Watch by Dr. Abidan Shah

Watch

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

Introduction: How many of y’all remember your wedding day as if it was yesterday? Nicole and I are coming up on our 25th wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful day with so many wonderful memories! The only thing I would change would be my groomsmen (hope they’re watching!). They were absolutely useless! To start with, I had to stay after them to get their tuxes. Then, they didn’t give me a bachelor party. I wasn’t expecting anything crazy but a couple of pizzas and ice cream would’ve been nice. Finally, when it came to decorating Nicole’s car, they wrecked it with saran wrap, toilet paper, syrup, and foam popcorn! They had no plan. Talk about foolish! Now, what does this have to do with today’s message?Christ is the bridegroom and we who believe in him are the wedding party. The groom has promised that he is coming but he hasn’t given us the exact time. We have to be prepared and we have to be watching. Are you prepared? Are you watching? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five wise and five foolish, and the message is titled—WATCH.

Matthew 25      1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five werefoolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. When you peer into this wedding, what kind of a bridesmaid or groomsman are you? Are you ready and watching for the coming of Christ? Will he open the door for you or will he say “I do not know you”? Are you saved?

Context: For the next 3 weeks we will be in Matthew 25 looking at what some have called “the parables of future eschatology” or the “parables of the end times.” A lot of ink has been spilt in trying to understand the end-times’ message around these 3 parables. Before we go any further, let me make one suggestion: When it comes to studying the end-times, it’s always wise to be humble. I’ve seen people get very argumentative and dogmatic over their position. That never helps. If you truly want to learn what the Bible has to say about the end-times, then remain teachable. There is so much we still don’t understand and probably never will, and that’s okay. I preached on the end-times for 2 years and I still have many questions.

Now, back to the parable: To correctly interpret this parable, we have to look at the context in which Jesus gave it. In order to understand its context, we have to back up to Matthew 24into what is known as the Olivet Discourse. Here Jesus spoke a lot about the end-times. It begins with Matthew 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” What things were the disciples asking Jesus about? They were asking about Jesus’ pronouncement against the City of Jerusalem. Listen to Matthew 23     37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate.” Why did Jesus make such a proclamation against Jerusalem? Because Jerusalem was supposed to be the “City of the great King” but the religious leaders had rejected their King when he came to them riding on a donkey. Then, a verse later, Jesus made a shocking prophecy against the Jerusalem temple. Listen to Matthew 24     1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Why did Jesus say that about the temple? Because the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer but it had become a den of thieves. By the way, did these prophecies come true? Yes. In AD 70, the temple was destroyed by Titus and in AD 135, Jerusalem was laid in ruins. The Jewish people lost their land until 1948. That was a heavy price to pay for rejecting their Messiah.

Let me offer a warning here: It’s one thing for God to deal with his chosen ones, the Jewish people, but it’s quite another when others decide to join in. For example: It’s one thing for you to pop your child’s hand for trying to stick their finger in an electrical socket, but what if an outsider decides to pop your child’s hand? You get the point. Don’t forget what Jesus said in the same breath in Matthew 23:39 “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” It means that God still has a purpose for national Israel in the end times. Paul says it very clearly in Romans 11:1 “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!” You can allegorize that only so much!

In the midst of giving these prophecies regarding judgment against Jerusalem and the Temple for rejecting him at his first coming, Jesus also gave some prophecies regarding the Final Judgment of all people at his Second Coming. This is similar to the “double vision” that is often depicted by the Old Testament prophets. On one hand, they talk about something that will happen in the very near future, but they also have something far in the future in mind. In a sense, Jesus was prophesying about what was going to happen soon after his first coming but he also had another coming in mind. In other words, the coming was not the only trip. Jesus is coming again after he dies on the cross and is resurrected and ascended into heaven. This second coming will not only be for judgment but also for blessing and final salvation.

To start with, will this be a real flesh and blood coming? Yes. Matthew 24:26 “Therefore if they say to you, “Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Meaning: This will be a bodily return of Jesus. By the way, this was the belief of the early church and rightfully so. Acts 1     9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Question: Do you believe in the bodily return of Jesus?

When will this return be? Whether you believe in the Rapture first or the Second Coming, either way he is coming imminently. Here are some signs from Matthew 24.    

  1. Deception—4 “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
  2. Wars and Rumors of Wars—6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars…7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
  3. Natural Disasters—And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
  4. Persecution9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
  5. Betrayal—10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
  6. False Prophets11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
  7. Lack of Love—12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
  8. Gospel—14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
  9. Abomination of Desolation—15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),
  • Celestial Disasters—29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Bottom Line: Matthew 24:33 “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” Keep in mind that these things have been happening for 2000 years. We have been living in the last days. Don’t hide behind a theological position and be caught unprepared.

Are you ready for his coming? You say, “I’ll take care of it right before he comes.”

If you say, I guess I can take it easy and just go through the list of signs one by one—Matthew 24     36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. …42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming…44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect…50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of.” 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. In other words, we don’t know when but Jesus is coming back.

Question: Are you wise and prepared for the coming of the bridegroom or are you foolish and unprepared? Are you saved?

Treasure by Dr. Abidan Shah

Treasure

TREASURE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you would love to find some hidden treasure in your backyard? Ten years ago (2009) in England, Terry Herbert was metal detecting at a friend’s farm. He had been doing this for 18 years but this time the device actually started buzzing. It had located a small, glittering bit of metal which turned out to be a gold artifact. But that wasn’t it! Within minutes, his detector was buzzing all over the place. Terry had discovered an Anglo-Saxon treasure trove from 1,400 years ago. Archaeologists and museums started buzzing all over the place. After all was said and done, they found 4,600 pieces of gold and silver. It was declared a national treasure valued at four million pounds known as the Staffordshire Hoard. You can see it at the Birmingham Museum and the Stoke Museum in England. The big questions are— “Who owned that treasure? Why did he/she bury it?” No one knows! Here’s the point: Earthly treasures cannot be permanently owned. What you treasure today will belong to someone else’s tomorrow. The only treasure that you can permanently own is what you put into heaven’s bank, the kingdom of God. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the Parable of the Rich Farmer and the message is titled “TREASURE.”

Luke 12     16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are. Are you the rich farmer who trusted in his possessions? By the way, you don’t have to be wealthy to be rich. It’s not about your bank balance. It’s about how obsessed you are with it. Are you trusting in your riches? Are you saved? If tonight your soul is required of you, where will you go?

Preface: Unlike the previous parables, this parable of the rich farmer is somewhat troubling at first glance. If we’re truly honest, what’s wrong with what he did? Listen again to verse 16 “…The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.” What’s wrong with that? That sounds like a blessing! What farmer, business owner, or employee would not want their business or job to be blessed? 17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” Is that wrong? Not really. He is a visionary. He is thinking ahead and taking the necessary steps to manage his growth. The alternative would be to sit back, do nothing, and lose everything. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ Is anything wrong with that? Once again, no. Isn’t that the reward of a well-planned life? Shouldn’t we all plan ahead so we can retire one day and have the necessary income when we can’t work like we could? It seems like this rich farmer, rather than being a villain, should be a model for all of us to follow! In order to understand the true intent of the parable, we need to look at the context in which Jesus gave it.

Context: To understand the context of this parable, we need to back up to verse 13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”Keep in mind that this parable was given during the Travel Narrative of Jesus in Luke. Remember Luke 9:51, when Jesus knew that the time had come for him to be ascended that he set his face to go to Jerusalem? It was a fulfillment of Isaiah 50:7 “…Therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed” and Ezekiel 3:9 “Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” Face like flint symbolized determination and resolve in the face of incredible trials. When Jesus knew that it was time for him to suffer and die the most awful death on the cross for the sins of the whole world, he didn’t hesitate or dilly-dally. Instead, his eyes became laser focused, his feet picked up speed, and his mind was locked on what was about to happen. Just then—“Jesus, my brother is not sharing…” Imagine a building is on fire and firefighters are rushing in to save lives. Just then someone stops them and say, “My cat is stuck on a tree. Can you help me first?” What was Jesus’ response? 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” My translation: “Dude, do you really think that’s why I came?” 15And He [Jesus] said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” This is the context in which Jesus gave the parable of the rich farmer. It was not about being successful, planning ahead, or saving up for retirement. It was about covetousness. The desire to acquire more.

Application: Are you covetous? Are possessions controlling your life? Nothing wrong with having things and new things but are you more concerned about material things than about the things of God?

Back to the parable: The rich man has a conversation with himself (soliloquy)—19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ He doesn’t get a chance to answer back because God interjects! 20But God said to him, “Fool!” Why did God call him a “fool”? The word for fool is “aphron,” the same word found in the LXX at Psalm 14:1 “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” This rich farmer probably went to the synagogue and did the ritual sacrifices but he was an atheist at heart. More than that, he was a selfish atheist.

Application: Is that you? Are you an atheist at heart and a selfish one?

20 But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” Sometime back I was teaching a Wednesday evening Bible study and my phone kept ringing. I kept ignoring it until Nicole came by and told me that it was the fire department. There had been a horrible wreck on southbound I-85 and an entire family was killed up near Wise area. Long story short, I got there and prayed for the firefighters before they had to remove the bodies. The saddest part was to watch them remove the things of the people one by one. There was the wife’s cell phone, the little girl’s backpack, someone’s shirt, etc. They were putting them on the side of the highway. Just a little while ago, it belonged to someone but it no longer had an owner. Same will happen to your stuff one day. Listen to the next verse 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The word for treasure is “thesaurus” from which we get our English word “Thesaurus.” A thesaurus is a dictionary that stores words. The problem was not with his success, planning ahead, or saving up for retirement. The problem was that this rich farmer was only living for self with no regard to God. He was an atheist at heart. He was storing up only for himself.

Application: Is that you? Are you only living for self? Where does God fit in your life?

Now, if Jesus would have ended here, the message would have been “Don’t live for self. Put God first,” but it doesn’t end here. Listen to verse 22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.” By the way, this is very similar to Matthew 6 where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. It could be that Jesus repeated portions of that sermon here. Once again, verse 22 “…Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.” Jesus was not telling his disciples, “Don’t plan your lives.” He was simply telling them, “Don’t be overcome by “merimnaw.” It’s a Greek word for “worry” that’s much more than daily care. It is “paralyzing anxiety.” Question: Are you living under paralyzing anxiety about money, relationship, health, future, etc.? Jesus reminds them that they are not animals. 23 “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” Animals live only for their daily necessities, minus clothing. We human beings were created for things far greater. We were created in the image of God with the ability to relate with Him and help build his kingdom in this world. Jesus appeals to nature to prove his point. 24 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them.” Ravens were considered to be unclean birds. The point is that God cares for them too! “Of how much more value are you than the birds?” 25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? By the way, one of the best antidotes for anxiety and worry is nature. We turn to TV, shopping, or playing golf. All those things are fine but that’s just substituting one activity for another. Spending time in nature will do that for you more than anything else but the point is that we have far more value than animals and plants.

Jesus continues in verse 29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. 32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In other words, work on building God’s kingdom and he will take care of your needs.

So, how do you build God’s kingdom? Study the Bible more? Pray more? Serve in church more? Win the lost more? None of these things are wrong and we should be doing them but that’s not what Jesus meant when He told us to seek his kingdom. Listen to verse 33 “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, don’t hoard but help others in need. This is what #iamtheneighbor project is all about!

Invitation: Are you living for self? Are you hoarding? What if your soul is required tonight? Are you saved?

Neighbor by Pastor Abidan Shah

NEIGHBOR by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How many of y’all grew up on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood? The show ran from 1968 to 2001 with just a couple of years missing in between. It became a hit with many children and parents. Fred Rogers who was also a pastor had a unique and a gentle way of talking to children. He understood how they felt and he got down to their level without becoming silly necessarily. The show dealt with issues like 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 issues like divorce, racism, and disabilities. Anybody remember the song? “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” Then it ended with “Won’t you please, Won’t you please? Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Mr. Rogers didn’t come up with the idea of a neighbor. It has been around for over 2000 years ago. In fact, Jesus gave its true definition in his famous parable of the Good Samaritan. Here’s the definition: A true neighbor is one who shows mercy. Mercy is a distinguishing mark of those who have eternal life. If you need proof that you have eternal life, ask yourself, “Are you a neighbor?” “Do you show mercy to others?” “When was the last time you showed mercy to someone?” In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come now to the famous parable of the Good Samaritan and the message is titled “NEIGHBOR.”

Luke 10     30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Are you the priest who passed by the other side? Are you the Levite who also passed by the other side? Or, are you the Good Samaritan who stopped and showed mercy? Are you a merciful person? Are you saved? If you need proof of eternal life, check your mercy record.

Background: The parable of the Good Samaritan is right up there with the parable of the Prodigal Son as the most popular parable of Jesus. It has been the subject of numerous paintings, stories, movies, and the name of many charities and hospitals all over the world. In fact, we are about to start our annual Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child Shoebox ministry. Having said that, unfortunately, this parable is often misunderstood. To interpret it correctly, we need to examine the context in which Jesus gave this parable. Typically, people begin with verse 25 where the lawyer asks Jesus “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” and Jesus asks him “What is in the law?” He replies, “‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus tells him to go do this and he will live but seeking to justify himself he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Although that is true and we will come to that, that’s not the whole context. In order to get the whole context, you have to begin in Luke 9    51 “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.”

Who were the Samaritans? If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a 1000 exist in Israel today), they would tell you that they are the true descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that the worship center was wrongfully moved from Gerizim to Shiloh and that’s when things went downhill. But, if you read the Bible, you will see a different account. In 2 Kings 17 we find out that when God sent Assyria against the Northern Kingdom, they not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples. Under this strategy, they would move the conquered people to another part of the world, and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Samaritans were people who had been settled in the land of Israel by the Assyrians. They somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were left behind. The Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. To make matters worse, the Samaritans even tried to sabotage their building projects when they returned from the second exile in Babylon. Needless to say, there was bad blood between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Each saw the other as neighbors they wished they did not have. What happened when Jesus came by the Samaritan village? 52 “…And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “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.” And they went to another village. Can you imagine the disciples’ reaction?

Application: What would you have done? What do you when people mistreat you? Who is your neighbor? How do you treat them?

For time’s sake, let me condense the account. In Luke 10, Jesus commissioned 70 of his disciples to go out saying 2 “…The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.” In other words, “You are going out in a cruel and a harsh world. Remember to be kind and merciful.” What if they were rejected? They were only to shake the dust off their feet and go to the next village. They were given a simple promise by Jesus—16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” In the very next verse 17 the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” On hearing this, Jesus said something very important for our message—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.” What was Jesus talking about? He was talking about the Kingdom of God. He was talking about Eternal Life. By the way, Eternal Life is not going to heaven when you die. It begins now through Jesus Christ. It means having a portion in what God is doing and what God will do one day. You see and hear things that prophets and kings have desired but couldn’t. But, to do that you need MERCY.

Now comes the account of the lawyer asking the question 25 “…Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” His answer was correct—Love God and Love your neighbor. 29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Why did he ask that question? He was hoping to prove that he had extended the typical boundaries of neighborhood. To the contrary, Jesus removed all boundaries. Then he gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and thieves beat him up and left him for dead. Both the priest and the Levite walked by because they had to be somewhere on time or they didn’t want to defile themselves or they didn’t want to get involved. Then here comes a Samaritan. What a twist! In other words, the Samaritan saw no boundary but the lawyer was wanting to know the limits. Instead, he had compassion, lit. splagchnizomai, “to have the insides feel bad.” He bandaged him, poured oil and wine on him, set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, he gave 2 denarii and gave to the pandocheus (inn keeper) and said “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” Here comes the big question—6 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” The question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whose neighbor am I?” In other words, you cannot have boundaries if you want eternal life.

Don’t miss this: People who have mercy don’t ask “Who is my neighbor?” but “Whose neighbor am I?” A true neighbor is one who shows mercy. It is a distinguishing mark of those who have eternal life. If you need proof that you have eternal life, ask yourself, “Are you a neighbor?” “Do you show mercy to others?” “When was the last time you showed mercy to someone?”

Mercy is not a requirement for eternal life but a verification of eternal life.

NOW THE BIG REVEAL!

Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: “The best things in life are free.” True or false? True. How about “There’s no such thing as free lunch.” In other words, there’s nothing truly free in this life. Somebody has to pay for it. True or false? True. Which one is truer? Both are just as true. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is a free gift. It doesn’t cost us a thing to be saved but it cost Jesus his life. No, you don’t have to pay anything for your salvation but salvation means that now you are a disciple of Jesus and everything you have belongs to your Master. Have you counted the cost of discipleship? In our series on the parables of Jesus, we will try to understand the cost of discipleship and that is the title of our message today–COST.

Luke 14     25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Question: Do you have an unfinished spiritual tower? Are you way over your head in a spiritual battle? Are you truly saved? Are you a disciple or just an uncommitted, wishy-washy fence-sitter?

Context:  How do you picture Jesus 2000 years ago when he came the first time? Do you see him as a solitary figure praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do you see him with his 12 disciples? Maybe walking through the fields or sailing on the Sea of Galilee? Maybe you see him sitting on a mountaintop with a small crowd seated on the side of the mountain preaching the beatitudes. Listen once again to verse 25 “Now great multitudes went with Him.” Can you picture that? Imagine walking with the huge crowds of people at the state fair. It’s overwhelming to say the least! Now imagine that ten times worse and everyone is trying to get to one person! Why were they following Jesus? Of course, some like the disciples were committed to him. They had accepted the call to discipleship but many had not. They were following him for Food (Walking/Talking Cafeteria), Miracles (Mobile E/R), and Preaching (New and Different). Jesus being God knew that and he stopped, turned around, and declared—26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” Does it mean that we have to literally hate our family in order to follow Jesus? Of course not. In Greek, when influenced by Hebrew and the Old Testament, the words “love” and “hate” can mean “choose” and “not choose.” For example:  Malachi 1     2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated…” So also, Jesus wants us to pick him over any earthly relationship. By the way, this is not the first time that Jesus had made such a statement. In Luke 9 someone told him 57 “…Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air havenests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: My father’s testimony of leaving his family to follow Christ.

Application: How about you? Is some relationship getting in the way of discipleship? Why do you go to church? Will you sacrifice your spiritual life for friendship?

Something else in verse 27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” There is an immediacy to this call. It doesn’t mean that you follow flippantly. It means go now. Just like the passage from Luke 9 “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” and “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Illustration: Again, my father left that very night. If not, he would’ve stayed.

Application: What is keeping you from committing your life fully to Christ? Are you waiting for things to settle down? Are you waiting to have all your fun and then give what’s left over to God? Listen to what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12     1 “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: 2 While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain.”

Now Jesus gives 2 parables to show what lack of counting the cost and following fully looks like: 

1. Tower Builder: We’re not told why the individual decided to build this tower. Maybe it was for agricultural purposes to watch over the fields or maybe it was for military purposes to watch the enemy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that this awkward unfinished structure is standing now in the front yard that does nothing. Now it is a monument to shame. Listen to verse 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” They were probably saying things like “Are you going to hang clothes on it?” “Maybe you can tie your goats in it,” or “You should sell it. Oh wait, you can’t move it, can you?” Why did this happen? Because he didn’t count the cost of building—28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a tower going nowhere! Is that you? To give another analogy, they have these half-baked, soupy, uncooked, and unfinished Christian life.

2. King on a Warpath: Unlike the last parable, the consequence of failing to count the cost in this parable is deadly. This king thought that he was big and bad with his 10,000 soldiers only to find out that the other side had 20,000! You’re about to get a whooping! Again, why did this happen? 31 “Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.”

Application: That’s how many peoples’ Christian journey looks like—a defeated army. After all these years of playing Christians, the promises in the Bible still don’t work. Unfortunately, people blame God for those defeats. Is that you?

Question: Have you considered the cost of following Christ? Are you willing to follow him in order to be saved? Some people may ask at this point—“Isn’t this works salvation?” Don’t misunderstand. Following Jesus is always the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. Listen to Philippians 2     12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

We need to rethink what we have believed about getting saved. Listen to Ephesians 2     8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Are you willing to lay aside your old ways and step into the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you?

Invitation:  Are you willing to get saved? Are you ready to be a disciple? Maybe you are already saved but you haven’t become a disciple, today is the day. Maybe you are lost, are you ready to do it the right way and be his disciple right from the start.

Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you heard someone say “so and so is book smart but not street smart”? It means that a person has a lot of book sense but no common sense. Scientists and professors are known for that. I knew some professors from back in college who were brilliant when it came to books but clueless when it came to day to day activities. One was a genius in Physics but could not operate the coffee machine. Another one was a Math whiz but could not manage his money. So also, there are many Christians who are the “Good Book” smart but a failure when it comes to daily life decisions. They have a lot of spiritual knowledge but no relational and financial wisdom. Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is very different than anything I’ve ever preached. It’s on learning how to be “SHREWD” and that’s the title of the message.

Luke 16     1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Question: Parables reflect who we are in the story. Are you the wise steward or a foolish one? Have you been a good steward of what God has blessed you with? How are your finances? How do you see money? Do you use money or love money? Do you have the true riches in Christ? Are you saved?

Context: Previously in this series, you’ve heard me say that this parable or that is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. Today’s parable is the most difficult parable of Jesus. The reason it’s so difficult is because on the surface it appears wrong on many levels. But, if we suspend our judgment for a little bit, it will begin to make a lot of sense. So, let’s review the story again: The steward has been fired for wasting his master’s goods but before he cleans his office, he decides to take advantage of his access to the financial records and pardons part of the debts that others owed to his ex-boss. Listen again to verse 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’” I did some math and that’s about 400-500 gallons of oil. This would take about 75 olive trees to produce and it would be the wages of an average worker for 2 years. That’s a lot of money! Again, verse 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” Losing 20 measures of wheat would come to losing the produce of 20 acres of land. That would be equal to losing about 500 denarii. Again, that’s a lot of money! Also, these were just two examples listed but he did that with all his ex-boss’s debtors. Here’s a question: Why didn’t he just steal some money and goods? If he had been caught stealing, he would have been punished severely. So, why did he do this? He was doing favors on his ex-boss’s expense to cash in later when he would be jobless. In other words, he was using his ex-boss’s debt ledger to build friendships that he could call on in the future for help.

What was his boss’s reaction? 8 “So the master commended (epaineo = praised) the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.” Why didn’t he call the authorities? What boss/owner in his right mind would do that! Keep in mind that this is just a parable, a made-up story given to make a point. The point was that the steward did not steal from his ex-boss. Instead, he made a clever decision to take advantage of his situation and make friends for a rainy day. This act even impressed his ex-boss! Just when you want to say that there must’ve been a misunderstanding in the wording, listen to Jesus’ conclusion—“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” The Greek word for shrewd is “phronimos” which means insight and wisdom, sensible, thoughtful, prudent, and wise. The same word is also used by Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” What Jesus is saying is that lost people are wiser in using money than God’s people. 

Of course, people have tried to explain this point in more palatable ways. Some have said that Jesus would never commend such a behavior or commend lost people. There must be some misunderstanding. Nope. Listen to verse 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” In other words, Jesus was telling his listeners to use money to make friends so that when life does not go as planned, their wise investments would help them out. Again, some people have claimed that this could not be. Maybe, Jesus was simply using irony or sarcasm here. Listen to verse 10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the trueriches?” In other words, if you haven’t learned how to use money wisely, why should God trust you with his true riches. Keep reading—12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Now it begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was NOT saying—

  • God’s people should be more like the people of the world.
  • God’s people should use other people’s money to outsmart them.

Instead, Jesus was saying—

  • Learn from those sons of this world who use money to make friends.
  • If you don’t know how to use money properly, why should God trust you with his true riches.
  • If you claim to serve God, stop serving money. You cannot serve both. You will love one or the other.

Why did Jesus go through all this trouble to explain all this? 14 “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (philarguros = fond of money), also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” There is the clue! The Pharisees loved money. The tax collectors and sinners used money to their advantage but the Pharisees were only lovers of money. Listen carefully: The Bible does not condemn money. It only condemns the love of money.Listen to I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 2 Timothy 3    1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers…”

What happens when you love money? You begin to worship it. It controls your life. It dictates how you live. It decides your priorities. Of course, there are many lost people who love money and they destroy their lives chasing after it. But, unfortunately, many saved people do the same thing. They claim to know God but they worship money. They give their lives to chasing it and pierce themselves with many sorrows. They are money lovers. They condemn the rich (U-Haul behind a hearse) but many rich are not money lovers (most philanthropists)! To the contrary, the sons of light are money lovers:

  • Instead of teaching their children the proper perspective on money, they only teach them to love money.
  • Instead of focusing on relationships and investing to build them, they watch them fall apart and they blame the church or circumstances or even God.
  • Instead of finding true purpose in life, they only live selfish and self-centered lives.
  • Instead of investing in God’s eternal kingdom, they only live for the here and now.
  • Instead of being a solid testimony for Christ, they repel the lost world from the gospel.

Is there any wonder that God does not give his own any true riches? Is there any wonder that many of God’s people are living beggarly lives? Is there any wonder that many of God’s children are pierced with many sorrows? Is there any wonder that we are not winning the lost world?

Invitation: Are you shrewd? Do you love money or use money? Are you saved?

Reward by Pastor Abidan Shah

REWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How do you feel when someone breaks in line ahead of you? It happens in grocery stores, on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. You’ve been standing patiently in a line and then some inconsiderate jerk decides to jump ahead! Sometimes, it happens on the highways. There is a merge sign 5 miles back and you do the right thing but people keep driving past. Then they try to butt in right before the lane ends and some bleeding heart lets them in! It’s so unfair! So also, God’s grace can sometimes appear unfair by our standards. We expect God to honor our lines of justice, fairness, and seniority but he operates by his own lines of goodness and mercy. Just when we think we are next in line for his rewards for all the good and faithful service we’ve done, God puts us at the back of the line! We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The message is titled “REWARD.”

Matthew 20     1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Which laborer are you? Are you the one who came early or are you the one who came late? If you came late to God, are you working hard to make up for lost time? If you came early to God, are you still working hard for him or have you lost your focus? Have you become envious of the newcomers? Or maybe you are part of the third group who is still standing idle in the marketplace. It means that you’re lost. The Master is calling you. It’s time to get saved.

Context: The parable we just read is deemed by scholars as one of the three most difficult parables of Jesus. The reason it’s difficult is because it’s hard to identify whom Jesus meant when he said in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Were the “first” the “Pharisees and the scribes” and the “last” the “tax collectors and sinners”? Or were the “last” the “disciples of Jesus”? In my opinion, we have to begin 15 verses earlier in Matthew 19:16f to understand the true context of the parable. Here Jesus had the famous encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Remember, he came to Jesus and asked him what he should do to have eternal life and Jesus told him to keep the commandments—“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” etc. The young man very confidently replied, “I’ve already done them. What’s next?” Then Jesus raised the difficulty level and said to him in verse 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Why did Jesus tell him that? After all, Jesus didn’t say that to Nicodemus who was also a very rich man. In fact, if you remember, he actually said the opposite when the woman broke the expensive alabaster flask of perfume at his feet. When people complained that it could have been used to help the poor, Jesus defended her and said in Mark 14:6 “Let her alone…She has done a good work for Me.” The reason Jesus told the young man to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him is because he was possessed by his possessions. Listen carefully: There is a big difference between you possessing riches and riches possessing you. You possessing riches is not a problem. There were many rich people in the Bible and many rich Christians throughout history. On the other hand, riches possessing you is a problem. It is not based on how much money you have in your bank account. It’s your attitude towards money. You can have only two dollars in your name but those two dollars can control your life. This young man was not ready for Jesus because he already had a god. As a result, he walked away sorrowful. Please don’t forget: Coming to Jesus does not mean you have to give up everything. It simply means that now Jesus is everything. That is a very hard thing to do if you are possessed by your possessions. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in verse 23 “…Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shocked at this statement and asked in verse 25 “Who then can be saved?” and Jesus replied in verse 26 “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Application: Are you the rich young ruler? Are you possessed by your possessions? God can help you. He is not here to take your money. He wants to give you eternal life.

Now Peter in his characteristic manner takes this opportunity to gain some points—27“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Unlike this rich young ruler who refused to part with his wealth, they had left all and followed Jesus. He wants to know what will be their reward? 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” I can imagine the twelve disciples thinking “Yes! Payday is coming!” Jesus being God knew what they were thinking and he said in the next line—30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” You can almost hear the disciples say, “Wait! What? Isn’t it first we give and then we get and those who give first, get first.” Listen carefully: Even though the disciples had given up their earthly possessions to follow Jesus, they were still operating by earthly principlesTo counter this, Jesus gave the parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. Think about the parable again—The landowner had gone out early in the morning to get laborers to work in his vineyard. Those who came early in the morning were the first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other 8. Since there weren’t enough laborers, the landowner went back at the third hour. Still they weren’t enough and he went back at the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour. Everything was great until it was time for the wages. The disciples were thinking that they were going to be the new leaders, replacing the Pharisees and the scribes. They were going to get the motherlode of the rewards. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in the kingdom. First, the order got reversed. The eleventh hour once got paid first. Second, the eleventh-hour people got the same amount promised to the first hour people and the first hour people didn’t get any extra reward. Don’t misunderstand: We are not talking about the rewards in heaven. I Corinthians 3:8 “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” The reward in this life are the presence of God, the gift of the Spirit, the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding, the riches in Christ. The first ones don’t get an extra helping! Unfortunately, church people like to act like they have an extra helping when they encounter the 11th hour people. We like to show off Bible knowledge, our spirituality, our understanding of the deep things of God, etc. God says, “You are all on the same level to me.” I believe that the greatest evangelists and Christian heroes and heroines have yet to be born. Again, don’t misunderstand: We are not saying that any new believer can get up and start teaching and preaching. I Timothy 3:6 tell us that an overseer should not “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” Having said that, we don’t have levels of membership at Clearview.

Application: How do you see other believers who are less mature than you? How do you treat people who do not know the Bible as well as you? How do you treat people who are still struggling in their spiritual walk?

When the first hour people began to fuss12 “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’” Their problem was envy. Then Jesus made the same statement from Matthew 19:30 in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Invitation: Have you heard the call? Have you answered his call? Are you saved? This may be the 11th hour for you.

Justified by Pastor Abidan Shah

JUSTIFIED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Ladies, how many of you have ever locked yourself out of your car? How many of you have ever kept it from your husband? My wife is one of the smartest people I know but she has done it a few times. I gave her a long lecture one time about how she should check for the keys before she shuts her car door. I told her to be like me. I told her at length how a simple action like that can keep her from messing up someone else’s day (primarily mine). Then one day, not very long ago, I was on the way to visit someone at the Duke Hospital in Durham. Everything was going great until I got out of my truck in the parking garage. You know exactly what happened. I was not as concerned about being stuck. I was more concerned about Nicole finding out. So, I called Rebecca to bring me the spare key and threatened to kick her out of the house if she told mom. Of course, she didn’t listen. But isn’t that typical of us? We compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others in order to make ourselves look better than we are. God does not borrow our scales to measure us. He has his own standard of measurement and he measures us individually. We’re back in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector titled JUSTIFIED.

Luke 18     9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justifiedrather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: As you remember, parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the repentant humble tax collector? Do you often say things like “You always…and I never…”? If you are quick to claim that you are the tax collector, do you give yourself a pass because of “what you’ve been through”? Are you saved? Pharisee or tax collector, both have to come to Christ.

Context: The parable we just read is set in the context of prayer in the temple. However, if we think that its only about how we pray, then we are greatly mistaken. It deals with issues much deeper with serious implications. So, let’s begin by asking the question: Why did Jesus give this parable? Luke actually tells us in verse 9 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Luke gives us 2 negative characteristics regarding the people Jesus was addressing through the parable: 1. They trusted in themselves; and 2. They despised others. Who are these people? Again, the parable gives us the clue in the next verse—10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” You’ve heard me talk plenty about the Pharisees in this series. The Pharisees were part of a lay movement during the time of Jesus that believed in living a life of holiness unto God. They believed that it’s not just the priests in the temple who should live by high standards but all Jewish people should do the same. Hence, they practiced what’s known as the “Table Fellowship.” They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. They even had what has become known as the “Oral Torah,” a body of traditional materials (paradosis) that was handed down by the fathers. It contained the interpretation of the Pentateuch Laws along with some additional materials. They also gained the reputation of finding loopholes in the law to help the common people live a guilt free life. Most people respected them and even liked them. But, based on this parable, many of them had a self-righteous condescending attitude towards others. Jesus picked up on this. After all, he was/is God and saw their hearts.

Application: Have you ever talked to someone who had self-righteous condescending attitude towards you? Do you have self-righteous condescending attitude towards others? How do people feel when you walk away from them?

The other character in the parable is a Tax collector. I’ve talked a little bit about them in the series already but here’s a little more. The Greek word for them is “telones.” From this we get our word “toll collector.” The Romans had 3 different kinds of taxes: land tax, personal tax, and the customs tax. People hated taxes but the last one they really hated. This was indirect taxation. It involved the collection of tolls and duties at ports and tax tables by the city gates. You could get charged 2-5% of your merchandise. The way the rulers handled this was by subcontracting it out to the highest bidder. They would pay a set amount in advance and then whatever extra they collected was theirs. This is where the “telonai” would come in. They worked for a chief telones (Zacchaeus) and that’s how Jesus found Matthew. Something else, Galilee was not directly under Roman prefects. So, the tax collectors were working for Herod’s family. But, Judea (where Jerusalem was) was directly under Roman prefects (Pontius Pilate) and they worked directly for the Romans. The rabbis referred to them as robbers. If they ever entered a house, that house was deemed unclean. They were frequently grouped with the sinners and the prostitutes. They were looked down upon for taking advantage of their own people, especially the poor and the widows.

What’s amazing is that Jesus did not avoid this group. Instead, he went after them with the good news of salvation! Many began to follow him. You’ve heard of 2: Zacchaeus and Matthew. To him, they were the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost Son. They did not hide their sin or pretended to be self-righteous. They admitted being wretched sinners who were unworthy of God’s mercy. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would associate with this bunch! After all, they break God’s commandments, they take advantage of the poor and the helpless, and they lead others astray.

Application: Do you know some tax collectors? 

Don’t misunderstand: Jesus did not gloss over their sin. Matthew 5:43   “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you….46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Jesus did not condone them nor condemn them. He converted them. Why? Because they came to him with no self-righteousness. They were totally helpless. To the contrary, the Pharisees came to him to judge him and find fault in him. They came full of their self-righteousness. They refused to be helpless. They remained condemned in their sins.

Something else—Jesus being God also knew what the Pharisees were doing was no different than the tax collectors. Listen to Matthew 23     4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders…6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces…14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers….16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it….25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”

Application: Husbands, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your wife of? Wives, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your husband of? Do you realize that you have same gunk in you that you are accusing someone else of?

What’s the result? 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Something else: Even when it comes to our mistakes and failures, we give ourselves a pass by listing reasons why we failed. God sees everything and he refuses to forgive us our sins.

Old Principle: If you cover your sins, God will uncover it and, if you uncover your sins, God will cover it.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Are you saved?

Obedient by Pastor Abidan Shah

OBEDIENT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many parents have ever said these words to their children – “Who is the parent here: me or you?” “Why? Because I said so, that’s why.” “As long as you live under my roof, you’ll do as I say.”My favorite: “When I was your age…” The goal of all these statements is to get our kids to obey us. So also, God repeatedly commands us in his word to obey him. He is our Heavenly Father who wants our total, immediate, and cheerful obedience. Partial, delayed, and disgruntled obedience is also disobedience. We’re in our series on the Parables of Jesus and today we come to the Parable of the Two Sons and our message is titled “OBEDIENT.”

Matthew 21    28“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘Igo,sir,’ but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of hisfather?” They said to Him, “The first.”

Question:  As you know, parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. Who are you in that story? Are you the son who said “yes” to his father but didn’t go or are you the son who said “no” but actually went? Is there disobedience in your life? Is God your Heavenly Father? Only through Christ you can be his child.

Context: The parables that we’ve looked at so far have been generic parables, applicable more or less to all the people who were listening to Jesus. The parable we just read is a specific parable, applicable especially to the religious leaders. There were 2 groups of people in Jesus’ audience: the religious crowd and the “out crowd.”Jesus gave this parable to confront the stubbornness of the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees in rejecting him. To understand this, we have to look at the context of the parable starting in Matthew 21:23Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”In essence, they were saying to Jesus, “We’re in charge. You have to prove to us who you are before you do anything around here.” Now, keep in mind, they had a legitimate reason to question Jesus. Just the day before he had cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. If their hearts had been truly open to him, they would’ve known that everything that Jesus did was fulfilling prophecies given about the Messiah and the temple. Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Malachi had talked about this. Listen to Malachi 3:1“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.” Can you get any clearer than that? But, since they were rejecting him and refusing to obey him, they couldn’t see that.

Listen carefully: Obedience brings Illumination. Disobedience breeds Incomprehension. F.B. Meyeronce said, “If a man refuses to obey the truth, so far as it is revealed to him, the glimmering light dies out from his soul, and his eyes become dimmed, so that he cannot see.”

Application:Is there some disobedience in your life? Is there some place in your life that God has shown you what to do and you are still refusing to obey him? Just know that disobedience will always breed incomprehension. Many people are stuck in their spiritual lives because they are refusing to obey God at some command in their life.

So how did Jesus answer the religious leaders when they questioned his authority? He didn’t pull out his list of endorsements. Instead, he asked them a question – 24“…I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” This was not some brain teaser or some riddle that Jesus used to dodge their question. He was making a very important point – Since the religious leaders had rejected John’s authority, there was no need to explain the source of his authority. Their disobedience to John had left them unable to understand what he was doing.

At this point Jesus gave the Parable of the Two Sons. It’s a very simple parable. A father had 2 sons. He commanded both to go and work in his vineyard. The first son said “no” but later regretted and went. The second said “yes” but did not go. The question is “Which of the two did the will of hisfather?” Of course, the answer is“The first.” Now Jesus gave the meaning of the parable –“Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you sawit,you did not afterward relent and believe him.”Tax collectors and Prostitutes were the lowest members of the society in that period. The Tax collectorshad sold themselves out by working for the Romans and fleecing their own people. They were considered to be unclean like the lepers. They made a house impure just by entering into it. They would even resort to beating the poor people for not paying their taxes. It was so bad at times that people fled their land, completing depopulating entire villages, because of this extortion. Eating with them was approving their actions. The Prostituteswere no better. The Bible forbade prostitution. Gentiles also looked down at prostitution as something shameful, foolish, and hurtful.  Now, John’s preaching was no feel good, positive, and ear tickling preaching.It was hard hitting, direct, and confrontational. Just when you would think that lost people (tax collectors and prostitutes) would have been offended by it, they actually obeyed from the heartwhat they heard from John. They repented. They changed their ways. What’s the result? Their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus for who he was. To the contrary, the religious crowd accepted John at first until his words began to expose their sins. Instead of confessing, repenting, and submitting to what God was saying, they began to oppose John and criticize him. They held on to their “Table Fellowship” and “dietary laws.” They were more into comparative religion, comparing how much better they were to the tax collectors and the prostitutes. What was the end result? Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”

In my time as a pastor, I have often noticed 2 kinds of people in church. There is the “in crowd” and then there is the “out crowd.” The “in crowd” are those who have grown up in church. They know the ropes. They know how to act and behave in church. They know the Christian lingo. They haven’t done anything “really bad.” The “out crowd” are those who haven’t grown up in church. They don’t know the ropes. They don’t know how things are done in church. They don’t know how to talk “Christianeese.” They have a long list of stupid things they have done in life. They have a lot of regrets. The “in crowd” has a tough time when the “out crowd” shows up. They try to tell the “out crowd” the house rules. The “out crowd” try the rules for a while and then slowly drift away because they see the hypocrisy in the “in crowd.” The “in crowd” continue in their behavior and always keep an eye out for any other “out crowd.” Which one are you?

Are you the “in crowd”? Here are some tell-tale signs:

  • You love to hear great messages but you don’t do anything with them.
  • You say a word of prayer every morning but you don’t confess and repent for your sins.
  • You often complain about how terrible the world is getting and how good things used to be back in the day but you don’t take one step be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
  • You love discussing the Bible. You may even read it cover to cover but you just don’t do anything that God has commanded in the Bible. (Forgiveness, Evangelism, Giving, etc.)
  • You love going to Church but you never serve anywhere.

Are you saved? When you got saved, you made a promise to God. Are you keeping that promise? Have you created your own standard of righteousness?

Illustration: F.B. Meyer was rooming next to the great missionary C.T. Studd during some convention. His spiritual life was just up and down, nothing consistent. But then that morning he noticed that the light was on in Studd’s room at 7am. So, he remarked to him, “You have been up early.” “Yes,” said he, “I got up at four o’clock this morning. Christ always knows when I have had sleep enough, and He wakes me to have a good time with Him.” Meyer asked, “What have you been doing this morning?” And he replied, “You know that the Lord said, if you love Me, keep My commandments; and I was just looking through all the commandments that I could find and putting a tick against them if I have kept them, because I do love Him.”

Illustration: Father with the firewood story.

Are you lost?No amount of good works is going to save you. 

  • What do you have to do to be saved? You have to come to Christ to be saved. 
  • What do you have to do to be lost? Nothing. That’s Ultimate Disobedience.

Forgiven by Pastor Abidan Shah

FORGIVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: There’s an old saying, “There are 2 things in life that you can take for granted: death and taxes.” I beg to differ. I think there are 3 things: death, taxes, and debt. Unfortunately, all of us are under one debt or another – credit card debt, medical debt, student loan debt, auto loan debt, home mortgage debt, and the list goes on and on. Someone said “If you don’t think anyone cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of loan payments and someone will find you!” Now imagine if someone were to come to you and say, “I’ve paid off all your debt. You don’t owe anything ever.” How would you feel? Ecstatic, relieved, grateful. That’s exactly what Jesus did for us! Sin is a debt that we owe to a holy God that we can never repay. Jesus came and paid the debt with his own life. Our response now should be gratefulness manifested in love and obedience to him. The title of our message today is FORGIVEN in our series on the Parables of Jesus.

Luke 7    41“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.”

Question: Parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. In this parable, sin is a debt; God is the creditor; and you and I are debtors to a holy God. How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as the one who owed much or do you see yourself as the one who owed little? Do you see yourself as a “wretch” in need of God’s Amazing Grace or do you see yourself as the “not so bad after all”? Are you saved?

Context:The Parable of the Two Debtors is a short simple story but with a deep, profound, and life-changing truth. To get at this truth, you have to examine this parable in its original context. The context is the account of the woman who came to Jesus when he was having a meal at someone’s home and did something very odd. She began to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipe them with her hair, and then proceeded to anoint his feet with fragrant oil. (Again, just like the Parable of the Prodigal Son, this one has also been a favorite of painters throughout history.) At first encounter, we’re shocked by this bizarre incident! It appears so unbelievable! What woman in her right mind would do that to a man without being forced to? You may think that this may have been acceptable by ancient standards but that’s not so when you see the reaction of the onlookers. They are just as much repulsed! Not only that but why would Jesus allow something like this? Was he just a male chauvinist who believed that women were below men? Did he enjoy this woman groveling at his feet? Of course not. Then there is a bigger question – how do we handle a story like this in today’s cultural climate? It appears highly offensive in our time with Fourth-Wave Feminism, Women’s Empowerment, Me-Too Movement, and even Radical Feminism. It is unthinkable on so many levels! 

Listen carefully – If you believe that this book is the Word of God, then there is a reason why the Holy Spirit laid it on the hearts of the Gospel Writers to include it in their individual gospels. Also remember, the Bible has always elevated the status of women in society. Contrary to other teachers and leaders, Jesus always uplifted women. In this message, we will discover what the real reason is for this account.

Before we dive in, I need to clarify something: The Parable of the Two Debtors is only found here in Luke’s Gospel but all four gospels mention an incident of a woman anointing Jesus. Are they all referring to the same incident? There are similarities and then there are differences in the 4 accounts. I don’t have time to deal with all the issues here but this is what I believe – There were 2 different anointings of Jesus but one and the same woman who did them both. The woman is none other than Mary of Bethany, Lazarus and Martha’s sister. The first is the anointing of gratefulness for her salvation and the second is the anointing for Jesus’ burial. In Luke it is the first anointing of gratefulness for salvation. With that said, let’s look at it now:

Luke 7    36“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him…” Again, remember the “Table Fellowship” of the Pharisees. They believed that all Jewish people should live according to the priestly laws and every dinner table should be as the altar in the temple. So, repeatedly, the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine at their homes. (Luke 11:37; 14:1) It may be because they were moved by Jesus’ teachings and desired his holy presence at their homes. But, unfortunately, they ended up judging him for not washing his hands and associating with tax collectors and sinners. Same thing happened this time. 37And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner…” More than likely, this implies that she was a prostitute or a woman who lived for one affair after another. She may also have been a powerful woman. If not, the servants would’ve stopped her. “…when she knew thatJesussat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38and stood at His feet behindHimweeping…” During formal meals, the people would recline at the table, angling away from the food. Also, banquets were not as private as we have in the West. Houses were typically open and common people could come in, stand on the sidelines, and watch. Then something happened –“…and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wipedthemwith the hair of her head…” For a woman to let down her hair in that culture was seen as a seductive and shameful act (Snodgrass). The big difference is her tears.“…and she kissed His feet…” Kissing the feet was the ultimate way to show someone honor, gratitude, and submission.“…and anointedthemwith the fragrant oil.” Now, anointing with oil was not something unusual. Exodus 30:30 “And you (Moses) shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that theymay minister to Me as priests.” 1 Samuel 16:13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointedhim (David) in the midst of his brothers…”Psalm 23:5“…You anoint my head with oil…” But, anointing the feet would be very unusual. Even more so, anointing the feet with fragrant oil or perfume would be almost offensive. If she was a prostitute or a loose woman, then this was coming from her work!

What in the world is going on? The Gospel writers don’t tell us but more than likely Jesus had transformed her life. He had set her free from the debt of sin. She had come to realize what an awful life she was living. All her life she had used men and men had used her until she met Jesus. He was the only man who did not come to take from her but to give to her truth, love, joy, and peace. More than anything, he had given her something that no one else could – forgiveness. Earlier in Luke 5, Jesus had declared his power to forgive sins when he had saidto the paralyzed man, 20“…Man, your sins are forgiven you.”21And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”22But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” The religious leaders doubted Jesus’ power to forgive sins but not her. Her entire act of washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, and then anointing his feet with fragrant oil was to demonstrate her gratefulness for the forgiveness through Christ.

What is the reaction of the Pharisee? 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him sawthis,he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of womanthis iswho is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” Jesus was/is much more than a prophet. He saw what was in his heart. 40And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” Now Jesus gives the Parable of the Two Debtors. The first one owed the creditor 500 denarii (more than a year and a half’s wages) and the second owed only 50 denarii (barely two month’s wages).42And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the onewhom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Now listen to the powerful contrast drawn by Jesus – 44Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wipedthemwith the hair of her head. 45You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47Therefore I say to you, her sins, which aremany, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the sameloves little.” Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that the Pharisee sinned less than the woman or that his sins were forgiven too. The Pharisee invited Jesus into his home but he never invited Jesus into his heart. The point is “how do you see your sin?” “Do you see it as a debt against a holy God?” That’s how the Bible sees it. In the Old Testament, the Year of the Jubilee was the call for the cancelling of debts. Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Jesus came to fulfill Isaiah 61:1as quoted in Luke 4    18“…to heal the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captivesand recovery of sight to the blind,to set at liberty those who are oppressed;19To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” As a result of the forgiveness of the sin debt, love begins to flow towards the Forgiver. This woman was so overwhelmed by her forgiveness that she did what she did. We’re not done yet – 48Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” How does faith fit into all this? Faith and Love are 2 sides of the same coin. Love is faith in action and faith is love in belief.

Are you lost? How do you see yourself? Are you saved? How do you see yourself? 1 Timothy 1:15“This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

Backsliding Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

BACKSLIDING MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Do you have to stay on your kids to do something they don’t like to do like cleaning their room or doing the dishes or finishing their homework? With some kids you don’t have to but with most you do. What happens when you walk out of sight? They start goofing around. Then, when you return, they give you some lame excuse and start working again until you leave the room. They have to be held accountable. Typically, the work never gets done. So also, many Christians begin well in their Christian life but they don’t finish well. Just like kids, they get distracted and start goofing around. You need both accountability and personal responsibility to deal with a Backsliding Mind. That’s the title of our in this final message in our series on the Mind of Christ.

Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Question: Twice Paul told the Philippians to continue in the faith even in his absence. Do you have people in your life who hold you accountable? Are you growing into the mind of Christ or are you backsliding? Are you saved?

Context:The past four months have been life-changing for me and also for many of you. This series on the “Mind of Christ” from Philippians 2:5-11has impacted so many people, many of whom have never set foot in this church building but they are listening and watching faithfully every week. We have people from all over the world who tune in every week on Facebook, YouTube, Livestream through the church website, sermon podcast, and 2 radio stations every Sunday morning. The reason for this impact is that these messages go to the very heart of the Christian life. They teach us the importance of having the mindset of Christ. The Christian life is much more than getting saved. It’s about becoming more and more like Christ. I want to encourage you to go back and listen to these messages in case you missed them and share them with others. By the way, we’re also planning on putting them in a book format to be available later this year.

Back to our message on the “Backsliding Mind.”As you know, Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote this letter to the Philippian church. He wanted to visit them but he couldn’t. But, word was getting back to Paul, maybe through Timothy and Epaphroditus, that the Philippians were beginning to slip back into their old way of life. They were starting to regress in their faith. So, he wrote them a letter encouraging them to press forward. It’s a balance between accountability and personal responsibility. First, let’s look at the accountability:

  • Paul began by reminding them in Philippians 1:6that he is “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”In other words, he assured them that God is the Initiator, the Overseer, and the Perfecter of their Christian lives. They should trust God that he will complete what he began in their lives.
  • Then, he told them in verses 9-11 that he was praying that their “love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” In other words, Paul’s reminded the Philippians that his prayer was that they would finish with flying colors. For e.g. Elderly couple praying for me and Clearview. What a great encouragement!
  • Finally, Paul told the Philippians that there was a strong possibility that he would not make it out of the prison alive and he was perfectly fine with that. But, on second thoughts, it was far more important for him to stay alive. Why? Listen to Philippians 1    24“Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.” In other words, going away to be with Christ would be amazing but staying alive will be more beneficial for the Philippians.

What a powerful model in accountability! All of us need a Paul in our lives. All of us need godly people who can speak biblical truths into our lives. All of us need Christlike men or women who would breath confidence in the work of Christ in our lives. I have people like that in my life. They check up on me and tell me that they are praying for me.

Let me flip that around: All of us can be a Paul to someone around us. You may think you don’t know enough of the Bible but there is some person around us who knows much less. Our task is to encourage them with biblical truth and hold them accountable.

Question: Who is your Paul? Get connected through Sunday School and Inner circle. Who is around you who needs a Paul? Call them. Check on them. Pray for them. 

Now, there’s a shift from accountability to personal responsibility. Here’s the opening passage– Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” The word for “conduct that is worthy” is “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the Greek word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Remember, the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were to conduct themselves according to Roman standards, even though they were outside their homeland. So also, Paul was telling the Philippians to act like believers even though they were in the world and he wasn’t around to keep them straight. In other words, he was saying, “You don’t need me to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave.”What does that look like? Philippians 1:27“…that you stand fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Paul repeats the same injunction again in Philippians2:12but with a new title – “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This passage has been debated a lot over the years. Is Paul talking about our individual salvation? Does it imply that we have a part to play in being saved? Of course not. Paul said it very clearly in Ephesians 2    8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.” In the context, working out our salvation is in the context of having the mindset of Christ. We are to be humble and obedient like our Savior and King in how we relate with each other. It’s about shifting from our false assumptions to taking on biblical truths, i.e. the Mind of Christ. Furthermore, this task should not be taken flippantly but with “fear and trembling.” Ultimately, we need to remember that God sees everything. 

For e.g. Lady telling me that I need to fuss at her to keep her in church.

Question: Do you need people to stand over you for you to behave as a Christian is supposed to behave? Are you taking responsibility to shift from false assumptions to biblical truths? Do you have people to hold you accountable? Do you realize that God is watching over you? Has your fire gone out? Are you saved? Have you ever had the fire?

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