. In his wise view, his friend Job was a good man who had lost his way and that’s why bad things were happening to him.
  2. Bildad the Shuhite: In his view, Job was committing blasphemy by questioning the justice of God against him. He told Job that his family got what they deserved and if he keeps running his mouth, then he will also get what he deserves from God, which is more pain and suffering.
  3. Zophar the Naamathite: Out of all three of Job’s friends, he was the most caustic, abrasive, and hateful in his tone. In his view, Job should either repent or die because that’s what happens to wicked people. In others words, Job was a wicked man who was getting his due from God and needed to repent immediately.

Question: Which kind of friends are you listening to in your life? Do they bring only pain, shame, fear, and guilt to you? Sometimes they are not friends but family members. It is time to cover your ears from such false counselors. By the way, such people don’t have to be currently present in your lives. Sometimes they can be people from your past who have since moved on or even died but you are still listening to them. Sometimes they can be people on a TV program or in a book who are giving you wrong advice. It is time to purge your board of advisors. They are not bad people just bad counselors.

II. REDIRECT YOUR FOCUS

How does Job respond to his false advisors? After trying to defend his integrity and innocence in vain, Job redirects his focus. Let’s carefully examine his words in Job 19   23 “Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book! 24 That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever!” Two things here: First, Job wants people to remember forever what he is about to say because it is very important. Second, Job knows that what he is about to say might not happen in his lifetime. He may be 6-feet under the ground before it finally happens. In other words, Job is saying – “Put this on my tombstone.”

Principle: Some of you want justice in this life. Like the woman who was abused told me, “I feel like he’s going to get away with it.” She felt that death would end all hope of vindication. Don’t forget: Death is only a temporary interruption of your physical existence but your story is not yet complete. The final chapter is still to be written for those who know God.

What is the final chapter? 25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” Now begins one of the most disputed sections in Job or even the whole Bible. Job is saying here that even though he will die before he gets justice, vindication, and defense of his character, someone will speak for him. Job tried but his friends told him that he was biased. Job argued but his friends out argued him. Now Job’s only hope is to look to someone who would be willing to stand for him, who would be capable of speaking for him. Someone who would declare with authority, “Job is innocent. I have rock solid proof.”

Who is this someone? Job calls him “my Redeemer.” The word in Hebrew is “goel.” It had 2 meanings in the Old Testament. First, it had a criminal meaning. If someone were to kill a person, the nearest family member was responsible for bringing justice (not revenge) to that person. Second, it had a civil meaning. If a person died and lost their inheritance, the nearest family member was responsible for buying back and retrieving the property. If you remember, how Boaz married Ruth to save the family of Naomi because Elimelech her husband and their two sons had died. This “goel” had taken on a very special meaning for the people of Israel throughout history. God had become their Redeemer, the nearest family member who would bring justice to them and retrieve what was lost for them, even if they were not there to see it. Listen to these verses: Exodus 6:6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” Proverbs 23   10 “Do not remove the ancient landmark, Nor enter the fields of the fatherless; 11 For their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause against you.” Psalm 103   2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction…” Isaiah 43:1 But now, thus says the LORD…O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Jeremiah 50:34 “Their Redeemer is strong; The LORD of hosts is His name. He will thoroughly plead their case…”

Listen again to that line – “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” “Lives” here is much more than being alive. It has the idea of permanent existence. In other words, death cannot stop this Redeemer. There’s only one Redeemer who has conquered death. His name is Jesus. Listen to Peter in Acts 2   22 “…Jesus of Nazareth…24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Listen to Paul in 2 Timothy 1   8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling…10…who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”

But Job is not through yet – 25 “…And He shall stand at last on the earth…” Literally, it can be read as “in the end he will stand on the dust.” Which dust? The very dust that covers the grave of Job. What right does Jesus have to stand at my grave? Acts 20:28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock…to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Ephesians 1:7 “In Him we have redemption through His blood.” Ephesians 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” I Peter 1   18 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ…” Revelation 5:9 “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…”

Now comes the climax 26 “And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God…” Meaning: Job will be present at his vindication! He will be there at his final trial and the first face he will see is that of his Redeemer God. How awesome to think that Jesus will be present at the resurrection of every one of his children! Isn’t it awesome that on the day of resurrection he is personally going to call each one out of the grave! When life comes back into our decayed decomposed body, the first face we will see is the face of his Redeemer God Jesus! Finally – 27 “Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job is eagerly anticipating this day!

Folks, we have moved past the need of vindication that Job had. Now we have a great commission given to us. 2 Corinthians 5   14 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again…17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer looking for vindication but reconciliation. We are no longer victims of our circumstances but ambassadors for Christ.

Are you saved? If you are the victim, have hope. If you are the perpetrator, seek forgiveness. Instead of anger, bitterness, and defeat, have hope, confidence, and ministry.

Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Love is LiberatingIntroduction:  If you keep up with politics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Congressman Sam Johnson from Plano, Texas. He has served in the House since 1991 and will be retiring next year. He is an Air Force Veteran and a POW in Vietnam for 7 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” also known as “Hell’s Hole.” In recalling his experience, he said, “Starvation, isolation and torture were constant companions. There was no news from home, and the enemy worked hard to make us feel alone and forgotten.” He describes one of the torture treatments – “I could recall nothing from military survival training that explained the use of a meat hook suspended from the ceiling…During a routine torture session…the Vietnamese tied a prisoner’s hands and feet, then bound his hands to his ankles—sometimes behind the back, sometimes in front. The ropes were tightened to the point that you couldn’t breathe. Then, bowed or bent in half, the prisoner was hoisted up onto the hook to hang by ropes. Guards would return at intervals to tighten them until all feeling was gone, and the prisoner’s limbs turned purple and swelled to twice their normal size. This would go on for hours, sometimes even days on end.” The torture and malnutrition made Johnson stoop-shouldered and mangled his right arm, besides a cracked back and broken arm when his plane went down. After 42 months in a dark solitary cell with rats and filth, he was finally released and he remembers the sweet embrace of his wife Shirley and their three kids. He said, “I got through those hellish years by the grace and mercy of God.” Our final message in this series on love is titled, “LOVE IS LIBERATING.” There’s no true love in hate-filled, torture like environments. True love flourishes where there is true freedom.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: At the heart of all the problems in the Corinthian Church was the problem of love. They didn’t know how to love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to teach them how to love each other the way Christ loves us. In today’s message, you will see that Christ never exposes, never suspects, never discourages, and never threatens.

Question: How do you love people? Do you at times expose the weaknesses and failures of the ones you love? Do you constantly suspect and doubt the ones you love? Do you discourage and steal hope from the ones you love? Do you give up on or threaten the ones you love? Are you saved? Have you truly experienced the love of God in Christ?

Let’s look at the words in Greek: The first is “love bears all things.” The Greek word for bears is “stegei.” It comes from the noun “stegei,” which means “roof.” I’m sure the Corinthians knew what this word meant. Archaeologists have found evidence that by the 7th century BC the temples and houses in Corinth had started replacing thatched roofs with fired tiles. Why? Because thatched roofs were a huge fire hazard, especially in a growing city like Corinth. These tiles were heavy, weighing about 60 plus pounds but they were durable, long-lasting, and protective from the rain, sun, heat, snow, and cold. The word “stegei” took on the idea of covering, sheltering, protecting, keeping out, and keeping in. When Paul says, “love bears all,” he is really saying, “love always covers and never exposes.” Meaning: Love does not find pleasure in exposing others to harshness. Love does not get joy in watching the other person squirm in fear or shame. In the Corinthian culture, it might have been okay to expose your enemy but not in Christianity.

Application: Do you cover people or do you expose people? In the Greco-Roman world, sometimes when the renters would not pay on time, the landlords would remove the front door or even strip off the tiles from the roof. Does that sound familiar? Someone is bound to say, “Are you suggesting we hide someone’s sin?” No. I’m simply saying what Peter also said in I Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Even though Peter uses a different word for “cover” than roof, the idea is the same. Love does not get pleasure out of exposing the other person but wants to help them in their moment of weakness and shame.

The second statement: “Love believes all things.” The Greek word for “believes” is “pisteuei,” which has the idea of trust in others. Again, the Corinthian culture was very competitive and status seeking. They were constantly striving to get ahead of one another by whatever means necessary. You always had to watch your back. Unfortunately, this mindset of distrust and suspicion had also entered the church. Even Christians didn’t trust each other. When Paul tells them “loves believes all things,” he was really saying, “love does not live in the zone of perpetual suspicion but is willing to trust others. It is the foundation of all relationships.”

Illustration: When God called me into the ministry, I went to Nicole’s dad and he helped me with my decision. I asked him if he would also help me find a good seminary. He took me to one. On the way, he told me that one of his good friends was a pastor nearby and he wanted to come visit with us. That sounded fine to me. This man came and after they caught up, he turned to me and began telling me how terrible people were and how they would stab me in the back and how they could not be trusted. He spent the next hour or two emotionally vomiting. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t naïve about church ministry. My dad was a pastor and still is. But I didn’t know how to take what he had just told me. After he left, Nicole’s dad said to me, “Don’t pay attention to anything he said. He must be going through some mess. Without trust, you cannot minister to people.”

Here’s the point: If you constantly operate as some kind of a KGB agent, always frisking people, always looking over your shoulder, always questioning their motives, you will never be able to love people. Your relationships will always be sporadic, seasonal, and short lived. By the way, get used to the idea that people will fail you. They will break your trust. If I may add, many times, people will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. If you keeping suspecting them, they will become suspicious. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there’s no true love.

The third statement: “love hopes all things.” The Greek word for “hopes” is “elpidzei,” which has the idea of expectation and wish. People often confuse faith with hope. They are related but they are not the same. They are related in the sense that they are both looking to something that is invisible and unprovable. But they are different because just a few verses later Paul says in verse 13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What is the difference between faith and hope? Faith is what you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is what you can’t see but you are looking for. If faith is the foundation that you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is the window through which you are looking for what you can’t see yet.

Illustration: In the past few years, the Robertson family from West Munroe, Louisiana has become a household name. You’ve heard of their show – “Duck Commander.” They came from very humble background through some very difficult times. In the book “Duck Commander Family,” Willie Robertson writes this in the prolog: “The dinner table is where I learned to follow my dreams. This is where Dad told us he was going to start Duck Commander, and where I told my family I was getting married and heading off to college. Our hopes and aspirations were never shot down, never debated, only encouraged. We might have been eating fried bologna at the time because that was all we could afford, but there was hope that one day we would be feasting on a big fat rib-eye steak.” Would you agree that they are loving family? Would you agree that their hope has become more than a reality?

Here’s the point: You can have all the covering and all the trust but if you don’t have hope, you will shrivel and die. When a marriage loses hope, when a friendship loses hope, when a church loses hope, when a community loses hope, when a nation loses hope, it is the beginning of the end of love.

Application: Are you a hope giver or are you a hope stealer? Do you open the windows to your loved ones’ dreams and goals or do you lock them up like Congressman Sam Johnson in a dark, hopeless prison cell?

The fourth and final statement: “love endures all things.” The Greek word for “endures” is “hupomenei,” which carries the idea of being patient, remaining, and enduring. In other words, “love does not give up, doesn’t run out when things get tough.” In a transient culture like the Corinthians, when things didn’t work out with one person, move on to the next. If it doesn’t work out again, move on to the next. You don’t have to take anyone’s mess. How do we know this? Think about the different groups in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 1   12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The Corinthians had moved from one group to another when things didn’t work out with one.

Let me clarify: There are times when you may have to cut relationships because of physical or mental/emotional abuse. Having said, we need to learn to bear with others and their faults and failures. Listen carefully: When you love somebody, be prepared to be hurt. Hurting people will hurt people. But if you drop them, they will never get the chance to heal. In your marriage, family, church family, community, neighborhood, and workplace, you will come across people that you have to be patient with.

Application: Are you willing to endure? Are you willing to look over their failures and hang-ups? Are you willing to cut others some slack?

How can you have this kind of love? First, understand how God loves you. Remember, you can substitute Christ for every time love is mentioned in this verse – “Christ bears all things, Christ believes all things, Christ hopes all things, Christ endures all things. Christ never fails.” Second, understand how to love people. Begin today by setting people free. Think of yourself as a prison warden with keys to 4 cells:

  • Cell #1 Exposure (Remember, love covers all. Let the inmates know that you will always cover them.)
  • Cell #2 Suspicion (Remember, love trusts others. Let the inmates know that you will never doubt them.)
  • Cell #3 Pessimism (Remember, love gives hope. Let the inmates know that you see a bright day in the future.)
  • Cell #4 Threats (Remember, love endures all. Let the inmates know that you will never give up on them.)

True love will being to flow when you set the captives free.

Are you free? Are people in your life free? Are you saved

Love is Purifying by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS PURIFYING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love is purifyingIntroduction:  Sometime back I was watching a basketball game between two college rival teams. Please don’t ask me which one I was rooting for. I don’t want my tires slashed! Nonetheless, a player on the rival team travelled. He just lost his balance. What was amazing to me is that the home crowd cheered at the top of their lungs, including me. This is nothing new and I’m sure you’ve seen it before and probably cheered too. The player was embarrassed. He dropped his head and slumped back to his seat. But I thought about it. We weren’t cheering for our player who made a basket. We weren’t cheering for our team that made a good play. We were cheering for a player on the opposite team who made a mistake and cost his team possession of the ball. If you really think about it, we were actually happy over someone’s mistake and misfortune! Sadly, this happens not just in sports but also in real life. Today’s message will not only expose this ugly sinful side in all of us but also give us the solution so we can truly love others the way God loves us. The message is titled: LOVE IS PURIFYING.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian church was fraught with some of the worst kinds of sins. It was damaging the unity of the church. They couldn’t love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to confront them, to help them deal with those sins so they could love each other the way God loved them. By the way, when the Holy Spirit deals with us, he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Now we come to another sin in this church – “rejoicing in iniquity.” We’ll try to understand that in a few moments but believe or not, it means feeling joy and cheering over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others.

Question: I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands this morning if you ever felt joy over the sins, the failures, and the misfortunes of others. I’d hate to make a bunch of people lie at the same time in church. But would you agree that sin is deeper and uglier and more heinous than we pretend it is. The difference between the guy in prison and us is that he took the next step and by the grace of God we haven’t. Are you saved? Sometime people ask me – “What do I have to be saved from? Besides hell, the Devil, this life, yourself. This message will expose you to the “Resident Evil” inside you. It’ll show you why you need Christ to save you.

Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love does not rejoice in iniquity.” First, the word for rejoice is “charei,” which carries the idea of being glad or taking pleasure in something. Second, “in iniquity” is the combination of the words “epi” = upon and “adikia” = wrongdoing, injury, injustice, or unrighteousness. Together they carry the idea of someone’s loss or wrong action. So Love does not rejoice in iniquity” means love does not get joy because of someone’s injury or wrong doing.

What in the world was happening in the Corinthian church? Keep in mind that the Corinthian culture was a very competitive, status-seeking culture in the ancient world. The American School of Classical Studies in Athens unearthed 1500 inscriptions from the Roman period (44BCE – 276CE) that brag on self. Scholars note that boasting about self was almost considered to be an art form. It was totally acceptable to not only brag about self but also secretly and sometimes even openly wish for the other person to fall and even cheered when they fell. In other words, it was normal for people in Corinth at the time to climb over each other in order to move up the social and financial ladder. Talk about Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest.” Unfortunately, this thinking and behavior had also infiltrated the church. Now the Corinthian Christians were not only boasting about self but they were also secretly and sometimes even openly wishing for the other person to fall and cheered when they fell.

Some of y’all are saying – “What kind of degenerate person would wish for someone to fall? What kind of evil hearted people would cheer when someone falls into sin or when something bad happens to someone?” Us kind of people. I can hear some of y’all saying, “Oh no! Not me! I always feel for people when something bad happens to them.” Some of y’all are saying, “When I heard what happened to them, I sent them a card…I even stopped by and told them ‘I was sad to hear what happened.’” Sure, we’re sad when bad things happen to our children or our best friend or someone we like or someone who is helpless or less fortunate but how about when something bad happens to those we don’t like very much or those we don’t care for much. I am referring to what goes through our minds when we hear that someone we envy just received bad news from the doctor. I am referring to what flashes in the secret chambers of our hearts when we hear that someone who seems to be ahead of us in life is going through a divorce or their son/daughter is making bad choices. I am referring to our first reaction when someone who always seems so strong and self-sufficient loses his job or has a wreck. I’m not suggesting that we call them and tell them how happy we are or throw a party in their dishonor. We are more cautious and polite and have more decency than that. I’m referring to the subtle feeling of satisfaction, amusement, and glee that comes over us and says, “Now I feel better. Now I’m one step ahead of them.” It’s the voice in our head that says, “I feel bad for em…but that’ll take em down a notch or two” or “Maybe that’ll teach em a lesson” or “We must be doing something right because we’re not going through what they are…thank God…” Germans call this thought and feeling “Schadenfreude,” which is the combination of two words – Schaden = damage and freude = joy. It means “the emotion of pleasure we feel in the misfortunes of others.” 99.9% of the time we will never share this with anyone, even people we trust but its there.

Question: No need to raise your hand but has this feeling ever come into your hearts? If you’re human, it has. The sooner you acknowledge it the better. If you pretend it’s not there, you will not be able to deal with it. If you don’t deal with it, you won’t be able to love others the way God loves you. It will corrupt the channel of love in your heart. Illustration: Imagine if you asked someone for a glass of water. They bring you clean water but the container is dirty. No matter how clean the water is, the dirty container will contaminate it. So also, it doesn’t matter how pure the love is in your heart but if your heart is dirty, it will contaminate your love. It will corrupt even the love you have for your loved ones. It will the Devil the foothold he wants in your life.

The place to begin is to recognize the source of this “Schadenfreude.” No one has to give you a lesson in it. It comes from the sin that resides deep within all of us. Keep in mind, this was not just some Corinthian problem. It is an age-old problem. In the oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job, listen to what he says, Job 31  29 “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, Or lifted myself up when evil found him 30 (Indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin By asking for a curse on his soul).” Job calls this a sin. Psalm 17:5 “…He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 24   17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; 18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him. God told his people in the Old Testament to refrain from rejoicing even over the downfall of their enemies.

Application: If we were truly honest, all of us have some repenting to do.

But Paul didn’t stop there. It’s not enough “not to feel happy at the misfortunes of others.” He went one step further to say – “Love rejoices in the truth.” First, the word for rejoices is “sugcharei,” which is more than just rejoicing. It is actually “joyfully celebrating” or “congratulating” or “applauding.” Truth is the word “aletheia” which is somewhat complicated. Truth here is not gospel truth. It’s not just the good things of life. Truth here is something objective. It doesn’t matter if it benefits me or hurts me. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the social ladder. It doesn’t matter where it leaves me on the financial ranking. Truth is truth.

Illustration: Sometime back someone invited me to go watch a basketball game. One of the players of the rival team made an amazing play and someone said – “It doesn’t matter which team you’re rooting for. That was a good play.” Meaning: Truth is truth. It doesn’t matter if that point goes against us or not. That player had just made an excellent play.

Love not only refuses to be happy at the misfortunes and mistakes of one’s enemies but it acknowledges and applauds the good it sees in the other person, without any regard to how it impacts self.

So how can you do this? First, you have to see how God loves you. If you want to know how God loves you, look to the cross.

I Corinthians 1   18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Why did Paul begin his letter to the Corinthians by focusing on the cross? Because he wanted them to know how contrary it was to their way of thinking. In the Corinthian culture, it was acceptable to climb on others, wish for their failures, and even rejoice in their misfortunes. To the contrary, Jesus gave his life on the cross for the very ones who were nailing him. He rejoiced in the truth that what he was doing would bring life to them. Instead of wishing for their failure, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When you receive Christ as your savior, not only are your sins forgiven but it also changes your definition of love. God the Holy Spirit purifies our misunderstanding of love.

How do you love others? Now with the help of the Holy Spirit you can actually love people through the cross. It’s not just Jesus on the cross but also you crucifying your sinfulness and selfishness and loving people with a purifying love.

Are you saved? Are you loving others with a purifying love

Love is Disarming by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS DISARMING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

love-is-disarming

Introduction:  Today’s message is titled – “Love is Disarming.” In other words, love allows you to drop your guard. Have you been around people who have their guard up – they’re always tense and uptight, they have a defensive perimeter around them? Have you been around people you have to be really guarded with – what you say, how you say, when you say? What is the common problem in both situations? Lack of trust. Why? Maybe at some point in time trust was violated. Something personal or private was shared, some weakness or vulnerability was exposed, and now it is used against the person. During counselling, the wife will say – “He’s so shallow.” Then the husband will reveal – “I messed up years ago or I told her something privately and now she brings it up every time we have an argument and has told everyone about it.” The wife is provoking her husband and he is arming himself. Other times, some people are just easily provoked. Nothing is being done to them but because of their personality or their past experience, they immediately react. Like siblings in the backseat – “She’s touching me!” but the other child is 3 feet away. Love creates a safe zone where no one provokes or is being provoked, where people trust each other and disarm.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian Church had many problems. One major reason for their problems was their nature of provoking and being provoked by each other. Their culture of jabbing and poking each other had come into their church body.

Question: Are you a person who is easily provoked? Are you the person who is provoking someone? I am talking in the context of marriage, family, church, neighborhood, workplace, and community. Do you feel like you are in an unsafe zone? Are you causing an unsafe zone? Are you saved? Without Christ, you are in the unsafe zone. He is the one who can bring you in the safe zone with God.

Let’s look at the words in Greek: “Love is not provoked.” The word is “paroxunetai.” It has the idea of “to irritate and to exasperate someone.” It means poking and jabbing someone in a subtle way that they finally react. It doesn’t immediately lead to full-blown rage but it does make a person feel “wounded or punctured by some sharp point.”

Paul also adds to this“love thinks no evil.” The verb “think” in Greek is “logizomai.” It can have several layers of meaning. It can mean “to count or to evaluate,” like Paul says in Romans 6:11 “Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s like “thinking and mulling over a matter.” In some contexts, it can go a step further and have the idea of “planning or plotting evil.” In our context, it may have a double meaning of “sitting around and suspecting your neighbor of evil or sitting around and plotting evil against your neighbor.” There is one more meaning, a secondary one – “giving value or making much of.” This is especially strong when it is in a negative context like the one we are looking at. It has two implications. First, it means that you focus a lot on the evil you see in your neighbor. Second, it also means that you pay a lot of attention to the evil done to you by your neighbor.

Why did Paul bring this up in his description of true love? Because there was a lot of irritation causing behavior going on in the Corinthian church. There was a lot of poking and jabbing each other that was happening. History tells us that this was kind of common in the Corinthian culture. Let me give you one example. As you know, about a month ago Nicole and I were in Corinth, Greece. One of the most interesting sites is on the west side of the Agora, the marketplace, known as the Babbius Monument. It was a circle of Corinthian columns set on a square pedestal. What is very interesting is the inscription on the band above the columns. It says, “Gnaeus Babbius Philinus, aedile and pontifex, had this monument constructed at his own expense, and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir.” There are many monuments in the ancient world but not like this. You have to read between the lines to know what is really being implied. First, his name is a slave name. Apparently, he was a freedman who rose to power and became an aedile, a city manager. His job was to maintain the roads, supervise the food and water supply, organize the local games, among other things. He was telling those who were looking down on him for being a former slave – “I am no longer a slave. I am the city manager. Show me some respect.” But he doesn’t stop there. He adds another title to his name – pontifex, which means priest, probably to the patron god of the Isthmian games. Now, he was telling those who might be treating him like an outsider, “I am also the priest. I have spiritual authority now. You better show me respect.” Then he adds the line – “had this monument constructed at his own expense.” Apparently, people were spreading rumors that Babbius stole the city’s money to build the monument. This was his way of firing back – “Stop saying that. This is my own hard earned money.” The final line is really odd – “and he approved it in his official capacity of duovir,” which was a chief magistrate. Someone must have said – “He ain’t gonna last. Once he gets fired, we’ll take down his monument.” Babbius was sending a warning to them, “Don’t you think even about taking down my sign. I am the chief magistrate now.” This was a threat. By the way, he put a similar sign in four other places in the city! Every time people walked through the marketplace, they had to see those signs. This was part of the Corinthian culture – people were being provoked and they knew how to provoke others.

Now, there is a similar inscription nearby that we did not get to visit. It reads, “Erastus, in return for his position as aedile, laid the pavement at his own expense.” Again, this man Erastus was also a former slave who became the city manager. He was also sending a message to his critics that he did all this of his own money. Here’s something interesting – We don’t know about Babbius but Erastus was actually part of the Corinthian church. Paul actually mentions him by name in Romans 16:23 “…Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you…” (Keep in mind that Paul wrote Romans from Corinth.)

Here’s my point: Provoking and being provoked was not only part of the Corinthian culture. It was also in the church! Paul mentioned this because there was a lot of jabbings and pokings going on in the church. You would hear a lot of – “Did you see how he looked at me?” “I know why she said that to me.” “One of these days, I am going to show her.” There was a lot of thinking and mulling over and planning and plotting evil happening. People didn’t trust each other. They only saw the evil in others. They only remembered the evil others had done to them. The Corinthian church was not a safe zone.

Sadly, this is true even today in churches, marriages, families, community, workplace. People are constantly constructed their subtle and not so subtle Babbius monuments and their Erastus inscriptions to provoke each other or respond to someone’s provoking. Are you the one who is provoking someone? Are you the one who is being provoked by someone? Are you the one who is constantly looking for the bad in others or thinking about the bad others have done to you? You constantly have your guard up.

What is the solution? To start with, remember how God loves you – He gives you a new identity in Jesus Christ. Listen to what Paul says in I Corinthians 7:22 For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.  If the world calls you a slave, God calls you free in Christ. If the world calls you free, God calls you his slave in Christ. Either way, God has given you a brand-new identity. You don’t have to live by your past or what the world says about your past.

So how are you to love others? 23 “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” In other words, stop giving in to the opinion and treatments of others. Stop worrying about what they are saying or thinking about you. If you have a lot of time on your hands, guard your mind. If not, you will pout, get upset, and start problems and then refuse to stop until those problems are resolved according to your personal satisfaction. You will become paranoid and build a Babbius monument to yourself. I’m not suggesting that you drop your guard against evil people. Instead, learn to be vulnerable. Disarm. Admit when you’ve messed up. Admit when you’re frightened. Admit when you’re lagging behind. Admit the truth about yourself.

For e.g. Swindoll gives the illustration of Uncle Zeke from Muleshoe, Texas. One of Uncle Zeke’s buddies was the blacksmith. They would spend time together and talk about stuff old guys talk about. One day, the blacksmith was working on a horseshoe before Zeke got there. He kept sticking it in the fire, pulling it out and hammering it. He did it again and again. It wasn’t cooperating so he tossed it on the sawdust on the ground just about the time Zeke walked in. Zeke didn’t know it was hot. He walked in, looked around, saw the horseshoe, reached down, picked it up, and dropped it right away. The blacksmith said – “Kinda hot, ain’t it Zeke…” Zeke said, “Nope, Just don’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.” How true that is of so many of us… Instead of saying, “Yeah, that was kind of dumb of me to pick that up” or “I should’ve checked with you first,” we say something similar that keeps us from looking vulnerable.

I think about Erastus who had his inscription on the ground. Why didn’t he remove it after he got saved? This is just my imagination. One day, Erastus and Paul were walking through the Agora and they came to that inscription on the ground. It was filled with bronze and fastened with lead. Erastus turned to Paul – “Paul, every time I look at it, it reminds me where God has brought me from. That’s how I used to think and live. Always telling my opponents how great I was and how I had climbed the ladder of success and power. But now, I walk on it and I remind myself that God has called the foolish, the weak, and the base things of the world so that ‘no flesh should glory in his presence.’” Later that evening when Paul was finishing his letter to the Romans and warning them to “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17) and as he lists the names of his fellow ministers – Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Tertius, Gaius, he says, “Oh yes, Erastus, the treasurer of the city greets you.” If he wasn’t a changed man, God would not have included him in his Word.

Are you saved? Are you provoking or easily provoked by others?

 

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

OUT OF THE GRAVEYARD (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 7, 2017)

bef00a78-d76b-461a-be58-7037520c4569This is the time of the year when many people struggle to keep their New Year’s resolutions. According to some surveys, about 70% are broken by the end of January. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual resolutions like growing in Christ, reading the Bible, praying, serving in church, etc. Another year comes and goes and there’s zero progress. In Luke 9 Jesus met three such individuals who were buried in the graveyard of excuses. Let’s see if we can learn something from their encounters:

  1. Grave of Comfort – Verse 57 “…Someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” At first glance the speaker looks like an eager disciple willing to follow Jesus anywhere. In actuality, he was a young man looking to tag along Rabbi Jesus for a low risk, easy life with minimal sacrifices. Jesus knew his heart and bluntly challenged his assumption about being his disciple – 58 “…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not calling him to give up his Sleep Number bed or his Tempur-Pedic pillow and wander around and live under some tree like a hermit. If that were the case, we’d all be in trouble. Instead, Jesus was telling him – “To follow me, you have to choose the uncomfortable life. Previously, it was comfortable to tolerate some old sin, habit, grudge, behavior, or desire in your life but following me will require giving them up. How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
  2. Grave of Obligations – Verse 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” What a strange request! Was the man’s father dead at home, waiting to be buried?! No. What the man was really saying was “My father is up in age. I need to be there for him. Once God calls him home, then I will follow you.” He was using a very common excuse – “I’ll follow God, when things settle down.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s heart too and responded trenchantly – 60 “…Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” How could Jesus be so harsh?! Was he actually suggesting that this man ignore his duty to his aged parents? The answer is “Yes.” Again, don’t misunderstand. The Bible is always about honoring our father and our mother. But in this situation, the man was using his obligations to keep him from obeying God. Jesus was telling him – “Life will never settle down. There will always be another obligation. Follow me now or never.”
  3. Grave of One Last Glance – Verse 61 “…Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.’” This sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it? – “At least my loved ones deserve to know that I’m leaving.” Again, Jesus knew this man’s real intention. He wanted to take that one last look to make sure that this was a right decision. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who took that fatal glance and like Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. What do they see? Some see pain and feel they can’t leave until they’ve healed; some see regrets and feel they can’t leave until they’ve fixed things; some see failures and feel their past would repeat again; and some even see the disappointed faces of their loved ones and feel they can’t let them down. Jesus warned him – 62 “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Many years ago when I preached on this passage, a farmer in our church told me that when he used to plow with a mule, he would find a fixed point in front and keep his eyes on it. When he looked straight ahead, he had straight rows behind him but if he turned back, he was all over the place. If your spiritual life is all over the place, it’s time to look ahead to Jesus.

By the way, before you can leave your grave of excuses to follow Jesus, you have to come out of the grave of sin and death by asking him to be your Savior. Happy Resurrection!

Love is Maturing by Abidan Paul Shah

LOVE IS MATURING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

love-is-maturing

Introduction: Have you ever said about someone – “He/she is so immature”? Why do we call someone immature? Because they do something that is improper. When little kids do something improper, we just laugh and call it childish. As a little boy I was fascinated by superheroes (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Captain America, Flash Gordon). What is one thing all Superheroes have in common? They all wear their underwear on the outside. They’re really underwear like shorts over their leggings, kind of like circus athletes and wrestlers of the time. One time we had some people visiting our home and I decided to impress them with my superhero outfit. Unfortunately, they just laughed at me. But, if I were to do that today, you wouldn’t just laugh at me. You would call me immature. Unfortunately, many times, immaturity is not funny but frustrating and hurtful to others. Today we’re going to learn why immaturity and love cannot coexist. Turn to I Corinthians 13 for our message titled, “LOVE IS MATURING.”

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: The Corinthian church was unlike any church in Paul’s ministry. They were very immature, spiritually, and Paul was frustrated with them. Listen to how he addressed them in I Corinthians 3   1 “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes (children/infants) in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able…” Meaning: You’re just as spiritually immature as before. Why? 3 “for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” Meaning: “You’re still spiritually immature because you are so inconsiderate, hateful and rude to each other. You haven’t learnt how to treat each other with honor, dignity, and decency.” Did you know that spiritual maturity is connected to your treatment of others? This is in the context of the church, home, and life. Today’s passage on love takes it one step further – “love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own” – if you love someone, you will treat that person with honor, dignity, and decency. In other words, love and maturity are one and the same. That’s our message today.

Question: Are you a spiritually mature person? Have you grown in your maturity in Christ or are you still pushing, shoving, and pulling at those around you? How do you treat the people you are supposed to love? Are you saved? Before you can grow, you have to be born. Before you can spiritually grow, you have to be born again.

Let’s begin by examining the words that Paul used to describe love – “(love) does not behave rudely, does not seek its own.” The first one “does not behave rudely” is the Greek word “askhemonei.” This word belongs to the family of words that convey inappropriate behavior, shameful attitude, repulsive acts, vulgar actions, and unattractiveness. When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (LXX), they used this word group to translate the idea of nakedness, private parts, and even sex. In the New Testament, Paul used this word several times with the same idea. A prominent one is in Romans 1 where he used it to describe homosexuality as indecent and shameful. So why did Paul use it here in I Corinthians 13 to describe love? I believe that Paul had much more in mind than just – “love does not behave rudely.” He wasn’t saying, “if you love someone, you’ll be polite to them, hold the door for them and say please and thank you to them.” You can do all that for someone and never truly love them. If you take the real meaning of the Greek word (inappropriate, indecent, and disgraceful), Paul was telling the Corinthians that if you love someone you will respect them – give honor, show dignity, and act decently to the other person.

Why did Paul say this to the Corinthians? Because the Corinthians were disrespecting each other. Let me give you a few examples of where they did this:

1 Corinthians 5:1 “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!” Even though the word “askhemonei” is not used here, Paul was telling them that this was inappropriate on so many levels. To start with, it was dishonoring for this man to do this to his own father. Next, it was degrading to this woman. She was no longer a respectable woman. Now the couple was sitting in church without any sense of shame. This was disrespectful to the church family. You can imagine the negative impact this was making on the young people. How about the community? People in Corinth were shocked by this behavior as well. Overall, this was a sexually shameful behavior.

I Corinthians 6:6 “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!” Again, the word “askhemonei” is not used here, but you can tell from Paul’s tone that this was a disgraceful behavior. One Christian was suing another Christian in the Corinthian church. Can you imagine the impact this must have had on the church? Families were probably avoiding each other in the church. One would sit on one side of the sanctuary and the other on the other side. This one was probably trying to rally others to their side and that one was talking trash about the other person. How relationally shameful this must have been to the church body.

1 Corinthians 11   20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others.” The early church used to have a love feast (fellowship dinner) every week along with the Lord’s Supper. They used to have a “better room” known as the triclinium (lit. three couches), which was a formal dining room in Roman buildings. Some of the Christians would get there early to beat the rush and get the better seat in the dining room while the latecomers had to crowd into the Atrium. “…and one is hungry and another is drunk.” While people were in the Atrium waiting to get in, many of them were taking their time eating and drinking and actually getting drunk! 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. Paul was exposing their spiritually shameful behavior.

1 Corinthians 12   14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?…21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Can you read between the lines and see their collectively shameful behavior?

Why did they behave this way? Paul clarifies “(love) does not behave rudely” with “does not seek its own.” This is word for word in the Greek. They were acting rudely because they were selfish and self-centered people. They only cared about their own concerns, pleasures, and gifts. They did not care about others.

What was the solution? Grow up. Remember, how God loves you. Remember, how important you are to him and remember how important others are to him.

I want us to see how Paul handled the issue of selfishness at the Lord’s Table. 1 Corinthians 11   23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

The point is – God loves us in laying down His life for us. Now we are to do the same for others. 1 Corinthians 11   33 Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 34 But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment.

Next, listen to how Paul handles the situation of various gifts and ministries. 1 Corinthians 12   4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all…18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body…22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

This is not just in the context of the church but also our daily relationships.

Let me suggest a few statements that should become a part of our vocabulary if we want to be mature:

I need you.

What do you think?

Let’s work it out.

Together, we can make it.

I am thankful for you.

I’ll help you.

I won’t say it because it will not build him/her up.

I won’t do it because it will hurt him/her.

Are you saved? Are you mature? Are you loving?

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