All-Sufficient by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you read the Old Testament, sometimes it feels like a big, long obituary, starting in the Book of Genesis. Even Job yearned for that day in Job 19     25 “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

This was certainly the hope of the people of Israel.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Fruits“I am the True Vine.”

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

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

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

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

Re-Created: Part 2 by Dr. Abidan Shah

RE-CREATED 2 by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Robin Williams was one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, until his untimely death by suicide in 2014. One of his greatest hits was Mrs. Doubtfire in 1993. As you know, in order to be near his 3 kids, the father Daniel, played by Robin Williams, creates the character of a British nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire. His acting skills along with his prosthetic mask are so convincing that even his own wife, played by Sally Fields, cannot recognize him. Eventually, she does find out and the act falls apart. Robin Williams won several awards for his acting in the movie. Unfortunately, this happens in real life where men pretend to be women and women pretend to be men, and it is called Transgenderism. Here are some questions: How is transgenderism different from the homosexual movement? What about Epigenetics and the transgender gene? How should we address the high suicide rate among transgender teenagers? Main point: Our society and culture are increasingly trying to neutralize gender identities. Both scripturally and scientifically, transgenderism is unnatural, inappropriate, and sinful. We are to be compassionate towards those struggling with gender dysphoria, but we are also to stand firm in our conviction of biblical gender distinctions. Compassion without the gospel of Jesus Christ is collaboration.

Genesis 1      27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…”

Background: The scripture that we just read declares that men and women are equal and yet different. We are different on a deep level (Andrew T. Walker): chromosomes, brains, voices, body shapes, body strengths, and reproductive systems. God has designed men to lead and protect, and he has designed women to nurture and mother. Both are essential and assigned by God. These roles are very specific to our sex and gender and cannot be interchanged. Again, this is tied to the Trinity. 1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” To negate or neutralize these differences is to attempt to negate or neutralize the Trinity! There is so much there that we will see later.

I want to preach this message the same way I did the last one and that is by answering the questions that were raised.

Question #1. How is transgenderism different from the homosexual movement? I’m sure some of you are probably wondering why I am preaching on this topic again since I just preached on homosexuality last weekend. Although, some people lump homosexuality and transgenderism in the same category, there is a difference. While homosexuality is same-sex attraction, transgenderism is more complicated than that, involving many conflicting definitions (from Alan J. Branch). Here’s the main issue: sex and gender are separate things. Sex has to do with biological and anatomical parts. Gender has to do with psychological, sexual, and cultural traits. Sex has to do with physical organs, bone structure, DNA, hormones, and reproduction. Gender has to do with how one feels. So, sex is male and female, and gender is masculine and feminine. Add to this, “gender identity” and “gender role.” Gender identity is how one thinks about oneself as “masculine” or “feminine.” Gender role is how the person identifies as he is playing a role in the presence of others. There is more. Under the broad category of transgenderism come many subcategories of transsexual, transvestite, gender variant, gender fluid, genderqueer, and cross dresser (from Branch). Also, new titles like “Cisgender” and “gender binary” have been created to refer to those who hold to the biblical view of male and female as the only sex and gender.

What are the actual numbers?  According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, in 2016, 0.6% or 1.4 million people self-identify as transgender. The population of the United States is about 330 million. Also, it claimed that in 2017, 0.7 % or around 150,000 of youth ages 13-17 years in the United States identified as transgender. Although the numbers are small, the problem is real. We need to be aware of the agenda since the 1960s and even earlier to obliterate any gender distinctions.

Question #2. What about Epigenetics and the transgender gene?

Just like homosexuality, there is no transgender gene. There is nothing conclusive with the CYP17 gene or the SRD5A2 gene or family studies or twin studies. Also, epigenetics is “the chemical modifications of the human genome that alter genetic activity without changing the DNA sequence” (Branch). Again, there is nothing there.

The sad case of David Reimer: Born in 1965, accidentally mutilated circumcision. His parents were put in touch with John Money, a Harvard trained and Johns Hopkins psychologist and sexual expert. He gave them the advice to have him castrated and raised as a girl named Brenda. As he grew up, he did not want that. Money was using pornography and other treatments that were nothing but sexual abuse to treat David. You can imagine the trauma. Ultimately, he had reconstructive surgery and got married, but ended up committing suicide in 2004. Transgender movement tries to claim this as support, but it’s actually to the contrary.

Question #3. How should we address the high suicide rate among transgender teenagers? The example of Joshua Alcorn: Grew up in a conservative home but wanted to be called “Leelah.” Ended up taking his life in 2014 by walking in front of a tractor trailer. He blamed his parents and upbringing.

To start with, we need to be clear as to what the Bible has to say about transgenderism? Of course, we have already seen passages from the Old and New Testament that emphasize that God has made us in his image as male and female, and both Jesus and Paul affirmed Genesis 1:27. There are some more that apply directly to our topic:

Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God.” In the English, some of the nuance is lost. In the first clause about a woman not wearing “anything that pertains to a man,” the word is “keli” and it is not just clothing but any object that makes them manly. So also, in the second clause, the word for garment is “simlah,” which refers to a garment or a shawl/mantle. The whole point of those 2 clauses is that one should not pretend to be of a different sex. Why? Because it is an “abomination” to the Lord. The Hebrew word is “toebah,” which means detestable, loathsome, and abhorring. This is on the same level as pagan worship practices and the superficial worship of God. 2 things: 1. Yes, in our culture, women wear pants and shirts, but this is not to fool others that they are really men. It’s more about current style and comfort. 2. If God found transgenderism an abomination, so should we. Deuteronomy 23:1 “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD.” This was often related to pagan worship practices like the worship of Ishtar and Cybele. There is often the mention of “eunuchs” in the Old and New Testament. Isaiah 53         4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, 5 Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off.” The Hebrew word is “saris” and the Greek (LXX) is “eunichos.” Matthew 19        8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” 10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 12 “For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” What is the meaning of “eunuch” here? There are 3 categories here: 1. Eunuchs from birth are those who couldn’t have sexual intercourse and hence couldn’t marry. 2. Eunuchs who were forcibly emasculated to make them in charge of treasuries and harems. 3. Eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven are those who have chosen to remain single in order to serve God. Three different reasons with three different applications.

Is there hope for people in this lifestyle? Yes.

Acts 8     26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 33In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” 34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

1 Corinthians 6        9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Invitation: There is hope, but the gospel is the hope. Our compassion can never replace the gospel.

Re-Created by Dr. Abidan Shah

RE-CREATED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One of my favorite shows on TV is the Andy Griffith show. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I have watched each episode dozens of times. One of the characters on the show is Gomer Pyle. He is a sort of simple-minded auto mechanic working at Wally’s Filling Station. Some of his funniest lines were “Shazam!” and “Surprise, surprise, surprise.” He went on to star in his own TV comedy where he joined the US Marine. In real life, the actor Jim Nabors was gay, as many of you may or may not know. That’s just one example of someone who appears normal, funny, smart, winsome, and successful, but they are living a lifestyle that the Bible expressly calls sinful. How do we answer them or even others who may not be gay but who argue that this is normal and should be treated as no different than heterosexual relationship or marriage? Here are some questions that came through our apologetics questionnaire: What about consensual, committed, and caring gay relationships? Is there a gay gene? Aren’t SOCE (Sexual Orientation Change Efforts) proven to be harmful?  Main point: Our society and culture are increasingly trying to normalize homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Both scripturally and scientifically, homosexuality is unnatural, inappropriate, and sinful. Nonetheless, every person can find hope and healing through Jesus Christ.

Genesis 2      21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Context: If you remember, we read this passage last time, but there’s still so much that is packed into it. It starts off with a binary being (sexually undifferentiated) who is split into two sexually differentiated beings (Robert Gagnon). Marriage is the coming together of these two sexually complementary beings and becoming the sexual unity of the original Adam. A man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot come together to become a one-flesh or the original binary being. In other words, a single-sex union cannot bring sexual wholeness. With this in mind, I want to divide this message into the 3 questions:

Question #1. What about consensual, committed, and caring gay relationships? This requires a scriptural answer. The first clear instance of homosexual behavior is found inGenesis 19      1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. 2 And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” 3 But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” Similar account is also found in Judges 19 of a Levite and his concubine in the city of Gibeah of Benjamin. It is typically claimed by some that this was just an instance of forced, non-consensual, unloving, cruel gang rape. Check out these verses – Ezekiel 16      49 “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.” This is supported by the laws in Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” and Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”

The New Testament also supports this view. If you remember from last week, Jesus and Paul were in agreement with the Old Testament laws, but here are some specific passages – Jude 7 “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” and  Romans 1       21 “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

Answer to Question #1: Whether it is consensual or not, committed or not, caring or not, homosexuality is still a sin before God.

Question #2. Is there a gay gene? This requires a scientific answer (J. Alan Branch, Born This Way?: Homosexuality, Science, and the Scriptures).

  1. To start with, we need to be careful about the Freudian mother-father-child triad of sexual tension. Yes, it is true that if the roles of fathers and mothers are not clear or appropriate in a child’s life that it does impact their personalities. We have seen that more and more in the past 50 years, but the Freudian model is not the answer for all homosexual lifestyles.
  2. We need to discard Alfred Kinsey’s influence and the 10% myth. According to Branch’s research, “The true number of people who are homosexual is much lower than Kinsey suggests. The pro-homosexual Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law reported in 2011 that about 3.5% of American adults self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and that a further .03% identify as transgender. Among the 3.5% who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, bisexuals comprise a slight majority of 1.8% as opposed to 1.7% who identify as gay or lesbian. About 1.1% of women and 2.2% of men self-identify as exclusively homosexual. This is consistent with findings from a 1993 study of sexual behavior of men in the United States which claimed only 2% of men aged 20–39 had any same gender sexual activity in the previous ten years, and only 1% reported being exclusively homosexual during this interval.”
  3. There are several other issues: Brain Plasticity (Neuron pathways due to experiences, especially pornography), Prenatal Hormones (levels of exposure to testosterones and cases of DSD – Disorders of Sexual Development, part of the fallen world), gay gene (Xq28, 8q12 regions in the genome), brain development, etc. All of these have been proven to be inconclusive.

Answer to question 2. There can be correlation but not causation. Predisposition is not predetermination (Branch).

Question #3. Aren’t SOCE (Sexual Orientation Change Efforts) proven to be harmful?The answer is yes and no. First, let me say from scripture that it is definitely possible to find hope and healing through the gospel. 1 Corinthians 6        9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Let me also add very clearly that it is not as easy and simple as you may think. Here are 4 scenarios:

#1. Mostly Negative Life with Salvation

  • Begin weighed down by the Fall
  • Negative disposition
  • Negative upbringing
  • Bad experiences
  • Satan/evil
  • SAVED – tips scale all the way to the right
  • Obedience
  • Fellowship
  • Ministry
  • If not, the scales tend to tip back, but that does not mean that salvation is lost.

#2. Mostly Positive Life with Salvation

  • Begin weighed down by the Fall
  • Some negative disposition
  • Some positive disposition develops
  • Positive upbringing
  • Good experiences
  • SAVED – tips scale all the way to the right
  • Positive influences
  • Consistent walk with God
  • Awareness of the Enemy
  • Failure to be aware of the Enemy can also tip the scales back terribly.

#3 – Imbalanced Life and Unsure of Salvation

  • Begin weighed down by the Fall
  • Negative disposition
  • Positive upbringing
  • Negative experiences
  • SAVED – tips scale all the way to the right, but it won’t stay there
  • Mixed messages (obedience, fellowship, and ministry)
  • Insufficient truth
  • Unawareness of the Enemy
  • Inconsistent walk with God
  • “?” added to SAVED

#4 – Very Positive Life but No Salvation

  • Begin weighed down by the Fall
  • Positive disposition
  • Positive upbringing
  • Good experiences
  • Church
  • Good decisions
  • Salvation never comes, so the scale is still weighed down on the left

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Invitation: God’s grace is available to every person. He is there to comfort. He understands the problem with the fall. Hence, he sent his Son Jesus to die for us. We should stand firm in our conviction without losing our compassion.

Created by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many of ya’ll remember watching the show “Home Improvement” with Tim the Tool Man Taylor, played by Tim Allen. He had a TV show with his assistant Al Borland who would try to warn him to follow directions, but he wouldn’t listen and end up getting hurt. Also funny were his interactions with his wife Jill. They highlighted the differences between men and women. Of course, some of them were over exaggerated, but some things were true. For the next couple of weeks, we will focus on some of the questions that were sent on gender issues: Where should Christians stand on the gender debate? Aren’t male and female differences imposed by the culture? I have a friend who is gay and does not care about Christianity. How should I respond? I have a friend who is gay but also claims to be a Christian. How should I respond? Before we dive into answering these questions, we need to back up and deal with another issue that we brought up in the opening of this series – Biblical Authority. Main point: The real battleground in some of the recent cultural attacks against Christianity is on Biblical Authority. It stems from seeing Truth as being distinct from Authority. To the contrary, God is the source of all truth, and he is the ultimate authority. Hence, the Bible is the truth of God tested over time, and it claims authority over our lives. Failure to obey the Bible is failure to submit to God and refusal to walk in the truth.

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Background: This verse has become the epicenter of the battleground in the recent gender debates. There are many ways that people respond to this verse:

  • If you grew up in a Christian environment where the Bible was held up as the source of ultimate truth, the Word of God, and this was reinforced throughout life’s ups and downs, this verse is not a problem.
  • If you grew up in an environment where the Bible was not held up as the source of ultimate truth, the Word of God, this verse is a problem.
  • If you grew up believing that the Bible is the source of Ultimate truth, the Word of God, but you faced circumstances or information that challenged this view and substantial counter reasons were not given, this verse becomes a problem.

The focus of the message is not as much over the first two groups as it is over the last group. Here, the problem stems from failure to offer adequate reasons. Sometimes, it is even because of behaviors of those who claim to follow biblical authority but do not live it out that causes confusion, resentment, and even activism against the Bible.

We’ve touched on the matter of biblical authority as compared to scriptures of other religions. Here, I want to return to the subject and focus on biblical authority as applied to some of the issues we are facing from our culture, especially gender issues. Once again, here’s the definition of the “authority of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem – “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” In fact, submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically to Jesus Christ. Also, once again, to quote J. I. Packer (famous evangelical theologian who authored “Knowing God”): “Authority is the basic theological issue into which discussions of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation finally run.”

Now, we are living in a culture that sees Truth and Authority as distinct.

Let’s begin with the basics about Biblical Authority:

  1. The Bible claims to be God’s Words.

Numbers 22:38 And Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak.”

Deuteronomy 18      18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

2 Peter 1:21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus;

2 Peter 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 14:37 If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.

  1. The Holy Spirit convinces us that the Bible is God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 2      13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

How about the truthfulness of the Bible? Aren’t those distinct and even contradictory at times?

  1. God is Truth.

Titus 1       1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

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

  1. The Bible claims to be God’s truth for life.

Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

  1. The Bible has been proven to be true in everything that it affirms.
  • Origin
  • Operations
  • Predicament
  • Prescription (Salvation and Daily Life)
  • Future

How does this apply to the current gender debate?

  1. Designed to complement.

Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

  1. One-flesh Union

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

  1. Procreation

Genesis 1.     27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth

  1. Affirmation by Jesus

Matthew 19       4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

  1. Divine Symbol

Ephesians 5      31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Invitation: The Bible claims authority over our lives. The Bible has been tested and retested and found to stand true, and it demands our submission. In fact, submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically Jesus Christ.

Where do you stand? Do you know the person of Truth, Jesus Christ?

The Good Life by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE GOOD LIFE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Do you know people who can’t win for losing? No matter how hard they try, they seem to get bested by their circumstances. I read about a man who was working on his motorcycle on his patio and his wife was in the kitchen. The man was racing the engine on the motorcycle when it accidentally slipped into gear. The man, still holding onto the handlebars, was dragged through the glass patio door along with the motorcycle—which got dumped onto the floor inside the house. The wife, hearing the crash, ran into the dining room and found her husband lying on the floor, cut and bleeding, the motorcycle lay next to him with the patio door shattered. The wife ran to the phone and called the ambulance. Because they lived on a fairly large hill, the wife had to go down several flights of long steps to the street, to direct the paramedics to her husband. After the ambulance arrived, they transported the husband to the hospital. The wife up righted the motorcycle and pushed it outside. Seeing that quite a bit of gas had been spilled on the floor, the wife got some paper towels, blotted up the gasoline, and threw the towels into the toilet. The husband was treated at the hospital and was released to come home. After arriving home, he looked at the shattered patio door and the damage done to his motorcycle, he became despondent. He went to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and smoked a cigarette. Can you see the train coming? After finishing the cigarette—you guessed it—he flipped it between his legs into the toilet bowl. The wife, who was in the kitchen, heard a loud explosion followed by her husband’s screams. When she ran to the bathroom, she found her husband lying on the floor. His trousers had been blown away. He was suffering burns on the buttocks, the back of his legs and his groin. The wife again ran to the phone and called for an ambulance. The same ambulance crew was dispatched, and his wife went down to the street to meet them. The paramedics loaded the husband on the stretcher and began carrying him to the street. While they’re going down the stairs to the street, accompanied by the wife, one of the paramedics asked the wife, how the husband had burned himself. She told them, and the paramedics started laughing so hard that one of them tipped the stretcher and dumped the husband out. He fell down the remaining steps and broke his ankle. Some people can’t win for losing, can they! In our series on Psalm 34, we are going to focus on the second half of the psalm where David talked about “THE GOOD LIFE.” Here’s the main point: The Good Life is attainable for God’s people. In fact, God desires all his people to live the good life. He has given us the proper steps to having the good life, but it begins with the fear of the Lord and leads to the redemption of the soul.

11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Who is the manwho desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?

Context: If you remember from last weekend, as David sat at the cave of Adullam, after escaping from Gath, God sent him his family, but he also sent him people who were distressed, indebted, and discontented. In that setting, David wrote Psalm 34, an acrostic psalm, where each verse begins with a Hebrew alphabet in order. What was so special about writing acrostically? Why would he go to such lengths to write something so intricate and challenging? If you remember what I quoted from the South African scholar (Gous) —”if they look beyond the immediate, there is an underlying order, namely God’s care. This order gives structure to their existence, like the alphabet gives structure to the poem.” In other words, David wanted the distressed, indebted, and discontented people to know that, on the surface, life may appear ho-hum and chaotic, but, below the surface, there was a divine order and structure to their existence. God was doing some deep work and there was a plan to everything that was happening.

Application: Is there a divine order and structure to your existence? Can you see life below the surface? Are you rooted and grounded in the solid truth of God’s Word?

Psalm 34 can be divided into 2 halves: First half, verses 1-10; Second half, verses 11-22. The first half is thanksgiving to God for his salvation, for his rescue. We focused on that last week. The second half is wisdom poetry on how to have the good life. By the way, first, we need to be rescued, then comes the good life.

Application: Have you been rescued? That’s why Jesus came. He is the great rescuer?

The second half of the “Good Life” is very important for us because that is the section that Peter quoted in his letter. If you remember, it was in the context of “being of one mind, having compassion for one another, loving as brothers, being tenderhearted, being courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but blessing, so you can inherit blessing.” Then, he quoted from the psalm we have been studying—“For ‘he who would love life and see good days…” Here’s the principle: The life of unity proceeds from the good life. In other words, people who get along have learned the secret of the good life. Show me people who have a bad life and usually contention and division are all around them. You cannot have the good life and still be at odds with people.

Application: Is there contention and division in your life? Are you living the good life?

Once again, verse 11 “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” Keep in mind to whom David was writing this psalm – the distressed, indebted, and discontented people. A major reason they were in the situation they were in was because they lacked wisdom. He calls them “baniim,” which is not children but pupils or students. He was telling them that they had a lot to learn about wisdom. Why does he begin with the “fear of the Lord?” In fact, twice already, he has brought up the “fear of the Lord”—7 “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them…9Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” The fear of the Lord was the basis upon which wisdom was built (Craigie and Tate). It was the proper attitude for the development of godly wisdom in a person’s life. Listen to how the Book of Proverbs talks about the fear of the Lord:

  • Proverbs 1:7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Proverbs 10:27 “The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.
  • Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.”
  • Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the LORD leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.”
  • Proverbs 22:4 “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.”

Here’s what David was telling the motley crew that gathered to him – “Fear God and you will have wisdom.” In other words, Put God first in your life and obey him and wisdom will come to you.

Application: Do you fear God? Is he first in your life? Do you obey him?

But, then he gave them practical steps to this wisdom in order to have the good life – 12 “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? In other words, do you want “the good life?”

13 “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.”

  1. Watch your mouth.

The word for “keep” is “netzer.” One of its meaning is to watch or guard a vineyard. James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” James even called it a fire from hell and a deadly poison.

14 “Depart from evil…”

  1. Avoid evil.

The word for “depart” is “sur,” which means to turn aside, turn away, go away, desert. Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

“…and do good…”

  1. Practice doing good. Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High…”Hebrews 13:16 “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

“…seek peace and pursue it.”

  1. Be a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Hebrews 12:14Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.

  1. Be ready for the bad days. God has not promised that we won’t have any trouble in this life. Job 14:1 “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” 2 Timothy 3:12“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” John 16:33 “…In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20 He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

In other words, when bad days come, remember God’s faithfulness to the righteous and judgment on the wicked.

Invitation: Are you living the good life? Are you prepared for the bad days? Are contentions and divisions a constant part of your life? Have you been rescued? Are you saved?

One Mind by Dr. Abidan Shah

ONE MIND by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: How many of you have heard the fable of the frog and the scorpion? A scorpion wanted to cross the river, but it could not swim. So, it asked the frog if he could ride on it’s back. The frog told the scorpion that he did not trust the scorpion on account of his stinger. The scorpion assured the frog that he wouldn’t do that since they both would drown. The frog agreed and started swimming across with the scorpion on his back. Halfway across, the frog felt the stinger in his back. As he was dying and they both were sinking, he asked the scorpion, “Why?” To which, he replied, “I can’t help it. It’s in my nature.” We are in our series through 1 Peter titled “TOGETHER FORWARD,” where Peter exhorted the believers to be of “ONE MIND.” Main point: Conflict emanates from our sinful, selfish nature and it is fueled by our failure to ask God for his will for us. Unfortunately, tendencies towards conflict start early and infect every aspect of life – family, church, community, workplace, and nation. Only those who are transformed by the gospel can truly have a one mind and transform conflicts into blessings.

1 Peter 3       8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

Context: So far, Peter was helping the persecuted believers in Asia Minor to face the culture and society that was against them. He even addressed marriages that may have one partner who was unsaved. But now, he turned his attention to contention within the church. Normally, we would think that pressure from outside would make us even stronger, but that’s not always the case. If internally we do not have the right perspective and mindset, we will turn against each other and consume one other. In fact, that is what often happens in many families, churches, communities, and it is even happening to our nation. So, where do we begin?

  1. Source of Conflicts

James 4      1 “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” At the root of all our conflicts are sin and selfishness. It is inherent. It emanates from our nature. It is passed down from generation to generation. It is fueled by the enemy and the culture in which we live.

Unfortunately, it is found even among believers and it gives the Enemy the opportunity to come in and claim a foothold or a beachhead.

  1. Styles of Conflict Management

Some of you may be familiar with the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument, designed to measure a person’s behavior in conflict situations. “Conflict situations” are those in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible. The following is taken directly from https://kilmanndiagnostics.com:

In such conflict situations, we can describe an individual’s behavior along two dimensions: (1) assertiveness, the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy his own concerns, and (2) cooperativeness, the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy the other person’s concerns.

These two underlying dimensions of human behavior (assertiveness and cooperativeness) can then be used to define five different modes for responding to conflict situations:

  1. Competing is assertive and uncooperative—an individual pursues his own concerns at the other person’s expense. This is a power-oriented mode in which you use whatever power seems appropriate to win your own position—your ability to argue, your rank, or economic sanctions. Competing means “standing up for your rights,” defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.
  2. Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative—the complete opposite of competing. When accommodating, the individual neglects his own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person’s order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.
  3. Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative—the person neither pursues his own concerns nor those of the other individual. Thus he does not deal with the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.
  4. Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative—the complete opposite of avoiding. Collaborating involves an attempt to work with others to find some solution that fully satisfies their concerns. It means digging into an issue to pinpoint the underlying needs and wants of the two individuals. Collaborating between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.
  5. Compromising is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. It falls intermediate between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. In some situations, compromising might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground solution.

Each of us is capable of using all five conflict-handling modes. None of us can be characterized as having a single style of dealing with conflict. But certain people use some modes better than others and, therefore, tend to rely on those modes more heavily than others—whether because of temperament or practice.

There are limitations to this model with regards to Low and High Cultures.

Some examples of conflicts in the Bible:

  • Adam and Eve (Competition)
  • Cain and Abel (Competition)
  • Abraham and Lot’s herdsmen (Compromise)
  • Jacob and Esau (Competition because of parental favoritism)
  • Laban and Jacob (Avoidance)
  • Leah and Rachel (Competition)
  • David and Saul (Competition)
  • Israel and Judah (Competition)
  • Jesus’ disciples (From Competition to Collaboration) Mark 9 33 “…when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’ 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’
  • Greek and Hebrew believers in Acts (Collaboration)
  • Paul and Barnabas (Compromise)
  • Paul and Peter (Collaboration)
  • Corinthian Church (Competition with hopes of Collaboration) – 1 Corinthians 3 3“for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? 4 For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” 1 Corinthians 6      5 “I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!”
  1. Solution to Conflicts

8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, betenderhearted, be courteous…”

all of you be of one mind (homophron) = having a common heritage of faith and ethical tradition. Know what matters.

having compassion for one another (sumpatheis) = as a mother’s compassion for her children. Empathize.

love as brothers (philadelphus) = the special love bond of brothers, the fight against each other but also for each other. Love like brothers.

be tenderhearted (eusplanchnos) = compassion in the context of family relationships. Show mercy.

be courteous (philophronos) = friendly attitude, hospitality. Don’t cross the line.

If done right, the solution to conflicts can actually make conflicts a blessing!

9 “not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

It does not imply acceptance of abuse or illegal behavior. The point here is that you would not let bitterness and hate enter your heart. It can only happen when you pray for blessing on the other person.

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, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Personal Example of praying that someone who hurt me would be blessed physically, spiritually, and financially.

Invitation: How do you handle conflicts? Are you able to turn them for good? Do you need to pray for blessing on someone? Are you saved?

Marvelous Light by Dr. Abidan Shah

MARVELOUS LIGHT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Couple of days ago, with the snow and ice, a lot of people lost their power. We don’t realize how much we depend on electricity until it goes out. Summer time, it gets hot; winter time, it gets cold; but, the worst part for me is the darkness. For the heat, we can open the windows; for the cold, we can bundle up; but, what can we do about the darkness? We can’t see anything. We can’t do anything. We can’t go anywhere. We become completely helpless. Of course, we use flashlights and candle light, but we operate on less than half of our capacity. We wait for the day to dawn so we can do what we need to do. But, what if there were no daylight? What if darkness was all there was to life? My favorite sound when the power is out is the beep of the oven and the microwave. That is the heart of what Peter was telling his readers in our passage today. Today’s message is this: Every one of us is in darkness until God calls us into his marvelous light through Jesus Christ. Light is the realization of our new status in Christ: chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and his own special people.

1 Peter 2      9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Context: As you’ve heard me say throughout this series, Peter wrote this letter to encourage the persecuted church of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. They were facing ostracization by their families and societal discrimination by their neighbors. Unfortunately, this persecution was having a negative effect on them as some of them were beginning to regress in their Christian growth. Peter wrote this letter not only to encourage them but also to rebuke and admonish them for picking back up those old behaviors of “malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking.” He reminded them that they were living stones in God’s house with Christ being the Chief Cornerstone. By the way, this was no ordinary house but a holy temple in which they were priests offering sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Application: How do you act in times of trouble? Do you reflect the Christian graces or the carnal vices, vestiges of your past life? Are you saved?

Now, we come to verse 9. Here, Peter gave what one scholar called “one of the most dense constellations of ecclesiological imagery in the New Testament” (Boring). Listen again to verse 9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…” Before we dive in and look at each of these designations, we need to have a better understanding of the situation the Christians of the Anatolian peninsula were facing. There has been a lot of debate among church history scholars over the range and the extent of persecution in the early church. At one time, it was believed that the persecution began early and became intense during periods until the time of Constantine and the Edict of Milan in AD 313. Then, it was believed that the persecution was intense during the time of Nero and then later under certain emperors like Domitian, Trajan, Decius, Valerian, and Diocletian, but not throughout.

According to the latest research (Travis B. Williams), persecution began under Nero (54-68) when he changed the legal status of Christians and continued for the next 300 years. Starting with Nero, professing Christianity became illegal. It became a punishable offense if it was charged before the governor’s tribunal. The reason Christians could still function under such conditions was because of 2 reasons:

  • The judicial process in Asia Minor;
  • The relationship of Christians with their society.

In the first matter, the judicial system was not as simple – the accuser had to submit a formal allegation, then, the governors would be changing every year and you never knew who would be the judge, and the legal process was long. So, even though Christians were not daily facing capital punishment, the fear constantly loomed over the head. In the second matter, the Christians maintained involvement with society. It was not easy to go against Christians because they were connected with friends and family. Having said this, Christians always lived under the fear that one of their own would turn against them.

Here’s the point: Even though Christians were not being killed every day for their faith, their legal status in society had changed. To start with, they couldn’t join certain clubs like the “bakers of the Ephesus” and the “neighborhood group in Prusa” because to join required burning incense to the gods. Imagine how many business deals were lost because of that. Next, Christians refused to worship the Emperor. These cults were in the hands of the elites of the city or province. Again, Christians were excluded. At special town festivals and games, the emperor was honored before the start of the festival or games. Again, Christians were excluded. Finally, the worship of the traditional gods. Because, Christians did not worship these old gods, some people thought that they had become atheists. People blamed them for any natural, economic, or enemy threat.

There was yet another reason for the persecutions of the early Christians: Good Works. This may seem odd at first. How could a person, family, or a group practicing self-discipline, holiness, fear of God, righteousness, purity, sympathy, tender-heartedness, humility, love for one another, submission to government, enduring injustice, living with love in marriage (wives following their husbands and husbands giving honor to their wives), hospitality, shepherding the flock of God be a problem to society. They were looked upon as weird, different, cultish, and non-natives. Bottom line: There was persecution. Hence, Peter says in 1 Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” In other words, just the name “Christian” was illegal, reprehensible, and criminalized.

Application: Are you prepared for such a day in our lifetime? Are you preparing your children for such a day in their lifetime? How far will you go to stand for your faith and values?

By the way, in what forms did the early church and even the readers of 1 Peter face persecution? Verbal assault, physical abuse, legal actions, relationship struggles, financial hardships, and social ostracism.

Illustration: Dad was disowned by his family, beaten up for his faith, and even rejected by the nominal Christian community. When he took us to visit his family, they tried to lure mom to get him to come back home. They offered her the key to the family treasury.

Back to verse 9 – Peter reminds them of their new status since coming to Christ:

  1. Chosen Generation – genos eklekton. Here Peter is quoting from Isaiah 43:20 “The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen.” This was the promise given to the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile. The promise now applies to us as well.
  2. Royal Priesthood – In Israel, they represented 2 different offices. When King Saul tried to blend those two, Samuel cursed him. When King Uzziah tried to blend those two, he was driven out from the temple with leprosy. But, Christ was promised as the priest king in Zechariah 6:13 “Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Now believers can come near to God as priests and they are also to rule over the hearts of the people around them in love and truth.
  3. Holy Nation – ethnos hagion. The world may ostracize us, but we already have a citizenship in another nation. This does not mean that we don’t obey the reasonable laws of this nation. 1 Peter 2 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
  4. Special People – We have a special purpose just the way God chose the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for a special purpose. Again, Isaiah 43:21 “This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.” There is still work left for ethnic Israel in the end of times. But, for now, we have been chosen for a purpose – 9 “…His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Our purpose is to share the gospel.

10 “who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Maybe, this is an allusion to Hosea 2:23, but the point is that they are no accident of fate. God has brought them in by his mercy, as promised.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Chosen Generation, Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation, Special People. Are you singing his praises? Are you shining his marvelous light in this dark world? Are you prepared for the persecution that may come? Are you children and grandchildren prepared? Are you saved?

Living Stone by Dr. Abidan Shah

 

LIVING STONE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  We have several families in the church who are building homes or have just finished building. It can be such a long arduous process. There are so many things to consider from the right builders, cost of the materials, weather, decision fatigue, and changes. But, in the end, it is all worth it when you can sit on the front porch or the living room and know that you are in your own house. But, it takes a lot of patience to get there. By the way, I went looking for some construction jokes online and they all said that they’re still working on it. In today’s message, Peter is going to appeal to the construction imagery to encourage his readers. Here’s what he’s saying to them: When the world and even our loved ones evict us because of our faith, we are not left homeless in this life. Instead, we are carefully chosen by God to join Jesus in building our spiritual house where God dwells. We are precious to him.

1 Peter 2      4 “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Context: As you’ve heard me say it throughout this series, Peter wrote this letter to encourage believers who were facing persecution and ostracization because of their faith. It was causing some of them to turn back to their old natures and pick up those old sinful ways – “malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” These are not sins committed in isolation, but sins committed in relationships. In other words, they were turning against each other in the church family. Peter evoked the imagery of a newborn baby to exhort them to seek the pure milk of those things that are proper for the life of a believer. If not, in fear, they will act the fool like David. But, there is another side to the Christian life. It is a life that is diametrically opposite to the innocent, helpless, single-minded life of a newborn baby. It is a life that recognizes that each of us are a small but significant building material in the house of God. It is a life that recognizes that each of us are to be a holy priest before God.

Application: How do you see yourself in the church family? Are you in the church family? Do you have this balanced view of the Christian life?

But, let’s back up because there’s more there. Why did Peter appeal to the building construction imagery? He was acknowledging their present struggles. The persecution and ostracization was having another 2-sided effect on them: On one hand, they were losing their sense of belonging; and, on the other hand, they were losing their inheritance from their old families. They may also have been barred from entering their temples where other business may have been carried out. This often happens when people become Christians in other parts of the world.

Illustration: As you’ve heard me talk about my dad many times, he grew up in a well to do and loving Muslim home. His future was set. He went to college and got his degrees. He had his career path laid out for him. He even knew who he was going to marry. The family had plenty of old money and plenty of prospects to make new money. But then, he had several life-altering moments, one in which he even came face-to-face with death. It caused him to start searching for the truth. After about a yearlong journey of searching, he came to know Christ as his Savior and King. But, when he told his father that he had become a Christian, his father was very angry and gave him the ultimatum: either renounce all this Christianity stuff or leave the house before he was up. Then he added, “If you leave just know that you cannot take anything from this house, except the clothes on your back. Your Jesus was a beggar. If you follow him, you will end up a beggar. One day you will return home and it will be up to me whether or not I will receive you back.” After that exchange, my father stepped outside and looked up at the night sky and had a conversation with God – “God, I don’t understand. I chose to follow you and the first thing that happens is that I lose my family.” God answered him, not audibly but in his heart – “Do you trust me that I can take care of you in the life to come?” He answered, “Of course. That’s why I’m following you.” God spoke to him again – “If you can trust me to take care of you in the life to come that you cannot see, why can’t you trust me to take care of you in this life?” That was it. My dad stepped out in the darkness and made his way to the local train station. He got in line to buy a ticket but he didn’t even know where he was going. The person before him asked for a ticket to Pune. When my dad stepped to the ticket window, he said, “Same place as him.” That night, my father lost his family, his inheritance, and all his earthly security. Unbeknownst to him, he had bought a ticket where the American missionary lived who would later adopt my father as his son.

So also, the believers in Asia Minor may have lost their families, their inheritance, and all their earthly homes and securities. Hence, Peter appealed to the imageries of building, stone, house, rejection, and shame. By the way, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, brought up the same point in Ephesians 2      19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” More than likely, Peter and Paul got this unusual imagery from the teachings of Jesus himself: Mark 12     10 Have you not even read this Scripture: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 11 This was the LORD’S doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” Here, Jesus referred to himself as “the stone.” The origin of this imagery goes back to the Old Testament: Isaiah 28:16Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.” God used the imagery of foundation and cornerstone because God’s people always had to face eviction and instability in life.

Application: You may not have to face evictions for your faith, but it may cost you to follow Christ in the days ahead? How far are you willing to go? There are more times of instability and uncertainty coming in the days ahead? Are you ready for them?

Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, refocused the persecuted and rejected believers on the fact that they were all involved in a massive construction project. It is the spiritual temple of God. Listen again to verse 4 “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious.” Here the “Living Stone” is Christ. There are 2 things about him: He is rejected by the world, but he is selected by God. But, it’s not just him – 5 “you also, as living stones…” We are also “living stones” that will be rejected by the world but rest assured that we have been selected by God.

What is the purpose of this selection? 5 “…are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 6Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” As I read earlier from Isaiah 28:16, this was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Bottom Line: Christ is our pattern in building the spiritual house of God. There is a sense of solidarity and connection between the persecuted believers and Jesus. We are together involved in a building project. In fact, Christian community is the place of the presence of God in this world. We mistakenly overemphasize God’s presence with us individually. That may be true, but it is the community that displays God’s presence before the watching world.

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” This is a fulfillment of Psalm 118:22. 8 and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 8. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

Application: Are you working to build the temple of God? Disobedience will cause you to stumble? Also, Christ is precious to those who know him and are obedient to him. To others, he is a stumbling block – lost as well disobedient saved.

9 “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

By the way, there is a judgment coming. Listen to 1 Corinthians 3      9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and thatthe Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you building? Are you stumbling?

Fervent Love by Dr. Abidan Shah

FERVENT LOVE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of y’all grew up with sibling rivalry? I typed “sibling rivalry” in the search engine and I came up with a bunch of memes: boy swinging his sister by kicking her (“What are brothers for”); sister scribbling on her sibling (“the defining moment when sibling rivalry takes root”); 2 pics of “Our Get Along T-shirt”; Family picture with favorite sports (“Sibling Rivalry – a natural part of every family”); Siblings fighting (“I smile because you’re my brother. I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it”). We had sibling rivalry in our home as well between me and my brother. We fought and I usually got beat up. But, I remember this one time when I got in trouble at school. My brother came to pick me up and a kid from the class ran up to him to tell on me. I was thinking that my brother would love this news and take it to my parents. Instead, he slapped the kid across the face and said, “Don’t you ever tell on my brother.” I learned that day that even though we fought with each other, if anyone from the outside ever tried to hurt either of us, we would fight for each other. In today’s message in our series on 1 Peter, we will learn the importance of FERVENT LOVE between Christian brothers and sisters, especially during difficult times. Main point: During trials, it is imperative that we as believers love one another fervently. True love in the family comes from being set apart and born again. The times are dark but God is sovereign.

1 Peter 1:22 “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.”

Context: As you know, Peter wrote this letter to encourage the pilgrims of the Dispersion (Jewish and Gentile background believers) who were being ostracized by their families and facing societal discrimination from their neighbors. These trials were causing them to get off course. Peter wrote this letter to get them on track, especially in 3 areas:

  1. Holiness: Times of trials can cause us to lose our moral compass and feel entitled to indulge in sin. Instead, we are to be holy because God is holy.
  2. Misguided Fear: Times of trials can cause us to become fearful of people and circumstances. Instead, we are to fear God – our Father and Judge – who will judge us without partiality.

The third area that he warned them was regarding their love for each other. In verse 22, Peter referred to the “love of the brethren.” He used the compound word “Philadelphian” = philos (love) + adelphos (brother). From that word, we get the name Philadelphia, which was the name of 2 ancient cities: the modern city of Amman in Jordan; a city in Asia Minor, which was one of the 7 cities addressed in Revelation. Of course, the modern city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania also gets its name from the same word. Peter even added the adjective “anupokritos” = an (without) + hupokritos (hypocrisy). In other words, have unhypocritical or sincere or genuine love for each other. Why did Peter say that? There’s an old principle: Times of trials can either bring us closer to each other in the family or they can tear us apart. This is especially true with regards to our spiritual family. Pressure can either bind us closer to each other as believers or it can break us into pieces. Unfortunately, we can pretend or feign unity but it will be fake and in time it will be exposed to each other and the world. This kind of love is not warm fuzzies, emotional highs, or common discontent and resentment.

Application: How much does this love of each other in the family of God (church) matter to you? Is your love real or fake? Do you remember Leo Buscaglia (Dr. Love)? He would ask: “Do I have an ulterior motive for wanting to relate to this person? Is my caring conditional? Am I trying to escape something? Am I planning to change this person? Do I need this person to help make up for a deficiency in myself?”

How can you have such sincere love for each other in the spiritual family? 2 equally necessary and connected conditions:

  1. Your life has to be set apart by obedience to the truth through the Holy Spirit.

Listen again to 22 “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…” The word for “purification” = hegnekotes, which means consecration or being set apart. It has the idea of vessels being set apart in the temple for sacrifice and offering. In other words, by obeying the truth of the gospel through the Holy Spirit, we become set apart to love properly.

Application: Have you been set apart? Did your salvation involve obedience to the truth of the gospel? Was the Holy Spirit involved? By the way, it’s not just sincere love – 22 “…in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.”

  1. You have to be born again with an eternal nature of which love is the essence.

23 “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” We come across the notion of being born again in John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus did not understand this and Jesus had to explain it to him. What does this rebirth imply, especially in 1 Peter?

  • We were born once in an earthly existence. Now we need a rebirth in heavenly existence.
  • This rebirth was thought to be at the end of time; but now, through Christ, it can happen right now in the soul.
  • This rebirth happens through faith and love. It is the “living hope” in the person of Jesus Christ. We begin to share in his attributes as children of God.
  • Those who have been reborn have to finish the course of life as foreigners but they get to live in a new community.
  • Just like we had nothing to contribute to our first birth, we cannot do anything to merit our second birth.

Application: Have you been born again? Have you received your rebirth through faith and love? How do you feel about the new community? Are you trying to earn it? It is a non-negotiable in order to have sincere and fervent love for each other in the body.

Now, there appears to be a shift in the letter. It seems as if Peter was introducing a new topic – the Word of God. Listen to verse 24 because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. He went from talking about loving each other fervently to being set apart to being born again to the imperishability of the Word of God. What exactly is happening here? For starters, Peter was quoting from Isaiah 40 in the LXX. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter believed that the prophecy of Isaiah applied to his readers as well. What was the prophecy of Isaiah about? The verses that Peter quoted from Isaiah were the introduction of the promises God was making to his people who were in exile in Babylon. This is going back to the 6th century BC when the people of Judah were in Babylon wondering what had happened to God’s covenant with his people. Let’s go to Isaiah 40 for a few moments – 1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. 2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” The reason the Southern Kingdom was in exile was because they had done the same sins as the Northern Kingdom of going after false gods and trusting in foreign powers instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now they were repenting and returning in humility and submission. By the way, the words of comfort were not just for the future of Israel but also for the redemption of humanity. Peter’s readers were also facing exile and persecution, but they were now part of God’s covenant people and God had the same word for them as well. (By the way, we are also headed into exile now. We have also gone after false gods and trusted in things. Unless we return in repentance, there will be no comfort.)

Let’s continue – 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD;Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth.” Of course, we know that this first and foremost applied to John the Baptist’s proclamation of the coming of Jesus, but it was also a preparation of all the roads for the exiles to come home. Peter was telling his readers that just as the road was prepared for the exiles to return, God will prepare a road for them as well. Keep in mind that the some of the people in exile were turning away from God, becoming closed to spiritual things, and their faith was becoming cold. So also, there was a good chance that the same thing might happen to Peter’s listeners. Isaiah wrote to comfort, encourage, and reignite the people in exile. Peter was doing the same but with the added benefit that Jesus had come, died, buried, and resurrected. Listen to verse 5 The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Just like Isaiah’s readers, Peter’s readers are also struggling with the power of those in charge. (Some of us are struggling with the same thing as well.) Listen to verse 9 O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 10Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. 11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young. What a wonderful imagery of God’s faithful promises! These are the promises Peter wanted his readers to cling to.

Application: These are the same promises we have to cling to now. Are you?

There is much more in Isaiah – 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has taught Him? 14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing…17 All nations before Him are as nothing, And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless…21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Just like Isaiah’s readers needed to hear that in spite of how things seemed, God was much more powerful and in charge, Peter’s readers needed to hear the same thing.

We are also in a sort of exile in America right now. This is God’s Word for us. If you don’t understand, best to stay silent. Just because you have a social media platform does not mean that you have to speak. Sometimes, silence is golden. Some of you have spoken very well but others of you don’t get it and you don’t get it that you don’t get it.

What should we do in the meantime? Besides holiness and fear of God, love each other fervently because we have been set apart and born again. This is not a new subject. Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” 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, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving…” John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Invitation: Are you born again? Do you have fervently love in your heart? Do you understand that we are headed into exile? Can you see the promises of God in the exile?

Faithfulness by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: If there is one refrain or chorus that we have all said or heard again and again, it is “what a crazy year 2020 has been!” None of us ever imagined in our wildest dreams or nightmares that this year would turn out this way. Although, this year was quite serious and sad in many ways, people found humor in it as well. Check out some of the memes that people sent me – “T-shirt with the year in review stars – ‘Very bad, would not recommend,’” “picture of a knight in his armor with the caption ‘me being prepared for 2020’ and the next picture with an arrow through the eye slit,” “a bunch of porta potties on fire with the caption ‘if 2020 was a scented candle,’” and this one with “Sorry folks, the world is closed.” As I was praying about what is it that God would want us to remember at the close of this crazy year, he directed my attention to Psalm 66. Here’s the main point: If we look at our trials only through the lens of our personal story, we will become fearful and hopeless. Instead, we have to look at our trials through the lens of our collective story; then we see that we have faced worse situations before and God has been faithful. The foundation of our faith is not our own experiences but the collective experience of God’s people in the Scriptures. If he was faithful then, he will be faithful now and in the future. I can pray to him in confidence and know that he will answer the prayer of the clean heart.

Psalm 66       1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! 2 Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”

Context: Many of us treat the psalms as second-class literature compared to the narratives, prophecies, gospels and epistles. This is false. The psalms are equally Scripture. They are theology that sings. Once we decode the symbolism and the literary structure, they have some deep theology that is not found anywhere else in Scripture.

To start with, the psalm we just read (Psalm 66) can be divided into 2 halves: Verses 1-12 and verses 13-20. The first half is focused on corporate worship and the second half is focused on personal worship. In other words, first, we hear the chorus of the whole community singing and then we hear the voice of the individual worshipper. The first half lays the foundation for the second half. Without the corporate worship, there would be no individual worship.

First half – The choir calls all believers to praise God for his wonderful works. Listen again – 1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” In the context, I would say that “all the earth” is referring only to the “God-fearing Israelites” or only to “all the believers of the earth.” After all, how can the lost world shout joyfully to the living God? Also, 2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.” Again, how can the lost world sing out the honor of God’s name and how can they make his praise glorious? Romans 3:23 is clear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moving on to verse 3 “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You.’” Every human being is an enemy of God until he/she meets Jesus Christ.Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Also,Colossians 1      21 “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we can join the throng of those who sing praises to God’s name. 4 “All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name.” Selah

Application: Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? Are you saved? Are you singing praises to God?

Now the choir invites all believers to take a trip down memory lane – 5 “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot…” Here the choir of God’s people are singing about the exodus from Egypt of their ancestors, particularly the time when the people of Israel found themselves hemmed between the Red Sea before them and the chariots of Pharaoh behind them. Remember, after the final plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh allowed the people to leave Egypt. As this massive crowd of 3 million began their journey, the land of Egypt was a wreck and the Egyptians were scared. The people of Israel had to walk right past the fortresses on Egypt’s eastern borders. There were soldiers and chariots in these fortresses with plenty of hatred and anger towards the people of Israel. Even though they were large in number, these former slaves (less than 24 hours) were no match for trained angry soldiers in chariots. God led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. Just then Pharaoh changed his mind and decided to pursue the people of Israel with a couple of thousand chariots with soldiers. What a horrible tactical decision!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses – Exodus 14     10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, “Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. God sent a strong east wind that divided the sea and made dry land for them. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.” This Angel of the Lord and pillar of the cloud was the pre-incarnate Christ who guarded God’s people until they were safely on the other side. Then God gave the command and the sea came back and drowned the entire Egyptian army.

Let’s return again to Psalm 66:6 “He turned the sea into dry land; They went through the river on foot. There we will rejoice in Him.There is a shift in the “person” from third to second. There is something very subtle here which is very substantial for our faith. The singers/congregation were not there at the Red Sea. Their ancestors were there. Nonetheless, they were there in the sense of the confessional statements (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). In theological terms, this is known as the “actualizing identification with Israel’s salvation history.” It means that by faith we are part of the whole story of God’s people. In other words, even though I wasn’t there physically, I was there spiritually and I saw the faithfulness of God in my life. We do that as Christians through the Communion – 1 Corinthians 11:26 “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

The choir/congregation continues – 7 “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah 8 Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, 9 Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved.” This is the key verse of this psalm. God has preserved our feet from slipping into the netherworld. This does not mean that people have not died in 2020 of various causes, but God has our times in his hands and none have left this world outside of his time. 10 For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. 11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. 12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Everything from the exodus experience is now personal.

Application: What is your faith story? The Bible is our faith story. We have been through worse. If God brought us through fire and water, he will bring us through 2020. Can you sing that? Can you shout that? Do you understand now why we need community? We understand those who cannot be with us because of health concerns. That’s why we go above and beyond to make sure that we have the best online experience possible for those who cannot attend in person. To stop assembling is to take away our faith story. We have to remind each other of it.

Second Half – The individual proclaims his personal thanksgiving to God and promises to keep his vows. Listen – 13 I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows.” There is a shift in the “person” from second to first. The choir goes silent now and all eyes are turned towards the individual as he makes remembers the promises that he had made to God through the trials. 14 Which my lips have uttered and my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, with the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah Many different kinds of sacrifices are in view here.

Applications: What promises did you make to God in 2020? You say, “I didn’t make any promises.” So, you just asked God to get you through? Get you through for what? Why should God give you another year? If were truly honest, many of us got through but our faith disintegrated. Many have destroyed the faith of others.

Listen to the conclusion of the psalm – 16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, And I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 Butcertainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me!” There is confidence in our prayers when our heart is clean before God.

Application: Is your heart clean before God?

Conclusion:

  • We need both descriptive praise and declarative praise.
  • We need to go back and then we can talk about the now.
  • We need both the community and the individual.
  • We need both worship and thanksgiving.
  • We need hearts that are clean if we want our prayers to be heard.

Can you see God’s faithfulness in the past and the present? Are you saved?