The Witness Stand by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE WITNESS STAND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Witness Stand

Introduction: How many of you remember watching legal shows on TV? Let’s say that you were falsely accused of murder but everything pointed in your direction, which TV attorney would you like to fight for you in court? How many of you would hire Perry Mason? How about Ben Matlock? Mason was a prosecuting attorney and Matlock a defense attorney. I remember how Matlock would cross-examine a phony witness and before long he/she would blurt out “Ok, fine, I didn’t see it!” The Bible repeatedly uses the language of the courtroom, especially in the New Testament. Every believer is a witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The first disciples were eye-witnesses. We are faith witnesses and we have an obligation to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. That’s the message today called “The Witness Stand.”

Acts 26     12“While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It ishard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.

Question:If Matlock were examining you today on the witness stand, would you turn out to be a true witness or a phony witness? Are you truly saved? Are you sharing your witness? Are you telling people what Christ has done in your life?

Context:This is our final message on the foundational beliefs of Clearview Church. A major foundation of our church is that all of us are called to be witnesses. We are called to tell the world what we have seen and heard about Jesus. Our motto is “Making Christ Visible.” In fact, the mission of our church is “to lead all people into a life changing, ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is based on Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Acts 1:8is “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This command was not just for the first eye-witnesses but also for all faith witnesses who would come later. The passage we just read is about the conversion of Paul and the call that he received from Christ himself. Listen again –16But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witnessboth of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.” The key word for us is the word “witness.” What does it mean?

Witness – That word comes from the Greek word “marturia” or “martureo,” which is found in various forms around 200 times in the New Testament. It has a legal meaning. It refers to someone who can certify facts, especially in a court of law. Of course, Greek writers like Homer, Pindar, and Plato used it in this legal way, the legal idea behind that word depends heavily on its use in the Greek Old Testament. It is used when God is called as a witness in his covenant with Israel or when Israel is called to be a witness to the nations for God. The witness is not just a reporter of what they have seen or heard but they are also responsible to bring the other person around to the truth. In other words, a witness is more than just a reporter of facts in a court, they also have to be convincing. In the New Testament, that word is used again and again to verify and authenticate the person and work of Jesus. I don’t have the time to look at all the references, but here are just a few:

  • John 1 6There was a man sent from God, whose namewas 7This man came for a witness, to bear witnessof the Light, that all through him might believe. 8He was not that Light, butwas sentto bear witnessof that Light.
  • Luke 24 46Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.”
  • Acts 4:33And with great power the apostles gave witnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
  • 1 Peter 5:1“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witnessof the sufferings of Christ…”
  • Revelation 20:4“Then I sawthe souls of those who had been beheaded for theirwitnessto Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…”

As witnesses we are called to report accurately, clearly, repeatedly, and unashamedly what we have seen and heard. Are you?

Before Paul became a witness, he had been several other things:

  1. Spectator – Acts 7 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58and they casthimout of the city and stonedhim.And the witnesseslaid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen as he was calling onGodand saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
  2. Accomplice –Acts 8:1“Now Saul was consenting to his death…”
  3. Criminal –Acts 8  1“…At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men carried Stephento his burial,and made great lamentation over him. 3As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committingthemto prison.
  4. Mastermind – Acts 9 1Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
  5. Most Wanted – Acts 9 3As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.4Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It ishard for you to kick against the goads.”

Jesus took him from the Most Wanted Criminal to becoming a Chief Witness to the gospel. Has he done that in your life?

Some people are occupying other spots in the courtroom:

  1. Judge – Questioning other people’s motives and casting judgment.
  2. Prosecutor –Always attacking and condemning people.
  3. Defense Attorney – Always defending people instead of witnessing to them.
  4. Spectator –doing nothing, just enjoying the show.

Are you a witness? Are you saved?

Joint Impact by Pastor Abidan Shah

JOINT IMPACT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Joint Impact

Introduction: Back in the summer, several of the men in the church asked me if they could come by and help me with my yard. I was ecstatic! I’m not much of a yard guy. I can mow the grass but that’s about it. One Saturday morning, a bunch of them and even a couple of ladies descended on our house and took down trees, dug up roots, trimmed the hedges, hauled away all the limbs, spread out the mulch, cleaned the gutters, and more. It seemed as if everyone who came had a different talent and ability. They did in 4 hours what I could not have done in 4 years! It was unbelievable! I’m hoping they’ll come back next year! The point is that it was a joint impact. So also, when people in the church come together, they can make a joint impact which is far greater than anything we can do on our own. In fact, that’s how God has designed the church. It brings glory to God when we work together through Christ in worship, nurture, and witness.

Ephesians 4    11“And He Himself gave someto beapostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. . . 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Question:What is your role in this church body? What gift has God given to you? Are you saved? If so, what’s holding you back from jumping in?

Context: This is again one of those messages that we prayerfully decided should be preached in the first few weekends in this new sanctuary. One of the foundational beliefs at Clearview is that God has given each of us in this church body a particular gift through Christ that is meant to help us grow together in Christ and win the world to Christ. Until each of us actively seeks, recognizes, and uses the gift as God has intended it to be used, we will never live to our full potential as a church. The passage we just read comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Let me say something that will help you understand this passage better. Scholars have long argued over what is the true purpose behind Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Is it to clarify some misunderstood doctrine? Is it to confront a particular sin? Is it to bring unity between the Jewish and Gentile believers? Is it to warn against evil powers in the heavenlies? In some sense, all of those things but none of them in particular. His purpose was to call the Ephesians to come together as a body with Christ as the head and work together in ministry and so bring glory to God and make a joint impact in worship, nurture, and witness. In this passage, Paul does this by reminding them of:

I. OUR COMMON BOND – We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:

  1. “There is one body…” We belong to One Universal Church but this could be applied to a local church as well.
  2. “…and one Spirit…” The same OneHoly Spiritindwells you who indwells me.
  3. “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have One Expectationthat God will work out his plan for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
  4. “one Lord…” We have One Master, the same second person of the godhead who became man and died for us and rose again on the third day. He alone is our Master and King.
  5. “…one faith…” There is One Faith, one settled body of truth which Judecalls 3“…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” For us, they are the foundational doctrines coming from the Word of God. Read our Statement of Faith.
  6. “…one baptism…” This refers to the One Baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,”“buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
  7. “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have One God and Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”

If you are willing to stand on this 7-layered foundation, we can work out any other disagreements we may have. If we step off any of these layers, no amount of pretend niceness is going to hold us together whether as a universal church or a local church.

Application: Are you part of a local body? Do you appreciate other local bodies?

II. OUR INDIVIDUAL GIFTS – We each have received a particular gift/gifts from Christ. Don’t confuse gifts with talents. Gifts are supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit but talents are natural through genetics, experience, and training. God may use your talents but there will be an extra element of his grace that will bring him glory. In Ephesians the gifts are also the office but there are many other gifts. See Romans 12and I Corinthians 12. Also, there is no comprehensive list. Ephesians 4 7“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 

Each of us has a gift. What is your gift? Unless you seek that gift from the Lord, recognize it through His Word, and start using it, we as a church will only move along on a donut tire. We will move but it won’t be fast, far, efficient, or safe. Unfortunately, many churches are content with moving along on a donut tire. In fact, they feel that if they get the donut replaced with the right tire, it may go too fast, get farther than they want it to go, and actually reach the destination! If I could subtitle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, it would be “How the church can get its donut fixed.”

Application:What gift has God given you? Are you using it in the body?

III. OUR JOINT IMPACT

13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

To summarize, our joint impacted is reflected in our Joint Worship, our Joint Nurture, and our Joint Witness. Our candle lights together are far brighter than our individual candle lights. Are you part of the body? Are you saved? Are you serving?

Beyond Conscience by Pastor Abidan Shah

BEYOND CONSCIENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Beyond Conscience

Introduction: What movie does this line come from? “What’s a conscience! I’ll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to. That’s just the trouble with the world today.”It’s from Pinocchio. Jiminy Cricket says those words to Pinocchio after the Blue Fairy brings him to life. Then he sings that song – “When you get in trouble
And you don’t know right from wrong, Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! When you meet temptation And the urge is very strong, Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! Not just a little squeak. Pucker up and blow And if your whistle’s weak, Yell Jiminy Cricket. Take the straight and narrow path And if you start to slide, Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! And always let your conscience be your guide.”
Some people think that’s the Christian life – just listen to your conscience. Of course, they replace the word “conscience” with the Holy Spirit. Today’s message will help us understand that the Holy Spirit is far beyond any conscience. He is a person whose purpose is much more than to help you take the straight and narrow path and you can’t call him by whistling.

John 16    7Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

Question: Do you have the Holy Spirit? If you’re saved, you do. Are you submitted to the Holy Spirit? Are you grieving or quenching him in your life?

Context: As I mentioned last week, when we began planning for the first few weekends in this new sanctuary, we prayerfully decided that the first few messages should be on the foundational beliefs of Clearview Church. With that in mind, I’ve preached on Prayer, on Unity, on the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ, on the Word of God, and today I am preaching on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s role is primary to the success and the growth of our church.In this message, I want to clear up some confusions regarding the Holy Spirit and layout his true mission.

I. CLEAR UP SOME MISCONCEPTIONS

2 Misconceptions regarding the Holy Spirit: Jiminy Cricket or Spiritual Genie

Background:We’re going to read some passages from what is known as the “Farewell Discourse of Jesus” in the Gospel of John. It extends over five chapters from John 13-17. The disciples of Jesus were troubled and grieved because he was talking about leaving them. So, he said all this to comfort and reassure them that he was not going to abandon them. In fact, his going away was going to make things even better! John 14:12“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greaterworksthan these he will do, because I go to My Father.” Jesus’ departure will not close shop but greater things will come. Some people think that the greater works mean greater miracles. That’s not all true if you look at the context.Listen to the next verse – 13And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do,(1stcondition of greater works is that they should be asked in Jesus’ Name, as if Jesus were approving)that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (2ndcondition of greater works is that they should bring glory to the Father) 14If you ask anything in My name, I will doit.(Another reminder that our will should align with the will of Jesus)15“If you love Me, keep My commandments. (3rdcondition of greater works is loving obedience)16And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” Don’t miss this. The Greek word is “Paraclete.” There’s a lot of debate over how to translate it. It has a legal tone to it. It implies someone who is “called alongside” to lead, to guide, and to make appeal for you. The best translation is “Advocate.” He is called the “allon parakleton” or “Another Advocate.” Who is the first Advocate? Jesus.

Illustration: Imagine a branch manager of a business is being transferred. Before he leaves, he calls his team that he has been working with for a while. They love him. Things have been great under him. But, he has to go and take charge of another branch. So, he tells them, “Guys, I have to go. But, my going is a blessing in disguise. You are going to make more profit when I am gone because there’s no new branch manager coming. I have personally chosen him. He is amazing! The owner is sending him. You are going to thrive under him!”

The Holy Spirit is not some spiritual genie of the lamp who gives you whatever you want. He is not a spiritual force or power source that you can use on demand. You’re not in charge. The Holy Spirit is and he does greater things than Jesus because they work together. What they are, we’ll see soon.

Something else: Listen to verse 17the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit is not Jiminy Cricket who comes to you when you whistle. He is not just your conscience, that still small voice that talks to you when you “start to slide.” The conscience is in every person but not everyone has a Holy Spirit. The conscience is the basic moral code in every human being that comes because we are made in the image of God. But, it can be subdued and retrained.

Illustration: Conscience is like the baby gate. It keeps the baby from getting outside the room and falling down steps or putting their hands in the fire place. But, as the baby grows, the gate cannot stop him/her. If he/she wants to, they can hurt themselves.

Application:Are you living by your conscience or the Holy Spirit? There’s a world of difference!

II. LAYOUT HIS TRUE MISSION. 

If I were to talk about everything the Holy Spirit is and does, we will be here for months. I only want to focus on what Jesus told his disciples about him in his Final Discourse:

  1. The New Advocate has come to point us back to Jesus and his words.

John 14:26“But the Helper (Advocate), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

  1. The New Advocate has come to bear witness of Jesus before the world.

John 15   26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

  1. The New Advocate has come to convict the world of what Jesus has done.

John 16    7“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” The word for convict is “elegcho,” which means to convince or to correct. The difference between witness and convict is that witness is passive and convict is active. Listen to the breakdown of each – 9of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. The Jewish disciples of Jesus were familiar with all 3 terms but Jesus redefined them: Sin is rejecting Jesus; Righteousness is what God the Father has done for Jesus; Judgment is what Jesus did by his death and resurrection.

  1. The New Advocate will complete what Jesus has begun and now directs.

John 16   12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bearthemnow. 13However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His ownauthority,but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declareitto you. 15All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declareitto you.”

Application:How do you view the Holy Spirit and his work? If it does not draw you to focus on Jesus, his work and his words, you have a different Spirit.

Questions:

  • How do you see the Holy Spirit? Is he a spiritual genie or Jiminy Cricket?
  • Is he just a still small voice that guides you or is he the Advocate who points you to Jesus and his words?
  • Do you love Jesus more and obey him more because of your understanding of the Holy Spirit?
  • Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you saved?

When You Are Where You Don’t Want to Be by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN YOU ARE WHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonWhen you are where you don't want to be

Introduction: Have you ever driven past a herd of cows grazing in a field and seen that one cow sticking its head through the fence, nibbling in the pasture next to it? Why? Is there not enough grass on its side? Is the grass any greener or tastier on the other side? Not really, but, for some reason, the cow thinks that the grass must be better on the other side. That’s where we get the expression – “The Greener Grass Syndrome.” We humans do the same thing. We say things like— “I hate it here,” “I can’t wait to get outta here,” “It was so much better back home,” or “If only I could be here or there, I would be so much happier.” Today’s message is titled – “When you are where you don’t want to be.” It’s for people who feel stuck because of job, family, finance or something else and sometimes they even blame God for their predicament. Here’s a question: Have you stopped to consider that maybe where you are is actually God’s blessing in disguise?

Psalm 137     1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. 3For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requestedmirth, saying,“Sing us oneof the songs of Zion!” 4How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?

Question: Are you in a foreign land? Have you hung up your harp? Have you lost your song? Do you think that God has forgotten you? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – help us to see our exiles from your perspective. Save those in sin.

Context: The psalm we just read comes from a very low point in the history of God’s people. The year was 587BC and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had for the third time attacked Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Not only did he utterly destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, the palace, the houses, the walls, and every important building but he also took the Jewish people with him 700 miles east to Babylon. They were broken, defeated, and captives in a land they had never seen. What was their response?Listen again to Psalm 137    1“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. 2We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it.” Their song tells us that they had become hopeless, discouraged, apathetic, and had lost their desire to worship God. What do you do when you are where you don’t want to be? 3 things:

I. STOP BLAMING GOD.

Look again at the words of Psalm 137   3For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requestedmirth, saying,“Sing us oneof the songs of Zion!” The Babylonians were not mocking them but asking God’s people to share their worship songs with them. The people of Israel/Judah were known for their passionate worship songs to God. Listen to their response – 4“How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?” Don’t misunderstand. They were not being pious or standing up for the Lord’s honor. They were actually being bitter against him. They were being sarcastic here. They were being passive aggressive. They were refusing to sing praises to God because they were mad at God.

Application: There are people here who are just as resentful and bitter against God because he didn’t do something for them. They’ve lost their song. They have no desire to praise God. In fact, they are even passive aggressive when they talk about God.

The Jewish people in exile had forgotten that it was their sins and choices that had caused them to lose their land.They had broken all God’s commandments. They had fallen into idolatry and rebellion. Their kings had practiced child sacrifices. One of them had even burnt the Word of God. Instead of turning towards God, they had turned towards Egypt for help.They had forgotten how God had given them many chances to turn but just like their brothers and sisters up North, they had become stubborn.

Application:Are you blaming God for your situation? Stop blaming and start repenting.

II. START BLOOMING WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.

What was God’s answer to his people? As these people in exile were moaning and pouting, one day two men showed up from Jerusalem with a letter from Jeremiah the prophet.Listen to Jeremiah 29    4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:  5Build houses and dwell in them; Meaning:  Yes, I have sent you into exile because of your sins. You’re gonna be here for a while. Starting unpacking.

Application: There are many people under the sound of my voice who are still living out of boxes. They will not commit to the job/house/church that God has given them. They are always looking over the horizon to the better place. It may not be sin that has brought you here but start unpacking. God has brought you here.

“plant gardens and eat their fruit.6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.”Meaning:  Stop looking down upon the land and people around you. The land is not evil and the people are not beneath you. Stop being superficial with them. Get to know them.

Application:Are you constantly negative about your job, community, or church. Have you been keeping people at arm’s length? It’s time to change.

7 “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”“Peace” refers to the health of the society which comes from the spirit of God. It is not enough to get involved in your community events. It is more important to do something about the spiritual needs of your community. Pray for the people around you. Share Christ with them.

Application:Many people who are listening to this message might say “I’ve been here all my life. I’m not in exile.” It’s your attitude that shows that you are in exile. You need to stop feeling sorry for yourselves, bloom where God has planted you, reach out to the people around you, and share Christ with them.

By the way, stop listening to bad advice. Jeremiah 29   8For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

Application:Stop listening to Ahab, Zedekiah, and Shemiah. They will do you no good.

III. STAY FOCUSSED ON GOD’S PROMISE.

Listen to Jeremiah 29    10For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”

Application: Every trial has a lifespan. What Satan will do is that he will try to convince you that your trial will never end. He will try to fill you with fear and doubt and discouragement. Don’t listen to him.

Instead, listen to verse 11:“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Many people claim this as a life verse but they fail to consider the other things.

Was that it? 12“Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13And you will seek Me and find Me,when you search for Me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity.” As tough as the exile was for the people of God, it was a blessing in disguise. (Chart by J. B. Tidwell)

BEFORE EXILE AFTER EXILE
1.    The Jewish people were constantly trying to be like their neighbors 1.    The Jewish people became a separate people.
2.    They worshipped many gods. 2.    They gave up idolatry completely.
3.    They could care less about the Law. 3.    They began to study the Law.
4.    They had no interest in gathering for worship and study of the word. 4.    They established the synagogues in every town and city as a place of worship, prayer, praise, and study.
5.    Judaism was just a formal religion. 5.    Judaism became a personal religion.
6.    They could care less about winning souls. 6.    They became a missionary people to all the nations.
7.    They refused to repent of their sins. 7.    They learned the blessing of repentance.
8.    They could care less about the coming of the Messiah. 8.    God placed a longing in their heartsfor the coming of the Messiah.

 

Listen carefully: I have been through many exiles in my life. One thing I have learned – If you let God do His work in your life, your exile may be the best thing that ever happen to you. It will make you more like Christ. Do you know Christ?

Repent and Believe by Pastor Abidan Shah

REPENT AND BELIEVE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NCRepent and Believe

Introduction: Help me finish – Peanut Butter and Jelly; RC and Moon Pie; Chips and Dip; Mash potatoes and gravy; Salt and Pepper; Pork and Beans; Mac and Cheese. Let’s get out of the food family – Abbot and Costello; Tom and Jerry; Batman and Robin. We can go on forever. So also, when it comes to our salvation, it is Repent and Believe. They are two sides of the same coin.Repentance without belief will only lead to perpetual guilt and belief without repentance will only lead to perpetual carnality. If all you do is repent, you will never see the grace of God. If all you do is believe, you will never see the holiness of God. One more thing, you can’t truly repent unless you truly believe and you can’t truly believe unless you truly repent.

Mark 1    14Now 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 believe in the gospel.”

Acts 20    20how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,21testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Question: Have you repented of your sins? Have you placed your faith in Jesus and his cross and resurrection? Are you saved?

Context: This is our final message in our series on the gospel. Many of you have shared with me how much the messages in this series have impacted your life. Some of you have even passed on the messages to others. That’s amazing! All I can say is “To God be the glory. It’s his gospel anyways!” In this last message, we’re going to learn how salvation is both a result of repentance and belief. They go together. They are the final steps of following Jesus. We are going to look at each of them briefly:

 I. REPENTANCE

What is repentance?In Greek, the noun form is “metanoia,” which is found 24 times; the verbal form is “metanoeo,” which is found 34 times; then, there is “metamelomai,” which is found 6 times. There is a reason I’m giving you all these statistics. The core idea behind all these words is a “change of mind” or a “change of thinking.” For some reason, we have inserted the idea of sorrow or regret. It may have come in through the Roman Catholic translation of “penance” and “penitence” but this was not part of the original biblical understanding. Don’t misunderstand. There may be some tears involved in repentance but they are the right kind of tears. 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow produces repentanceleadingto salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” There’s a big difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow feels personal guilt against the holiness of God but worldly sorrow only feels regret and remorse. Godly sorrow leads to salvation but worldly sorrow only leads to death. Crying or feeling sorry or feeling ashamed do not guarantee salvation. The key thing is that there’s a change of thinking regarding sin, self, and Savior.Prior to repentance, you were okay with sin. Now, there is a disdain for sin. Prior to repentance, you were the center of the universe. Now, God is the rightful center of the universe. Prior to repentance, you didn’t think you needed a Savior. Now, you want a Savior who can rescue you from the power of sin and self.

How important is repentance? It is a must for being saved.Listen to what Jesus said to the self-righteous people in Luke 13   3“. . . unless you repent you will all likewise perish. . . 5I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” He repeated it twice. A salvation without repentance is no salvation at all. I repented when I got saved at the age of 4. I didn’t have any tears but there was a definite change in my thinking. I knew that I was not good in myself and I needed Jesus to come into my life.

Who does the repenting? In a sense, we (the unbelievers) do the repenting but, in another sense, repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in John 16   7Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Ultimately, repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Application: Have you repented of your sins? Has the Holy Spirit led you to a change of thinking regarding sin, self, and the Savior?

II. BELIEF

What is belief? Just like for repentance, the Greek word for belief is also very significant. It is mainly found in John’s gospel as the active verb “pisteuein,” which is found as many as 96 times. It is found in the epistles as the noun “pistis.” The meaning of both the verb form and the noun form are lot stronger than the words “belief” or “believe.” It’s like “I believe the package is coming today” or “I believe it’s going to rain today.” It has the idea of “I hope.” The Greek has the idea of “trust.” It’s like trusting in a life jacket or a safety harness. When it comes to salvation, belief or trust is having confidence in Jesus that he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life. As a 4-year-old, I believed in those facts. It involves committing my whole life to him. That is true trust.

How important is belief? It’s a must for being saved. 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 believe in His name.” Then, John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”Now listen to John 3:36“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” And,John 8:24“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I amHe,you will die in your sins.” Bottom Line: No belief, no salvation.

Who does the believing? We do. When the Holy Spirit opens our eyes of faith, we have a choice to make. Are we going to place our test in him or are we going to reject him? Some people falsely think that faith is also a gift. It is a gift to the believer but to the unbeliever, the eyes have been opened and the choice is left in our hands. We have to decide. By the way, we are constantly demonstrating faith and trust. We do it when we go through a traffic light. We do it when we use water that comes out of the tap. We do it when we go in for a surgery or even take a pill that has been prescribed. So also, we need to believe and trust in Jesus that he is our Savior and King. Ultimately, belief is your choice and commitment.

Application:Have you believed in Jesus? Have you trusted in Jesus not just with your sins but also with your life?

So, what is the gospel?

  1. Declaration:
  • Jesus brought God’s kingdom into the world.
  • He is Christ, God’s Anointed King.
  • He died on the cross for our sins, according to Scriptures.
  • He was buried but rose again on the third day, according to Scriptures and was seen by many.
  1. Demand:
  • Repent – change of thinking about sin, self, and Savior.
  • Believe – trust that Jesus is God’s Son who has paid the penalty of our sins and he can remove the guilt of sin and give eternal life.
  • Follow – as our King, we are to obey and follow him no matter the cost.Without this element, the gospel is not the true gospel. First, the decision and then, one day, the test.

Invitation: Are you ready to follow Jesus your King?

Anointed by Pastor Abidan Shah

ANOINTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Annointed

Introduction: People often ask me about my name. “What kind of name is ‘Abidan?’ Is that an Indian name or an eastern name?” Growing up in India, people asked me that question too. It’s not an Indian name. It’s actually a biblical name. It’s not the Abaddon in the book of Revelation. That’s the Angel of the Abyss. My name, Abidan, is found about 5 times in the Old Testament book of Numbers. It’s the name of one of the heads of the tribes of Benjamin. It means “My father is the judge” or “God is my judge.” It’s the reverse of Daniel. But, all through people have asked me about my name. By the way, my brother didn’t get any of those questions because my parents named him “Fred.”What’s the point of all this? Biblical names have meanings, especially the names of Jesus. In today’s message we will learn that one of the names of Jesus means king. When we say that “Jesus Christ is my Savior,” we are actually saying “Jesus the King is my Savior.”

John 20    30“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Question: Have you believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Do you have life in his name? Are you saved?

Context:  For those who’ve been away or visiting for the first time, we’re in a series on what is the true gospel. If you ask people in church, even those who have been in church for a long time, what is the gospel, they can’t tell you! It’s like having a car but no key. You can clean it as much as you want. You can argue over the color and the engine size. You can even decide who you will let ride in the car and where you will go. But, without a key, it’s useless. The gospel is the key that gets our salvation going! In fact, it’s more than that. It’s the title deed. Many people are actually sitting in stolen cars!

Last weekend we learned that the gospel should include the idea of the kingdom of God.Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” This is important because when we drop the idea of the “kingdom” from the gospel, following Jesus becomes optional, discipleship becomes a choice.In today’s message, I want us to go further in our understanding of the gospel. I want us to look at an important name given to Jesus. Listen again to the verse we just read – 31“but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”We know what Jesus means – “Yahweh or God Saves.” What does Christ mean? It’s not Jesus’ last name! It was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The Hebrew word “Messiah” meant “Anointed One,” someone who had been consecrated or set aside for a special task.When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the LXX, they used the word “christos,” which comes from the Greek word “chrio,” that carries the idea of “to anoint or smear with oil.” That’s the best they could do! So, Christ or Messiah meant someone set aside for a special task. By the time Jesus came, it was a very important title and had deep meaning for the Jewish people. It referred to God’s Promised Savior for the world. In fact, the word “Messiah” is found about 39 times in the OT and9 of the 39 cases were about that someone who was coming in the future to be God’s king.Here are a few of them:

  • I Samuel 2:35“Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priestwhoshall do according to what isin My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before Myanointed
  • Psalm 2:2“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed.”
  • Psalm 132:10 “For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.”
  • Habakkuk 3:13“You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your Anointed.”
  • Daniel 9 25“Know therefore and understand, thatfrom the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah(Anointed One)the Prince, there shall beseven weeks and sixty-two weeks. . . 26“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah(Anointed One) shall be cut off, but not for Himself. . .”

These verses and some others led to the development of the understanding that one day God’s chosen king, the Messiah or the Christ, would come to set his people free and rule over them. By the time Jesus came, the title of “Messiah” or “Christ” was very well known.Listen to how Matthew begins his gospel – Matthew 1:1“The book of the genealogy of JesusChrist, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Few verses down he says inMatthew 1:16“And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is calledChrist.” Matthew 1:18“Now the birth of JesusChristwas as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Luke tells us in his gospel that the angel told the shepherds – Luke 2   10“. . . Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Mark does the same thing in his gospel. He begins in Mark 1    1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the Prophets:“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,who will prepare Your way before You.”3“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the LORD;Make His paths straight.’”Mark is calling Jesus the Messiah and Christ and quoting Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. He is saying that Jesusfulfilled all the prophecies regarding the Messiah or the Christ.

In John’s gospel, people keep confusing John the Baptist with Jesus and he kept telling them that he was not the Christ. Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus and says in John 1:41“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).Later Jesus changes the life of the Samaritan woman at the well and she invites her whole village to come hear him. Listen to what they say to her inJohn 4:42“. . .Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

Later in Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They told him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, 16“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was very pleased with him and said, 17“. . . Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealedthisto you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” All because he acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Listen to what Jesus said in his high priestly prayer – John 17:3“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and JesusChristwhom You have sent.”

Finally, in Mark 14, at his trial, the high priest asked him,61“. . . Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Mark 14:62  Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” They condemned him for blasphemy. I don’t have time to go through the rest of the New Testament and talk about every time the early church referred to him as Christ.Here’s one from Romans 1    1“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, calledto bean apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son Jesus Christour Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4anddeclaredto bethe Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faithamong all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”

What does all this imply?It implies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Promised King of the Old Testament. Inherent in his name “Christ” is the understanding of King and Ruler. He commands our obedience and our allegiance. It takes years for some of us to get to the place of total obedience and allegiance and maybe never completely on this side. But, the desire should be there. No desire, no salvation.

Invitation:Have you received Jesus as Christ, God’s Chosen King? Are you saved? Are you obedient to your king?

Kingdom Here by Pastor Abidan Shah

KINGDOM HERE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonKingdom Here

Introduction:Since I’m preaching on the kingdom of God, I went looking for some king jokes and this is what I found. Caution: They’re really bad – When is a stick like a King? When it’s a ruler; What’s the diagnosis when a King has back problems? An aKING back; Why did the King put a bank machine in his castle? So, he could make Knightly deposits; Why did the King go to the dentist? To get his teeth crowned; What does the King do after he burps? He issues a royal pardon. Those are really bad! This morning we will see how the gospel that saves us is the gospel of King Jesus and that is not a laughing matter. In fact, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. It’s a false gospel. We’re in our new series on the true gospel and what it means. As we read our scripture today, pay careful attention to a certain phrase that’s being repeated.

Matthew 4:23“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 9:35“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom…”

Matthew 24:14“And thisgospel of the kingdomwill be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Mark 1   14“…Jesus came to Galilee, preachingthe gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, andthe kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Question: Did you catch the common phrase? “Gospel of the Kingdom.” For some reason we have dropped “of the kingdom” and retained only the “gospel.” As I mentioned earlier, a gospel without a king is no gospel at all. Jesus is not just your Savior, he should also be your king. Is he your king? Does he call the shots in your life? Are you saved?

Context: A few weeks back, when we were in our series on discipleship, I preached a message on the importance of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus. I shared with you that more than a hundred times he mentioned it during his ministry. Unfortunately, we have ignored this kingdom aspect in the gospel message. Now we have a gospel which is more like an insurance policy rather than a deed of surrender. It is more like a nonbinding contract rather than an unconditional submission to the king.Don’t misunderstand: The gospel does bring great joy and freedom but it’s through obedience to the king that we have this joy and freedom. Unless we get this “kingdom” idea back into the gospel, discipleship will never happen. It will always be optional to obey God and follow him. So, 3 things that we need to understand about this kingdom gospel:

I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A SPIRITUAL AND INTERNAL CHANGE.

Background:  As I’ve mentioned before, the Jewish people were very familiar with the concept of the kingdom of God/heaven. It was God’s sovereign rule over the whole world. They saw it as indirect and limited at the present time but they believed that one day in the future it would be direct and eternal. It will put an end to all wickedness and bring glory, justice, and righteousness to his people Israel. But, when Jesus began his ministry, he preached – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) This was very confusing and frustrating for them because their world was still being run by the Romans and the tax collectors were still collecting taxes and the prostitutes were still prostituting and there was no physical evidence of the rule of God. If that wasn’t confusing enough, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when this kingdom would come, he replied in 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.” Some translations have it as “the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In other words, it’s aready here. What did he mean by that? Several things:  One, he was referring to himself. The kingdom is where the king is and he the king is here. Second, he was telling them that this kingdom is not external but internal. They couldn’t see it but it was here. To explain this, Jesus often used parables – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field…The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal…the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls…” (Matthew 13). His purpose in using parables was to conceal the meaning from those who opposed him and to reveal the meaning to those who believed in him. Bottom Line: The kingdom of God/heaven is very real but it is internal and spiritual and visible only to those who believe in Jesus the King and submit to him.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It is not external and visible but internal and invisible which then manifests in the external and visible. Has there been an internal and invisible change in your life that now manifests itself in the external and visible?

II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS SUBMISSION TO KING JESUS.

Background:Unlike our gospels today, Jesus’s gospel demanded submission to him and his words as the requirement to enter into his kingdom:

  • Matthew 21:31“Assuredly, I say to you (chief priests and elders) that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Trusting in self-righteousness will not work.
  • Mark 9:47“if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Reluctance to let go of sin will not work.
  • Mark 10:25“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Trusting in earthly treasures will not work.
  • Matthew 7:21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Giving lip service will not work.
  • Luke 9:62But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Hesitation to follow Jesus the King will not work.
  • Luke 18:17“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Stubbornness to obey Jesus the King will not work.
  • 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.” Unwillingness to let God remake us will not work.

Don’t misunderstand:This does not mean that you have to be spotless before you can come to Jesus. If that were possible, you wouldn’t have to come to Jesus. What it does mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the king demands of you when you come to him. It may take years for you to be free from certain sins and struggles but the willingness is there from day one. By the way, it’s the Holy Spirit who helps you to become willing.

Application:The gospel has not changed. It is the same gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. It demands total and complete surrender. Have you done that? You might say – “that’s so hard!” Here’s a question: “Are you willing to be made willing to surrender?”

III. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A LIFE-LONG JOURNEY OF RESTORATION.

Background:Sometimes Christians find it confusing that Jesus talked so much about the kingdom in the gospels but the apostles writing the rest of the New Testament do not talk about the kingdom. Actually, they did but they used other terms and language.

Romans 6:4 “Therefore 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.”

2 Corinthians 5:17“Therefore, if anyoneisin Christ, he isa new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Galatians 6:15“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”

2 Peter 3:13“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a newearthin which righteousness dwells.”

Revelation 21    1“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…5Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Here’s the point: The Kingdom Gospel is a life-long journey of being set free from the bondage and damage of sin and restored to the glorious and gracious rule of God. The more you and I understand that, the more we submit to him, the more we become disciples, not less.

Are you willing to surrender to King Jesus? Are you willing to re-surrender to King Jesus?

First, Believe: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

FIRST, BELIEVE (INTRODUCTION) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

First Believe IntroductionIntroduction: As you know, there is a big craze going on over comic book superheroes. Every year a new movie is coming out. We went to see one last week. What’s interesting is that many of them are prequels. A sequel is a movie that continues the main story. A prequel is a movie that goes back before the main story. That’s why kids say, “You’ve got to watch this movie first and then you’ll understand this movie.” This morning we’re starting a new series called “First, Believe.” It is a prequel to our series on discipleship. Here’s the theme of this series:  Before you can be a disciple, you have to get saved. You cannot be a disciple without getting saved. Getting saved begins your walk of discipleship. You cannot be saved if you don’t want to be a disciple. Discipleship doesn’t save you. It’s simply the evidence that you are truly saved. True gospel will initiate discipleship. The burden of proof is more on the church than on the individual.

Galatians 1    6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

Question: “True Gospel will initiate discipleship.” Is their discipleship in your life? What gospel have you believed? Do you know the true gospel? Are you saved? If “the burden of proof is more on the church than the individual,” how is the church doing?

Context:  I’ve mentioned this many time before but this is my twentieth year as pastor. I’ve also mentioned this many time before but this is my first and only church. The negative is that you are stuck with me and I’m stuck with you! The positive is that it has allowed me to get a panoramic view of the life of many Christians, their beginning, their middle, and, in some cases, their end. It has allowed me to do a lot of reflection on why some people grow as disciples and some don’t. It has taken years of study, prayer, and tears to come to the series that we’re starting today. I’ve already given you the theme of the series in the introduction but here’s the theme of today’s message: “FALSE GOSPEL WILL ONLY PRODUCE FALSE DISCIPLES WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES.”We began by reading Paul’s opening remarks to the Galatians. It’s obvious that he is upset with them:

  • He begins by reprimanding them for forsaking the true gospel.6“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
  • He acknowledges the hand of the false teachers.7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
  • He pronounces a curse on the infiltrators.8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
  • He identifies Jesus Christ as the source of the true gospel. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taughtit,butit camethrough the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What’s the point of all this?  Very early on in the life of the church, people were becoming confused about the meaning of the gospel. To add to that, there were people going around corrupting the meaning of the gospel. This is a serious offense because the gospel saves us. False gospel is false assurance that we are saved.

Question: Can you define the gospel? This is very critical, even more so than having the right key to the safe. Eternity is too long to be wrong.

Before I tell you the true gospel, let me list for you 5 gospels that have been floating around for a long time with dire consequences (I am getting my information from Bill Hull who has written prodigiously on the subject of discipleship):

  1. The Forgiveness Only Gospel – It is the most popular gospel. It simply tells you how to get your sins forgiven and get your ticket into heaven. It is partly true and partly false. It is true because it includes the affirmation of certain critical facts about God, Jesus, Sin, Forgiveness, and Eternal Life. It is false because it fails to include certain critical facts about repentance, invitation to follow Jesus, and obedience to his word. It is easy to identify the “Forgiveness Only Gospel” people. Their Christian life revolves around sin management. I like to call them the “Carwash Christians.” Monday through Saturday, do whatever you want to but then Sunday you come and get washed up.
  2. The Liberal Left Gospel – The old left gospel of the early twentieth century tried to make Christianity relevant to the scientific age. It focused on dismissing the Genesis account of creation, rejecting the miracles in the Bible, and redefining the necessity and meaning of the atonement of Christ. Instead, it focused attention on transforming society through social justice. That’s why the leaders of such gospel churches would always show up in their long robes and their tippets and their cinctures anywhere they could make a statement about injustice. I wish more people who actually believed the gospel would have done this as well. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before these liberal left gospel churches had nothing but empty pews. These churches are still around. They come up with clever interpretations of the Bible that have nothing to do with the gospel. They love to hide in nice liturgical churches where the leaders don’t believe anything but they let the people do the rituals to soothe their souls.
  3. The Prosperity Gospel – Unfortunately, this is the fastest growing false gospel. It promises health and wealth to any who had the faith to believe. They teach that the miracles that happened in the Bible are still available today if you only had the faith. This is very misleading because I believe that God still heals in answer to prayers and that if we do things God’s way that there are blessings that follow. But, this gospel tends to manipulate God and what he has said in his word. Some of the leaders of this movement are usually looking to buy another plane while many of their listeners in third world country are still living in slums. They do a lot of damage to many of us who are trying to preach the truth.
  4. The Consumer Gospel – This gospel is quite popular in evangelical churches. It is focused on meeting your needs in fast and efficient and professional ways. I’m all for that but without the gospel, it’s no different than paying extra and flying first class instead of economy. Messages are designed to meet your immediate needs (nothing wrong with that) but not too much emphasis on sins and repentance. It’s a guilt free gospel that is designed to help you have a great day. People who have been to such churches have high expectations. They may believe the right overall doctrines but don’t try them too much. If their needs are not met, they will leave.
  5. The Religious Right Gospel – This is the opposite of the liberal left gospel. It has right beliefs. It stands on the right side of moral issues. It separates itself from the sinful corrupt world. Personally, I would agree with all of their convictions. Having said that, they are just as mean and hypocritical as the world they are in opposition to. What makes it worse is that they know enough Bible to justify their sinful behaviors. They are the “do as I say but not as I do” Christians.If I may add, such churches are full of legalism. As Bill Hull says, “there are a lot of dead people at the First Church of the Right because grace there is scarce, and life comes from grace.”

Question:  Which gospel do you belong to? The Forgiveness Only Gospel, The Liberal Left Gospel, The Prosperity Gospel, The Consumer Gospel, or The Religious Right Gospel.

What is the true gospel? I will unpack this in the weeks ahead:

First the Revelation – 1 Corinthians 15    1“Moreover, 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, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

One response here – Repentance for our sins.

Now the Response – Romans 10    9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Two responses here – Believe in Him and Follow our Master.

Altogether, 3 responses – Repent, Believe, and Follow. The Holy Spirit helps you with all three of them. Have you done this? Are you doing this?

 

Discipleship: Intercession by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – INTERCESSION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Intercession

Introduction: Have you ever had to get someone to intercede for you? That word “intercede” is a Latin word that’s a combination of “inter” = “between” and “cede” = “go.” Intercede means “to go between for someone.” I had to get someone to intercede for me back in 1994. I was a junior in college down in Georgia working security. It was the start of the new semester and the guy working with me came back from making his rounds and said, “Man, there’s a new girl on campus and she’s real pretty! I’m going to marry her.” Later I went for my rounds and saw this new girl and I could see why he wanted to marry her. She was pretty. She was walking down the steps from the gym. I remember that like yesterday. That girl doesn’t remember that. Few months later we met and we talked here and there. I wanted to ask her out but I didn’t know how to go about doing that. So, I asked my friend Dan to help me out. He could have said no or asked her out himself but he didn’t. He interceded for me. Long story short, we were married a year later. What does this have to do with discipleship? We can pray to God anytime for our needs and desires. But God also loves to hear from our friends as to what we need and desire. That’s intercession. In fact, intercession is a very vital part of discipleship. That’s our message today.

Philippians 1    9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,11being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Question:What do all those passages have in common? They are passages on Intercessory Prayers, where we pray not for ourselves but for others. Who intercedes on your behalf? Who are you interceding on behalf of? Do you understand the importance of Intercessory Prayers? Are you saved?

Pray: Holy Spirit – Teach us to pray. Teach us to pray for others. Help those who have never prayed the sinner’s prayer to call on the name of Jesus and be saved today.

Context:For a long time, I had been praying that God would show me how to lead the people at Clearview to become more than just hearers of the Word and to become grounded in the truth, grow spiritually in Christ, walk with integrity in public and private life, and become fruitful in winning others to Christ. The answer came through years of studying the Bible, talking to experts in the field, observing what successful churches were doing, and a lot of trial and error. This series on discipleship has been that answer and it’s been exciting to see how well it’s been going. In this final message in this series, I want us to look at a very important ingredient of discipleship – Intercessory Prayer, praying for the needs and desires of others.

If there is one person in the New Testament who took discipleship seriously, it was Paul. He prayed for those he partnered with in the gospel. I want us to look at his prayer for the Philippians in Philippians 1starting in verse9.Before we do that, let me ask you – How is your prayer life? Do you pray daily? Before we can intercede for others, we need to “cede” our own selves to God. The word “Cede” also means “to yield” or “formally surrender” ourselves. Prayer is the act of yielding and surrendering ourselves before God.It is humbling ourselves before God and acknowledging that we need him every day and without him we’re nothing. It is telling God that only he can give us what we need and then thanking him for what he has done for us. Do you pray daily? persistently? Do you pray believingly?

7 things to keep in mind when interceding for others:

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…”

  1. Love– What is very interesting here is that there is no object given for the love. Paul does not say “your love for God may abound” or “your love for each other may abound.” He is talking about comprehensive love in every area of life. He is praying that their whole life would be marked by love – for God, for Jesus, for each other, for the truth, for those in the ministry, and for those who are lost. But, Paul has much more than a hint of love in mind here. He wants them to be overflowing with love.

What we understand from this is that love is not some human effort. It is something that God has to pour supernaturally into our hearts.He has to make it abound and overflow. Love is the mark of a disciple. Listen to what Jesus said in John 13    34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Paul declares in1 Corinthians 13:13“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of theseislove.”

Would you agree that what you and I need more than anything in this world is love?I Peter 4:8“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for“love will cover a multitude of sins.” That’s why we need to pray that each of us will overflow with love. Like a torrential rainfall washing away all the leaves, pine straw, and dirt from the pavement into the drain. More love, More coverage of sins.

But this is not some sentimental emotional high – 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge. . .”

  1. Knowledge –The Greek word is not “gnosis” but “epignosis.” When the word is used with “epi,” the idea is one of knowledge of God, knowledge of Christ, knowledge of the Word, knowledge of sin, knowledge of the work of the Spirit, and knowledge of being conformed to the image of Christ. In other words, this knowledge is not information but conformation to the likeness of Christ. It is understanding the work of God in our lives.

Would you agree that what you and I need is this understanding of how God is working in our lives? Without this understanding it is so easy to get discouraged and start doubting.

 9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment…”

  1. Discernment –This is a word found in the LXX translation of the Proverbs. It implies practical living and making judgment calls in difficult situations. Yes, we are to love and be aware of who we are in Christ but there’s no “sloppy agape” here. Again, there is no clear object here so it can refer to both doctrinal discernment and daily discernment. Recognize that someone is not teaching the truth and recognize that someone is about to pull wool over your eyes. Jesus said in Matthew 10:16“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Being a Christian means being gracious and forgiving but not gullible and foolish.More than anything, it is recognizing when someone is pulling away from God.

9“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent…”

  1. Choose what matters – The Greek word “dokimazein” is used in other contexts for the testing of the quality of precious metals or money. It means choosing the best. Romans 12:2“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove whatisthat good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Daily we need to pray that our kids will not settle for the good enough or the mediocre things of life but the better and the best that God has for them.

“…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…”

  1. Pure and Blameless– Life is full of snares and temptations. Stay away from sin and finish well is the prayer. So sad to see people mess up in the final minutes of the game of life. They get comfortable and arrogant and that’s when they get struck down. Luke 2231“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may siftyouas wheat. 32But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail. . .” But the word for “offense” is not restricted to personal failing but it also implies the failing of others. Here’s the question: “Is what I’m doing going to make someone else stumble?”

11“being filled with the fruits of righteousness whichareby Jesus Christ…”

  1. Fruit of Righteousness– Paul is not talking about self-effort here. He is talking about the promise that Jesus made to his disciples in John 15:5“I am the vine, youarethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”When we abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit produces the righteous conduct in us that no amount of self-effort can ever produce. Paul gives us the list of them in Galatians 5 22“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control.”

“…to the glory and praise of God.”

  1. Glory and Praise of God –Ultimately, God should get the glory and praise from our lives.

These are the 7 elements of intercessory prayers. This is how you pray for others. This is how you pray in the Inner Circles. Warren Wiersbe said, “Perhaps the deepest Christian fellowship and joy we can experience in this life is at the Throne of Grace, praying with and for one another.”

Are you willing to be an Intercessor for others? James 5:16“Confessyourtrespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Are you praying? Have you prayed the sinner’s prayer? Are you saved?

Discipleship: Restoration by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – RESTORATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Restoration

Introduction: Have you ever observed how ants help other ants? Once a worker ant finds food, it makes its way back home leaving behind a pheromone trail (chemical scent) that helps the other ants find their way to the food. In some varieties of ants, if a warrior ant gets injured in battle against an enemy, like the termites, the other ants will carry him back home. Now compare this with crabs. Throw a bunch of crabs in a bucket and you don’t need a lid to keep them in. If one tries to climb out, the others will pull him back in. Ants pull each other up. Crabs pull each other down. What does this have to do with our series on discipleship? In the Christian life, we don’t need people who will pull us down. We need people who will pull us up. We need others to encourage, guide, and pray for us when we lose our way. It’s called accountability. Unfortunately, most Christians act more like crabs than ants. Today’s sermon titled “Restoration” is going to help us understand true accountability.

Galatians 6    1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you whoarespiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For each one shall bear his own load.”

Question: Who is holding you accountable? Who do you have in your life who is spiritually mature enough to restore you in a spirit of gentleness? Are you pulling others up or down? Have you ever asked Christ to pull you out of sin? Are you saved?

Context:  As I’ve said before, it’s been awesome for me to see the response to this series on discipleship. Some have already started their Inner Circles and some are getting ready to start. Typically, most people have no problem with most of what I have been explaining.

  • for Witness – yes, it’s important to have a testimony and share your faith.
  • for Togetherness – yes, it’s important to go to church and hear the Word and join in Sunday School and small groups.
  • for Established in the Word – yes, it’s important to get in the Bible.
  • for Reproducing Disciples – yes, it’s important to “Go and make disciples.”

The one that people struggle with is A for Accountability – no, I don’t want to share my business with anyone. Most are okay with coming to church and being part of the congregation. Some are even okay with going to Sunday School and Small Groups (Circles at Clearview) and getting into community. But, Inner Circles tend to intimidate some people. Actually, I’m surprised how well the concept of inner circles has been received by most people. But, if you are one of those who are intimidated by that concept, I’m going to try to clear up some misunderstandings about it in this message. Having said that, please don’t talk down about it. Pray for those who want to do it. What may look to you like an ugly, uncomfortable vest may be a lifejacket for someone else. You may not be drowning but they are. Please don’t talk them out of putting on the life-preserver.

I’ve already preached a message on how Jesus valued accountability, how he sent them out in pairs (two by two) and how the early church followed the same pattern. In the brief time we have today, I don’t want to convince you again of the importance of accountability. I simply want to clear up some misunderstandings by explaining how accountability works in the Inner Circle. Basically three:

1. Don’t confuse Sunday School and Small Groups with Inner Circles. They’re wonderful and very essential for developing T for Togetherness. You get to know each other, share in each other’s joys and sorrows, and learn the Bible. But, the real test is “are they making disciples?” The answers is “No.” Disciples who make disciples is the goal.

2. Don’t confuse One-on-one mentoring with Inner Circles. Jesus met with people one on one. He met with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman by themselves. He even had a deep conversation with Peter after he rose from the grave. These were times of great spiritual benefit to these individuals. Some like the Samaritan woman even got saved through it and maybe Nicodemus too. I’ve met many times with people one on one and it’s great. But, there are some limitations to one on one meetings. In other words, there are some important benefits to meeting in a group. Listen again to Ecclesiastes 4 9Twoarebetter than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. . . 12Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” In other words, if two is good, three is even better.” Why is an Inner Circle better?  8 Reasons (I’m getting these from Robby Gallaty):

i. Avoid the ping pong match. How are you? Good. Did you have a good week? Yep. .

ii. One on one is difficult to reproduce. The mentee never feels equal to the mentor.

iii. A group of two tends to become a counselling session. Instead of a time of spiritual growth, it becomes a problem solving, therapy session.

iv. A group of three to five has built-in accountability. If one fails to do the assignment, the others are good motivators to challenge and encourage.

v. A multiplication strategy is exponentially faster than an addition strategy. Keith Philipps in his 1981 book “The Making of a Disciple” presented a chart comparing discipleship with evangelism. If one person were to reach one person every day for the next 16 years (he actually calculated for 32 years), that would be 5,840 people. Now if a person would disciple one person a year for the next 16 years, that would be 65,536 people. Then, Greg Ogden in his 2016 book “Transforming Discipleship” expounded it even further. If we went by the Inner Circle Model, in 16 years, that would be 43,046,721 people. I know that all these figures are ideal world assumptions. But, unless we go this way, there’s no way that we will win our community and our world for Christ.

vi. A one-on-one group can be intimidating. It is very hard for people to talk about their personal lives and struggle one on one, especially men.

vii. You grow as a group. Christian life is not an individual sport. It is a team sport. The boys and I have been watching the World Cup Soccer tournament. It’s amazing to see the reaction when a player makes a goal. The whole team comes running and jumps on him! So also, in discipleship, we grow as a team.

viii. Jesus discipled in groups. I’ve repeated this time and time again with how Jesus worked with the disciples and the Inner Circle with Peter, James, and John.

3. Don’t confuse biblical correction with control and condemnation. A major reason that many people are reluctant to join an accountability group or the Inner Circle is because they think that now they have to give an account of everything they do to someone. They assume that they are inadvertently turning over their freedom to someone else. This is just not true. Here’s a great illustration:Most of us have a lead foot. We like to drive a little above the speed limit. What happens when you see a police, sheriff, or state trooper car? We slow down and check our speedometer. Why do we do that? Is it because we don’t want to cause a wreck or break the law. I doubt it. We don’t want to get stopped, get a ticket, have to go to court, and have our insurance go up. The police car forces us to stay within the law. What if we didn’t have any police cars. Would we still do what is right? Maybe some of us but most won’t. Accountability is like that police car. It forces us to stay away from sin. Galatians 6 1“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” The goal is not control or condemnation but biblical correction or restoration.It is not pushing your personal convictions on others. Robby Gallaty said – “Accountability must be couched in grace. Avoid narcissistic, self-improvement regimens that turn grace into law.” Listen to verse2“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”

Illustration: John Bradford was a pastor, a reformer, and later became a martyr. Tradition has it that when he would see convicts being taken to be executed that he would say under his breath “there but for the grace of God go I.” In other words, “the only difference between that convict and myself is the grace of God.” If all of us can believe that we are only 1 or 2 steps away from that man or that woman behind bars, what a difference it would make in how we treat people. Paul said in I Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am. . .”

Invitation: Do you pull people up or down? Have you been pulled up by the grace of God in Jesus Christ?

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