Abiding by Dr. Abidan Shah

As many of you know, we’ve been in our series this month on having an abundant life. I have seen and heard of God doing some amazing things in people’s lives as a result of these messages. As I am praying over and preparing each one, God is working in my life and impacting my heart with the concept of an abundant life. My prayer is that we would all be bearing spiritual fruit and bringing souls into the kingdom of God!

As we continue in our series this weekend, we will look at what it means to abide in Christ. We hear that phrase often, especially in church. What does abiding look like? Is it simply staying close to Christ or is there more involved? We’ll take an in-depth look on this concept and its effects in the life of the believer. This weekend’s message is titled “ABIDING.”

Are you pursuing the abundant life? Do you understand what it means to abide in Christ? You can’t abide if you don’t first have a relationship with Jesus. Are you saved? Join us for worship as we continue our series this weekend!

Cultivating by Dr. Abidan Shah

CULTIVATING by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  As some of you know, we moved to the church parsonage about 22+ years ago; then, 10 years ago, we bought our new home. We instantly fell in love with it, especially the beautiful garden around the front of the house. My favorite were the beautiful rose bushes because they reminded me of my dad’s garden. One thing I remember him doing was walking around with a pair of shears and trimming away dead branches, damaged stems, and any places that had disease spots. He would cut them diagonally for the water intake. I thought to myself that I needed to do the same. So, I found a pair of garden shears and trimmed the rose bushes. It was about springtime before the bloom began. It was beautiful! We had the flowers until fall. As winter was coming, I thought to myself, “Why not cut them early? This way, they will really bloom in the spring. No need to wait.” Guess what? Spring came and all my rose bushes were dead. I had killed them. Thank God he doesn’t do that with us! Main point: God the Father prunes and cultivates us in order that we may bear more fruit. He also removes the dead branches that appear to be connected to the vine but are not. To reject Christ is to be severed from him forever. On the contrary, to receive Christ is to be sealed unto him forever with abundant fruits.

John 15      1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

Context:  The passage we just read has been a topic of argument for quite some time. What does it mean in verse 2 when Jesus said, Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away…” Does that mean that if a believer is fruitless over time that God will remove him from Christ? Does that mean that a fruitless Christian can lose his/her salvation? What does this do to the doctrine of eternal security? Typically, these questions are answered by either saying “Yes, a person can lose his/her salvation for being fruitless” or “No, that is not the point of the parable.” To answer these very important questions, we need to keep in mind both the immediate context of John 15 and the overall context of the Farewell Discourse of Jesus from John 13-17. First, the immediate context is the Old Testament imagery of Israel being the vine of God. Remember, the passages we studied in the last message from Jeremiah 5, Ezekiel 18, Psalm 80, Hosea 10, and Jeremiah 2. Based on the vine imagery, the more fruit were souls. Israel was given the task of being a fruitful vine by bearing righteous branches and even graft branches of other peoples who would also become righteous and fruitful before God. Unfortunately, Israel failed, and Jesus came to be the “true vine.” I gave you some verses last time from Jesus’ own words that this was the intended purpose. Here’s one more. As Jesus stood before Pilate, and he asked in John 18:37 “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Through Jesus, we can win more souls into the kingdom of God. There are no limits between Jewish people and Gentiles.

But, don’t forget the overall context. This parable was given in Jesus’ Farewell Discourse from John 13-17. Remember, the south view of Jerusalem with Mount Zion on the west and Mount of Olives on the east. In the middle was the Kidron Valley. Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on Mount Zion and then made his way through the streets of Jerusalem, maybe past the Temple, and down the Kidron Valley. Somewhere here, he gave the Parable of the Vine and the Branches. But, let’s back up to that upper room. There are somethings Jesus said that helps us understand the vine and branches imagery. Let’s pick up when he began washing their feet and came to Peter. John 13      6 Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” 8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” 10   Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”

Let’s pause here. What did Jesus mean by that? The Greek word for clean is “katharos.” Keep that in mind. When did Jesus clean them? This was obviously not at the foot washing or even their baptism. We have to go back to the synagogue in Capernaum inJohn 6      53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” 66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68   But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” 71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve. The disciples were cleansed by receiving Jesus’ words except Judas.

In other words, Judas did not believe, but he hung around. Just like people do today. Maybe to see what comes next. Maybe to steal from their money box. In the New Testament church, there was Simon Magus, who was baptized, and Demas, who served with Paul.

Application: How about you? Are you a disciple or are you just hanging around? Have you truly believed, or are you just waiting to see how things turn out? Are you cleansed?

Back to John 13     11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Judas was really on Jesus’ heart because he keeps talking about Judas! 19 Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. 20 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” 21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. 23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. 25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Matthew’s gospel adds another detail – Matthew 26      23 He (Jesus) answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.” How many opportunities he was given to return to Christ! If there had been a whimper of a cry from Judas – “Lord, save me” – like Peter, God would’ve found another way. The information we have is through foreknowledge not some foreordination. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

Now, let’s return to John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” The English doesn’t tell us, but there is a play on words in Greek here. The word for take away is “airei” and the word for prunes is “kathairei.” The words can be used in agriculture world, but not necessarily, especially the first one. The point is this: the words are connected. The passage is not about eternal security. It is about true connection to Jesus. Judas was never truly connected to Jesus, unlike the other disciples. His fate is found in 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” Judas went out and hung himself. How about the other disciples? John 15:3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Guess what the Greek word is for “clean”? “katharoi.” Peter also stumbled that night, followed when he was not supposed to and denied Christ three times. But he was close enough to catch Jesus’ eye, and he went out and wept bitterly. About 50 days later, on the day of Pentecost, he won 3000 souls on his first message!

So many layers of meaning. Their acceptance of Jesus had made them clean. Their decision to follow was the evidence they were clean. The Father keeps cleansing those who accept Jesus and follow him by grounding them even more in the truth about Jesus. As a result, they keep shining his light and bear more and more fruit, which are souls.

Invitation: How about you? Are you clean? What decision do you make? Are you like Judas, just hanging around? You will be taken away. If you know Jesus as Savior and King, you will become more and more connected to him, bearing abundant fruits. The Are you bearing fruits/souls?

Someone said, “The same sun that melts wax also hardens clay.”

Lessons From My Father (Article)

LESSONS FROM MY FATHER (Article) by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 24, 2021)

 

On January 24, 2021, my father’s faith became sight. He was a loving husband to my mom for over 55 years, a dedicated father to his three children, and the pastor of his only church for almost 60 years. He touched countless lives in India and all over the world through his preaching of the gospel. His testimony of coming to Christ from Islam and being disowned by his family encouraged many to follow Christ. Along with serving as a denominational leader, member of numerous boards, and as the principal of a Bible college, he even helped with the Billy Graham Association. His legacy will live on for years to come. Since his death, I have been thinking about the many lessons I learned from him. Here are just a few:

  1. The words “no” and “God” cannot coexist in a believer’s life. My father gave up his family and inheritance to follow Christ. His whole life was one of total dedication to God. He lived out Matthew 10:38: “he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
  2. Family takes precedence over ministry. When I was about 7 years old, my mom became gravely ill. In order to give her the best care, my father stepped away from the pulpit for an extended period of time. His flock saw the demonstration of Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” As busy as he was, he always made sure that we had the best education, clothes, and opportunities for success in life.
  3. Never underestimate the potential of the insignificant and the obscure. When my father graduated from seminary, he turned down a large church in a big city because God burdened him for a fledgling church in a small town. He not only served as the shepherd to three generations of families but also touched the world in the process. When I began my pastorate, he challenged me, “Don’t run or you will hop from place to place all your life.”
  4. True humility is not in being hunched over and soft-spoken. My father was anything but mild-mannered. In fact, he carried himself like a king because he knew that he was the child of the Great King (Psalm 95:3). The test of his humility was in how he talked about the grace of God in calling a wretched sinner like him.
  5. Be like Jesus who always “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). One time, I was venting to my father about how I had helped certain people and they didn’t even appreciate. Some even talked junk about me. He responded, “Son, I’ve helped a lot of people too and many have forgotten. But, what did Jesus do?” I knew what he meant.
  6. Don’t let anyone intimidate you. My father was the most fearless man I knew. He was often invited to preach large crusades in places known for persecution. No one dared to stop him. Unfortunately, in the early years, he was also the target of envy by fellow Christian leaders. In time, many of the same people became his best friends.
  7. Don’t forget the poor, the needy, and the homeless. My father always had a heart for those were less fortunate. He would travel to forgotten places to help people with food and clothing, who otherwise would have nothing. During the hippie trails, many disillusioned young people from America stayed with us and my father ministered to them. Our home was always open to missionaries and traveling evangelists from all over the world.
  8. Prayer works, but be specific. My father was known for his powerful prayers. There are numerous stories of miraculous healings through his prayers. In his last Facebook Live Sermon, he challenged the listeners through the Parable of the Importunate Neighbor to be specific in prayer: “When you ask God, be specific. You want to be delivered from this sickness? You want to be delivered from this trouble? Maybe you have financial problems…”

People like my father come along very rarely in life. I was privileged to have him as my dad and for that I am forever grateful to God.

Verbal Arsonists (Article)

VERBAL ARSONISTS (Article) by Dr. Abidan Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 29, 2020)

“…See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5b-6)

 Words have incredible power. They can be used for good or they can be used to destroy lives. Unfortunately, we often use our words for the latter. We fail to consider the chain reaction of devastation that follows unmindful, spiteful, and even deceitful words. Take the following fictional account. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Imagine Mr. Kindle on his way to work on a Monday morning. He is running behind for his 9am board meeting. Some friends had been over the evening before and he was way past his normal bed time. So, he gently steps on the gas. “Five miles over the speed limit is alright,” he says to himself. He checks his watch and his rearview mirror, and decides to make it 10 miles and then 15 miles over the speed limit. Unbeknownst to him, a police officer at the intersection clocks him at 20 miles over in a school zone! She pulls him over and gives him a tongue lashing and a ticket to go with it. Mr. Kindle is furious – “Look at this cop giving me a ticket instead of catching some real criminal out there! Now, I’m really late!” He rushes into the office, yelling for his secretary, “Mrs. Henderson! Where are the handouts for the meeting?” Mrs. Henderson is a little confused because he had to tell her Friday evening not to worry about anything. She tries to explain, but he interjects – “Stop making excuses and get me those files now!” He mumbles loud enough for Mrs. Henderson to hear, “Maybe I need a new secretary.” Mrs. Henderson is now incensed. She stomps back to her office mumbling, “How dare he talk to me that way! Maybe, I need a new boss!” As she is turning on her computer, she notices the new temp Karen across the hall scrolling on her phone. “Karen!” she yells, “We did not hire you to play on your phone. Get busy or go home.” Karen is now furious – “I was simply trying to access Google docs to help her find the files faster! She can find it herself!”

Karen decides to take an early lunch, still fuming over the morning’s happenings. It’s only 10am but the line at the drive-thru is wrapped around the restaurant. Just then, Nick, the young trainee, comes over to take Karen’s order. This is his first week on the job. He is nervous, the sun is beating down, and he forgets to greet her properly. Karen is irate “These Kids have no social skills!” she says to herself and gives her order in a demeaning tone, emphasizing, “And, I don’t want any salt on the fries. Did you get that?” She snatches the bag at the window and as she is driving off, she notices that her fries are missing! She’s had enough. She stomps back to the window – “I need to see your manager right now! That young man over there was extremely rude to me and he purposely messed up my order! If you don’t do something about it, I am calling corporate!” Reluctantly, the manager sends Nick home for the day. Nick protests, “That is so unfair! I got her order right! I didn’t bag her food!” He screeches to a halt in his driveway. Just then the family dog Spot runs over to greet him, as always. But, Nick is in no mood for that – “Leave me alone, dumb dog!” – and he kicks at him. What Nick doesn’t notice is that as Spot jumps back, he turns over the charcoal grill in the yard. Even though Nick’s dad had put out the grill the evening before, there was still one smoldering ember and it rolls down into the patch of dry grass behind the house. That afternoon, hundreds of acres of woods were on fire.

Question: Who started the fire? Spot or Nick? Neither. The real verbal arsonist was Mr. Kindle.

Do you ever stop to think about the words you say to others, especially during unexpected and frustrating times? Have you ever considered the damage your words may have caused? As Jesus said in Matthew 12:34b …For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If Christ and his words are in our hearts, then kind, uplifting, wise, and Christ-filled words will come forth every time.

Good Fruits by Dr. Abidan Shah

GOOD FRUITS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Through the years, when Nicole and I must be away and she didn’t have time to prepare a meal, we leave money on the kitchen counter for the kids to buy their dinner. It’s usually with the instructions, “There’s enough money for everybody’s meal.” Occasionally, there’s also, “You can get a milkshake or something to go with it.” One of our kids loves to joke – “It’s all for me. I’m not sharing.” Let’s imagine for a moment if that were to be true. What if we were to come home and one of them had spent all the money on their own selves and bought tons of candy and junk? What if the rest of them were all hungry because of this one? I know you parents are thinking the same thing I am thinking – someone is in big trouble. Unfortunately, many Christians have a similar misunderstanding regarding fruits in the Christian life. They think that spiritual fruits are for their own benefit. Main point: God wants the life of Jesus the vine to flow through us the branches and bear fruits that will be a blessing to others. The branch doesn’t consume its own fruits. One more thing: All we must do is abide in Jesus, and he promises to bring forth the fruits. The branch doesn’t stress about bearing fruits either.

John 15       1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Context: In our last message, we learned that the typical approaches are not sufficient to the proper interpretation of John 15. Some people read the vine and branches imagery only from a farming – viticulture/horticulture – perspective, and it has benefits, but it’s not what Jesus had in mind. Others read it only from a theological perspective due to the “ego eimi” or “I am” sayings, and they immediately see the name of God and the deity of Christ. Although that is also important, and Jesus is definitely God in flesh, that’s not the main reason for it here. We learned last week that a correct understanding of John 15 is through the perspective of Israel’s journey as God’s chosen people. As they experienced various needs in their lives, God became their supplier, provider, protector, and Savior. They were also given the promise that one day all their essential needs will be met in the Coming One. That’s why Jesus gave those 7 “I am” statements recorded by John – “I am the Bread of life,” “I am the Light of the world,” “I am the Door for the sheep,” “I am the Good Shepherd,” I am the Resurrection and the Life,” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and “I am the True Vine.” In other words, Israel was God’s object lesson for all of us, and Jesus is God’s answers to all our deep, essential, and universal needs.

Application: Do you believe that Jesus is the only true, promised, and ultimate source of all-sufficiency for all our deep, essential, and universal needs? Are you looking to him? Are you connected to him? Are you looking to other sources for your needs? Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

In this message, our focus is on the meaning of the “fruits.” Again, people have typically misunderstood this passage. They immediately turn to the fruits of the Spirit passages in the New Testament:

  • Romans 6:22 “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”
  • Ephesians 5 8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).”
  • Philippians 1 10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
  • Galatians 5 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.”

According to this way of reading, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. As long as we stay connected to him, we bear the fruits “of the Spirit.” In other words, we are more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, on and on to being more self-controlled. In other words, we are the beneficiaries of the fruits. Some interpreters go a step further and they even look at the context of John 15 and emphasize the importance of effective prayer, joy in personal life and love for one another because John 15:7 says “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you,” John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full,” and John 15:12 says, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” So, it is suggested that as we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit helps us to pray effectively so we can have joy, peace, love, and a good witness. Again, the main beneficiary is self.

Question: Why does the branch bear fruit? For itself or others? Have you ever seen a branch eating its own fruit? While it is true that once we are saved and we begin to walk with Christ and submit to the Holy Spirit that he brings forth the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, this passage is not about that. To correctly understand this passage, we must return to the Old Testament imagery of Israel being the vine of God. Remember the passages from the last sermon. Here’s one Jeremiah 5       1 “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; See now and know; and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her. 2 Though they say, “As the LORD lives,’ Surely they swear falsely.” 3 O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; you have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return. 4 Therefore I said, “Surely these are poor. They are foolish; For they do not know the way of the LORD, The judgment of their God. 5 I will go to the great men and speak to them, for they have known the way of the LORD, the judgment of their God.” But these have altogether broken the yoke and burst the bonds. 6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall slay them, a wolf of the deserts shall destroy them; a leopard will watch over their cities. Everyone who goes out from there shall be torn in pieces, because their transgressions are many; their backslidings have increased. 7 “How shall I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken Me and sworn by those that are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, then they committed adultery and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. 8They were like well-fed lusty stallions; every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife. 9 Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the LORD. “And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this? 10 “Go up on her walls and destroy, but do not make a complete end. Take away her branches, For they are not the LORD’S. 11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously with Me,” says the LORD. 12 They have lied about the LORD, and said, “It is not He. Neither will evil come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine. 13 And the prophets become wind, for the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them.”

Ezekiel 18      30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” Ezekiel 19      10 “Your mother was like a vine in your bloodline, planted by the waters, fruitful and full of branches because of many waters. 11 She had strong branches for scepters of rulers. She towered in stature above the thick branches, and was seen in her height amid the dense foliage. 12 But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried her fruit. Her strong branches were broken and withered; the fire consumed them. 13 And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty land. 14 Fire has come out from a rod of her branches and devoured her fruit, so that she has no strong branch— a scepter for ruling.’ ”

I can also read from Psalm 80, Hosea 10, Jeremiah 2, Isaiah 5, and others, but the point is this – the vine imagery highlighted the failure of Israel to be a fruitful vine for God. The fruitfulness was not only to produce branches that would bear good fruit before God, but also to graft other branches of other peoples who would also become righteous and fruitful before God.

Is this what Jesus had in mind?

  • John 1 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • John 4:21   Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
  • John 10 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
  • John 12 20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.

The more fruit is the tremendous harvest of souls that will come from all over, Jews and Gentiles, through the true vine. Love and prayer are not the fruit. They are the means to the fruit, souls.

This is why our mission at Clearview is “to lead all peoples into a life-changing ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” The command is not to win souls. The command is to abide, and he will do the rest. Love and Obey. Trust and Follow. Do what the branch does with the Vine.

Invitation: How are your fruits? Do you know what Clearview stands for? Are you saved?

Service During Crisis (Article)

SERVICE DURING CRISIS (Article) by Dr. Abidan Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on May 5, 2020)

(This article is an adaptation of Day 19 from the devotional written by my wife Nicole and me titled “30 Days Through a Crisis.” It is available through Amazon and locally at Hill’s Music, Henderson.)

It’s no accident that in times of crises, we see the worst of human nature. Instead of demonstrating compassion toward others, people grab, snatch, and claw their way to whatever they want without any regard for others–even for something as trivial as toilet paper! Why do people behave like this? Could it be that, under pressure, our true nature reveals itself?

As believers, we are called to demonstrate Christ during times of crisis. While the world is resorting to selfishness, we are to serve others in the name of Jesus. This has always been the mark of believers. When people would abandon their families and neighbors because of a plague or epidemic, Christians stayed behind to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves. Even today, Christian missionaries and relief workers go places where others would never set foot. Why? Because we are called to be the Good Samaritan who took care of the Jewish man, his sworn enemy. There is no greater antidote for selfishness than acts of service toward others.

Let us take a look at our own lives. How are we serving others during times of crisis? Chances are, there are people around us who are going through something worse than we can possibly imagine. Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and be the light of Christ in a dark world for someone? Serving others will not only put our own suffering in perspective, but it will also serve as an antidote to pride and selfishness. Today, we must stop asking God why we are going through our crises and begin asking Him to show us opportunities to serve others.

Scriptures to Think On:

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Luke6:35-36

But whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:43b-45

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep one self unspotted from the world. James1:27

As you meditate on these scriptures, ask God to open your eyes to the needs around you. Start sharing with those in need and see how God will share his grace and mercy with you.

All-Sufficient by Dr. Abidan Shah

ALL-SUFFICIENT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Sometime back in our series titled “Contend,” we played a portion of the sound recording of the crew of Apollo 8 reading from Genesis 1 on Christmas Eve, 1968. The following year, July 20th, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong stepped out and said the famous words, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant step for mankind,” before the preparations began to exit the Eagle, Buzz Aldrin actually celebrated the communion. Because the previous year, Madalyn Murray O’Hair had sued the US Government for the Genesis 1 reading, Aldrin simply announced on the radio that everyone should “give thanks in his or her own way,” but he silently read John 15:5 and then took the Communion. The passage we are focused on in this series is no ordinary one. It has meant a lot to a lot of people. Today, we will see why. Main point: Christ is all-sufficient for all our essential needs. He is not just one among many sources. He is not just next in line of the many sources. He is not just better than all the other sources. He is the only true, promised, and ultimate source of all-sufficiency.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Context: When people come to this passage, they take one of two approaches. Some take the viticulture or horticulture approach: Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. To understand this passage, we need to understand gardening or farming. Nothing wrong with this approach, but I don’t believe that’s all God intended. Others take more of a theological approach. They hear echoes of Exodus 3    13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” So, when they read a passage like this, it immediately confirms to them the doctrine of Jesus being fully God. That is true in passages like “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM,” but that’s not the only way “I am” is used in the Gospel of John. Sometimes, it is simply a way of speaking. Again, nothing wrong with either of those approaches, and we will use them in our series, but this passage and 6 others in John have a much deeper meaning. They are God’s answers to all our deep, essential, and universal needs.

Application: Have you ever thought about what it is that you and I really need? When we go shopping, I have to ask that question: “Do I really need that?” Sometimes the answer is “No, I just want it.” Then, Nicole will remind me about what we really need!

One of John’s purposes was to show that Jesus is the only true, promised, and ultimate source of all-sufficiency for all our deep, essential, and universal needs. These needs were experienced by God’s people Israel, and they demonstrated them for our benefit. In other words, Israel became God’s object lesson for all of us, along with being the vehicle through whom the answer came. Don’t penalize them for their failures. They had to answer to God for that, but we thank God for them and believe that they still have a future and a hope in God’s promises.

So, what are the needs and how were they ultimately met in Christ?

  1. Sustenance – “I am the Bread of life.”

John 6:35   And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst….48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

The point is that we are now to feed upon Christ every day.

  1. Direction – “I am the Light of the world.”

John 8:12   Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Jesus said these words at the Feast of the Tabernacles when they were celebrating their wilderness journey of how God led them with a pillar of fire by day.

The point is that we are now to follow Christ our light in the wilderness.

  1. Protection – “I am the Door for the sheep.”

John 10      7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

  1. Provision – “I am the Good Shepherd.”

John 10      11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

Both #3 and #4 are a reminder of the false shepherds (prophets, priests, and kings) who had misled the sheep (God’s people) – Ezekiel 34       1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered…9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! 10 Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” 11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out…23 I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.”

The point is that Jesus, the son of David, is our gate and Shepherd.

  1. Sorrow and Death– “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

If you read the Old Testament, sometimes it feels like a big, long obituary, starting in the Book of Genesis. Even Job yearned for that day in Job 19     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!”

This was certainly the hope of the people of Israel.

The point is that Jesus, is our hope from Sorrow and Death.

  1. Sin – “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

We don’t have enough time to discuss the problem of sin among God’s people!

Again, Jesus was the fulfillment of the ages long wish of God’s people.

  1. Fruits“I am the True Vine.”

Here, the emphasis is on “alethine” or true vine. Israel was supposed to be the vine, but she failed.

  • Psalm 80 8 “You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it…15 And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself. 16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.”
  • Hosea 10. 1 Israel empties his vine; He brings forth fruit for himself. According to the multitude of his fruit He has increased the altars; According to the bounty of his land They have embellished his sacred pillars. 2 Their heart is divided; Now they are held guilty. He will break down their altars;He will ruin their sacred pillars.
  • Jeremiah 2:21 “Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me Into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?”
  • Ezekiel 17 6 And it grew and became a spreading vine of low stature; its branches turned toward him, but its roots were under it. So it became a vine, brought forth branches, and put forth shoots. 7 “But there was another great eagle with large wings and many feathers; and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him, and stretched its branches toward him…9 “…Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Will it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots, cut off its fruit, And leave it to wither? All of its spring leaves will wither, and no great power or many people will be needed to pluck it up by its roots.”
  • Isaiah 5 1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes. 3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. 4 What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?

In each of these places, the vine imagery was to highlight the failure of Israel to be God’s vine. Don’t misunderstand. God still has promises towards ethnic Israel. But, Jesus has become the true vine for us to bear fruits.

Invitation: Jesus is the only true, promised, and ultimate source of all-sufficiency for all our deep, essential, and universal needs. Are you looking to him? Are you connected to him? Are you looking to other sources for your needs? Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Abundant by Dr. Abidan Shah

ABUNDANT – 1 by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of ya’ll were up at 12 midnight to welcome the new year? How many were up past 1, 2, 3, 4, 5? I was up in body but sleep in spirit. Someone said, “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up for New Year’s. Middle age is when you’re forced to!” At the close of each year, we pray that God will show us his direction in the upcoming year. As we were praying and seeking God’s direction in 2022, the word “Abundant” came to us – abundant in our church; abundant in our family; abundant in our marriage; abundant in our children and grandchildren’s lives; abundant in our work; abundant in our community; and abundant in our personal life. Don’t misunderstand. By abundant, we don’t mean more money, success, and happiness. Although all that is wonderful and we want that, but here we’re talking about being abundant in bearing fruits for God’s kingdom. Main point: As we embark upon this theme of “Abundant” in the new year, it is vital that we know that “Abiding is the key to Abundance.” It is only when we remain in Christ by loving and obeying him that we bear much fruit.

John 15       1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Context: The passage we just read comes in the middle of what’s known as the “Farewell Discourse” in the Gospel of John. Keep in mind: All four gospels talk about the final night of Jesus with his disciples before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, taken to be tried before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and then unjustly crucified; but only two of them have a “Farewell Discourse” on the night before he was taken when he gave them his final instructions. They are Luke and John. Our focus is of course on John’s Farwell Discourse, which is 15% of the Gospel. By the way, Farewell Discourse is a special genre or literary form that is found in some ancient writings and even the Old Testament. They are the final words of a famous or important person. In secular works, examples are the final words of Socrates (Plato) and Pericles (Plutarch). In the Old Testament, examples are the final words of Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and David. They have a certain pattern to them: reference to their coming death; review of their life; encouragement to press on; predictions or prophecies about the future; final warnings; and final blessings or prayer. Amazingly, the same pattern is found in the Farewell Discourse of Jesus in Luke and John but with some very important differences. Unlike secular works where many of the deaths in the pagan literature were suicide, Jesus was not headed to commit suicide. He was headed to fulfill God’s plan of redemption by giving his life on the cross for the sins of every human being. Unlike the Old Testament works, the focus was not on God’s faithfulness in the past but on Jesus himself. Jesus was much more than just some beloved guru who was about to be killed. He was the Son of God about to change the destiny of countless with his sacrifice on the cross. His Farwell Discourse tops all the rest. There is a reason why I spent this time giving you an overview of Farewell Discourses – They are very important. They must be read with extra care and detail.

Although, our focus will be on John 15 for the next couple of weeks, I want to spend some time today showing how it fits in the Farewell Discourse in John and then lead into the communion. There are 5 key words to remember:

  1. Service

Unlike the other gospels, John did not give the words of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Instead, he described something else.

John 13      3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

This is not something that the other famous people ever did. When asked why, he responded in John 13      12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Before we can talk about bearing abundant fruit, we must learn to serve like Jesus. It is in service that we find fruits.

Application: Do you understand what it means to serve others, especially in the family?

  1. Glory

At this point Jesus began to warn them that there was a betrayer among them. Immediately, Matthew wrote in his gospel that they began to question – “Is it I?” Then Jesus identified Judas as being the one and Satan entered him and John 13:30 “…he then went out immediately. And it was night.” Then technically begins the Farewell Discourse – 31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33 Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, “Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Instead of being obedient, Peter wanted to be part of the glory, but this was not his task. He got into trouble not for denying Jesus but for disobeying him. John 13      36Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.”

True glory is in obedience.

Application: Do you see the danger of envy and self-glory? Do you know when you are trying to run ahead of God?

  1. Promises

John 14      2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

John 14     15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Application: Do you believe that you are never left an orphan? Do you recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Now Jesus told them that it was time to go from the upper room, possibly on Mount Zion towards the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. John 14:31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here. Here comes John 15. In other words, John 15 was spoken around 10-11pm as they were walking by moonlight. Three possibilities have been suggested by commentators:

  • They still talked for a while before they left because John 18:1 tells us again that they went out.
  • They walked past the Jerusalem temple. According to the Middot, “A golden vine stood over the entrance to the sanctuary, trained over posts; and whosoever gave a leaf, or a berry, or a cluster as a freewill-offering, he brought it and the priests hung it thereon.” Maybe they stopped by there and talked about John 15.
  • They walked down the hillside of Jerusalem and there were probably vineyards that they had to walk past before they crossed the Kidron, and Jesus must have stopped by there and spoken those words.

We will see this entire section in the weeks ahead.

Main thing to remember is that “Abiding is the key to Abundance.”

Application: Do you understand that in order to bear fruit, you have to remain in him? To remain means to love and obey him. Do you love and obey him?

  1. Persecution

John 16     1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Application: Do you know that the life of abundance will have tribulations?

  1. Intercession

John 17      1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 17        9 “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

John 17:20   “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

If you think about it, the disciples probably ran past some of these stops in the Kidron Valley and on the hill towards Jerusalem after Jesus was betrayed.

Application: Did you know that Jesus prayed for you on the night before he was betrayed in his Farwell Discourse? Do you know him? Are you saved?

I Am the Neighbor (Article)

I AM THE NEIGHBOR (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on November 20, 2019)

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” For decades those words were heard on TV screens in homes all across America. Mr. Fred Rogers had a unique and gentle way of talking to children, without becoming silly. His show dealt with concerns, such as: why kids shouldn’t be afraid of a haircut, how to deal with the death of a family pet, what to do when going to a new school, and even tough issues like divorce, disabilities, and racism. Mr. Rogers, who was also a pastor, reminded everyone to be a good neighbor. But, he was not the first to do so. The idea of being a good neighbor has been around for over 2000 years. In fact, Jesus, in his famous parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, gave its true definition—“A true neighbor is one who shows mercy to those unlike himself/herself and even puts money behind it.”

To understand the true intent of the parable, we have to read the whole context, starting in Luke 9. Here we find Jesus making his final journey towards Jerusalem to give his life on the cross. Along the way, he had to pass through a Samaritan village. As sworn enemies of the Jewish people, the Samaritans refused to let the Promised Savior come through, instead of welcoming him. The disciples were ticked, to say the least. Listen to them in Luke 9:54 “…Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” Instead of commending them for standing up for him, Jesus rebuked them, saying, 55 “…You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

A few verses later in Luke 10, Jesus commissioned seventy of his disciples to go before him and preach the good news. But, he warned them not to retaliate when rejected. They returned with reports of joy and Jesus praised his Father saying, 23 “…Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” To what Jesus was referring, was life in the kingdom or eternal life. Many of us mistakenly think that eternal life is what happens once we die but that’s not true. It begins now when we join God in changing the world. We see the unseen and hear the unheard.

Just then, a certain lawyer asked Jesus, 25 “…Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In other words, he wanted to get in on the action. Jesus asked him what he thought about the law. He gave the right answer—”Love God and love my neighbor.” Jesus told him to go do it. But trying to justify himself, he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” At this point, Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. As the story goes, a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho (which is still a deserted highway) fell among thieves who beat him up and left him die. A priest passed by and a Levite did the same. Then, a certain Samaritan (not just another Jewish person) came by and had mercy on the wounded man. He bandaged his “sworn enemy,” poured oil and wine on his wounds, set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he gave two denarii to the innkeeper and promised him, 35 “…Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” Then Jesus asked a strange question—36 “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” Of course, the answer was “the Samaritan.” The moral of the parable is that we shouldn’t ask “Who is my neighbor?” but “Who needs a neighbor?” Sometimes, it may lead you to help those who are least like you. And one more thing: being a good neighbor requires that you put some money behind your mercy. It’s a distinguishing mark of those who have eternal life.

Are you a good neighbor?

Proclaim: Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

PROCLAIM 2 by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

PROCLAIM 2

Introduction:  Have you ever felt isolated? I’m not talking about just lonely but stranded alone. I’m reminded of the movie “Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks who plays a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island when his plane crashed in the South Pacific. At first, he had a rough time finding food, water, shelter, and even building a fire; but, in time, he learned to survive. His only friend was a Wilson Volleyball that was in one of the packages. He drew a face on it and called him Mr. Wilson. It became his only companion. He would talk to it and even get angry with it. He took it along on the makeshift raft when we tried to sail back. The most intense scene in the movie was when he lost the ball, his only friend, in a storm. At that point, he lost all hope. As traumatic as that scene was, it cannot compare to how Adam and Eve must have felt after sin came in and God was no longer with them as before. Can you imagine the isolation and desolation? Main point: We were created to walk in fellowship with God. Unfortunately, sin has separated us from him, leaving us stranded alone. Jesus came to reconcile us to God through his sacrifice on the cross. He is Immanuel, God with us.

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Matthew 1      22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Context: Last weekend, we learned that we need to go beyond the big gifts under the tree and look through the stockings. Here we find such wonderful truths like “Jesus came not only to rescue us from the penalty of sin, but also to save us from the repercussions of sin.” Today, I want us to see something else in the stockings – “Jesus came to reconcile us to God so that we are back in fellowship with him and no longer alone.” To understand this, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden. Prior to the fateful day when they ate the forbidden fruit, God would come and walk with them in the “leruach hayyom,” lit. “at the wind/breeze of the day.” It referred to some point after mid-afternoon when the sun’s heat had gone down and there was possibly a nice breeze blowing. This was not a one-time deal because the verb “mithallek” means a pattern or habit of walking. In other words, this was their custom everyday – God came down and Adam and Eve walked with him every evening. This all came to an abrupt halt when they disobeyed God and were kicked out of the Garden. Can you imagine the day after?

  • Can you imagine around mid-afternoon when the same familiar breeze was blowing, but they could no longer hear the footsteps?
  • Can you imagine Adam hoping against hope that maybe God will come down and walk with them again?
  • Can you imagine Eve thinking “maybe God is busy today, but surely he’ll come tomorrow,” but tomorrow comes and still no God?
  • Can you imagine the loneliness, the emptiness, and the hopelessness they must have felt?

Principle: Sin separates us from God. There is a God sized vacuum in our hearts. We can try to fill it with friends, family, hobby, goals, but it will never work. Without God, we will remain lonely, empty, and hopeless.

Application: Is that you? Are you lonely, empty, and hopeless?

But, in the midst of the judgment, God had promised them the cure in Genesis 3:15“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” In other words, God’s presence will return when the “the seed of the woman” crushes the head of the serpent. If you remember, in a previous message in this series, Eve thought that her son Cain was the one, but he was not. Again, she thought Seth would be the one, but he was not either. Little did she or Adam realize that this promise was still far away in the future. Days became months, months became years, years became centuries, and centuries became ages. Human beings long forgot what it was like to walk with God and have his presence in their lives. Time to time there was an Enoch – Genesis 5:24 “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him”; a Noah – Genesis 6:9 “…Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God”; an Abraham who walked before God; and a Moses – Exodus 33:11“So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…” There were also times when God’s visible presence came before his people, as on Mount Sinai in the thunders, lightning, and thick cloud; then, through those forty years in the wilderness as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Still in was not quite like the Garden of Eden.

Nonetheless, there were echoes of the promise in Genesis 3:15—

  • Genesis 16:11 And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael…”
  • Genesis 17:19 Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac…”
  • Judges 13:5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb…” His name was Samson.
  • 1 Samuel 1:20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel…”
  • 2 Samuel 12:24“…So she (Bathsheba) bore a son, and he called his name Solomon…”

Then, the echo became very clear in Isaiah. It was in a prophecy given by the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom during the Syro-Ephraimite War (735-732 BC). The southern kingdom was facing an attack from all sides: from the South from Edom; from the West from Philistia; from the North and the Northeast from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom, also known as Israel) and Syria. They were all alone. Keep in mind, it was already determined and prophesied that the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of King David. God was going to protect his promise. So, God sent Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him and give him a sign, but Ahaz had other ideas. He had already sent off his ambassadors to King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) of Assyria, the kingdom north of Syria to get help. Instead of asking for a sign as God had instructed, Ahaz acted condescendingly towards Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” This is very important how Isaiah addresses Ahaz. He calls him “O house of David.” Meaning: God will still protect his promise, even though they will perish because of their lack of faith. How will God protect his promise? Isaiah 7:14“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Maybe King Ahaz’s wife or one of his harems was pregnant. This was a sign that the kings to the north will not be successful and that the line of David will continue through Ahaz’s son. I believe that it was probably his son who became King Hezekiah. Destruction did come. Listen to Isaiah 8       7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them the waters of the River, strong and mighty—The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. 8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel. 9 “Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! Give ear, all you from far countries. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces; Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand, For God is with us.” In other words, there was an immediate fulfillment, but a much greater fulfillment was still in the future. This was a virgin until conception, but one day in the future another young woman would bear a son who would be the Ultimate Son of David. The second would be a virgin even in conception. The echoes of the promise of Genesis 3:15 were still heard, but they were much much fewer now:

Hosea 1      8 “Now…she (Hosea’s wife) conceived and bore a son. 9 Then God said: ‘Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God.’”

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

Just when it seemed that all hope was gone, the echo got louder and louder. It was almost lost several times: Matthew 1      18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Jesus’ life and preaching was to do once again what he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden before they sinned. Have you wondered why he ministered for the three and a half years?

  • He walked with them and taught them.
  • He showed them how to live by faith.
  • He taught them how to obey
  • He was with them in their needs.
  • He was with them when they were hungry.
  • He was with them in the storms.
  • He even prepared them for the life with him when he would be physically gone – John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
  • He even promised them of the Holy Spirit whom he would send – John 16 5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
  • As he was ascending, he said to them in Matthew 28 18 “…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

I can go on and on, but Romans 8      35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In my own life, God has proven this time and again. He has never left me.

Invitation: Is God with you? Are you with him? Have you received Immanuel as your Savior and King?