Proclaim: Part Two by Dr. Abidan Shah

PROCLAIM 2 by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

PROCLAIM 2

Introduction:  Have you ever felt isolated? I’m not talking about just lonely but stranded alone. I’m reminded of the movie “Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks who plays a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island when his plane crashed in the South Pacific. At first, he had a rough time finding food, water, shelter, and even building a fire; but, in time, he learned to survive. His only friend was a Wilson Volleyball that was in one of the packages. He drew a face on it and called him Mr. Wilson. It became his only companion. He would talk to it and even get angry with it. He took it along on the makeshift raft when we tried to sail back. The most intense scene in the movie was when he lost the ball, his only friend, in a storm. At that point, he lost all hope. As traumatic as that scene was, it cannot compare to how Adam and Eve must have felt after sin came in and God was no longer with them as before. Can you imagine the isolation and desolation? Main point: We were created to walk in fellowship with God. Unfortunately, sin has separated us from him, leaving us stranded alone. Jesus came to reconcile us to God through his sacrifice on the cross. He is Immanuel, God with us.

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Matthew 1      22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Context: Last weekend, we learned that we need to go beyond the big gifts under the tree and look through the stockings. Here we find such wonderful truths like “Jesus came not only to rescue us from the penalty of sin, but also to save us from the repercussions of sin.” Today, I want us to see something else in the stockings – “Jesus came to reconcile us to God so that we are back in fellowship with him and no longer alone.” To understand this, we need to go back to the Garden of Eden. Prior to the fateful day when they ate the forbidden fruit, God would come and walk with them in the “leruach hayyom,” lit. “at the wind/breeze of the day.” It referred to some point after mid-afternoon when the sun’s heat had gone down and there was possibly a nice breeze blowing. This was not a one-time deal because the verb “mithallek” means a pattern or habit of walking. In other words, this was their custom everyday – God came down and Adam and Eve walked with him every evening. This all came to an abrupt halt when they disobeyed God and were kicked out of the Garden. Can you imagine the day after?

  • Can you imagine around mid-afternoon when the same familiar breeze was blowing, but they could no longer hear the footsteps?
  • Can you imagine Adam hoping against hope that maybe God will come down and walk with them again?
  • Can you imagine Eve thinking “maybe God is busy today, but surely he’ll come tomorrow,” but tomorrow comes and still no God?
  • Can you imagine the loneliness, the emptiness, and the hopelessness they must have felt?

Principle: Sin separates us from God. There is a God sized vacuum in our hearts. We can try to fill it with friends, family, hobby, goals, but it will never work. Without God, we will remain lonely, empty, and hopeless.

Application: Is that you? Are you lonely, empty, and hopeless?

But, in the midst of the judgment, God had promised them the cure in Genesis 3:15“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” In other words, God’s presence will return when the “the seed of the woman” crushes the head of the serpent. If you remember, in a previous message in this series, Eve thought that her son Cain was the one, but he was not. Again, she thought Seth would be the one, but he was not either. Little did she or Adam realize that this promise was still far away in the future. Days became months, months became years, years became centuries, and centuries became ages. Human beings long forgot what it was like to walk with God and have his presence in their lives. Time to time there was an Enoch – Genesis 5:24 “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him”; a Noah – Genesis 6:9 “…Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God”; an Abraham who walked before God; and a Moses – Exodus 33:11“So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…” There were also times when God’s visible presence came before his people, as on Mount Sinai in the thunders, lightning, and thick cloud; then, through those forty years in the wilderness as the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Still in was not quite like the Garden of Eden.

Nonetheless, there were echoes of the promise in Genesis 3:15—

  • Genesis 16:11 And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael…”
  • Genesis 17:19 Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac…”
  • Judges 13:5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb…” His name was Samson.
  • 1 Samuel 1:20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel…”
  • 2 Samuel 12:24“…So she (Bathsheba) bore a son, and he called his name Solomon…”

Then, the echo became very clear in Isaiah. It was in a prophecy given by the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom during the Syro-Ephraimite War (735-732 BC). The southern kingdom was facing an attack from all sides: from the South from Edom; from the West from Philistia; from the North and the Northeast from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom, also known as Israel) and Syria. They were all alone. Keep in mind, it was already determined and prophesied that the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah, through the line of King David. God was going to protect his promise. So, God sent Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him and give him a sign, but Ahaz had other ideas. He had already sent off his ambassadors to King Pul (Tiglath-Pileser) of Assyria, the kingdom north of Syria to get help. Instead of asking for a sign as God had instructed, Ahaz acted condescendingly towards Isaiah. Listen to Isaiah 7:13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” This is very important how Isaiah addresses Ahaz. He calls him “O house of David.” Meaning: God will still protect his promise, even though they will perish because of their lack of faith. How will God protect his promise? Isaiah 7:14“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Maybe King Ahaz’s wife or one of his harems was pregnant. This was a sign that the kings to the north will not be successful and that the line of David will continue through Ahaz’s son. I believe that it was probably his son who became King Hezekiah. Destruction did come. Listen to Isaiah 8       7 Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them the waters of the River, strong and mighty—The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. 8 He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel. 9 “Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! Give ear, all you from far countries. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces; Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand, For God is with us.” In other words, there was an immediate fulfillment, but a much greater fulfillment was still in the future. This was a virgin until conception, but one day in the future another young woman would bear a son who would be the Ultimate Son of David. The second would be a virgin even in conception. The echoes of the promise of Genesis 3:15 were still heard, but they were much much fewer now:

Hosea 1      8 “Now…she (Hosea’s wife) conceived and bore a son. 9 Then God said: ‘Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God.’”

Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

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

Jesus’ life and preaching was to do once again what he did with Adam and Eve in the Garden before they sinned. Have you wondered why he ministered for the three and a half years?

  • He walked with them and taught them.
  • He showed them how to live by faith.
  • He taught them how to obey
  • He was with them in their needs.
  • He was with them when they were hungry.
  • He was with them in the storms.
  • He even prepared them for the life with him when he would be physically gone – John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
  • He even promised them of the Holy Spirit whom he would send – John 16 5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 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.”
  • As he was ascending, he said to them in Matthew 28 18 “…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

I can go on and on, but Romans 8      35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In my own life, God has proven this time and again. He has never left me.

Invitation: Is God with you? Are you with him? Have you received Immanuel as your Savior and King?

Uncomfortable Obedience by Dr. Abidan Shah (2021)

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2021)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the past 3 Christmas Eves, we have been talking about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable? In 2018, we focused on how Joseph had to practice uncomfortable obedience in taking Mary to be his wife even though she was with a child that wasn’t his own. In 2019, we focused on how Mary had to practice uncomfortable obedience in being willing to carry a baby that had a supernatural origin. In 2020, we focused on how the magi had to practice uncomfortable obedience in following the star in the east and seeking the king of the Jews. Tonight, for the next few moments, we will focus on how the shepherds had to practice uncomfortable obedience in receiving the message from the angels and going into the town of Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.

Luke 2      8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Context: Typically, the reason given for the shepherds to be included in the Christmas narrative is either “They represented untrustworthy sinners that Jesus came to save” or “They represented poor common folk that Jesus came to lift up.” (See Sarah Harris’s dissertation) When we study ancient history carefully, we find that neither are totally true. In fact, the shepherd imagery was commonly used as a designation for gods and kings among the Sumerians and Mesopotamians. Even the Egyptians depicted their Pharaohs with a flail and a shepherd’s crook. So also, the Greeks.

When we come to the Bible, the Old Testament, God is repeatedly described as a shepherd to his people Israel:

  • In Genesis 49:24, listen to how Jacob blesses Joseph – “. . . the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel).”
  • In Exodus 15:13, Moses describes God as a shepherd setting his people free from Egypt – “You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.”
  • In Isaiah 40:11, listen to Isaiah’s prophecy about God’s future care of his people – “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carrythem in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
  • In Jeremiah 13:17, listen to Jeremiah’s sorrow over the sins of his people – . . . My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, Because the LORD’S flock has been taken captive.”
  • In Micah 7:14, listen to Micah’s prayer to God – “Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your heritage, who dwell solitarily in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel; Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in days of old.”
  • Then the psalms are full of the shepherd imageries – Psalm 78:52 “But He made His own people go forth like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock.” Psalm 80:1 “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock. . .”

By the way, God’s greatest leaders have also been shepherds: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. Of course, who can forget Psalm 23     1 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

The point is that contrary to what we have assumed, shepherds were not always looked upon as the worst and the lowest of society. Instead, many times, God was depicted as a shepherd who guided, provided, and protected his people.

In fact, 800 years before the coming of Jesus, the prophet Micah gave a word of comfort to the Southern Kingdom of Judah as they were facing enemies from all sides.Listen to Micah’s prophecy to wait for their Shepherd King who would come to rescue them – Micah 5     2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the One to be Ruler in Israel, (Meaning: A King is coming from the City of the great king David. He is the rightful King.) whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (A better translation is “whose origins are from of old.” In other words, “although he will be born yet he has no beginning.” He is no ordinary King.) 4 And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the LORD, (Meaning: He will be a Shepherd King to his people unlike the unfaithful King Ahaz of Judah. He will be like his earthly ancestor David, who was the good shepherd king. Wait on Him!) In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 And this One shall be peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land. . .” I know what you are thinking. Why would God send someone 800 years later to save them from a problem they are facing right now? The time to put a band aid on their wound was over, it was time to schedule a major surgery.

Why were the local shepherds invited? Listen again to verse 8 “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Some people have claimed that they were temple shepherds. That may be but we don’t have any solid evidence for it. I believe that they were symbolic of the faithful, brave, and good shepherds who were simply under shepherds waiting on the Chief Shepherd to come and take over his flock. Luke tell us that they came with haste and found the baby Jesus. What was their response? 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. . . 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

Here’s the point:

  1. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of the angels.
  2. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of going into the town at night.
  3. The shepherds had to overcome their fear of the people and share the story with others.

So also, when it comes to following Christ, it’s not easy. There will be uncomfortable obedience. Even coming here this evening may not have been easy for some of you. You were willing to obey God than to fear human beings or anything else.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and personal fears.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

A Wonderful Life (Article)

A WONDERFUL LIFE by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on December 18, 2021)

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Clarence to George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In our home, it is not Christmas until we have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” at least twice on TV! I’m always touched by the character of George Bailey who sacrifices his dreams for others. However, the actor Jimmy Stewart who played the role was just as inspiring, if not more. Here are 5 little known “wonderful” facts about him:

  1. Jimmy Stewart grew up in the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania. His father owned the Hardware store in town, passed down by his father. Jimmy once remarked, “My earliest memories are of hardware smells. The dry aroma of coiled rope. The sweet smell of linseed oil and baseball gloves. The acid tang of open nail kegs. When I open my nose, they all come back to me.” His small-town beginnings made him so likable by millions.
  2. Jimmy Stewart looked up to his dad. There were many instances when his father impacted him greatly, but one of the most influential was when a neighbor’s dog killed his dog, little Jimmy was almost ill with anger. He wanted to kill that dog. One night, his father took him behind their store and there was the dog tied in the alley. His dad gave him a rifle and “then stepped back for me to do my bloody work.” Jimmy saw the dog wagging his tail with his large brown eyes and “Suddenly the gun was too heavy for me to hold, and it dropped to the ground. The dog came up and licked my hand.” All three of them walked home without a word. “None was needed.” Jimmy always acknowledged the impact his dad made in his life.
  3. Jimmy Stewart chose to fight for his country. By the 1930s, World War 2 was brewing, and Jimmy was a Princeton graduate and a well-known actor. He could have easily gotten out of serving in the armed forces. He loved flying and transferred into the Air Corps, but they wouldn’t send him in harm’s way, because it would be a serious blow to morale to lose him in battle. He begged them and they reluctantly succumbed. He was so good that he became a squadron leader and led many bombing missions over Germany and France. During his years of service, he made many narrow misses and as a result, suffered from PTSD for years to come. He received many medals and retired at the rank of Brigadier General.
  4. Jimmy was dedicated to his wife Gloria. Other Hollywood stars at the time were going through their fourth and fifth marriages, but Jimmy Stewart was faithfully married to his wife for 45 years. Gloria had this to say about him: “Jimmy was working with some of the most glamorous women in the world. My constant fear I suppose was that he would find them more attractive than me and have an affair with one of them… I can honestly say that in all the years of our marriage Jimmy never once gave me cause for anxiety or jealousy. The more glamorous the leading lady he was starring opposite, the more attentive he’d be to me.”
  5. Jimmy had a spiritual side. His father was a strong Presbyterian. Although, he didn’t approve Jimmy’s going into show business, he was proud of him. When he came to visit him in Hollywood, he inquired, “Where do you go to church around here?” Jimmy stammered, “Well, I haven’t been going—there’s none around here.” His dad left for a little while and returned with four men – “You must not have looked very hard, Jim, because there’s a Presbyterian church just three blocks from here, and these are the elders. They’re building a new building now, and I told them you were a movie star and you would help them.”

In the movie, there is a scene where George is at the lowest point in his life and he prays, “God… God…dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God…” He later recollected that as he said those words, he felt the loneliness and the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and he broke down sobbing knowing that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless. Frank Capra, the director, knew that this was not an act, and there couldn’t be a second take. He captured it without coming near and spent extra time and money to enhance the frame for a closeup.

In a way, Jimmy Stewart was not playing the role of George Bailey; he was playing himself! This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the movie! Nothing could be more appropriate for where we are in this world. We need more Jimmy Stewarts. What a wonderful life!

First Gospel: The Cure by Dr. Abidan Shah

FIRST GOSPEL – THE CURE by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Duke and UNC, Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon, Steffi Graf and Gabriella Sabatini, Lebron James and Kevin Durant. What do all of these have in common? They are old rivals in their sport. They hate losing to each other. They talk junk about each other. Sometimes, many of these bitter rivals are actually best friends in private life. It is a publicity stunt. In today’s final message in our series called “First Gospel,” we are going to meet the oldest rivals in the history of the world. There is no publicity stunt here. This is as real as it gets. I am referring to Jesus and Satan. Main point: The ultimate rivalry is between Jesus and Satan. Unlike earthly rivalries, Satan is no match for Jesus. While Satan is just a fallen created being, Jesus is God’s Son, the King of kings, and he has already won the victory.

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

Context: In the past two messages, we learned that Adam and Eve had a choice. Either they could trust and obey God, or they could fall for the Enemy’s lies. Obviously, they chose what was wrong. Consequently, there were damages. There was a damage in the relationship between Adam and Eve. Then, there was a damage in the animal world, but it didn’t stop there. There was also a damage in the woman’s life, especially with regards to childbearing, and in the man’s life, especially with regards to work and harvest. In the midst of all these damages, God also had the cure to Adam and Eve’s predicament. Listen again to Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” There are 3 important things that that were part of the cure:

  1. Enmity between the Serpent and the Woman
  2. Enmity between the descendants of the Serpent and the descendants of the Woman
  3. Enmity between the Serpent and the Messiah

Let’s look at each of them carefully:

  1. Enmity between the Serpent and the Woman

Although, we looked at the actual dislike of snakes by women in the last sermon, as I mentioned last week, there is more involved here. Since Satan tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, there is now a natural dislike of Satan for women, and the women for Satan. Ladies – be careful. Satan still wants to deceive you. He will constantly try to get you to doubt your self-worth. Are you pretty enough? Are you smart enough? Are you successful enough? On the flip side, God has also given women the sense of discernment. Nicole can warn me about people even when I am gullible.

But there’s more: Revelation 12      1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. 2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. 5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. 6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” 13 Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. 14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Who is this woman? This is Israel in the Tribulation being harassed by Satan. All throughout history, Satan has gone after God’s people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Hence, it is vital for us to stand with Israel. Right from the beginning God has warned us about this enmity.

  1. Enmity between the descendants of the Serpent and the descendants of the Woman

According to the curse on the Serpent, there will two groups of people in humanity: descendants of the Serpent and descendants of the Woman. The descendants of Satan are those who despise God and want to deceive others into disobeying God. These descendants are not biological but ideological. On the other hand, there are the descendants of the Woman. They are not perfect, but they seek to be like God. There will be hostility between these two groups. In the very next chapter, we meet the first brothers, Cain and Abel. Cain is warned – Genesis 4:7 “…And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Unfortunately, he chose to kill his brother. Then, we meet Esau and Jacob. Genesis 25      31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?” 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. After Jacob rightfully got Isaac to bless him, listen to Genesis 27:41 So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Then, Joseph’s brothers tried to kill him, but ended up selling him into slavery. Finally, the children of Israel were in bondage in Egypt. Have you ever noticed what’s on Pharaoh’s miter/crown? Snake known as Uraeus. It was a symbol of power, authority, and even deity. Down through the ages, the hatred has continued, even at the time of Christ. John 8      39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

When you reject Christ as your Savior and King, you opt out of the family of the woman and opt into the family of Satan. How about you? Right from the beginning God has warned us about this enmity.

  1. Enmity between the Serpent and the Messiah

Not only does the seed (zera) have a collective meaning, but it also has a singular meaning. The noun can be both collective and individual. After the collective meaning earlier, this is now a singular meaning. In other words, this is about one coming to bring judgment over the Enemy for what he did. Something very important to understand: Satan does not know which woman. Neither does Eve know which son. Therefore, he has been going after the young ever since. So also, Eve thought that Cain was the one. Genesis 4:1 “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “‘I have acquired a man from the LORD.’” She was mistaken again in Genesis 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” Every woman had to raise every child as if he could be the one to break the curse. That’s why Paul said in 1 Timothy 2      14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

However, God was making it more and more specific – Genesis 12:7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants (seed) I will give this land.” Genesis 13      15 “for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.”

How will the seed of the woman break the curse? “…He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The Hebrew word “suph” means crush, bruise, or strike. One will be a lethal blow and the other just an injury. This is exactly what happened at the cross. Satan tried to strike his heel, thinking that he had killed Jesus. What he didn’t realize is that this was all part of God’s predetermined plan. As he was striking one heel, the other heel was being lifted and positioned bull’s eye over his skull. When Jesus rose from the grave, he crushed Satan’s head. He still has some life in him to harass believers and mislead the lost but not for long. His time is coming. In the meantime, Jesus has destroyed death and grave, powers and principalities, Even before the coming of Jesus, the Jewish Talmud talked about the “heels of the Messiah.”

Which seed do you belong to? Are you saved? Are you helping reaching others with the gospel? Are you taking the cure to others?

First Gospel: The Damage

FIRST GOSPEL – THE DAMAGE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  For the past few years, we have been blessed to take a trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Some of you have been there. It’s such a beautiful laidback place. We really enjoy going there. Last year, we went by a shopping center that had a boot store. I went in and asked for a size 11. The man brought it, and I put on the right leg. No trouble. Then, I tried to put on the left one and trouble began. It was impossible! I struggled and struggled. I finally got my foot in, and it loosened a little but not much. I even called a young man from church who had bought the same shoe sometime back, and I asked him if it was tight when he first got it. He said that it was actually loose, and he had to drop down a size. Now, I was really confused. The salesman tried to give me some pointers on how to break the boot in, but I didn’t think that was the problem. So, I asked him for a size 11 ½, and I began the process of removing the boot. The right was no problem, but the left was not going to come off. I thought it would be easier to chop my foot off! Finally, I got it off with the help of my boys. As I was putting it back in the box, I noticed on the bottom – size 9. Sure enough, right boot was 11, but left boot was 9. No wonder! Apparently, it was shipped that way by mistake. No amount of pushing and shoving would have solved that problem. So also, life in this world has been shipped this way since the Garden of Eden. It’s not that all of life is horrible, but there is a problem. All around us we can see and feel the impact of the Fall. We are in a series from Genesis 3 titled “First Gospel,” and today we come to the second message titled: THE DAMAGE. Main point: Life is wonderful, but it has been damaged by the fall. We try to enjoy life with the right foot, but repeatedly we are reminded by the left foot that not all of life is wonderful. Therefore, Jesus came – to fix what was damaged in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursedis the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”

Last weekend, we learned how the choice of Adam and Eve to take the forbidden fruit brought original sin into the world. In this message, we will survey the damage that came into this world because of that choice. Of course, we know the fundamental damages: break in the relationship between God and man; and break in the relationship between man and woman; physical and spiritual death; but there’s much more. Before we start listing all the damages because of the Fall, let me clear up a common misunderstanding from Genesis 1:31 “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” It is often assumed that “good” means “perfect,” but that’s not true. The Hebrew word for good is “tov.” The word has the idea of being beautiful, pleasant, orderly, efficient, and morally good. It was not some static and rigid state. Some people assume that there was no entropy before the Fall. Entropy has to do with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Sometimes it is called the “Law of Disorder” or the “Law of Decay.” Keep in mind that God made matter and energy in the first week of creation. According to the First Law of Thermodynamics, “The total amount of mass-energy in the universe is constant.” In other words, “Energy is merely transformed from one form to another. It is neither created nor destroyed.” According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, “While energy is conserved, it becomes less useful over time.” In other words, “The amount of energy available for work is running out.”

Example: When you make your coffee in the morning, you add cold creamer to your hot coffee. Does your coffee get hotter or a little colder? It gets a little colder. The hot coffee loses some energy, but the creamer gains some energy. Energy is conserved. That’s the First Law of Thermodynamics. Here’s a question: When you pour the hot coffee into the cold mug, do you ever feel that the mug gets colder, or the coffee gets hotter? Heat is only transferred from hot to cold, and not vice versa. Energy is lost. That’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Important point: These laws did not begin after the Fall. They were there from the first day of creation, even the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Without the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the heat from the sun would not be transferred to the earth; Adam and Eve would be slipping as they walked in the Garden of Eden (friction helps us to remain stable); also breathing (movement of gas from high to a low pressure) and digestion (breaking down of complex food molecules) are all the results of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Lee Anderson, Danny Faulkner). It is often claimed that Bible believers don’t understand scientific principles or that science contradicts the biblical account of creation. This is just not true. We believe that both the First and the Second Law of Thermodynamics line up with the biblical account of creation. Even in the sky, as good as things were before the fall, there were still craters on the moon, and supernovas and shooting stars occasionally. Someone may ask: If we believe that things were already running downhill or decaying before the Fall, doesn’t that mean that there was a “fall” before the Fall? It could be that God balanced out the energy until the Fall to keep diseases, suffering, and death away.

By the way, he has done that time to time for his people. Deuteronomy 8:4 “Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” Deuteronomy 29:5 “And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.” Joel 2:25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust…” Psalm 103      2 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases…5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Application: Has the Lord done that for you? Can you see how the Lord has turned back time in your life?

So, what were the real damages due to the Fall? In the last couple of messages, we have seen what the Fall did to the relationship between the husband and the wife.

  1. Animal World

Genesis 3      14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Next week, we will focus on the real culprit behind the Serpent and the enmity between his seed and her seed. Here, I want us to see that God first cursed the serpent and then also all the animals. Why? Animals were supposed to be under the dominion of the man and the woman. They were created for the benefit of Adam and Eve. When they chose to harm them, led by the serpent, they were harmed in return. First, the serpent – more than likely, he walked upright initially, but God changed his DNA. Now he would slither on the ground, sign of an unclean animal. He was “arum” (subtle), but now he was “arur” (banned). I know some people have pet snakes, and that’s fine; but typically, people all over the world are terrified of snakes and want to kill them. Also, they do literally eat dust with their forked tongue. At the roof of the snake’s mouth is an organ called the “vomeronasal organ,” that detects chemicals, and the tongue carries samples from the dirt to the organ (Sarfati).

Also, the animal world turned against each other in the form of predator and prey. Many went from being herbivores to carnivores. In the end, this will be reversed. Isaiah 11      6 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

Isn’t that a beautiful world!

  1. Woman

Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

We’ve seen the second half of the verse, but how about the first? It refers to the entire process from pregnancy to childbirth. It is painful. This pain is not coming through some form of fear, but it is physically discomforting. The potential of pain may have been there before the Fall, but God balanced it out as we mentioned earlier. Now, things had changed, but it was not evil. Even Jesus talked about this: John 16     21 “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” Paul adds: 1 Timothy 2     14 “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” We’ll see that next week.

  1. Man

Genesis 3       17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.

A thorn is simply a leaf that is “tightly curled upon itself.” This was a product of the Fall.

 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

Now, the fruit trees would not be enough, he will have to become a farmer and sweat. Then, he will go into the same ground!

Romans 8      19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

There’s so much here! So much was damaged! This is why Jesus came, to undo the damage. Do you know him? Have you been saved from the damage? More damage is coming when you reject him.

Uncomfortable Obedience (2020) by Dr. Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2020) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2020)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the past 2 Christmas Eves, we have been talking about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable? In 2018, we focused on how Joseph had to practice uncomfortable obedience in taking Mary to be his wife even though she was with a child that wasn’t his own. In 2019, we focused on how Mary had to practice uncomfortable obedience in being willing to carry a baby that she had no part in bringing into the world. Today, we will focus on how the magi had to practice uncomfortable obedience in following the star in the east and seek the king of the Jews.

Matthew 2       1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on the magi:

  • The magi were nothing like what we have made them out to be. For starters, they were not the “three wise men” or “the three kings.” The actual words are “magi from the east.”
  • The magi were one of the 6 tribes of Media or Ancient Persia (modern day Iran).
  • They were referred to as the “fire priests of Median.”
  • They were stargazers, astronomers, astrologers, dream interpreters and sorcerers. Our English word “magic” actually comes from the word magi.
  • They did not have the best reputation. Jewish people looked down on them with suspicion and disdain. Even the Romans did not like them and many times they were kicked out of Rome and Italy.
  • According to tradition, they came from the city of Saveh in modern day Iran, which was 430 miles northeast of Bethlehem. That’s as far as from here to Atlanta. To make this journey, they had to cross the boundary of the Parthian kingdom and enter into the Roman territory, which was very dangerous. Not only that but they had to come into Palestine where the Jewish people didn’t like them much. But these magi were relentless. They were not going to stop until they found the King of the Jews – the Messiah!
  • As the fire priests and king makers, they also brought some very special gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The big question is how did they find out about the coming of Jesus? We don’t know for sure but it could have been through Daniel. In Daniel we hear about the “magi” several times. Listen to Daniel 2     1 “Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. 2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians (magous in the LXX), the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams…” Again, Daniel 5:15 “Now the wise men (magoi in the LXX), the astrologers, have been brought in before me (Belshazzar), that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing.” Daniel not only distinguished himself under both the Babylonian empire but also in the Medo-Persian Empire. In fact, he was appointed the head of all the wise men of Babylon and later the Chaldeans.

In Daniel 9, the prophet Daniel actually gave a prophecy regarding the time of the coming of the Messiah. Daniel 9     24 “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. 25 ‘Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. 26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself…”

Where am I going with this? More than likely the magis had converted the information in Daniel 9 to correspond with the movements of the stars. Generation after generation since Daniel they were waiting for the star to appear that would signal the birth of Jesus. At the right time when the star appeared, they left their homes in the east and set out to locate the king of the Jews!

This week everyone was talking about the Christmas Star in the planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the Southwestern horizon. The last time these two planets were this close was about 400 years ago and the last time this happened at night, when people could actually see it, was about 800 years ago! Next time it will be in 2080.

Here’s the point:

  1. The magi had to faithfully study the prophecy of Daniel.
  2. Generation after generation they had to pass down the knowledge of the prophecy to their descendants
  3. When God added the “star in the east,” they had to set out from their comfortable homes across 400 miles of rugged and dangerous lands to look for the promised one.
  4. They had to be willing to face the ridicule and threat of Herod and Jerusalem in asking where the Savior of the world was born.
  5. Once they saw him with Mary and Joseph, they had to be willing to humble themselves and worship him with their gifts.

So also, when it comes to following Christ, it’s not easy. There will be uncomfortable obedience. Even coming here this evening may not have been easy for some of you. You were willing to obey God than to fear human beings or anything else.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and personal fears.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Uncomfortable Obedience (2019) by Dr. Shah

UNCOMFORTABLE OBEDIENCE (2019) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

(A Christmas Eve Message, Christmas 2019)

Introduction: Once again, we want to welcome you to our Christmas Eve Service. For the next few minutes, I want to talk to you about “Uncomfortable Obedience.” There are many things that God commands us to do that we can do with a joyful and a willing heart. For example: studying his word, loving our family and children, and using our gifts in his service. But then, there are things that He commands us to do that are not as fun and exciting. They are uncomfortable. They push us past our limits. Sometimes, they are downright unbearable. How do we obey God even when it is uncomfortable?

Luke 1    26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” 35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Background: Let me quickly give you a CliffsNotes on how Jewish weddings took place in first century Palestine:

  • A Jewish girl in that time was usually married somewhere between 13-16 years of age. Based on how Mary wrote her song of praise in Luke 1, I would say that she was closer to the 16-year mark, maybe even 18 years old. Also, based on the depth with which she wrote her song (Magnificat), she must have grown up in a spiritually strong home. A Jewish young man at that time would marry at the age of 18 or 20. Both Mary and Joseph were teenagers or close enough.
  • A marriage was a 2-step process: Betrothal and the wedding ceremony. Betrothal (kiddushin) was more than just an engagement. It was a formal exchange of consent before witnesses. A year later would be the actual wedding. The betrothal was legally binding and could be broken only by death or divorce. The girl was that man’s wife even though they would have to live separately for a year. According to the custom, Joseph and Mary must have seen each other at the betrothal but Mary still had to live with her parents and Joseph would use that time to get his house together. He could not get near her, especially under Galilean customs.
  • Mary’s father must have had to give a dowry to Joseph’s family. This would have included personal items such as jewelry and clothing. Sometimes, it may also include property.
  • A year later, the wedding would begin with the taking of the bride from her father’s home to the groom’s home on a carriage or a litter (stretcher). This was usually accompanied with a lot of music, singing, and dancing. The feasting would last a week, sometimes even two weeks. Then, under a huppa, the bride was blessed with a benediction that she will have many children.
  • At the marriage ceremony, the marriage contract was made which listed the husband’s obligations to his wife to provide, protect, and take care of her.
  • If the contract was broken, the groom had to pay a sum of money to the wife. But, not so, if it was because of adultery. By the way, he didn’t even have to return the dowry in that case. He was expected to divorce her.

Although, both Joseph and Mary were in a difficult predicament, I want to focus only on Mary today (last Christmas Eve, if you remember, we focused on Joseph). Just like Joseph, Mary was in a very difficult predicament for 2 reasons:

  1. Mary had a choice. Keep in mind that everything that the angel said was in the future tense. She was going to be pregnant and it was not going to be Joseph’s child. In fact, she would be a virgin when she became pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine Mary wondering how people would laugh at her. I can imagine Mary thinking how her friends and family would treat her. What a scandal! What a shame…Mary must have gone through a range of emotions: shock, unbelief, anxiety, helplessness, isolation, frustration, and even anger.

By the way, God sends his people in our path to help us during such difficult moments in our life. Mary went to the home of her cousin Elizabeth. Through her, the Holy Spirit encouraged Mary and confirmed to her that this was from God. This is when Mary sang her famous song starting in Luke 1    46 “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed…54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.” This song is traditionally known as the “Magnificat.” It comes from “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” which is the Latin translation of “my soul magnifies the Lord,” the first line of Mary’s hymn.

  1. Mary had to carry the child for the next 9 months. This was not some one point in time decision. Can you imagine the trauma she had to go through every single day of those 9 months! Keep in mind that she would not be claiming that she had made a mistake or she was raped. She would be claiming to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. I can imagine people telling her to fess up. I can imagine friends and family telling her to admit that she messed up or was raped. She couldn’t do that. Again, imagine the emotions she must have felt: anger, helplessness, embarrassment, and unbelief. Nonetheless, she stayed the course.

How could she do all this? If you read the Magnificat carefully, its Mary’s love prayer to God. She loved God unconditionally. God would not have sent his Son to her if she wasn’t a loving person. Would you!

The only way we can obey his commandment is if we love him unconditionally. I John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Mary loved God.

Not everything God tells us to do will be pleasant. Sometimes, it will be uncomfortable. But if we claim to love him unconditionally, we have to obey him joyfully.

What is God calling you to do? Maybe to make things right with someone. Maybe to give towards his work. Maybe to share the gospel with someone. Maybe to surrender to some calling he has for you. You will have to set aside your comfort, others’ opinions, and even common sense.

Has he called you to be saved? Have you responded?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER THAN RELIGION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Throughout the world, people have all kinds of traditions when it comes to Christmas. In Norway, they hide their brooms on Christmas Eve, because, according to tradition, witches are out on Christmas eve. In South Africa, children look forward to fried caterpillars or Christmas caterpillars on Christmas day. In India, where I grew up, we sang Christmas carols all night from door to door of every church member. To miss someone’s home was a big insult. They would wait for us with food, sweets, coffee, and tea. By the way, the same morning was Christmas day and we had church service at 9 am. It was tough because some of us were half asleep. All these traditions are good but sometimes traditions can overshadow the truth and we end up with religion and religious leaders. In our Christmas series titled GREATER, we’ve seen how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this message, we will see that Jesus was even greater than all the religious power brokers of the world. Find John 1:19. Main point: Jesus did not come to fit into our religious traditions. He came to bring us into a relationship with God. Jesus came to tear down the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Matthew 2      1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Context: If you remember, last week, this was the same passage we used for the message, but our focus was on King Herod. We are using it again because it gives us the third power broker of the ancient world – the Religious Authorities. Next to Rome and Herod, they were in charge. Just like Herod was connected and subjected to Rome and Augustus Caesar, the Religious Authorities were also connected and subjected to Herod. In fact, they were also connected and subjected to Rome, as we will see later on.

In the passage, the Religious Authorities appear to be at Herod’s beck and call4“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” They knew better than to reject his summons. After all, he was the king. He controlled the appointment of the high priests. He expanded and built the temple in Jerusalem. He maintained peace in the region. He kept a buffer between them and the Romans. Of course, they lined up on the double. Were they aware of the answer? 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Amazingly, they even gave the right answer. What was Herod’s response? 7 “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.” Why didn’t Herod order the chief priests and scribes to go with the wise men? Why didn’t they go on their own initiative? One of 2 reasons:

  • They didn’t believe this was going to happen. It was just a myth to them.
  • They didn’t want it to happen. It was too costly and risky for them.

By their refusal to act, they were going to cancel the first Christmas! They would rather stay with their traditions and rituals than to go after the real thing.

Application: I find it very interesting how people are willing to shut down Christmas or redefine Christmas or see Christmas differently this year. What annoys me the most is when people try to use spiritual lingo to cover up their fear. How many of you have heard of the term “cancel culture”? It is when a person does or says something controversial and they are immediately cancelled. This happens on social media a lot. People turn against someone and they cancel them. 2000 years ago, people tried to cancel Christmas. They failed. They are trying it again and, unfortunately, believers are going along.

Who were these Religious authorities? In the passage it says “chief priests and the scribes of the people,” but altogether there were 4 major groups with some subgroups: Priests and Levites, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes:

  1. Who were the Priests and Levites? As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Along with the Levites, they were the “ritual specialists and mediators between God and people” (Kugler). While the priests were responsible for running the temple and carrying out the sacrifices, the Levites handled the music and the supervision and management of the temple activities. Under Moses’ supervision and Aaron’s leadership, the standards were extremely high regarding holiness. Exodus 28 36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE Lord. 37 And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38 So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” Unfortunately, through the centuries, the priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. The Levites were no different. Does this mean that every priest and Levite was corrupt? There were a few like Zechariah and Elizabeth who were truly righteous, but, it seems that those from Jerusalem proper were corrupt. Remember, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The antagonists in the story were the priests and the Levites.
  2. Who were the Sadducees? The first time we hear about the Sadducees is under John Hyrcanus (135-104 BC). The Sadducees claimed to be the “righteous ones,” going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. In reality, the Sadducees were mostly from the aristocracy and despised by the common people. Under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76BC), 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Sadducees. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision with the Sadducees in charge of all the temple activities. They were not necessarily all priests or attached to the temple. The chief priests and the high priests came from the Sadducees. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt and some left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was in corrupt hands. What did the Sadducees believe?No resurrection, angel, or spirit. They did not accept the oral law or the law of the sages, as the Pharisees. They had their own traditions regarding the Torah. They placed more emphasis on the books that focused on the temple. The came testing him with the question about the resurrection of the 7 brothers married to the same woman. Matthew 32:22 “…God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” They didn’t want Jesus. He was a threat to the establishment.
  3. Who were the Pharisees? They 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.

Unfortunately, they constantly butted heads with Jesus. They were frustrated that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They were frustrated that Jesus did not keep all their trivial Sabbath laws. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign. They accused him of being demon possessed. Jesus did not let up on them. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:20 “…unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He called them “Blind Guides,” “Hypocrites,” and “White-washed tombs.”

Attached to the Pharisees was a subgroup known as the scribes. Jesus often addressed them together.

  1. Who were the Scribes? They 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. They considered themselves to be experts in the law/Old Testament. Listen to how Jesus dealt with them in Mark 12 38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” He pronounced woes upon them along with the Pharisees – Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Priests and the Levites were corrupt.
  2. The Sadducees were protecting the status quo.
  3. The Pharisees were about self-righteousness.
  4. The Scribes were busy showing off their knowledge.

In this world Jesus came not to fit into the religious categories and traditions but to tear down the curtain from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

1 Peter 1     18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Invitation: Do you have religion or do you have a relationship with Christ? He came not to fit into our traditions. He came to clean it up. Are you saved?

Greater than Rulers by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER – THAN RULERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How many of you have watched the old “Twilight Zone” TV show? I don’t know about you but, after a while, it starts to mess with your mind. One time, our kids were watching one episode after another and I had to tell them to stop! I felt like someone was always watching me or out to get to me. If there was one character in NT history who was always paranoid, it was King Herod. He constantly felt that he had to prove his kingship and that the world was out to get him. In our 3-week Christmas series titled “GREATER,” we are learning how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. Last week, we saw that Jesus was greater than Rome and Augustus Caesar. In this message, we will see that Jesus was greater than Herod, the paranoid king. Please find Matthew 2. Main point: Throughout history, people have tried to prove their significance and leave their legacy. Unfortunately, they’ve all failed. There is only one who is truly significant and whose legacy has no end. His name is Jesus. His coming was promised in the Scriptures, sought by the wise men, accompanied by celestial signs, and protected by the angels. He alone is the legitimate king, and he wants to bring his rule and legacy to your heart and mine.

Matthew 2     1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’”

Context: Just like Luke 2 last week, this passage is also very familiar, especially during Christmas. Again, we usually rush past this to discuss the star or the wise men, and we miss something very important in the verses we just read. Listen again to verse 1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…” Of course, we know that Rome was in control of Palestine at the time, but it did so through local rulers. Herod was that local ruler, the client King, who ruled the region where Jesus was born. Herod’s policies made a big impact on the Christmas narrative.

A quick point here – It is vital that believers be involved in every level of government: local, state, and national.

So, who was Herod the King? Herod came from the Antipatrid family of Idumea, a region to the east and the south of the Dead Sea. Although, originally, they were descendants of Esau (brother of Jacob), now they were a mixture of Edomites, Jewish people, Arabs, Phoenicians, and Greeks. They had been forcibly converted to Judaism by a Jewish ruler named John Hyrcanus. In other words, they were a non-priestly, non-royal, and non-truly-Jewish family. That’s a lot of nons! Antipater I, Herod’s grandfather, had worked his way up and became the governor of Idumea. Herod’s father also followed in his footsteps and became even more successful. Sadly, some people were envious of his success and poisoned him. Now it was Herod’s turn. He was born with somewhat of a silver spoon in his mouth but he still had to work for every bit of what he had. He was hard working and had unending energy. As a strategos (military governor) of Galilee at the age of 25, he was not the type who just made his soldiers fight. He was unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat, a very good horseman, and even a good hunter.

How was his character? Overall, he was quite generous. When there was a drought, he used his own resources to help the people. He built up a strong military. He protected his people against bandits and tried to make his region safer and more peaceful. He was an amazing architect. He built forts, public buildings, streets, water systems, supported the Olympic games and on and on. According to Josephus, Herod’s most important achievement was the building of the temple in Jerusalem at his own expense. It took ten years to build. He doubled the foundation of Solomon’s temple and literally reshaped the layout of Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that the entire façade of the temple was covered with gold plates. When the sun rose, it was blinding to look at it! The upper parts were probably marble. He even took care to have the priests trained as masons and carpenters so that there would be no disruption of services. Furthermore, he made sure that no one family would control the priesthood. I can go on and on about the good he did. Yes, he did have a bad temper, but that’s minor compared to all the good that he did.

Did the people love him for all this? Not really. His people didn’t appreciate him. The Jewish people didn’t accept him because he wasn’t Jewish. His enemies tried to bring him to trial. The supporters of the opposition group tried to attack his family. He had to fight off the Parthians. He had to constantly keep Rome happy. He had to kill all the Hasmoneans (Jewish royalty) to ensure his rule. He even had his own brother-in-law – Aristobulus, the High Priest – killed. He had 300 of his military leaders killed. Yes, he was ruthless but it was all because he felt that they were a threat to his success.

Application: Do you know someone like that? He/she had to work hard all his/her lives. He had to deal with junk growing up. She had lowly upbringing. He didn’t have the best of family growing up. She made some bad choices. He tried to help people but he was not appreciated. Is that you? How do you handle those feelings of insignificance?

How was Herod’s love life? Herod’s family life was a mess, partly because he had ten wives and each of them wanted their son(s) to be the next king. His second wife deserves to mentioned in particular. He dismissed his first wife and son to marry Mariamme, a woman from a Hasmonean (prominent Jewish) family. Initially he did it to help his position, which it didn’t, but then he really loved her and had 5 children with her. She knew what he was like and she didn’t love him. Keep in mind that Herod had her brother killed. As Josephus the historian said, “her hatred of him was as great as was his love for her.” Then, Herod’s sister, Salome, started a rumor that Mariamme was cheating on him and he had her put on trial. He didn’t believe his sister but his sister kept pushing him with more and more lies. Finally, in a fit of rage, he had her killed. Then, he realized what he had done and began to grieve over her and even refused to believe that she was dead. He would often call for her. When he got sick, he took it as God’s judgment.

How was Herod as a father? He loved the two oldest sons he had with Mariamme and even sent them to Rome for their education, hoping to turn the kingdom over to them. When they returned they were arrogant and Herod couldn’t stand that. He even heard rumors that they wanted to avenge their mother’s death. After much back and forth, he had them strangled. Then he made a will (4th one to be exact) to give the kingdom to his son from his first wife but 5 days before he died he had him executed for plotting against him. Altogether, he changed his will 6 times before he died! By the way, I’m only dealing with the issues with his sons. I don’t have time to go into all the other family problems.

How was his end? In his final years Herod became terribly sick. Some scholars believe that he had syphilis. He had tried to get some relief in some healing baths near Jordan River but it didn’t help. When he realized that he was dying, he gave orders to his sister Salome to gather the prominent Jewish people at the hippodrome near Jericho and kill them when he died so people would actually cry when he was gone. He knew his own family wouldn’t cry for him. Thank goodness that after he died his sister did not follow the orders. I feel sorry for the guy. Don’t you?

Application: Do you know some people like that? They’ve had a bad home life. They’ve been let down in their marriage. They’ve tried to be good to their family but it never worked out. Their kids don’t appreciate them. They’ve made decisions that they can’t take back. They live in constant regret and guilt. Are you that person? You are trying to find significance in all the wrong places. You need Christ.

Did God forget Herod? No. In fact, he sent the gospel right to his doorstep. Matthew 2      1 “…behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

  1. Unlike Herod who had to prove himself constantly, Jesus was clearly promised in the Scriptures.

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

  1. Unlike Herod’s wise men who failed to prepare him, Jesus was sought by the truly wise men.

Matt. 2:9   When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

  1. Unlike Herod’s failed attempt to build his legacy, Jesus’s coming was accompanied by celestial signs.

11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

  1. Unlike Herod who constantly lived in fear of being killed, Jesus was protected by angels.

16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.”

This could have gone a whole different way. Herod could have found true significance. God didn’t hate Herod! He sent Jesus to be born 6 miles from where He lived. He sent magi from 430 miles to tell him about His birth. He even had all the chief and scribes at his disposal to tell him about the location of Jesus’ birth. Ultimately, it was his own wicked heart.

Application:  How is your heart this morning? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If you know Him, are you sharing Him with others? Are you willing to step out of your hiding and follow Him boldly? Where are you seeking significance?

Greater Than Rome

GREATER – THAN ROME by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you have ever played “King of the Hill” as kids? The objective is to stay on top of the hill or pile and keep others from pushing you off. Unfortunately, people don’t stop playing that game when they grow up. They become rulers, kings, queens, and emperors. With Christmas upon us, we will be going through a 3-week series titled “GREATER.” We will learn how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this first message, we will see that Jesus was “GREATER THAN ROME.” Please find Luke 2. Here’s the main point: Our world has seen rulers rise and fall, and empires come and go. But, there is only one who stands greater than all, and whose kingdom has no end. It is Jesus Christ. Many have tried to overshadow him, but, as someone said, “When small men cast long shadows, it is a sign that their sun is about to set.” Jesus stands greater than all, and the sun cannot set on him because he made the sun and the moon and the stars.

Luke 2:1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”

Context: The passage I just read is very familiar, especially during Christmas time. We usually rush past this to Joseph going to his hometown of Bethlehem and Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus and wrapping him in swaddling clothes because there was no room for them in the inn. Then, there were shepherds in the fields watching over their flocks by night and the angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were greatly afraid, and on and on. We miss something very important in the opening verses of Luke 2. The gospel writer Luke has given us some very important information about the world in which Jesus came. Listen again to verse 1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” The Greek word for “decree” is dogma, an imperial declaration. With just one decree, your entire world could be turned upside down.

Application: Do ya’ll understand what that means? This is why it is vital that we speak out and we know our rights. Having our voices heard and be strong in politics is not optional.

Who was Caesar Augustus? Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome when Jesus was born. His birth name was actually Octavius. He was the great nephew and the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was the dictator of Rome until he was assassinated. Octavius ascended the throne after him, but he wasn’t much of a soldier so he linked up with 2 Roman generals and politicians – Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus – and began avenging the death of Julius Caesar. He was brutal and did not spare any who stood up to him. He even had coins minted with Julius Caesar’s image on one side with the words “the God Julius” and his image on the other side with the words “Caesar, Son of a God.” But, he was not satisfied with being one of three and so he first got rid of Lepidus. Then, he defeated Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium, who committed suicide along with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. They knew what would happen if they fell into the hands of Octavius. Now, Octavius was the only man standing. He was powerful and cruel, to say the least. He established the Pretorian Guard – private bodyguards of 5000 soldiers. The Senate was afraid of him and gave him power over the proconsuls and the armies. They even made him “Pontifex Maximus” or the chief priest of the state religion. Their own position was reduced to being just advisors.

But there’s more – there were provinces in Asia that had supported Mark Antony. Now Octavius was in power and they were going to pay for that. Very quickly delegations came from city of Pergamum and the city of Nicaea informing him that they were going to make him a god and needed his permission to build temples in his name. Of course, Octavius said, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. But, if you insist….” Two years later, the senate even gave him the title we find in Luke 2:1 – “Augustus,” which means “great” as in god. He became Caesar Augustus, not only the Emperor of Rome but also a god who had been appointed by the will of the other gods. It was in his hands to bring the “pax deorum” or the peace of the gods to the mortals on the earth. He was the incarnation of all the gods. He was the savior. The people loved him. He expanded the Roman Empire, rebuilt temples and public buildings, reorganized the Senate, and brought opportunities to the people. He was so popular that Roman men even adopted his hairstyle. For the first time there was peace in the world, as long as you didn’t oppose Octavius. One scholar noted that never before in the history of the world was a man worshipped like Octavius – Caesar Augustus.

Some of you are thinking – how come we’ve never heard of him? Have you ever looked at the calendar? The sixth month is named after the god Julius Caesar and the seventh month is named after Caesar Augustus – August. None of this was by accident. The Romans had a “complex and vibrant ideological matrix” (David Nystrom) on how to leave a Roman legacy. One scholar (Nystrom) said it this way – “He (Augustus) did not fundamentally alter it by assuming the trappings of personal supremacy, but rather magnified it by directing Roman tradition through the prism of his own story.” In other words, what did it mean to worship Augustus or to call an emperor “king”? (Nystrom)

  1. The Romans claimed that they were ordained by the gods to conquer and civilize.
  2. The Romans believed in the conviction that their rule was just.
  3. The Romans believed that their domination was not fixed by the “limits of the earth but by the limits of the sky” (Cicero).
  4. The Romans had a steep social pyramid based on wealth, class, ancestry, and location.
  5. The Roman empire was an urban phenomenon, with Rome as the ideal and the goal was to spread “Romanitas” – Roman values or Romanness.
  6. The Romans expected and practiced self-promotion, with ultimate power being in the hands of a select few.
  7. The Roman religion was not about faith. In fact, it was looked down upon as being weak. Religion was about gods, sacrifices, and duty.

Why did Augustus want the world to be registered? Taxes. More money was needed to fund the growing army – 28 legions, each legion had over 5000 soldiers. But, there’s something more – Herod the king of Judea had made Octavius mad and this was his way of proving a point to Herod that he was the boss. Amazing isn’t it? Everybody’s life is turned upside just so he can prove a point. Verse 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. In short, Augustus had turned everybody’s life upside down with one decree.

How about Jesus? 4 “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” Augustus thinks that he has really told Herod. What he doesn’t realize is that he was just a pawn in God’s eternal plan. Eight hundred years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Greatness is found when you are faithful and obedient, and God writes your legacy.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. The word for inn is “kataluma,” which is guestroom. Joseph and Mary were probably staying with some friends and couldn’t find any privacy and had to deliver Jesus in the family room. Unlike Caesar Augustus who was living in the lap of luxury, the King of Kings had to spend his first night where the animals were tied.

Greatness is not in turning other peoples’ lives upside down. It is in laying our lives down for others.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Greatness is when God comes to you and you know that you don’t deserve it.

Augustus had his “Res Gestae” (things done) left with the Vestal Virgins (Priestess to the goddess Vesta) to be read in the senate after his death. Only 3 copies have been found. Series of inscriptions were also written in the Forum Augusti with statutes of great men all round and Augustus in the middle riding in a chariot with the title “Father of his country.

What is the legacy of Jesus Christ? Eternity is not enough to list it!

Invitation: The world has an idea of greatness that fades away. God’s greatness never fades. Are you faithful and obedient? Are you laying your life down for others? Do you realize that you don’t deserve anything but hell? Are you saved?