Debt: Part 2 by Pastor Shah

DEBT – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Kids have an interesting way of saying “I’m sorry.” I found some examples online—“Sorry because of nothing.” “Dear Brody, Miss P made me write you this note. All I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t. Liam.” “I’m sorry I kicked you even know I didn’t but I am not writing this for in apology. I’m doing it to get out of time out. Sorry?” “Dear Aiden, I’m sorry for elbowing you in the mouth. But I did it for one reason you shoved me. First of all, you’re the one who shoved me. Second of all you shouldn’t push. Third of all you played a stupid game. I elbowing you in the mouth was your stupid prize. It was an accident. Love, Alyssa.” Unfortunately, we get more articulate and more defensive as we get older. Today’s message is the part 2 of our message titled “DEBT” in our series on the parables of Jesus. It’s about God’s forgiveness of our sin debt through Christ and our forgiveness of the sin debt of others towards us. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Through Christ, you can forgive anyone for anything but it’s a journey in which reconciliation may or may not be possible.

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: Is there unforgiveness in your heart towards anyone? Are you forgiven?

Context: Last weekend, we answered the first question on this parable—“Why is Sin described as a Debt?”If you remember, it was all connected to the land. God had repeatedly told them that the land was his. Leviticus 25:23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.In other words, the Promised Land was a gift from God and if they obeyed his commandments, they could live and flourish on his land. If they disobeyed, he would kick them out. That’s exactly what happened with the Babylonian Exile. But God, in his grace and compassion, allowed them to return after 50 years. Now they were back in the land but they were in a sin debt to God. But God the gracious landlord already knew that they could never pay that debt and so from eternity past he had created a plan under which his own Son Jesus would come to pay their sin debt with his own blood. All they would have to do was look to him and live. That’s exactly what Jesus did. By the way, this offer was not just for the Jewish people but for all people because all us are under a sin debt to God. It may not be connected to the land but it is just as real.As Paul tells us in Colossians 2:14“having 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…”

Application: Have you received God’s forgiveness of your sin debt through Jesus?

Question #2What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us? Again, we have to keep the land in mind. All of the Jewish people, the rich and the poor, the creditor and the debtor, were on God’s land. For one of them to take the other by the throat was ridiculous. That’s what some of them were doing. When Jesus gave the parable, he had much more than their land debt in mind.He was referring to unforgiveness among them.He was saying—If God has forgiven you, what right do you have to hold a grudge against your brothers and sisters? After all, both the offended and the offender are standing on the same forgiven ground! Then he made a very shocking remark—35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Meaning: “If you refuse to forgive others of the wrong they’ve done to you, God the father will also refuse to forgive you for the wrong you’ve done to him.”What do we do with that? If that’s true, you and I are going to hell if we refuse to forgive others.To understand this statement, we have to first understand how God forgives us our debt.

1. Forgiveness is not a joint agreement. It is a solo decision. Who did God consult regarding the plan of salvation? He consulted himself. It was decided in the secret and sacred counsel of the Trinity. The second person of the Godhead became the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8)Also,I Peter 1    18knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things,likesilver or gold, from your aimless conductreceivedby tradition from your fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” Ephesians 1:4“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Here’s the point: Just like God did not need our cooperation to initiate the plan of redemption, you don’t need your offender’s cooperation to cancel their debt. Think about it:Can you forgive someone who is dead? Yes. If not, you will be stuck. You can wipe their offense even if they are gone. 

2. Forgiveness is not forgetting.What do we do with the “Sea of forgetfulness?” That phrase is not in the Bible but it is based on certain passages in the Bible. Micah 7:19“He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Psalm 103:12“As far as the east is from the west, sofar has He removed our transgressions from us.” Jeremiah 31:34“…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” These verses do not mean that God has amnesia. They simply mean that God no longer holds our sins against us because Jesus has paid our debt.You can forgive and still not forget. The scars are there to warn you of future dangers. Furthermore, God’s forgiveness does not mean condoning, dismissing, or legally pardoning.A murderer can get saved today and be on his way to heaven but still have to stand trial for the crime on earth. So also, when you forgive that does not mean that all consequences are gone.Now, instead of hating the person, you hate the sin. You let them off the way God has let you off but there may still be consequences.

3. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.From God’s perceptive, ransom has been paid and forgiveness has been offered. He is not sitting up there holding a grudge. He wants to reconcile the whole world to himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19“…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” But, the sinner has to take his offer of reconciliation for the transaction to be complete. This only happens when we get saved and receive his forgiveness and submit ourselves to his authority in our lives. So also, reconciliation can happen only if the offender is willing to go through the appropriate process with the offended.If not, there can only be forgiveness but no reconciliation. True reconciliation is a complex process that requires dialogue, time, admittance of guilt, and rebuilding of trust. There are times people have sent me a note saying “Please forgive me” but the way they said it they are really saying “You have hurt me” or “I’m angry at you” or “I am justified for my actions.”What do I do? I just leave them alone. I can tell that they want their pound of flesh.Sometimes people misapply 1 John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? Hate is not the same as irreconciliation. 

4. Finally, Forgiveness is not instantaneous. It is a journey. For God, it is not a journey. His forgiveness is immediate. But we’re not God. For us it requires a process.It requires 2 things in a believer: 

  • Change in perspective

2 Corinthians 4:18“while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seenaretemporary, but the things which are not seenareeternal.”

  • Power of the Holy Spirit

Romans 5     3And not onlythat,but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Are you unforgiving towards others? Do you need to seek the forgiveness of someone? Have you been forgiven through Christ?

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?

Obedient by Pastor Abidan Shah

OBEDIENT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustration: Father with the firewood story.

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

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

Consequence by Pastor Abidan Shah

CONSEQUENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Help me finish these sayings – “What goes around comes around.” “What you sow is what you reap.” “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” What do all those sayings mean? “Actions have consequences.” I have the freedom to punch this podium but the consequence will be pain or even a broken hand. So also, in life, we are free to live as we please but we’re not free to choose the consequences. We can have our kicks but we cannot control the kickbacks. And, sometimes those kickbacks and consequences don’t end on this side. They even extend to the other side. In other words, some actions have eternal consequences. How you live in this life determines how you will live in the life to come.We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus and the message is titled “CONSEQUENCE.”

Luke 16     19“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. 20But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. 23And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ 

Question: Again, parables are like mirrors. They reflect who we are in the story. In this parable, are you the rich man or are you Lazarus? Are you living for temporary pleasures of life or do you care to notice those around you who are hurting and less fortunate? Will your end be like the selfish and self-indulgent rich man or like Lazarus? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus has fascinated me ever since I was a little child.The imagery is incredibly vivid.Here’s a rich man living it up, enjoying a lavish banquet every day, and has no regard for others; and there’s the beggar Lazarus lying by his gates, covered in sores, and eating the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. Growing up in India I saw many beggars on my way to town and to school but there was one I remember particularly. He sat at the same spot by the train station bridge. He was blind and he always sang as he begged. He had a beautiful voice. I’ve been to India several times and I’ve often looked at that empty spot and wondered what happened to him. Was he alone when he died? Did any of his family member come to get his body or did the local authorities just dispose him off? Either way, his face is permanently etched into my memory.

Why did Jesus give the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus? At first glance, the parable appears to be saying that being rich disqualifies you from heaven and being poor guarantees you heaven.But, we know that can’t be true. Many of God’s people in the Bible were wealthy. In fact, Jesus had some rich people who followed him. Also, throughout history there are many rich who have followed Jesus and many poor who have rejected him. Plus,Ephesians 2reminds us that salvation is only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The key to heaven is not based on your bank balance but on whether or not you received Christ.

So, why did Jesus give this parable? Context is very important here. Few verses earlier in Luke 16:13Jesus made a very indicting statement “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.”The word “Mammon” is a Hebrew/Aramaic word for money and wealth but here Jesus deified it, gave it God-like qualities. In essence, he was saying that “money” is a god and it demands your submission and worship just like the living God. Just like the first of the 10 commandments says “You shall have no other gods before me,” Mammon also says, “Serve me and me alone. Worship me and me alone.” But, you cannot serve 2 gods. Devotion to one will cause you to disobey the other.You have to pick between the Living God and Mammon (Money God). Why did Jesus say that? Listen to the very next verse – 14Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money…” With all their “Table Fellowship,” trying to live a holy life like the priests in the temple, and treating the dining table at home as the altar in the temple, they had a weakness. They were “lovers of money.” In all their rule keeping they had found ways to swindle people and add more money to their coffers. One example of this is found in Luke 20    46“Beware of the scribes…47who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers…” You will look in vain in the historical documents of the period for evidence that the Pharisees were money lovers and taking advantage of people or even living it up while others were suffering. Why? They are the ones who recorded those documents!

Application: Are you a lover of money? I’ve seen people destroy their lives. Listen to I Timothy 6    9But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, andintomany foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10For the love of money is a root of allkinds ofevil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows…17Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 

What was the reaction of the Pharisees to Jesus’ indictment against their love for money? 14“Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided (ridicule/mock)Him.”If you ever want to neutralize God’s word, just mock it. If you ever want to disobey God and not feel convicted about it, just ridicule it.Now listen to Jesus – 15And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Three verses later, Jesus gave the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus:

  • One is very wealthy and clothed in purple but the other is very poor and covered in sores. 
  • The rich man is eating lavishly while the poor man is eating the crumbs that have fallen from the table.
  • The rich man has plenty to drink but the dogs are licking the sores of the poor man. These are not household pets but scavengers.
  • The rich man dies and is buried but the poor man probably didn’t even get a funeral.

Now there’s a reversal: The poor man is taken to Abraham’s bosom (chest) but the rich man to Hades. Then the rich man being tormented by the flames begins to cry to Abraham on the other side and asks for Lazarus to give him a drop of water to cool his tongue. People have tried to build the doctrine of eschatology off this parable.That was not the reason why Jesus gave this parable. Think about it, do you think people in heaven will be able to see people in hell and vice-versa? We know that can’t be true. Imagine having to see your family and friends who never received Jesus as their Savior burning in hell and still try to enjoy heaven! Revelation 21:4“And … there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Keep in mind that if you ask questions that the parables did not address, then you will inevitably get wrong answers.“Abraham’s bosom” simply implies comfort and care. John 1:18“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declaredHim.”Hades simply implies the other side. Also, there are many different words used in the Old Testament and the New Testament for the Place of the Dead – Sheol, Gehenna, Hades, Abyss, Tartarus, Paradise, the Pit, Hell, the Lake of Fire, Heaven, and the New Jerusalem. We don’t have time to examine all these in detail because there’s so much we don’t understand. The only thing to remember is that those who are saved are in the presence of the Lord and those who are not saved are not. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:8“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”One day, there will be judgment and then those who have accepted Christ will be in Heaven and those who have rejected Christ will be in Hell.Having said that, don’t think of this parable as a step by step description of how things will happen on the other side. That was the intent of the parable. Jesus gave the parable in a vernacular that the listeners would understand for a different purpose.

Back to the parable – The rich man is now poor on the other side and being tormented by the flames cries out. 25But Abraham said, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ The point is that the consequence of how you live here are eternal. Listen again to Paul in I Timothy 6    18Let themdo good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Application:What foundation are you building on?

But, there’s more –27“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29Abraham said to him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31But he said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”The consequence of your wrong priorities not only effect you but also for others.

Matthew 16     24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Are you saved? Who is your God?

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.”

Fruitful by Pastor Abidan Shah

FRUITFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Farm life is often romanticized in advertisements, on school field trips, and especially in country music videos. We have some farmers in our church and they’ll tell you that farming can be rewardingbut it’s far from romantic. It’s hard work, long hours, and very unpredictable. It’s not as much “She thinks my tractor’s sexy” but more like “Farmer’s Blues”! I believe that if God were to come down and choose an occupation, farming would be on the top of his list. In fact, Jesus used the analogy of a farmer sowing seeds to describe his preaching of the gospel. The seed, the word of the kingdom, falls on every heart, but it is the nature of the soil, the nature of the heart, that decides whether or not it will bear fruit.That’s the title of our message today – “Fruitful.”

Matthew 13     3Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, someseedfell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Question: What kind of a soil is your heart? Is your life bearing fruit? Do you have ears to hear? Are you saved?

Context: Before we dive in and start exploring the Parable of the Sower, we need to once again clarify the reason why Jesus used parables in his teaching. We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true. The parables were used by the prophets to confront the people of God when they sinned and to expose the true condition of their hearts. A good example of this was when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah the Hittite murdered. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. Nathan didn’t come and say, “David, why did you sin like this?” Instead, he told him a story of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many flocks and herds but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb, which had grown up with his family and it was like a daughter to him. She ate from his table and drank from his cup. One day, the rich man had a visitor and instead of taking from his own flock and herds to prepare the meal, he took the poor man’s only lamb. What was David’s reaction? As the Lord lives, that man will sure die and he shall have to restore four times! What is Nathan’s response? “You are the man!” David realized what had happened and he could only mouth – “I have sinned against God.”You have to think of the parables like a mirror. Why do you use a mirror? To see what condition you’re in. You don’t look in the mirror to see what condition the mirror is in or to find fault in someone else. So also, you look in the parables to see the condition of your own heart. When we come to the parables, our question should not be – “I wonder who this story is for?” That’s the mistake the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees made. Our question should be – “I wonder which character I am playing in this story.” If you do that, you will see yourself even more. If you don’t, you will never see yourself.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Parable of the Sower.To start with, it’s known as the foundational parable. As someone (Klyne Snodgrass) said, “It is theparable about parables.” In other words, the Parable of the Sower is the guide to all the parables that Jesus gave. On the surface, the story is very simple – One sower, 4 kinds of soil, and only one fruitful ground. Pick which one you are when you listen to Pastor Shah preach. Not so quick. Let’s back up for a moment and first identify each element in this story:

1. Who is the Sower? Jesus or any of us who is sharing the good news about Jesus.

2. What is the Seed? Matthew calls it the “word of the kingdom” and Luke calls it the “word of God.” Either way, it’s the gospel of the kingdom.

3. What are the different kinds of Soils? Wayside, Stony Ground, Thorny Ground, and the Good Ground. There is no problem identifying the first and the last soil.

1stSoil – Wayside

19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understandit,then the wickedonecomes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

The Wayside is the path on the side of the farms where people, animals, and wagons have travelled for so long that the ground has become hard. Of course, it represents the heart of the religious leaders – the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees. They cannot understandwhat Jesus is saying. That word in Greek “suniemi” means “to have an intelligent grasp of something that challenges one’s thinking or practice.” This is not understandas in “comprehension.” This is understandas in “reception.” For the religious leaders, it is the foot traffic of traditions and the animal wagons of rituals that have packed their heart solid. It has become stubborn towards the things of God. Unfortunately, Satan is perched nearby waiting for the opportune time to swoop in and snatch away the seeds of the gospel that lie on their hearts.

4thSoil – Good Ground

23“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understandsit,who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

The Good Ground is the heart of the disciples. They hear the word, understand it, and bear fruit. The quantity of fruit may vary but they will bear fruit.

But how about the 2ndand the 3rdSoils? Who are they?

2ndSoil – Stony Ground   20“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

3rdSoil – Thorny Ground   22Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 

Some people have tried to identify these two soils as the immature Christians, carnal Christians, and baby Christians. They will say something like – “None of us are perfect. All of us are a work in progress. Of course, we need to be like the 4thSoil but sometimes the world gets the best of us. Other times, our own flesh gets the best of us.” Based on this kind of thinking, we have 4 kinds of people when it comes to the gospel – the lost, the saved, the sort of lost, and the sort of saved. The 1stSoil is definitely lost but the other 3 are definitely going to heaven. God grades us on a curve! He knows our hearts. Problem solved! Right? Not really. Jesus completely negated this! Listen to what he said in Matthew 13    10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

How do we solve this problem? Go back to the mirror analogy. How do you know whether or not you belong to the second or third soils? If you can see that it’s you and you are willing to change, then it’s not you. If you can’t see that it’s you, then it’s you. You can only see for yourself, not for others.

Question:

  • Has your heart become hard towards the things of God? Are you willing to let Christ soften it with his grace and mercy?
  • Has the sun of trials and tribulations been beating down on you? Do you see how shallow you are in the gospel? Are you willing to let him replant you?
  • Have you been caught among the thorns of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches? Are you willing to let him entangle you?
  • Are you the bearing fruit but its only 30 or 60 when it could be more? Are you willing to let him prune you and fertilize you so you could bear more?

Can you not see yourself in the mirror? Come and let the Savior open your eyes.

Heart Exam by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART EXAM by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: When the kids were young, we bought them a toy doctor’s kit. It had everything – stethoscope, thermometer, blood pressure cuff, syringe, tweezers, etc. They would go around taking our temperature, checking our blood pressure, and listening to our hearts. Then, like many of you, we would say – “My turn. Let me check your heart” – and we would take their toy stethoscope and listen to their heart – “Oh, it sounds good!” Here’s a question – how seriously did you take that test? Not really. It was all pretend. Would you do that at a real doctor’s office? Would you say to your cardiologist – “My turn! Let’s check your heart now.” Of course not. It’s real. Today, we’re going to take a heart exam and it’s not pretend. It’s very real. We’re checking our hearts, not our physical hearts made out of muscles, tissues, and blood vessels, but our spiritual hearts made up of our minds, our thinking, and our attitude towards the things of God. The Stethoscope is the Scriptures, the Examiner is the Holy Spirit, and the Goal is the heart of the disciple of Jesus. This is a very critical exam. A physical heart exam can determine how longyou will live. A spiritual heart exam determines ifyou are alive.

Matthew 13     10And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’”

Question: How is your spiritual heart? Is it out of rhythm with the things of God? Is there a blockage due to sin? Is it dead? Only Jesus can make your heart alive. Are you saved?

Context: This is the first message in our series on the Parables of Jesus. It’s an introductory message in which we will answer the question – “Why did Jesus use parables in his teaching?” In fact, it’s the question that the disciples asked Jesus inMatthew 13:10“Why do You speak to them in parables?”We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true.Listen to his answer in verse11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Before we unpack that verse, let’s first identify the two groups that are around Jesus. The first is the “you” group who understand what Jesus is teaching and the second is the “them” group who seem to be missing it. Who are the “you” and who are the “them?” That information is available in the surrounding chapters. 

Who is the “you?” The “you” were the disciples, the tax collectors and the prostitutes (Matthew 9:11And when the Pharisees sawit,they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”), the multitudes (Matthew 12    15“…And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. 16Yet He warned them not to make Him known.”), demon-possessed, blind, and mute. This group was open to the things of God and they understood more of the things of God. Listen to verse12“For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” 

Who is the “them?”

1. Pharisees: 

Matthew 12:2And when the Phariseessawit (Jesus disciples eating grain in the field),they said to Him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” Matthew 12:14“Then the Phariseeswent out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Matthew 12:24Now when the Phariseeshearditthey said, “Thisfellowdoes not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

The Pharisees were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – they called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

2. Scribes:

Matthew 9:3And at once some of the scribessaid within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” Matthew 12:38Then some of the scribes andPhariseesanswered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 

The Scribes interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people.

3. Sadducees:

Matthew 16:1“Then the Pharisees andSadduceescame, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.” Matthew 22:23The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him…a trick question.

The Sadducees considered themselves to be of priestly descent but no one knows for sure. Much of it was just political.They controlled the Temple. Unlike the Pharisees, they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the righteous, angels, or spirit as much. They denied the eternality of the soul, punishment in the underworld, and rewards. They were not very popular with the people.They worked in cooperation with the Romans in order to maintain peace and carry on the responsibilities of the Temple in Jerusalem. They were afraid that Jesus was messing up the power balance.

4. Jesus’ Family Members:

Matthew 12     46While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Someone informed him and listen to his response –48But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” They were embarrassed of Jesus.

These 4 groups of people were not evil. They were what we would call “church going” folks but their hearts were not open to what Christ was teaching. Listen to what he said about them in verse13“Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Why would Jesus do that?He actually tells us in the very next verse –14“And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’” Listen carefully: Just like in the time of Isaiah there were religious people who were rejecting the message of God, these Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and Jesus’ family members were also rejecting Christ. The more they rejected him, the less they could understand him. The parables were much more than just stories given to illustrate a point. They were the tools of the prophets to confront the people of God and to expose the true condition of their hearts. If their hearts were open to the things of God, they would understand even more. If their hearts were closed to the things of God, they would understand even less. 

1. The Pharisees had a self-righteous heart that was hung up on traditions and could not see the need for Christ.

2. The Scribes had a show off heart that could not see Christ in all their bible knowledge.

3. The Sadducees had a status quo heart that was more interested in power than submission to Christ.

4. The Jesus’ Family Heart was the cynical heart that had become overly familiar with Christ.

Jesus’ family did come around but the others help put Jesus on the cross.

Invitation:What kind of a heart do you have? Is it even alive to the things of God? If not, you need to get saved today. This is not a pretend exam.

The Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Game Plan.Meal Plan. Health Plan. Floor Plan. Master Plan. What’s the plan? Man with a plan. Let’s go to plan B. There is no plan B. We need to plan ahead. It’s amazing how much we use that word “plan” in our daily lives. But, there is a plan that far exceeds any plan we may have and that is “The Gospel Plan” or “The Plan of Salvation.” Our plans may fail. Our plans may get disrupted. Our plans may have to be revised. But, God’s Gospel Plan does not fail, will not get disrupted, and it’s not open to revision. The Plan of Salvation is the only hope for every man, woman, boy, or girl. Today it can happen for you and change your life forever. (Circle 3 key words in our passage below.) 

Mark 1     14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 19When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the sonof Zebedee, and John his brother, who alsowerein the boat mending their nets. 20And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

Question:Which plan are you trusting in for your salvation? Your Plan? The Church Plan? The Denomination Plan? The wrong plan of salvation will cost you your soul. Are you truly saved? Repent, Believe, and Follow Jesus Christ.

Context: As many of you know, we’re about to start a new series on the parables of Jesus. Today’s message is to lay the foundation for those messages coming up. But, before we start looking at the Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation, let me clarify an important point: As we examine the passage we just read, it’ll become evident to you how some people have the wrong plan of salvation. They have the wrong elements or they are missing some elements. This should not to make us feel superior to them but it should motivate us to reach out to them in love and humility. But, let me clarify something – don’t think that everyone has the wrong plan of salvation if they don’t use the exact words and phrases like we do or understand every detail as we do. Let me give you an example:Imagine if you announced to your family that you are all going to Disney World. Dad, what’s going through your mind? Do I have enough vacation? If driving, do I need to get the oil changed? If flying, what flights are available? Mom, what’s on your mind? I need to get some clothes for the kids. Are we going to hop parks? How much food should I pack? If working, who can I get to cover my shift? What is little Johnny thinking? I’m definitely taking Buzz Lightyear with me. What is little Susie thinking? I’m wearing my Princess Jasmine T-shirt. Dad and Mom, are you going to expect Johnny and Susie to understand how your vacation days work and how many frequent flyer miles you can use before you can take them to Disney World? Of course not. So also, when it comes to salvation, people may not use the same words or understand on the same level as you but the main elements are there. But, let me take that illustration a little further. What if on the day you’re about to leave, little Johnny gets in his little ride on truck and says “I’m going to Disney World!” What do you do? “That’s great buddy but you have to get in my truck.” What if he says, “No, I’m going in my truck!” Now you have a problem. So also, the main elements of the Gospel Plan are non-negotiable, doesn’t matter who you are and how sincere you are.

The Gospel Plan or the Plan of Salvation has 2 parts:

1. DECLARATION:

Mark 1     14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee…”

Before we can gaze at Jesus, we have to take a quick glance at John the Baptist.He symbolized the fulfillmentof the prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus. Listen carefully: The Gospel Plan did not drop out of the sky 2000 years ago. It was repeatedly promised throughout the Old Testament. Something else: John the Baptist is described as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The wilderness represented hope and new beginnings. Just like God met Israel in the wilderness and made them his people, God was about to make a new people through his Son, Jesus.

14 “…Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 

Many times, we ignore the kingdom aspectin the gospel. The gospels record over 100 times where Jesus talked about the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven.” What is this kingdom?It was not some earthly political kingdom or some imaginary fairy kingdom. This was an internal spiritual kingdom. Luke 17    20“…The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” It is visible only to the those who have a spiritual birth. John 3:3Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Back to Mark 1:15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.”

What time is being fulfilled? The time for Jesus Christ, the Messiah, God’s Anointed Kingto take his rightful throne.His kingdom will not be inaugurated through some royal decree or some earthly battle or takeover. His coronation will come by way of the cross. As prophesied in the Scriptures, Jesus died on the crossfor the sins of the whole world. He was buriedbut roseagainon the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by manyListen to Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15     1Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…” And on and on.

Application:Do you understand the declaration of the gospel? Do you believe that God’s spiritual kingdom has come? Do you believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise? Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son, the Anointed King, who died for your sins, was buried but rose again, and was seen by many?

2. DECISION:

15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,and believein the gospel.”

  • REPENT– The Greek word is “metanoia,” which has the core idea of a “change of mind” or a “change of thinking.” There are 2 common errors here:Some think that it means sorrow or regret. This may have come in through the Roman Catholic translation of “penance” and “penitence” but it’s incorrect. There may be some tears involved in repentance but crying, feeling sorry, or feeling ashamed do not guarantee salvation. Neither does it mean to “turn and return.” People turn, return, and turn back all the time. The key here is that there’s a change of mind and thinking regarding Sin, Self, and Savior. Prior to repentance, sin was okay but now you hate sin. Prior to repentance, you were at the center of your life but now God is at the center. Prior to repentance, you didn’t think you needed a Savior but now you want a Savior who can save you. Have you truly repented?
  • BELIEVE– The Greek word is the verb “pisteuein” or the noun “pistis,” which is much more than just our common belief or believe like “I believe it’s going to rain today.” It has the idea of “trust” like trusting in a life jacket or a safety harness. It is total confidence that Jesus can remove the guilt of sin and give you eternal life.Listen to John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believein His name.” John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believesin Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”John 3:36“He who believesin the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believethe Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 8:24“if you do not believethat I amHe,you will die in your sins.” Are you truly trusting in Jesus?
  • FOLLOW– This is the major missing ingredient in today’s gospel presentations. Back to Mark 1    16And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. (This is not the first time that Jesus encountered them. John the Baptist had already introduced them to Jesus. Also, in Luke 5, Jesus did the miracle of many fishes for Peter and he proclaimed, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” The point is that they did believe in Jesus but they were not completely following him.)17Then Jesus said to them, “FollowMe, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Same thing happened with James and John. Here’s the point: The call to follow is included in the gospel. If you claim that Jesus is yourKing, you have to follow him, no matter the cost. You may struggle at times but if the desire to follow is not there, there is no true salvation. Matthew 10:38“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”“Followship does not determine salvation but true salvation will initiate followship.”

Application:Do you understand the decision of the gospel? Has there been a change of mind? Are you fully trusting in Christ for your sins? Are you willing to follow him no matter the cost? Come today. The Holy Spirit is here to help you.

Sustenance by Pastor Abidan Shah

SUSTENANCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: One of my favorite commercials on TV is the Snickers ad. They show people acting like celebrities when they are hungry and the tagline is “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” That’s so true. We feel sluggish and cranky, anxious and nauseous, when we’re hungry. So also, you’re not you when you are spirituallyhungry. Just as we need physical food to give us physical sustenance, we also need spiritual food to give us spiritual sustenance. Spiritual food is feeding upon Christ and it is not optional but essential for the Christian life.We will be taking part in the Lord’s Table today and this message is to remind us of the importance of daily feeding on Christ.

John 6     53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

Question: How is your spiritual nutrition coming? Are you daily feeding upon Christ and his word? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Is he your king?

Context: Typically, when we observe the Lord’s Supper or the Communion (in some traditions known as the Eucharist or the Holy Sacrament or even the Mass), we turn to either the end of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:26-28Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:19-20) where the last hours of Jesus with his disciples are narrated or to I Corinthians 11:23-25 where Paul gives instructions on how to observe the Lord’s Table. In these passages we encounter Jesus having his final meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. During this meal, Jesus gave a very familiar tradition, the Passover Meal, a whole new meaning. Sometime back I preached a message on this subject from I Corinthians 11 in which I explained how the bread was the unleavened Passover Bread that Jesus relabeled as his own body that would be broken for them. Then, there were 4 cups at the Passover Meal and Jesus rebaled the third cup, the Cup of Blessing, as the Cup of the New Covenant in his blood. I’m not sure how much the disciples understood what Jesus meant at the time but they obediently ate the bread and drank from the cup that he passed to them. You can only imagine how difficult this must have been for the disciples! Imagine if I were to show up at your Thanksgiving Meal and pick up a turkey leg and say, “this is me!” Their old customs and biblical traditions were radically altered by their Master but by faith they obeyed him and received it. Only later on, they understood the true meaning of what Jesus meant.

Why did Jesus do this replacement of the Unleavened Bread with his body and the Cup of the Blessing with his blood at the Last Supper? Jesus was telling his disciples that by eating the bread and drinking the cup they were going to share with him in his substitutionary existence. In other words, they were now going to be connected with him in his suffering and death. This does not mean that they were physically going to suffer, bleed, and die along with him. They were going to be spiritually connected with him as he would suffer, bleed, and die for them. You may think – “Man, this spiritual connection stuff must have been too deep for them!” Not really. This was not a problem for the Jewish people. This is how they saw the Passover Meal through the ages. When a Jewish person participated in the Passover Meal, he/she had to view himself/herself as if he/she was personally leaving Egypt on the night when the final plague was struck. They had to visualize themselves as if they were there on that night, even if that was a hundred, thousand, or several thousand years later. They had to sense the fear and by faith receive the Meal. The difficult part was that Jesus told them that he was the bread and he was the Passover Lamb. He wanted the disciples to understand their spiritual connection with him as he suffered, bled, died, and was buried. This is the heart of the Christian life.Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 3:3“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

By the way, this spiritual connection was not just meant for the first disciples but for all disciples through the ages, including you and me.Listen to what Paul told the members of the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11     23For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the samenight in which He was betrayed took bread; 24and when He had given thanks, He brokeitand said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same mannerHealsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drinkit,in remembrance of Me.” By the way, this is also true about baptism. While Communion is our corporate connection with Jesus, baptism is our individual connection with Jesus. Listen to Romans 6      3Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Listen carefully: There is no other religion like Christianity where the founder is connected beyond time to every person who has received him and every person who has received him is connected to each other. This changes the way I treat saved and lost people. With both, I have to remember that Christ is in me.

I know some of ya’ll are thinking – “I don’t know about all this connection stuff.” Let’s go back to the passage we read at the opening of this message. John 6:53Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Why did Jesus say that?Back up to verse 52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”If that wasn’t clear enough, he said it again in verses54Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last dayJesus will not leave any part of him behind. We’re not God and will never be but we are part of the family of God.55For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” We’re connected! 57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. What’s their reaction to all this?60Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” 61When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Whatthen if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, andtheyare life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.Judas may not have been the only one. 66From thattimemany of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

WOW! Which group do you belong to? Are you feeding daily on Jesus and his words? Are you saved? Are you connected with him and others who are in Christ? Are you seeking to bring others to be connected with Christ?

Backsliding Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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