Marvelous by Dr. Abidan Shah

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MARVELOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Recently, I was on Twitter when a statement caught my eye. I didn’t know the person making the statement but based on his profile, it seemed that he believed like I did about biblical/ethical/moral values. He said (I am paraphrasing), “Why does Abortion always have to become the main issue? There are other issues that are just as critical.” When I read that, I was like, “Maybe, we don’t agree as much as I thought we did, or, maybe, you’ve lost your moral compass, if you ever had one.” As I was about to dismiss that statement as an anomaly, I saw another one just like it! This one said (again, I’m paraphrasing)—“Abortion is used as the trump card (no pun intended) to get voters to abandon all other issues and vote a certain way.” Again, based on this person’s profile, I would have assumed that we would’ve had similar values. Here’s the heart of the message: Abortion is not about politics. Abortion is not about rights. Abortion is not about science and technology or health and quality of life. Abortion is ultimately about God. With that in mind, our message today is titled “MARVELOUS.”

Psalm 139    13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and thatmy soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

Question: Do you believe that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God? Do you believe that human life is marvelous? Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?

Background: Many of you may not realize but today is the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday or Weekend. Forty-Seven years ago, on January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states. It’s popularly known as Roe v. Wade. On January 9, 1989, President Reagan issued a proclamation designating that day as the first Sanctity of Human Life Day. Since then, every third Sunday (weekend) in January is recognized by churches all across our country as a day to give special emphasis to God’s gift of life, to remember the lives lost due to abortion, and to commit ourselves to speaking out for human life at every stage. Today’s message is again a little different than how I typically preach but it’s one that we need to hear, especially the younger generation. The further we get away from our biblical foundation, the harder it is for people, even some Christians, to understand the importance of certain convictions like the value of the unborn child.

With that in mind, let’s go back to the psalm we just read, Psalm 139. It is known as a psalm of David. As you know, David was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). So, here in Psalm 139, David gives us God’s heart on the unborn child. I want you to notice especially the language he uses to describe God’s creation process of the unborn child. It is beyond beautiful! Shakespeare, Milton, and Elliot have nothing on him! Listen again to verse 13 “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” I don’t have time to pause at every single word and look at its meaning from Hebrew, just the important ones. For starters, David doesn’t say “my parents formed my inward parts” or “the coming together of the sperm and the egg formed me.” He says, “God, you formed me.” Listen carefully: A married couple can come together in love or two strangers can hook up in lust, the forming of life is God’s work. Bringing life inside the mother’s womb can only be done by the life-giver. He holds the copyright on life. “You covered me in my mother’s womb.” David uses a very special word to describe this process, “sakhed,” which is not really “cover.” It should actually be translated “weave.” David is depicting God as the grand weaver who actually knits every child carefully inside the mother’s womb. In other words, God is intricately involved in the development of every child in every womb ever since the beginning of time!

14 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” The Hebrew word for “marvelous” is “palah,” which can be translated as “surpassing,” “extraordinary,” “beyond one’s power to do,” “wonderful,” and “marvelous.” David is praising God for his marvelous work in creating life. 15 “My frame (skeletal structure) was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret…” The Hebrew word for “secret” is “sether,” which means the “hiding place” or “secret place.” The point here is not a hideout but a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend. “And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” The Hebrew word for “skillfully wrought” is “rekhem,” which means “using different colors, textures, and patterns to make a special cloth. In other words, God makes every child unique and beautiful in his/her own way, even if there are disabilities. The disabilities are not because he failed but because we live in a broken world. His work is still perfect!

Finally, verse 16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.” The Hebrew word for “substance” is “golem,” which means the embryo. It has the idea of an “unfinished vessel.”“And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there werenone of them.” In other words, even before a child is born, even before they are in an embryonic form, all their days, not necessarily their individual decisions but all God’s providential acts designed for that life, are written out in God’s chronicles.

So, what do we gather from Psalm 139?

  • God holds the copyright on every life.
  • God makes every life intricately and lovingly.
  • God’s marvelous work should cause us to praise him.
  • God supervises the entire developmental process of every life.
  • God marvelous work in bringing life can never be fully understood.
  • God makes every child unique and beautiful, even if there are disabilities.
  • God records beforehand his providential acts for every life even before birth.

Abortion goes against this entire list. People may say – Abortion is about a women’s right to choose; it’s about population control; or it’s about the quality of life. No matter how people support abortion, it ultimately contradicts everything about God because it is philosophically based on an anti-God premise. To understand this, we have to look at the roots of the American Abortion Movement. Margaret Sanger, the first president of Planned Parenthood, which provides the most abortion in the world, wrote a book titled “Pivot of Civilization.” If you want to know about the roots of this movement, here are just a few examples:

  • Regarding the poor, blind, deaf, mute, and those intellectually disabled: “When we learn further that the total number of inmates in public and private institutions in the State of New York—in alms-houses, reformatories, schools for the blind, deaf and mute, in insane asylums, in homes for the feeble-minded and epileptic—amounts practically to less than sixty-five thousand, an insignificant number compared to the total population, our eyes should be opened to the terrific cost to the community of this dead weight of human waste.”
  • Regarding the poor and disabled people: It sees that the most responsible and most intelligent members of society are the less fertile; that the feeble-minded are the more fertile. Herein lies the unbalance, the great biological menace to the future of civilization. Are we heading to biological destruction, toward the gradual but certain attack upon the stocks of intelligence and racial health by the sinister forces of the hordes of irresponsibility and imbecility?”
  • In her magazine, Birth Control Review, an article was published by Dr. Ernst Rudin, a Nazi doctor in the Eugenics movement advocating racial hygiene among the Germans. There were other articles advocating ethnic cleansing of American Gypsies and Defective Families. Sanger openly praised Hitler’s policy of racial cleansing and Hitler admired her work. Such racial science fit perfectly with Hitler’s agenda of cleansing the society of the weak and disabled, then moving on to those ethnicities that were unwanted, starting with the gypsies and ending with six million Jewish people being sent to the gas chambers.
  • In the 1930s, Sanger began the “Negro Project.” It started with handing out contraception and then culminated in promoting abortion to control the race.

I can go on and on. The point is not that everyone who is pro-abortion is cruel and racist. What it does mean is that the philosophy behind abortion is one that denigrates and devalues human life, especially the weak, the poor, the disabled, and the minorities. All this is ultimately about claiming that it is my right to decide what happens. As I said, “Abortion is ultimately about God” because–

  • Abortion tries to steal God’s copyright on life.
  • Abortion reduces life to just a biochemical process.
  • Abortion seeks to praise only self.
  • Abortion denies the beauty of the developmental process.
  • Abortion understands life only through personal and collective convenience.
  • Abortion rejects the uniqueness of every child.
  • Abortion destroys God’s chronicles of every life. It brutally murders the child before they even have a chance to live out the days fashioned for them.

What does all this mean for us as believers, as the church? Do we believe that life is God’s gift? Do we believe that he gets to first and the final say on life? Jesus came to die even for the unborn. To terminate that pregnancy, is to terminate the opportunity from that life to receive Christ and live out the days fashioned for him/her by God.

Invitation: Today is the day to repent if you have believed wrongly. Today is the day to pray for our nation and for the unborn. Today is the day to give our lives to Christ.

Cornerstone by Dr. Abidan Shah

Cornerstone

CORNERSTONE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: In ancient times, the laying of the cornerstone was a big deal in the construction of a building. Depending on the significance of a structure, there would be animal sacrifices and special rituals. When our new sanctuary was being built (by the way, no sacrifices were made!), I told the guys to be here to capture that on video. Unfortunately, by the time our guys got here, the construction crews had already poured the concrete early that morning. But back then, the cornerstone was very critical because it set the level and the angle of the building. It was the most important stone for the position and stability of the entire edifice. The Bible calls Jesus our Chief Cornerstone. It means that he sets the level and the angle of our lives. If he is where he needs to be in our life, everything else will work out fine. If he is not, nothing else matters. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the parable of the Wicked Tenant Farmers and our message today is titled CORNERSTONE.

Matthew 21     33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? ”

Question: As you know, parables are like mirrors. Are you the wicked tenant farmers? What have you done with the Son, Jesus? Is he the Chief Cornerstone of your life? Are you saved?

Background: This is the second to the last parable in our series on the Parables of Jesus. When we were praying and planning on this series, we never imagined how influential it would be. Now, today’s parable might seem a little odd for Christmas season but it will make a lot more sense once we get into it.

Context: To understand the correct meaning of this parable, we have to back up to Matthew 21    14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant. The location being the temple is very critical to understand the true meaning of the parable. Keep in mind that the temple had been rebuilt and expanded by King Herod. It was beautiful! It took about 46 years. With its white marble and gold plating, it looked like a snow-covered mountain. There was so much gold on it that when the sun arose you couldn’t look at it! Nonetheless, the attitude towards the temple was sort of mixed. On one hand, it was a great source of pride to have the Temple back, new and far improved. But, on the other hand, people knew that the priesthood was corrupt and greedy. That’s why Jesus cleansed the temple. This was not about selling in the temple or money changing. Buying animals to sacrifice or exchanging foreign currency with gods and goddesses for temple money was not the problem. Jesus was making a symbolic statement against the corrupt priesthood. Again, listen to Matthew 21:23 “Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching…” Listen to their question—“By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” They totally failed to understand the true owner of the temple!

In this context of the temple, Jesus gave the parable of the wicked tenants. We just read it—A landowner planted a vineyard, set a hedge around it, dug a winepress, and built a tower. Then he left it to the tenant farmers and went to a far country. Listen carefully: This was not some random story. It was a clear reference to Isaiah 5   1 “…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.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? And, what are the good grapes? 7 He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help. For time’s sake, go down to verse 20 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! Isaiah’s indictment was against the temple leaders. What will happen to them? 24 “…Because they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. 25 Therefore the anger of the LORD is aroused against His people; He has stretched out His hand against them and stricken them…” Jump over to the beginning of the next chapter, Isaiah 6     1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. What is Isaiah’s response—5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

I know what many of you are thinking. I guess Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy and judging the temple authorities 2000 years ago. That’s interesting! Listen carefully to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3    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.

Question: How is the temple? I’m not talking about Clearview or any church building. I am talking about you. How are you, the temple of God? Are you defiled?

Back to the parable in Matthew 21. When the harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to collect his due. What was their response? 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.” What is Jesus talking about here? He is talking about the repeated disregard of the religious leaders for the true prophets of God. Those who spoke up were beaten, killed, and stoned again and again.

Application: How do you respond when God corrects and chastens you?

37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “Son of God” was a title for the Messiah. 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. This is exactly what the temple leaders were planning on doing. What they didn’t realize is that by opposing Jesus, they were opposing God’s Son.

Question: Is that you? What have you done with the Son Jesus? If you’re here this morning and you’re lost, don’t think that you can circumvent the Son.

Now, its judgment time—40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” 41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” This is in line with Isaiah 5 but Jesus quotes a different passage now. This time from Psalm 118. Verse 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? ” 43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Sometimes, this statement has been used as an anti-Semitic example. That’s not true. Keep reading—45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. The people were not the problem. The leaders were.

Let’s go back to the Christmas narrative for a moment. The chief priests, religious leaders, and scribes could not recognize him but the shepherds and the magi did. How about you? What have you done with the Son?

Are you bearing fruits worthy for God? Is Jesus your Cornerstone?

Either you are built upon him or one day you will be crushed under him.

Inheritance by Dr. Shah

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

Introduction: Few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a sheep farm nearby. It was incredible! What got me was when the sheep saw their owner, they immediately went to him! Now, I was standing nearby but they kept eyeing me. It reminded me of what Jesus said in John 10:5 “the sheep will by no means follow a stranger…” Then the owner told me to step near and pet them. I did, and one by one they came near. What was most fascinating to me was how their owner knew each of them by name. To me they were all the same but he could tell the difference. Again, just like Jesus said in John 10:3 “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” So also, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows each of his sheep by name. You can pretend to be his sheep but there is a day of judgment coming when he will identify his own and the test will be acts of compassion done in his name. Those who belong to him will receive an inheritance but those who don’t will receive everlasting fire. In our series on the parables of Jesus, we come to the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and the message is titled “INHERITANCE.”

Matthew 25    31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feedYou, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Question: Which ones are you? Are you the sheep or are you the goat? Will you receive an inheritance or will you go into the everlasting fire? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is the 3rd of the 3 parables that Jesus gave in his famous Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 & 25. If you remember from the last weekend, it was the message Jesus preached on the Mount of Olives where he explained to his disciples how things will be at the end of the age when he returns.

  • The message of the 1st Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids was “Be prepared. Jesus is coming back at a time you’re least expecting.”
  • The message of the 2nd Parable of the Talents was “Don’t just stand there. Use the money God has given to you to build his kingdom and make profit.”
  • The message of the 3rd Parable of the Sheep and the Goats was Jesus is coming again but this time to judge and his judgment is not based on our confession but our compassion towards the least of these.

 So, let’s examine the parable of the Sheep and the Goats carefully. (By the way, this is not really a parable like the others. It is more like a brief analogy with a long explanation. Hence, we will focus a lot on the explanation than the story.) Listen again to Matthew 25:31“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” In other words, Jesus is coming again but this time it is not to be laid in the manger but to sit on the throne, the judgment seat.

First, let’s talk about the importance of judgment. Repeatedly, the Old Testament refers to God as the Judge. Genesis 18:25 “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Psalm 75:7 “But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” Isaiah 30:18 “For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Why is judgment so important to God? Because God’s judgment is the natural outflow of God’s holiness. Sin disrupts God’s holiness and judgment sets everything right. If you think that judgment is unnecessary, then you don’t understand the holiness of God nor the horribleness of sin. There is a connection between holiness and judgment. Listen to Isaiah 5:16 “But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God who is holy shall be hallowed in righteousness.” Also, Psalm 50     1 The Mighty One, God the LORD, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. 2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. 3 Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent; A fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him. 4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people: 5 “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” 6 Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge.”

Question: Do you believe there’s a judgment coming? Do you truly understand the holiness of God and the horribleness of sin?

What’s unique in this parable is that Jesus is given the role of the judge. Why? Because of the title “the Son of Man.” Listen again to Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” It is also found a chapter later in Matthew 26:64 Jesus said to him (high priest), “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” That designation “Son of Man” implies that, as prophesied in Daniel 7, Jesus came as a representative of God. Not only that but lest anyone say “You don’t understand what we go through,” he was also fully man. Who has given him this authority? John 5    26 “For as the Father… 27 … has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”

What will this judgment be about? 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him…” Lot of discussion has been centered around those words. The Old Testament does talk about a “Judgment of the Nations.” Joel 3:2 “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” So also, Isaiah 2     3 “…For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people…” Bottom line: God will deal with nations and peoples throughout history based on how they treated the people of Israel.

In the midst of this judgment, there will be a judgment of compassion. The sheep are put on the right side and the goats on the left. (By the way, this does not mean that sheep are better animals than goats. It’s just an analogy.) What is the basis of the positive judgment towards the sheep? Listen again to verse 34 “…Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” The sheep are confused because they don’t remember seeing Jesus hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. 40 And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Who are the least of these My brethren? Some think that they are Jewish people but their leadership was rejecting him. Others think that they are the disciples but he was speaking to them. Still others think that they might be Christians or even Christian missionaries. There were no “Christians” or “Christian missionaries” yet. There was one more group—the poor and the less fortunate. This made up the majority of the people who followed Jesus. This is where the context helps us. This is who Jesus had in mind. And, yes, many times, his own followers (believers) are poor and less fortunate even today.

How about those goats on the other side? Listen again to verse 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: Why? Because they didn’t show any acts of compassion. They refused to help those hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or in prison. In the process, they didn’t help Christ. 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

For e.g. Someone refused to help me during a snow storm a couple of years ago. They wouldn’t even let me park in their driveway.

Big Question: Doesn’t this contradict the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone? This is the old Paul vs James debate. Galatians 5    13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ephesians 2     8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Another big question: Doesn’t this bring condemnation to believers? Yes, we can have assurance of salvation—I Corinthians 3:15 “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Don’t forget that this same Paul also said—2 Corinthians 5    10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” Ultimately, Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Invitation: Which group do you belong to? Are you saved or lost? Will you be able to stand on the day of judgment? How are your acts of compassion?

Neighbor by Pastor Abidan Shah

NEIGHBOR by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

Who were the Samaritans? If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a 1000 exist in Israel today), they would tell you that they are the true descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that the worship center was wrongfully moved from Gerizim to Shiloh and that’s when things went downhill. But, if you read the Bible, you will see a different account. In 2 Kings 17 we find out that when God sent Assyria against the Northern Kingdom, they not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples. Under this strategy, they would move the conquered people to another part of the world, and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Samaritans were people who had been settled in the land of Israel by the Assyrians. They somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were left behind. The Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. To make matters worse, the Samaritans even tried to sabotage their building projects when they returned from the second exile in Babylon. Needless to say, there was bad blood between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Each saw the other as neighbors they wished they did not have. What happened when Jesus came by the Samaritan village? 52 “…And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. Can you imagine the disciples’ reaction?

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

For time’s sake, let me condense the account. In Luke 10, Jesus commissioned 70 of his disciples to go out saying 2 “…The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.” In other words, “You are going out in a cruel and a harsh world. Remember to be kind and merciful.” What if they were rejected? They were only to shake the dust off their feet and go to the next village. They were given a simple promise by Jesus—16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” In the very next verse 17 the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” On hearing this, Jesus said something very important for our message—23 “…Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” What was Jesus talking about? He was talking about the Kingdom of God. He was talking about Eternal Life. By the way, Eternal Life is not going to heaven when you die. It begins now through Jesus Christ. It means having a portion in what God is doing and what God will do one day. You see and hear things that prophets and kings have desired but couldn’t. But, to do that you need MERCY.

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

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

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

NOW THE BIG REVEAL!

Built by Pastor Abidan Shah

BUILT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  One of my favorite TV shows from years ago is “Home Improvement” with Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Tim is a family man who has a TV show on home repairs. He has a good knowledge of tools and general mechanics but he often forgets to follow directions, skips a step or two, and always tries to make some crazy modifications. Of course, his assistant Al Borland tries to warn him every time but he doesn’t listen. As a result, he is on a first name basis at the local hospital, not to say that his projects usually fall apart. We love to laugh at Tim’s many accidents and mishaps but many peoples’ personal and spiritual lives are no different. Because they forget to follow God’s directions, skip a step or two, and try to make some crazy modifications, they too find themselves in a mess. If you want to build a life that will stand on the day of judgment, you need to build on the right foundation and that foundation is Jesus and his words. We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the wise and foolish builders. The message is titled BUILT.

Matthew 7    24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 

Question: Are you a wise builder or are you a foolish builder? Are you building a life that will last? Are you only a hearer of the word or are you a doer of the word as well? Are you saved? Have you heard the gospel? Have you done anything about it?

Background: Before we dive into this parable, let me make a quick clarification. The parable of the two builders is found in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke but with minor variations. While Matthew focusses on 2 different building sites and the description of the weather, Luke focusses on 2 different building processes. I encourage you to go home and compare Matthew 7:24–27 with Luke 6:47–49. Same parable but different wording. Why is there a difference in the wording? It could be that Jesus gave the parable twice with two different emphases. Or, maybe the gospel writers were not trying to quote Jesus verbatim but simply trying to convey the gist of his stories. What am I trying to get at? Red letter bibles can be great but they can also be a little misleading. The difference between Matthew and Luke’s account of the parable is proof that the gospel writers sometimes put in their words what Jesus said and that’s okay. Now, back to the parable—24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them…”

Question #1. Who were the “whoever”?

Let’s back up to Matthew 5:1 “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.” Primarily, Jesus was speaking to his disciples but it was in the hearing of the multitudes. In other words, the listeners were a mixed bag of committed, curious, conditional, and covert. To this group Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount:

  • He began by introducing them to the Kingdom Values (the Beatitudes)3 “Blessedare the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” and on and on. He reminded them that his disciples are to flavor the earth and illuminate the world: “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.”
  • Then he challenged them to a Higher Living–Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He gave them the 6 Antithesis: You’ve heard it said…but I say to you. For example: Matthew 5     27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 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.”
  • After this, he told them to be Sincere. He warned them against hypocrisy and the temptation to parade their piety in public, especially in their giving, praying, and fasting—Matthew 6     3 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” He even gave them a Model Prayer (Lord’s Prayer/Disciples’ Prayer) to go by—Matthew 6    9 “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10Your 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.”
  • But, it’s not over. Next, he warned them against accumulating earthly treasures. Instead, Matthew 6:20 “lay up for yourselves Treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
  • He was still not done. Next, he reminded them not to stress and worry but to Trust and ObeyMatthew 6   31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
  • In closing, he told them—
    • Don’t be Judgmental (trying to look at the speck in your brother’s eye when there’s a plank in your own eye), 
    • Have Childlike Trust for good gifts from God (Matthew 7    9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”)
    • Be Countercultural—Matthew 7    13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”,
    • Exercise Discernment—Matthew 7    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits.”

This makes up the rock on which we are to build our lives.

Application: Is this your foundation? Are you hearing and doing what Jesus said?

Question #2. What are the “storms”?

We often think that the storms are the crisis we have in this life—relationships, finances, health, moral and ethical value shifts, etc. This may be but I don’t believe that’s what Jesus had in mind. How do we know that? Back up to Matthew 7    21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Isaiah 28    16 Therefore 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. 17 Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. 18 Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it.”

Invitation: You may be able to withstand the storms of this life. Saved or lost both can. But, how about the storm that is coming on the Judgment Day? Will your house stand? Are you saved? Are you hearing and doing the words of Christ?

Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead, Jesus was saying—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reward by Pastor Abidan Shah

REWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justified by Pastor Abidan Shah

JUSTIFIED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application: Do you know some tax collectors? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debt by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEBT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Someone said, “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: the have’s, the have-not’s, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have’s.”I think most of us are in that last group. To be honest, debt is not all that bad. It’s debt collection that is bad. Having to payback what you owe is not that fun. I found some memes online that I thought were really funny: “Run for your life, the debt collectors are coming”; “I will find you and I will get my money”; and “I paid off all my debts and now no one calls me.” Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is not as much about debt as it’s about debt collection. Of course, by that we are referring to our sin debt and by cancellation of that debt we are referring to forgiveness of sin. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Unless you understand how God has cancelled your sin debt towards him through his son Jesus, you will never truly understand how to cancel the sin debt of others towards you.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. Can you see yourself in this story? Are you the servant who was forgiven a big debt but went out and took his fellow servant by the throat for a small debt? Have you ever experienced the forgiveness of sins? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is very basic and clear on the surface but it’s very baffling and complicated when studied in depth. Think about it for a moment: 

  • Why is Sin described as a debt? Does God loan us a certain amount of holiness?
  • What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us?
  • Why is it so hard for us cancel the debt of others to us?
  • Is it really that we cannot cancel a single sin debt or is it more the fear that if we let this one go, more will follow, it will happen again?
  • Can I be saved if I refuse to pardon the sin debt of others towards me?

There is no way that we can answer all those questions in the next 20 minutes. That’s why this is will be a multi-part message. We will take on a couple of those questions today and the rest next time. (A word to the wise – “Don’t miss these messages. They have the potential to change your life and relationships.) So, let’s begin:

Question #1 Why is Sin described as a debt? The common mistake people make in studying this parable is that they quickly jump over the word “debt” and start talking about “sin.” Of course, this parable is about sin (our sin towards God and others sin towards us), but we cannot truly understand the force of this parable until we understand the significance of debt in that society. To understand this, let’s back up and look at the context of this parable in Matthew 18     21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” We’ve all heard what that implies. Jesus was not saying 70 X 7 = 490. He was saying unlimitedtimes. All that is true but there’s a reason why Jesus used the number 7 and not 3, 5, or 10. Because 7 in the Old Testament is the number of fulfilment. It is the number of Sabbath. It is very significant when it comes to debt.Listen to Deuteronomy 15     1“At the end of everyseven years you shall grant a releaseof debts.2And this isthe form of the release: Every creditor who has lentanythingto his neighbor shall releaseit;he shall not requireitof his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’S release.” Not only that but even debt slaves were set free. Leviticus 25     8“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenthdayof the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement…10And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout allthe land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 17Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for Iamthe LORD your God. 19Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety… So when Jesus said to Peter, “not just seven times but seventy times seven,” his listeners knew that he was hinting at the Year of Jubilees.But something else–23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.Not just the land of Israel. Exodus 19:5“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earthisMine.” In other words, it doesn’t matter who has the title, God owns it all.

To us, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but to those people it was nothing short of a revolution.Why? Because the Pharisees had created a system called “prozbul.” According to this system, the debt collector could give someone’s debt over to the court. This way it was no longer an “individual” holding the debt but a court and did not have to be forgiven in the seventh year. Now the creditors could lend in the sixth year and know that their money would be safe and the borrower could borrow money to do their work. On the surface, this seemed like a win-win, but can you imagine what this did to those in big debt. They could never get out of debt. The debt would keep mounting until it would be a foreclosure or slavery. Think about Jesus’ parable for a moment. How much did the servant owe the king? Ten thousand talents. A talent was about 60-90 pounds depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). So, 10,000 talents would be about 225 tons. Let’s say a talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. 10,000 talents would be 60 million denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. Herod’s annual salary was 900 talents. It would take Herod 10 years to pay back as long as he didn’t spend at all. How long will it take for the servant to pay back 60 million denarii? It’s impossible.

When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he talked in terms that the average person could understand. In the Lord’s Prayer inMatthew 6:12“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Also, remember the parable of the Two Debtors, one owed 500 and the other only 50. Both were forgiven and Jesus asked “Which one would love more?” You can imagine how this must have impacted the people–“That person has been holding the lien on my property for the past 200 years. I wonder what he will do now.” Here’s a reminder:  Are you generous towards those who are less fortunate? I believe in Capitalism but Generous Capitalism. At Clearview we have many very generous people. How about you?

Now we understand the gravity of why Jesus talked in terms of debt but the question still remains – “How is sin a debt against God?” In the Bible, sin is defined by metaphors:

  • Sometimes it is a burden (bear your iniquities – Lev 20:20) and Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.
  • Sometimes it is a stain (sin be like scarlet – Isaiah 1:18) and it has to be washed (Eph. 5:26).
  • Sometimes it is slavery (Egypt as house of bondage) and it has to be set free (Romans 6:18)
  • And some other metaphors

Sometimes it is also described as a debt. Lev. 5:1“If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and isa witness, whether he has seen or knownof the matter—if he does not tellit,he bears guilt.” It has the idea of assuming a debt. This idea became very prominent after the children went into Babylonian Exile. They had lost their land. Don’t misunderstand: They didn’t lose it to the Babylonians but to God.Remember, God had told them “the land is mine” and “the whole earth is mine.” They were in debt because of sin. They were in the land but it was God’s land. They still had a debt to pay which was impossible to pay. The prophets repeatedly talked in the language of earning your wages.Jeremiah 31:11For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” Zechariah 9:12“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare thatI will restore double to you.” Why did Jesus come? He came to pay a debt that we owe to God that we can never repay. Matthew 20:28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus went about offering forgiveness of sins to all those who came to him. He undermined the authority of the temple priests and messed up the nice system of financial security of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. No wonder they hated him. 

Listen to how Paul describes our salvation inColossians 2     13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Invitation: There are no bargain pardons. God himself had to pay our debt of sins by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Have you received his pardon? Do you understand how everything you have is his? Are you holding someone’s lien in your hand? Are you saved?

Forgiven by Pastor Abidan Shah

FORGIVEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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