DIGGING DEEP 3 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 3 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Recap from last week:

  • 2 Major views of Translation: Formal Equivalent (literal/word-for-word); Functional Equivalent (idiomatic/meaning-based/dynamic)
  • Range of translation: Highly Literal, Modified Literal, Idiomatic, and Unduly Free
  • No translation is strictly one or the other (except maybe the Unduly Free). They frequently overlap, some more than others.

Difference between FORM and MEANING (From Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions):

  • FORM includes letters, words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc.
  • MEANING includes concepts or thoughts from the forms

“For genuine translation to take place, 2 things must happen: The meaning must remain the same, and the form must change (at least to some degree). If either of these two things does not happen, we have not translated.” (Brunn)

How to translate words?

  • “Words” are important. They are the building block of any language, the starting point of form.
  • “Full meaning of most words does not transfer directly between two languages. Meaning should be viewed as an area and not a precise point.” (Brunn)
  • Usually, there is only a partial overlap of meanings between corresponding words between two languages.
  • A Greek word has a range of meanings and the most appropriate has to be picked in translation.
  • Many times translations are not as accurate or consistent as they should’ve been.

Case in point: Logos (Taken from Dave Brunn’s book One Bible, Many Versions)

  1. Logos has more meanings than just “word”

John 1:1 (NKJV) “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.”

Acts 1:1 (NKJV) “The former logos I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.”

Romans 14:12 (NKJV) “So then each of us shall give logos of himself to God.”

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NKJV) “For the logos of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:1 (NKJV) “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of logos or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:4 (NKJV) “And my logos and my preaching were not with persuasive logos of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV) “Let no corrupt logos proceed out of your mouth…”

1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV) “This is a faithful logos and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV) “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a logos for the hope that is in you…”

Acts 20:24 (NKJV) “But of no logos; nor do I count my life dear to myself…”

Matthew 5:32 (NKJV) “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for the logos of sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery…”

  1. Logos is more than just a “single” word

Galatians 5:14 (NKJV) For all the law is fulfilled in one logos, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Check the interesting rendering here by NASB)

John 19:7-8 (NKJV) The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that logos, he was the more afraid.”

  1. Guidelines for best translation of logos:
  • Literal translations use “word” most of the time for logos since it is the one that corresponds the most.
  • Idiomatic translations use the meaning that fits the context the most.

How about Revelation 22   18   For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

– Check Matthew 25:19; I Corinthians 15:2; Philippians 4:15; and Hebrews 4:13 (Logos is missing in the KJV translation because the translators were going for meaning rather than form.)

DIGGING DEEP 1 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

DIGGING DEEP – 1 (Bible Translations) by Abidan Paul Shah

Total number of all the Bible translations in the world: Not Sure.

Old Testament: Samaritan Pentateuch, Aramaic Targums, and the Septuagint.

New Testament: Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Ethiopic, Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Arabic, Slavonic, English, etc.

Total number of English Bible translations: According to one estimation, there are 900 and another as many as 1400. This includes translations as well as paraphrases, revisions, and partial translations.

Original Languages of the Bible: 98.5% of the OT was written in Hebrew. Parts of the OT were in Aramaic: Genesis 31:47; Jeremiah 10:11; Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; and Daniel 2:4b-7:28. Also, Jesus more than likely spoke Aramaic based on evidence of inscriptions, Aramaic words in the Gospels, Aramaic papyri evidence, etc. But, the New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

Translations are still the Word of God – translations are also inspired and inerrant to the extent they represent the original text. We believe that the original words are not isolated entities. They come together to make propositions. Hence, as long as the translations are true to the original text, they are just as much the Word of God as the original text.

Difference between the translations of the Quran and the translations of the Bible: In Islam, only the Arabic Quran is considered to be authoritative. This is the language in which it was given and the translations involve interpretation, which can be distorted. School kids are told to memorize the Quran in Arabic even in countries where Arabic is not the main language. Recitation of the Quran has to be in Arabic. Why is this? In Muslim theology there are 2 key words that are important to understand: wahy and ilham. Wahy is the pure revelation of God. It exists in heaven and everything else, including translations, is just interpretation or rendition. Ilham is God revealing his knowledge into the mind of the person. This is similar to the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. Under wahy, there is no such thing as the “original message” or “context” or the “true words” of the prophet Mohammed; the Quran is the word of God.

A good example to explain the difference between the Quran translations and the Bible translations: From Rodney Decker, “Verbal-Plenary Inspiration and Translation” – The International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sévres, Paris, has the official International Prototype Kilogram. It is the standard against which all kilogram measures are established. But, my weight measures are still accurate.

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, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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.

Major points to remember:

  • There is no perfect or ultimate English Bible translation.
  • There is no such thing as a word-for-word translation.
  • There is no such thing as consistent formal equivalent translation.
  • The best translation is the “modified literal.” “Modified” represents the real situation and “literal” represents the ideal goal. (Dave Brunn) In other words, “modified” acknowledges that the translators have to modify in order to reflect the best meaning. Literal is the goal of the translation.
  • Translations carry the same authority as the original text, to the extent that they reflect the original text.
  • Translations have to be constantly updated.

Couple of examples:

(Taken from Dave Brunn’s book – “One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal?”)

Jeremiah 48:4  בְּנֵ֥י שָׁאֽוֹן׃  = sons of roar, crash, noise

 NKJV – “Those who fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon because of exhaustion. But a fire shall come out of Heshbon, a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the brow of Moab, the crown of the head of the sons of tumult.”

HCSB – “Those who flee will stand exhausted in Heshbon’s shadow because fire has come out from Heshbon and a flame from within Sihon. It will devour Moab’s forehead and the skull of the noisemakers.

NIV – “In the shadow of Heshbon the fugitives stand helpless, for a fire has gone out from Heshbon, a blaze from the midst of Sihon; it burns the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of the noisy boasters.”

NASB – “In the shadow of Heshbon the fugitives stand without strength; For a fire has gone forth from Heshbon and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and it has devoured the forehead of Moab and the scalps of the riotous revelers.”

 

Romans 3:20 σὰρξ = Flesh, physical body; human nature, earthly descent, human being, person, man, earthly life, etc. 

NKJV – Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

ESV For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since zthrough the law comes knowledge of sin.

HCSB For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law.

NLT For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

MessageOur involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.

NETFor no one is declared righteous before him23 by the works of the law,24 for through the law comes25 the knowledge of sin.

NIV Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

NASBbecause by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

DIGGING DEEP 8 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 8 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

Greeks (1500-165BC)

  • Alexander the Great and the spread of Greek culture.
  • Koine Greek

Romans

One constant factor during the writing of the New Testament was Rome. Roman history can be divided into three parts:

  1. ROMAN KINGDOM – early stages of Rome. (753 BC – 509 BC) Not very significant for our discussion
  2. ROMAN REPUBLIC – still an early stage of our discussion (509 BC – 44 BC)
  3. ROMAN EMPIRE – (44 BC – 6th century AD)

Rome had great admiration for Ancient Greece. Unlike Persia and Greek, Rome knew how to make people Romans. Persian Empire tried to absorb the conquered people but they still did not create unity. Greece tried but not everybody could be a citizen of Greece. But Rome knew how to truly absorb the surrounding cultures – both people and gods.

Some key aspects of the Roman Empire:

  1. The Emperor
  • In 48 BC Julius Caesar declared himself the Dictator. After he was assassinated, his adopted son, Octavius through a series of battles and events became the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Some of those battles might be familiar to you (Mark Anthony and Cleopatra).
  • In 27 BC the Senate gave him the title of Caesar Augustus and they became just an advisory council to the Emperor. His rule brought the PAX ROMANA. Rome’s first institutionalized police force and fire fighting force. He built roads throughout Italy.
  • The Imperial cult was typically instituted after the death of the emperor. Domitian (AD 81-96) was the first to institute it in his own lifetime. He demanded to be addressed as “dominus et deus” = “Lord and god. This was a major problem to the Christians. (See I Peter 3:12-17; and Revelation 2:13 – “Satan’s throne” in Pergamum)
  1. Provinces
  • Main administrative units; 2 kinds: Senatorial and imperial
  • Senatorial provinces were ruled by governors who were appointed by the Senate. They were no threat to peace. For e.g. Sicily, Spain, Pamphylia, Africa, Macedonia, Asia, Crete, Cyprus, etc.
  • Imperial provinces were also ruled by governors who were appointed by the emperor. They were on the borders of the empire and had a threat of revolt. For e.g. Syria, Gaul, Galatia, and Britain.
  1. Client Kingdoms
  • Not directly administered by Rome but still under Roman rule.
  • They were independent rulers who could appoint their own officials and implement their own policies.
  • Palestine was ruled by Herod from 40BC – 4 BC (Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Peraea, and Idumea)
  • After his death, his territory was divided into 3 parts: Judea, Idumea, and Samaria to Archelaus; North of Galilee to Philip; and Galilee and Peraea to Antipas.
  • Archelaus was removed after 10 years and Idumea and Samaria went under Roman procurators (Pilate, Felix, and Festus).
  • Later Herod Agrippa (Herod’s grandson) was a client king over North of Galilee, Galilee, Perea, and Judea. (Acts 12) His son Herod II (acts 25-26).
  1. Colonies and Free Cities
  • Self governing settlements of Roman Citizens
  • For e.g. Philippi and Corinth (locals who were granted Roman citizenship)
  1. Roman Citizenship
  • People could have dual citizenship like Paul (Tarsus and Rome).
  • It ensured loyalty.
  1. Roman Law
  • Basis of Roman Authority was Legal. It all depended on RIGHT and JURISDICTION. Magistrates had complete power. Measure of all things was the LAW. (Greek – man; East – king; Jewish people – God).
  • It was not perfect – THERE WAS CORRUPTION. The further from Rome, the more the corruption.
  • The power over life and death (ius gladii) was always retained by Governors.
  1. Roman Taxation
  • Poll tax was on every adult, including women and slaves.
  • An amount was set but the local governors could set their amount.
  1. Benefits
  • Pax Romana
  • Roads
  • Common Currency – Greek coins (lepta, drachmai,) and Roman coins (assaria, quadrans, denarius). Also temple currency was in shekels

Test Passages:

  1. Matthew 10:18; 11:8; 17:25; 18:23; 22:2; 25:40

 

  1. John 18:31

 

  1. Acts 16:19-40

 

  1. Galatians 3:28

 

  1. Acts 24:5

How to Close a Prayer by Pastor Abidan Shah

HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtocloseaprayer

Introduction: This is our final message in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father.” At the end of the service, Ryan will be making an exciting announcement about it so stay tuned. Today’s message is titled – “HOW TO CLOSE A PRAYER.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: Would you agree that how you end a conversation matters? There are conversations that end on a high note and then there are some that end on a low note. Some end with hope and anticipation while others end with doubt and despair. Some end with joy and gladness while others end with tears and sadness. Prayer is also a conversation and it matters how you end it. Jesus ended the “Lord’s Prayer” with the doxology – “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” By the way, according to Jewish custom, prayer was always followed by a conclusion, a doxology. In the Mishnah (m. Ber. 1.4) it says, “In the morning two blessings are to be said…which they ordered to be concluded (with a benediction) must not be left without such a conclusion…” In the Old Testament, you see this repeatedly at the end of prayers. Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

Question: How do you end your prayers? Is it with hope and anticipation or is it with doubt and despair? Is it with joy and gladness or is it with tears and sadness? Do you pray? Are you saved? It’s hard to have a conversation with someone you don’t know.

Matthew 613 footnote

Matthew 6:13 with a footnote

This morning we will look at the doxology or the end of the Lord’s Prayer and my desire is that it will encourage you to pray with hope and joy and faith. But before we jump in, there’s an important issue that we need to address. Some of your Bibles may have this statement next to this verse or at the bottom of the page – “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have these words” or “some late manuscripts add the doxology” or “the NU text omits the doxology.” In many translations the doxology is included but in brackets and in several Bibles it is not included at all. What exactly is going on here?

Matthew 613 brackets

Matthew 6:13 in brackets

Matthew 613 omitted

Matthew 6:13 omitted

My first encounter with this issue came when I was in elementary school. I went to St. Aloysius, a Catholic School, where every morning during school assembly we said the Lord’s Prayer. What was startling to me was how the nuns would end the prayer with “And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.” Wait a minute! You’re forgetting something! “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” Later on I learned that the Catholic Bible did not have the doxology. Why? Because it was based on the Latin Vulgate which also did not have the doxology. Little did I know at the time that one day I would pursue a PhD in the field of New Testament Textual Criticism (I don’t like to brag about that), which deals with these very issues. I believe that the doxology should be included in the text. Why? I don’t have time to go in depth but let me quickly give a couple of things to remember. But before I do that, let me be clear – I am not a “King James Only.” It’s a great translation but I’m not here to defend it.

  • It is true that the doxology is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts that have survived (Aleph and B) from the 4th It is also not found
    Gk Mss Dist Matt Doxology

    Greek Mss Distribution of Matthew’s Doxology

    in 3 manuscripts from the 5th century (D Z 0170). But one thing that many people don’t realize is that 4 out of those 5 seem to have a common origin, which narrows their weight.

  • But, what many people don’t realize is that the doxology is found in 1 early Greek manuscript (W) from the 5th century and 2 (sigma and phi) from the 6th
  • Furthermore, the doxology is absent from only 13 or so manuscripts and 10 of them after the 13th
  • But, from the 8th century on 1504 manuscripts have the doxology! One of my friends (Jonathan Borland) did the math and altogether 98.6% of all Greek manuscripts have the doxology, a few with some variations. They had to be copied from somewhere.
  • It is also true that the Latin version omits it (I just mentioned that) and so also the early church fathers (Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine).
  • But the doxology is found in an Old Latin, (k/1), some of the Old Syriac versions, some Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Armenian.

I can go on and on but the question is why did some manuscripts drop it?

  • Maybe because Luke does not include it, some scribes may have felt that Matthew shouldn’t either. They should have remembered that maybe Luke left it out because the Gentiles didn’t see the need for a doxology at the end of every prayer.
  • Maybe because when the church collectively read the passage, they would stop at “deliver us from evil” and the priest alone would say the doxology. This could have become a norm and the doxology got left out by a handful of manuscripts.
  • Personally, I think its because some scribe thought that it was contradicting the opening of the prayer – “Your kingdom come.” It could be that the scribe felt that if the kingdom was still to come in the future, how can we say “Yours is the kingdom,” as if it is already in the present.

We don’t have all the answers but my conclusion is that the evidence is in the favor of the doxology. Please don’t misunderstand – this does not mean that people who don’t include it are liberals or unsaved. That’s not true. So, why did I go through all this trouble? Our young people are bombarded daily with allegations that the original Bible has been lost in transmission. That’s not true and cookie cutter answers won’t work. We have to, as Peter says in I Peter 3:15, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Back to our message – This doxology reminds us of 3 things about God as we close our prayer:

I. HE IS THE RIGHTFUL OWNER, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is the kingdom…forever.”

Background: If you remember the message on – “Your kingdom come” – the Jewish people knew that God was their eternal King. He was their rightful King. And one day He was coming to take His rightful throne over the world and rule forever. By ending with the doxology– “Yours IS the kingdom” – Jesus was saying that even now God was the rightful King. Even now He owned everything and everyone. It was very similar to the doxology that David prayed in I Chronicles 29   10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. If you remember, the people of Israel had rebelled against God and had demanded a king to be like other nations. Even though David was the king of Israel, He was humbly acknowledging that God was Israel’s true king. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 “Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name. Is it any wonder that God repeatedly heard David’s prayer and established His kingdom forever?!

Here’s the point: No matter how we come to God in prayer, we need to remember that God owns this entire creation and everything in it, including all our problems and us. Like that old song—

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

……….

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:

Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and Heav’n be one.

………

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?

The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He owns it all? Do you proclaim Him king over your circumstances and over yourself?

II. HE CAN CHANGE CIRCUMSTANCES, NOW AND FOREVER.

“For Yours is…the power…forever.”

Background: This almost sounds like the last point but there is a difference. It’s one thing to be the rightful owner but it’s another thing to be in control. To say it differently – you can own something but still be helpless to change a situation. By ending with the doxology – “For Yours is the power” – Jesus was saying that the Father was not only in charge but He also had all the power to change all circumstances. By the way, Jesus demonstrated that when they brought a paralytic to Him on a bed. Matthew 9   2 “…When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’ 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house. 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Here’s the point: No matter what we are facing in this life, when we come to God in prayer we need to remember that God is perfectly capable of handling that situation, be it physical healing or spiritual healing.

Application: When you close in prayer, do you acknowledge to God that He has power to work in your situation? Do you proclaim Him all-powerful and all capable?

III. HE GETS THE GLORY, NOW AND FOREVER. 

“For Yours is…the glory forever.”

Background: The Greek word for glory is “doksa” from which we get the word “doxology.” At the end of it all, God wants to get the glory and He will get the glory. It means that when your prayers are answered, it’s not because of how strong or wise or patient or even prayerful you were. It was all because of God, for God, and to God. The best example of this is the healing of Lazarus. If you remember, Jesus was a friend of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus from the town of Bethany. He often visited them. One day He got word that Lazarus was sick. Now you would think that Jesus would leave it all and go help out His friends. Instead, listen to John 11:4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. How strange?! He loved them and so He stayed 2 extra days instead of coming to them immediately! He finally gets there. The sisters are distraught and they get to the grave and Martha says to Him – “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” What was His response? John 11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” What was the result? Not only Lazarus was raised to life but many believed in Him. Ultimately, God got the glory.

Application: The real question is “Are you willing to give Him glory in your life and through your circumstances?” Are you willing to let God use you to draw people to Himself?

Are you saved? Are you praying? Are you praying for His kingdom, His power, and His glory?

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

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INVITATION:

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

Hoi Polloi Podcast Episode 3 – Dr. Maurice A. Robinson

Hoi Polloi Pod Cast ImageIn this third episode of Hoi Polloi, Abidan Shah interviews Dr. Maurice A. Robinson, a noted New Testament textual critic and Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Robinson is the co-editor of the “The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform” and many other books and articles. In 2014, he was awarded a Festschrift by his friends and students for all his contributions in the field. In this interview we will chat with him about his reflection over the past four decades in New Testament Textual Criticism. If you have any questions or topics you would like to be discussed, tweet them to @hoipolloiradio.

FAITH YOU CAN BET ON

FAITH YOU CAN BET ON by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Faith You can Bet onThis morning we begin a brand new series titled, “WHAT IF GOD LIVED NEXT DOOR?” I’ve never been more excited about a series than this one! This series will cover the entire life of Christ from all four gospels. The first message is on Luke 1:1-4 called, “FAITH YOU CAN BET ON.” Unlike all other religions in the world, Christianity alone is based on rock solid historical evidence. The proof is so overwhelming that, just like poker (Not that I am advocating playing poker), you can move all your chips into the pot. You don’t have to worry about any bluffs and look for any tells. Compared to all other faiths in the world, this is the real deal. Anything other than Christianity is a losing hand.

Luke 1:1-4   1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Overall Background: In the New Testament there are 4 individual accounts of the life of Jesus – Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each of them is from a unique perspective. Matthew was a tax collector (a government official), Mark was a young man (imagine someone in their mid-late 20s), Luke was a medical doctor, and John had a fishing business. The Holy Spirit used their different personalities, experiences, and capabilities to give us a different angle on the same Jesus. He guided them and guarded them through the whole process. Listen to what Peter says in 2 Pet. 1, (By the way, tradition tells us that he was Mark’s source for his gospel.) 16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. But then he clarifies in verse 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture (even the gospels are prophecies because prophecy is not just foretelling but also forth telling) is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. So different human beings but one Holy Spirit.

Now Luke does something in his opening lines that the other gospel writers don’t. He tells us the process by which he wrote his gospel. Even though Matthew, Mark, and John don’t tells us their process of research and writing, more than likely, they used a similar process.

Why did I choose to preach on this process of how the gospels were written? There is a myth, false belief, out there that the holy books of all religions came together the same way the Bible did. In other words, the way the Bible was written for the Christians is the way the Quran was written for the Muslims, the Gita for the Hindus, the Lotus Sutra for the Buddhists, and the Norse sagas for the early Scandinavians. It’s just that we happened to be born in a world where the Bible is prominent that we think the Bible alone is the Word of God. To say that is to be a bigot and ignorant.

I know some of you are saying – “Oh, I believe that the Bible alone is the Word of God.” That’s wonderful but your children and your grandchildren are living in a different world. They don’t necessarily think the way you do. Our young people are being told that all sacred books are on the same level.

This morning I am going to give you a glimpse of how the other sacred books where put together and then we will return to how the gospels were put together.

I. HOW OTHER “HOLY BOOKS” CAME TOGETHER?

1. AVESTA – The holy book of the Parsis or the Zoroastrians. It’s a religion that came from ancient Persia (Iran) somewhere around the 6th Avestacentury BC. It’s founder, Zoroaster, lived about the same time as Jeremiah and Daniel in the Old Testament. The Parsis had to flee their homeland because of Muslim persecution and many of them came to India and became very successful. You may have heard the name Zubin Mehta – a famous orchestra conductor. Here’s one I’m sure you have heard – Freddie Mercury from Queen (We are the Champions) was born into a Parsi family.

The Avesta is a collection of writings that came at different times in the history of Zoroastrianism. Some of them are from the early period written by Zoroaster himself. They are hymns or Gathas. Others are prayers and magic rituals. Some of the old writings are in an ancient language called Avestan, which is very hard to understand. In fact, many sentences make no sense. Others were written as late as the ninth century AD known as Pahlavi scriptures and there seems to be a conflict between the later stuff and the stuff that Zoroaster taught. By the way, scholars even estimate that approximately 75% of the Avesta has been lost.

This is the holy book of the Parsis or the Zoroastrians.

2. VEDAS, UPANISHADS, AND GITA – The holy books of the Hindus. Hinduism is a religion that has gone back and forth through various phases. You see monotheism (worship of one god), henotheism (worship of one god even though there are other gods), polytheism (worship of many gods), and animism (everything has a spirit so worship of animals, plants, rocks, rivers, stars, etc.) Bottom line – there is no core set of beliefs but part of being a Hindu means to consider the Vedas as holy books.

VedasLet’s start with the Vedas – There are 4 Vedas – Rigveda (1,028 hymns to gods of early Hinduism), Samaveda, Yajurveda (hymns of rituals and offering formulas), and Atharvaveda (magic formulas). Altogether, they are several times the size of the Bible. No one knows who wrote them. They were composed somewhere between 1500 and 800 BC and passed down orally until the sixteenth century. If you want to go back and check who wrote what for sure, you can’t. There’s nothing there!

There’s more – Brahmanas (instructions for the priests), Sutras (instructions for the people), and Upanishads (supplements to the Vedas). The last one (Upanishads) were written by wise men after 500BC. Again, nothing was written down until the 17th century.

How about the Gita? It is part of large epic called the Mahabharata that tells the story of the struggle between two branches of a family. It contains the conversation between Arjun and Krishna on the need to be totally devoted to Krishna and do his duty as a member of his caste. It was written somewhere between 400-100BC. Again, we don’t have any ancient copies.

These are the holy books of the Hindus (loosely speaking).

3. THE PALI CANON AND THE LOTUS SUTRA – The holy books of the Buddhists. The first one comes from the early stages of Buddhism known as Thervada Buddhism. The Pali Canon is also called Tripitaka or 3 divisions: rules for Buddhist monks, teachings of Lotus SutraBuddha, and some analysis of Buddha’s teachings. Even though it was formulated by Buddha’s disciples after he was gone, it grew through the centuries. The complete form came about 400 years later in the first century BC. So much has been added and taken away that no one knows what was originally there.

The Lotus Sutra comes from the later stage of Buddhism known as the Mahayana Buddhism. It supposedly contains Buddha’s teachings given towards the end of his life. Here’s the problem. It wasn’t put together until the 2nd century AD, that is 700 years after he lived. By the way, there are many contradictions between what the Lotus Sutra says that Buddha said and what the Pali Canon says.

These are the holy books of the Buddhists (loosely speaking).

4. QURAN – It is the holy book of the Muslims. I don’t have to give you a lot of introduction on Muslims and Islam. Since September 11, 2001, we have come to know this religion more than any other.

QuranSo what’s the deal with the Quran? It is claimed to contain material that Mohammed had received as revelation from the angel Gabriel. Some he gave at Mecca and others at Medina. These sayings were collected by his followers on whatever they could find – pieces of parchments, palm leaf, piece of wood, bones, etc. There were differences between what his followers wrote down. Not only that but some of them were killed in a battle a year after Mohammed’s death. Then Mohammed’ s most trusted secretary, Zayd ibn Thabit, was appointed to gather the material. Even then there were several different versions of the Quran floating around. Once again Zayd was called to edit an official version of the Quran and all other manuscripts were destroyed.

Many different branches of Muslims disagree over the integrity of the Quran. Many scholars have tried to point out the errors and they have been threatened by the Islamic clerics. By the way, there are also the Hadiths – they contain information on Mohammed’s life and informal sayings. They are used to shed light on the Quran. But there are many disagreements over them.

This is the holy book of the Muslims.

4. DAODEJING – The holy book of Daoism – Chinese popular religion. More than likely it was put together about 300 years after its founder had died. It has not much to do with Daoism but deals with how metaphysical balance brings about spiritual power.

5. KOJIKI, NIHONGI, AND AMATSU NORITO – The writings of Shintoism. It was put together in the 7th century by a man named Yasumaro under the command of the emperor.

6. NORSE SAGAS – The myths and mythologies of the Anglo-Saxons. There are no writings, except what were written down by the Christians.

7. GURU GRANTH SAHIB – The holy book of the Sikhs. It contains some 6000 hymns. It was collected by the 5th guru Arjan Dev about 1604 AD. About a hundred years later it was elevated to the status of a guru. The original copy is at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. It is treated as a person.

II. HOW WERE THE GOSPELS WRITTEN?

Listen once again to how Luke begins his gospel. This is one long Greek sentence with no stop. – 1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative

Meaning: I’m not the only one who has thought about writing a gospel. Maybe he is referring to Matthew and Mark but more than likely there were more. By the way, the “more” are not the Gnostic gospels – Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, and Gospel of Judas. These came much later. The gospels he’s referring to are probably lost forever. Did you also notice that Luke does not say “My gospel sets the rest of them straight”? They were telling the same historical account.

of those things which have been fulfilled among us,

Meaning: These were not random events. These were fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies. The gospel is not something new. It is an account of prophecies given since the beginning of time that have finally come to pass.

2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us,

Meaning: Luke is not 50 years or 100 years after Jesus. He is still able to talk to the eyewitnesses. If Luke were to write something untrue, those eyewitnesses will stand up and defend the truth.

3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first,

Meaning: Literally, it is “having followed along closely.” This is no haphazard writing.

to write to you an orderly account,

Meaning: The product is no gibberish or some mystical stuff that no one understands. It is orderly.

most excellent Theophilus,

Meaning: There is much debate over who was Theophilus. Some say he was a real person and others say that he was just someone who was looking for the living God since Theophilus means “Lover of God.” Either way, it is clear that Theophilus was not looking for fluff. He wanted rock, solid truth.

4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

Meaning: Theophilus already has some good idea of who Jesus was and what He did. Luke wrote not just to inform but to confirm.

This is the Gospel that we have in our hands. It is the Word of God. No other book comes even close to being its equal.

This is the Book that says – John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Are you willing to trust what this gospel says?

UNCHANGING GOSPEL FOR CHANGING TIMES

UNCHANGING GOSPEL FOR CHANGING TIMES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Unchanging Gospel for Changing Times

Many Christians have failed to realize that we are no longer living in the era of our grandparents. Times have changed. People think differently than they used to. It is up to us to step out of our comfort zones, reach out to people around us, and then communicate the unchanging gospel to them in a way they will understand. This is exactly what Paul did in Athens. Moved by the spirit of idolatry, he challenged their worldview and then shared the unchanging good news of Jesus Christ in a way they could understand.

Acts 17:16-19   16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?

Overall Background: The incident we just read took place during Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul came to Athens more for his personal safety than for presenting the gospel. The Jewish people who did not like what Paul was preaching were chasing him from town to town, trying to kill him. Hence, Paul came to Athens, not according to his plan but definitely according to the plan of God.

Listen to what happens in Acts 17:16 “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him…” Meaning: Paul was greatly distressed. Some thing bothered him very much. What was it? “…he saw that the city was given over to idols.”

Ancient historian Petronius said – “In Athens it was easier to find a god than man.” There were as many as 30,000 gods! They had a god for everything. For wealth and money, there was Mammon; for alcohol and entertainment, there was Bacchus; for lust and adultery, there was Aphrodite; and the list goes on. This bothered Paul!

Application: Does it bother you to see the lostness of people around you? Our idols may not be made of stone and marble but they are idols nonetheless. We have our own gods of money, entertainment, pleasure, lust, addiction, etc. Does it bother you to see people living in their lostness?

This morning we will see how Paul reached out to those people.

I. PAUL WASN’T AFRAID TO STEP OUT OF HIS COMFORT ZONE.

Listen to verse 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, Meaning: First, Paul went to his own in the synagogue. These people were familiar with the Old Testament and with Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel. In other words, he first went to those in the Bible Belt.

Application: All around us are people who grew up in church but for some reason they are no longer in church. They know better. They feel he conviction of the Holy Spirit. Some are even saved. Do you reach out to them? Do you make an effort to invite them to church?

But he didn’t stop with the Bible Belt – 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him.

Who were the Epicureans? These were people who believed that this life is all there is to it. So, live well, do well, enjoy yourself because one day it will all be over. Do you know some Epicureans today?

Who were the Stoics? These were people who believed that whatever happens happens. So do the best you can because you never know. Do you know some Stoics today?

Application: You will never know until you step out of your Bible Belt and start reaching out to people who are not like you. When was the last time you tried to invite someone over with the hopes of building a relationship with them and telling them about Jesus? That’s what our softball, basketball, Kindle and Joy ministries are really all about.

What was there response? And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. Once you step out of your familiar circles, you will realize how really lost some people. Unless you get out like Paul, you will never meet the Epicureans and the Stoics.

Application: At Clearview, many of you are doing a great job in stepping out of your comfort zones and winning people. I commend you for that. But, how about the rest of us? Are we comfortable in our holy huddles?

II. PAUL WAS WILLING TO BUILD A BRIDGE.

19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus,

Background: Areopagus was like their supreme council on religious and moral matters. At one time it was on a hill but I think by this time they probably met in the city square. Nonetheless, what started out as just a brief layover turned into a big sensation! Here they began to question him and his preaching because they were curious.

What was Paul’s response? 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:

We can learn so much from that. Paul did not launch into an all out criticism of the Athenian gods and goddesses. He did not start criticizing their temples and their statutes and their myths and mythologies. Instead, he looks for an opportunity to share the gospel.

Listen to how he did that: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

1. There is one God who created the Heavens and the Earth. Creation can be a good starting pointing in telling people about the gospel. Who can disagree with how beautiful the day is or how pretty the sunset is or how peaceful the lake is or cute a little baby is.

26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

2. There is one race – human race – and God is in control of the world. Until we realize that we are connected, we will have trouble reaching out to people who are different from us. Until we communicate that we are connected, people will have a hard time believing that we care. In essence, Paul is saying that we are all in one boat.

27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

3. There is one purpose for our creation – to find God. God wants us to get to know Him.

Application: How do you see people? Do you see them as the creation of one God, belonging to one race, created for one purpose?

III. PAUL WAS BOLD IN PRESENTING THE GOSPEL.

30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

This does not mean that God has excused people before the coming of Jesus Christ because no one is without an excuse. Isaiah 53:6says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way.” What it does mean that before the coming of Jesus, God in His mercy did not destroy those who did not turn to Him.

But what now? 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness

1. There is a Day of Judgment coming.

People are content to discuss religion all day long. But the Gospel is not just some interesting idea or cultural phenomenon. It comes with a warning. Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

2. There is a Person who holds the gavel.

31…He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.

First time I came across this passage I thought that it was kind of strange that Paul referred to Jesus as just a Man and not God. I believe the reason Paul did that is to emphasize the fact that this was not just some mythological god like the ones they already had. Jesus Christ was God who became a real man and lived in a real space and time. He is a fact of history. What’s more? Everything depends on Him. He is the judge. If you know the judge, then you are free to go. If you don’t, you are condemned. You have to trust His sacrifice on the cross to be saved.

3. There is Proof that all this will happen. It’s the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

This Jesus did not just die on the cross but He was buried and He came back to life. He is alive today.

What was the response? Acts 17:32-34   32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Isn’t that the case even today? Some laugh, some procrastinate, and some believe. Which one are you? Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

JESUS – MYTH OR MASTER

JESUS: MYTH OR MASTER by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

We’re in a series called, “CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF” and this morning we are in the last message in this series called – “JESUS: MYTH OR MASTER.” Jesus is always making the news, especially during Christmas time. Prior to the Newtown tragedy the big news about Jesus was the Billboard set up by the Atheists in Times Square that read – “Keep the Merry, dump the Myth.” But since the Newtown tragedy, Facebook has been filled with posts about the children being in heaven with Jesus and pictures depicting Jesus holding little children. Like it or not our world is not through with Jesus. S.M. Lockridge (Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego, CA) once said, “Jesus – You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him and you can’t live without Him.”

John 1:1-5  1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Overall Background:  Anytime someone comes to know Christ, we give him/her a Bible and tell them to start in John. Why John? Because the Gospel of John is simple and clear. It is easy to understand—even a child can get it. That is all true but, even though the Gospel of John is simple, it is not simplistic. There is a big difference between simple and simplistic. As a matter of fact, next to Romans, John is probably one of the most studied and written about books in the New Testament. Someone has rightly said, “John’s Gospel is like a shallow pool that a child could wade in. On the other hand, it is deep enough for an elephant to drown.”

The passage we just read is simple enough for a child to understand but deep enough to drown the most educated person. Unlike the birth accounts in Matthew or Luke, John through the Holy Spirit does not focus on Joseph or Mary or the shepherds or the wise men. Instead, he begins with the identity of Jesus before He ever came into this world.

Listen to verse 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Right there is a huge stumbling block for the skeptic – “the Word was God.”It would be so much easier to swallow if Jesus was just a good man, a great man, a godly man, a man in whom was God. It is so much more difficult to deal with the idea that Jesus was God. The lost world does not know what to do with all that. So they claim that Jesus was just a legend or a myth – something borrowed from some ancient pagan cult.

For e.g. Last week’s Newsweek magazine featured its cover story under the title “Who was Jesus?” by a well-known agnostic named Bart Ehrman. Listen to what he writes –

“As Christians around the world now prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it is worth considering that much of the “common knowledge” about the babe in Bethlehem cannot be found in any scriptural authority, but is either a modern myth or based on Gospel accounts from outside the sacred bounds of Christian Scripture…. Christians throughout the Middle Ages were rarely interested in historical accuracy; they loved stories and reveled in their meaning, especially stories having anything to do with the appearance of the Son of God in the world.”

Hundreds of people responded negatively to his article and Ehrman actually enjoyed the response. Listen to what he said on his blog:

“I appreciate the animosity that people feel: I would have felt the same way in my late teens and early twenties when I too was a Bible believing, born-again, conservative evangelical who thought that Scripture was the inerrantly inspired Word of God. But education sometimes has its effect, and it certainly did on me.”

Even a 16-year-old girl confronted Ehrman about his article. Listen to Ehrman’s statement to her on his blog,

“What I told this earnest 16-year-old was that I appreciated her concerns and that I hoped she would continue to seek the truth, and be willing to follow the truth wherever it leads her, even if it leads her away from what she now thinks is true. If truth is from God, then there is nothing to fear from it. And if following the truth means rejecting your former beliefs, that’s the price you have to pay for being true both to the truth and to yourself.

That is what our young people are up against. We need to be able to give them an answer that is clear and confident and correct.

There are 3 things that John tells us about Jesus that you need to make a decision about:

I. JESUS IS EXTRA-ORDINARY

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

There are several things that are extra-ordinary about Jesus:

1.     HE WAS ALWAYS THERE.

In the beginning was the Word,

–         John uses the word “logos.” The meaning of that is “spokesperson.” Why did John go through all that trouble? Why not just say “In the beginning was Jesus?” He is pointing back to Genesis 1:1-31In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. Every time you read in the Bible “God said” or “the Word of the Lord came,” guess who is being referred to? Jesus!

2.     HE WAS WITH GOD

and the Word was with God,

–         Some people are puzzled over this one. What does that mean? Literally, it means that Jesus was not man’s Word but God’s Word.

–         For e.g. We say “Your word is your bond” or “You are only as good as your word.” Jesus was God’s Word. There are no lies in Him.

3.     HE WAS GOD

–         The Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this verse as “the Word was a god.” The reason they do that is because there is no definite article in from of God. So they stick an indefinite article “a” there. When the definite article is used, the emphasis is on the individual but when there is no definite article, the emphasis is on the nature of the individual. So the translation could be – “The Word was of the nature of God.” Furthermore, there are plenty other references in John where Jesus is called God.

Frankly I understand why people have a problem with Jesus.

–         On one hand, He entered this world at a particular time and place but, on the other hand, He existed before time and place.

–         On one hand, He is someone who was made like us, but, on the other hand, He was nothing like us.

–         On the one hand, He was fully human, but on the other hand, He was fully God.

Application: This morning you need to examine your hearts. What do you make of Jesus? It did not take hundreds of years for the legend to develop. John lays it out right in the beginning. Those who are too proud to acknowledge Him, call Him a myth or legend. But, those who are humble enough to acknowledge Him, call Him Savior and Lord.

1. Jesus is extra-ordinary.

II. JESUS MADE EVERYTHING

2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Background: Every time in Genesis when God said, it was Jesus who was creating everything. He is the one who –

–         Created the blue heavens above.

–         Created the space between the earth and the sky.

–         Scooped the seas, rivers, and lakes and filled them with water

–         Flung the sun, the moon, the stars in their orbits. By the way, you know how vast this universe is? The astronomer uses a yardstick called a “light year” – distance light travels in one year. Light travels at the speed of 186,273 miles per second. Our sun is only 8 light minutes away. Through high powered telescopes they are seeing suns and stars 8 billion light years away. They are capturing pictures through a Dark Energy Camera. Can you imagine that?

–         Made the earth with flowers and grass and trees.

–         Made the fish to swim; animals to roam; and birds to sing.

–         And, made man and woman in His image.

We take so much pride in our scientific advancements in America/West. Did you know that prior to the Middle Ages, there was no scientific advancement in the West?There were only barbaric tribes that worshipped the sun and trees and performed human sacrifices. They feared lightning and thunder. Now there was progress in architecture, mathematics and medicine; but, science (as one writer says) was at a “standstill, a stillbirth.” (Stanley Jaki, “The Savior of Science”).

Modern science came out of the Middle Ages when Western Christians began to see their world as a rational, ordered cosmos. They realized –

–         The world is not an illusion, it is real and it can be studied.

–         The sun is not a god to be worshipped; it’s a burning star that gives light and energy.

–         The nature is not something to fear, it has laws that can be probed, harnessed and improved.

–         The human body is not just shell and a husk, it is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Application: Isn’t it sad that we have taken the blessings of Christianity and now we want to throw out Christianity? Western civilization advanced because of Christ. You take away Christ and we will become just a dot on the radar of history.

1. Jesus is extra-ordinary; 2. Jesus made everything.

III. JESUS CAME INTO THIS WORLD

4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Background: Sin brings darkness.

For e.g. Back in the summer the power went out because of a storm and it was pitch dark. I had to get the light from my phone to find the flashlight on the other side of the house.

The whole world was sitting in darkness waiting for the light to come. The author of life came into this world according to the determined purpose of God. He brought with Him the Light of men. But when He shone in this world, the darkness of sin did not comprehend it.

Listen to John 1:12-13 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

To this day Jesus is giving light to countless millions every day.

For e.g. Some days I get discouraged when I face the lostness of people. I ran into an Indian man at a restaurant. We began to talk about life in India and at one point he said – “the people in West stole our wisdom. They studied our Holy books and then implemented that wisdom and became successful.” His chronology was way off. The west began to advance because of Christianity back in the medieval times – 12th – 13th centuries. I listened to him. Europeans did not encounter Indian culture until the 16th – 17th centuries. I thought to myself “how sad.”

The same day a friend of mine Facebook saw one of my messages and wanted to share it on their profile. This friend is not a Christian.

The words of Adrian Rogers came to me – “People say ‘what is this world coming to?’ and I say ‘It’s coming to Jesus.’”

Application: The world is coming to Jesus. Do you know Him? He will change your life. He will change the way you live in this world.

For e.g. Man in train, every few seconds would remark “Wonderful! Wonderful!” The man sitting across asked why. His answer – just this morning the doctor removed the bandage from my eye and I can see. What is ordinary to you is extra-ordinary to me.”

When you receive Him, the ordinary will become extra-ordinary.

CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF – Part 1 (Virgin Birth)

CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF – Part 1 (Virgin Birth) by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

We’re in a new series for the next three-week called, “CHRISTMAS: CHRISTIANITY’S GREATEST PROOF.” This morning we are in part 1 of this series on the Virgin Birth.

Matthew 1:18-25 18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Overall Background: LIFE magazine just came out with a special edition last month (Nov. 16, 2012), titled “Jesus: Who do you say that I am?” It’s on the shelves right now. The introduction is titled “The Carpenter’s Son Who Changed Everything.” Listen to the introduction:

“From the most modest of means in a volatile part of the world that people of varying faiths…would come to call the Holy Land, a Life Cover - Jesus 2012young man emerged whose radical, inspiring philosophy seemed not only a challenge to religious orthodoxy and political authority, but perhaps a course forward through life, which was so often a vale of tears. He developed a following, and after His martyrdom, when He was barely 30 years of age, a cult….Who was this man?…To some, Jesus is the Son of God, the anointed, the Christ—born to a virgin just more than 2,000 years ago…To others Jesus is just a man….And to still others He is little more than a myth. Maybe He lived, they say, but His stature as a great and transcendent human being is a novelistic interpretation of Paul….He is, say these naysayers, an idea. But… Whether idea or man, Jesus—in whose name, surely wars have been fought, and awful deeds done—is a model that, day-to-day, encourages much good, a mirror that reflects, for many of us, our hopes….

(And then it concludes with these words) …Whether Jesus was sent from Heaven or not, whether He died on the cross or not, and ascended or did not—Jesus is alive in our time. To believers and non believers alike, Jesus matters. Still matters. He long has. He always will.”

That for a lack of a better term is “baloney.” Is it true? Does it have any facts behind it? Have we been misled to believe in a myth or an idea? Absolutely Not! But that is what’s being fed through many of our colleges and universities. Our young people are being bombarded by such false claims. This is not just a laughing matter. This is not just an optional matter like “do you like Coke or Pepsi?” or “do you like Country music or Rock Music?” or “do you like the beach or the mountains?” What you believe about Jesus decides where you will spend eternity. AND ETERNITY IS TOO LONG TO BE WRONG.

Application: This morning the question for you is not what you believe about the church or the Bible. The question is “What do you believe about Christ?” When Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say that I am?” He did not ask that because He was confused. He asked to see if they believed in Him.

Maybe your faith has been shaken; maybe you have doubts in your heart; maybe you have questions but you feel you cannot ask them. Let the Holy Spirit of God open your heart and your mind to the truth. Don’t look at this morning’s message as just some intellectual discussion. This is a message that will increase your faith. The more you know and understand, the stronger you can stand against the assault of the enemy.

I believe Christmas (the coming of Jesus Christ) is Christianity’s Greatest Proof. This morning we are talking about the Virgin Birth. Meaning: Jesus was not just some “Carpenter’s Son.” He was God’s Son. Everything about Him was different, especially how He came in this world.

Now some people have a tough time with that. They raise some questions against it that I want us to look at this morning.

I. HOW CAN IT BE POSSIBLE?

A Virgin having a child, how can that be? This was the same question that was running through Joseph’s mind – Listen to verse 19 “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20But while he thought about these things,

Mary visited by angelWhat is Joseph thinking? I know that I can leave this girl and move on with my life. No one is going to blame me. But could it be that she is still a virgin and yet pregnant?

By the way, this was the same question that Mary had when the angel came and gave her the word that she has found favor with God and she will conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. In Luke 1:34 she says to the angel “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

Both Joseph and Mary were asking the age-old question: How can a virgin have a child? In other words, are miracles possible? Some people laugh at the idea of miracles. For example: Richard Dawkins, a self-proclaimed atheist, said sometime back, “The Virgin birth, the resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.”

So are miracles possible? In fact, that is the wrong question. The real question is “Is there a God?” If you can believe that there is a God, you can believe that miracles are possible.

Now some people don’t believe in God.

Let me prove to you that there is a God in less than 2 minutes.

For e.g. Here’s a watch in my hand. I have had it for the past three years. Just looking at it I can say that it is no more than maybe 5 years old. Prior to that, this watch did not exist. It had a beginning at some factory somewhere. Somebody had to make it. Since this watch had a beginning, somebody had to make it.

In the same way, this universe began to exist at some point. I believe that it is no more than 6,000 years old. Some people say more but either way, it had a beginning. For this universe to begin to exist, somebody had to make it – the sun, moon, stars, earth, oceans, grass, animals, human beings, etc. That someone is God. People throughout the history of the world have acknowledged that there is a God. Some of the greatest minds in the world—Socrates, Galileo, Newton, Einstein—have looked at creation and declared that they believed in God. David says in Psalms 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Let me go one step further: If God made nature; Nature has to obey Him. Miracles are simply nature obeying its Creator.

The Virgin Birth was a miracle. Never had it happened before and never since. Science cannot explain it, medical field will deny it, and anyone with a normal intelligence will laugh at it. The only way it will happen is for the moment God will enter into the sphere of natural laws (the laws that He put in place). He is not going to break them or remake them or redefine them. He will prove to the world that they are His Laws – they are subject to Him. A child is not going to drop out of the sky, he is not going to appear out of thin air. No – a woman will conceive; she will carry him 9 months; she will feel the pain of child-birth; but it will not be humanly conceived. It will be a miracle!

If you believe in God, miracles are no problem! I have no problem with God so I have no problem with miracles.

Application: God is still in the miracle business. Do you believe that? He is still healing the sick, touching the brokenhearted, and changing a sinner.

Question 1. How can it be possible?

II. HOW ABOUT ALL THE OTHER MYTHOLOGIES?

The common ones that are mentioned are: Semiramis and Tammuz

  1. Assyrian mythology where Semiramis (the wife of Nimrod) gave birth to Tammuz. According to legend she was impregnated by a sunbeam.
  2. Egyptian mythology it was handed down as Isis and Osiris.
  3. Greek mythology about Dionysius, who was born from a human mother (Semele) and the god Zeus.
  4. Indian mythology – Buddha was conceived when an elephant entered his mother’s belly.

Indra and ChildWhat are these? They are simply counterfeits put forth by Satan to prevent the real virgin birth.

In the biblical virgin birth there are real people, places, and events. In pagan myths, gods actually mated with humans. In Christianity there is no such thing. It is simply God coming into this world. By the way – pagan myths were written over time (centuries); the Gospels were written while the eyewitnesses were still around.

If you want to understand the right basis for the virgin birth, you have to look to the Old Testament. Listen toIsis and Horus Matthew 1 verse 21-23 21And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

The virgin birth was not just an accident or an afterthought. It had been promised. In fact, it was the very first promise given to humankind.

Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

In the OT, it is always the seed of a man. But here it is the seed of a woman. This was the first prophecy – the proto-evangelium given.

Ever since then Satan has been trying to counterfeit the virgin birth or try to destroy any chances of it. Even with the Sons of God, he tried it and God destroyed the world in a flood. Later with Pharaoh, who commanded the midwives to kill the newborn sons of the Hebrews and when it failed, he commanded them thrown into the Nile. When Jesus was born – Herod tried to kill all the Jewish boys who were two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding districts.

Application: For everything good that God has for us, Satan always has a counterfeit. Not only that he will do everything to destroy God’s work in your life.

Question 1 – How can it be possible? Question 2 – How about the other mythologies?

III. WHY WAS IT NECESSARY?

Background: Why did Jesus have to be born of a virgin? One reason—to prove that He was sinless. Some people say that Jesus did not have to be born of a virgin to be sinless. He could have been born of the sexual intercourse of two human beings and still be sinless. But listen to how the Bible describes the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.”

The focus is not on Mary. It is on the Holy Spirit.

Sadly the focus on Mary has led to some false beliefs in the church: Often people confuse Virgin Birth with the Immaculate Conception or the Perpetual Virginity. They are not the same. Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary herself was conceived in her mother’s womb as a sinless being. This is not a biblical idea. It was just an invention of the medieval church. Even the Catholic Church did not recognize this until 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it. On the other hand, Perpetual Virginity teaches that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Jesus for the rest of her life. It is not a biblical idea either. It has been held by the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church since the seventh century.

Substitute and RepresentativeVirgin Birth sets the focus on the Holy Spirit bringing the Son of God into this world. The person coming into this world was a Divine Person who was already existing before He entered into this world. He was not tainted by the sin that affects all of us who are born of Adam. He was perfect and sinless.

24Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Application: Let me ask you – “Who is Jesus to you?” Just a good man, great man, great teacher or God’s Son. He came into this world through the Holy Spirit. Only that same Holy Spirit can open your eyes to see Jesus this morning.

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