Discipleship: Pathways by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – PATHWAYS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Pathways

Introduction:  Every summer I speak at a camp in Bryson City, near Cherokee, to the western part of our state. Our kids have been going to this camp for about 16 years and many of our church kids now go every year. It’s a beautiful place in the Smoky Mountains! While there, the kids get to choose an outing like horseback riding, gem mining, tubing, hiking, etc. Several years ago, I decided to join the kids and go hiking up Alarka Falls. It’s a gorgeous 200 ft tall water fall that cascades down the mountain. The hike is up the side of the falls. If you’re a hiker, it’s moderately difficult. It’s not bad but they didn’t tell me that it would get steep towards the top. I was in the back of the group and we were getting closer to the top. I stopped to get some pictures and then when I got back on the climb, everybody was gone. I could hear them but I could not see them. Then it happened – I got stuck. My feet starting slipping on loose rocks and I had to dig my fingers into the dirt to hang on. All I could think of was Cliff Hanger with Sylvester Stallone but it was nothing like that. Finally, one of the counsellors realized that I was missing and she came back to check on me – “Do you need any help Mr. Shah?” My answer – “Oh no, I’m just resting. But, just in case, how did you get up there?” She told me to put my foot here and pull here and so on. I said – “I guess that’s one way to get up there.” Long story short – I made it and it was well worth it! Here’s the point – “I needed someone to show me the pathway on how to climb to the top.” So also, when it comes to discipleship, it’s not enough to know the goal and importance of discipleship. We also need to know the pathways on how to get there.That’s the message today.

2 Timothy 2    1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Question: Paul told Timothy to show others the pathways of how to walk with God. Who do you have in your life who has or is showing you the pathways of how to walk with God? Do you know the pathways of discipleship? Who are you helping on the pathways of discipleship? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Context:As you know, Jesus commanded us in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We created the acronym WATERto represent what a disciple looks like – WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. When all 5 of these work in tandem, we are the disciples Jesus called us to be. Unfortunately, there are obstacles. We need certain disciplines to overcome these obstacles. Last weekend, we looked at 5 such disciplines: Discipline of Evangelism, Discipline of Confession, Discipline of Church Attendance, Discipline of Daily Bible Intake, and Discipline of Discipling.“Without Disciplines, there is no Discipleship.”

The next question is – what are the pathways we need to take in order to become disciples? Let’s go back to the acronym WATER. No pathways needed for W (Once you can articulate your testimony, it’s simply looking for opportunities to share your faith. Neither for T (Once you realize the importance of moving from the crowd to the congregation – church – and from the congregation to the community – Sunday School or Bible Study – it’s not that complicated). But A – Accountability, E – Established in the Word, and R – Reproducing Disciples require some pathways, some help in taking the next steps. I’ve been sharing some of these things throughout the series but now I want to deal with them in depth.

Let’s start with the Pathways for Accountability: Once again, think back to those concentric circles – Crowd, Congregation, Community, and Inner Circle. Robby Gallaty (I’ve learned a lot through him) calls the last one D – groups. Preaching helps but it cannot do it all because it’s only a one-way communication. Sunday School and Bible study help but they cannot do it all because they are more evangelistic or too study oriented and too many to hold accountable. An Inner Circle is a 3-5 member gender specific, closed group that exists by invitation only to believers and meets on a weekly basis for a determined period. The ultimate goal is for each person to become conformed to the image of Christ by growing in the Word and then replicate the process. It requires confidentiality, confrontation, and confession. You have to be careful here. Robby Gallaty says – “A quick word of caution: you must wisely discern to whom you will make yourself accountable, carefully guarding whom you allow to speak into your life. Never seek spiritual guidance from unspiritual people.”

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

How do you start?

  • Pray (Just like Jesus before he picked his disciples)
  • Decide (Believers who have a desire, are determined, and have a demeanor to learn)
  • Ask (Not “I want to disciple you,” but “would you like to join for Bible Study, Scripture Memory, and Prayer on a weekly basis for a few months.)
  • Prioritize (You have to take it seriously)
  • Replicate (Don’t get stuck but remind the group members to start thinking about who they would like to include in their group)

What happens when each accountability group or Inner Circle meets? (Taken from Robby Gallaty, Growing Up: How to be a Disciple who makes Disciples)

  1. Study the Word together.
  2. Hold each person accountable for Scripture memory by reciting the previous week’s passage before the group.
  3. Ask accountability questions of each other. Hold each person accountable for achieving their goals. For example, “How is your relationship with Linda? You mentioned last week that you were working on the way you spoke to your wife.”
  4. Pray together before departing.

In the next couple of messages, I will deal with how to study the Word and how to pray.

I know that some have already made up their minds that they will not do this. Others may start but not stick with it. Keep in mind that this is biblical2 Timothy 2    1“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Are you a disciple? The Communion is for those who are saved –Luke 22    19And He took bread, gave thanks and brokeit,and gaveitto them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20Likewise He alsotookthe cup after supper, saying, “This cupisthe new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Are you ready to take the pathway of discipleship? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

Discipleship 3: Together by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP – TOGETHERNESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship Together

Introduction: Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Resources, did a Twitter survey sometime back on the really strange reasons people give for not attending church. Here are a few of my favorites:“We were out of peanut butter.” “My wife cooked bacon for breakfast, and our entire family smelled like bacon.” “The pastor stays in the Bible too much.” “The worship leader pulls up his pants too often. It’s distracting.” “The church is too close to drive, and too far to walk.” “We got burned out at church and have been taking a break for the past seven years.” I’ve been pastoring this church, my only church, for the past 20 years and I’ve met people who are always looking for reasons to skip church. Today’s message is on the importance of togetherness in discipleship. You can grow alone in a flower pot for only so long. True and ultimate discipleship is long term and it happens only in the soil of community. You need others to be a true disciple.

Acts 2   42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…44Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,45and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Question: The early church understood the value of togetherness. Do you understand the importance of being together in the body of Christ? Are you a part of the body of Christ? Are you saved? What binds us together is the same Holy Spirit? Is he in you?

Context: In the first message in our series on discipleship, I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. We’ve already looked at the first two letters W and A and, in this message, we will focus on the third letter T = Togetherness. 3 main things we need to understand about Togetherness:

 I. THE EARLY CHURCH WAS TRAINED IN TOGETHERNESS BY JESUS.

Background:When people read in Acts about how the early church was together, loving and caring for one another, and putting each other first, they assume that it was some organic movement that just happened. Not true. For e.g.When you watch your favorite ball team play a great game, you know that it didn’t just happen. You know that the coach has been training them.So also, Coach Jesus had been training his disciples on the importance of being together and they were simply living it out.

I want us to look at a major training session that Jesus had with his disciples towards the close of his ministry. You remember in John 13, after the Last Supper, how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Itwas unthinkable for a master to wash his disciples’ feet.Peter even tried to stop Jesus but he warned him that this was a must if he was going to be his disciple. Why was this so important? Listen carefully to how Jesus explained to them the meaning of what he had done for them – 12 “…Do you know what I have done to you? 14If I then, yourLord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”Don’t misunderstand:This was much more than “Y’all get along when I’m gone. Wash each other’s feet until I return.” Listen carefully –34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Loving one another was the mark of a disciple before the watching world. The key words here are “one another.” I can wash my own feet but that is not keeping this commandment, that is not proving my discipleship before the watching world. I can even try to wash the feet of the world (feed the hungry, house the homeless, take care of the needy) but that is still not keeping this commandment and proving my discipleship before the watching world. This commandment can only be obeyed in the context of “one another.” This is why the early church was doing what they were doing!

Application:If you are a disciple of Christ, the same commandment applies to you. Do you love others in the body of Christ? Do you care to prove your discipleship to the watching world?

II. IT IS NATURAL FOR DISCIPLES TO NEGLECT TOGETHERNESS. 

Background:Very early on in the church’s life, the disciples began to drift away from each other. They forgot Jesus’ commandment of being together. A major evidence for this is found in the book of Hebrews. By the way, a key phrase in this book is “let us.”Listen to chapter 10verse 22let usdraw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let ushold fast the confession of ourhope without wavering, for He who promisedisfaithful. 24And let usconsider one anotherin order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, asisthe manner of some, but exhortingone another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Why did the writer of Hebrews have to exhort the early Christians to keep meeting? Or why did the early Christians stop meeting? I believe for the same reasons that Christians or disciples stop meeting even today. Here are a few that I’ve come across:

  • I don’t have to be in church in order to be a Christian.If you say that, you do not understand what the church is. It is not a building. In fact, it is described in different ways. Paul gives several ways in his letter to the Ephesians. He calls it the body of Christ.Ephesians 1 22And He gave Him(Christ)to behead over allthingsto the church, 23which is His body…” What if I told you, “I love you very much but I hate your body”? Other times, he calls it the family of Jesus. Ephesians 2:19“…you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your family”? Sometimes, he calls the church the bride/wife of Christ. Ephesians 5:25“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”What if I told you, “I love you but I hate your wife”?
  • I’m very busy and Sunday is my only day off.We always find time for things that are important. Time is not the problem. Understanding is. If you understanding the value of being with other believers, you will make time for it. Also, we have services several times on Sunday mornings and even on Saturday evenings.
  • There are a lot of hypocrites in church.What’s your point? In fact, what better place for hypocrites to be than at church where they can hear the truth. By the way, be careful about pointing fingers at others. As a pastor once said to someone who said that – “Come on in. We have room for one more.”
  • I did until something bad happened to me.I’m very sorry for what happened to you. This is one I do understand. When I first came here from India, I went to church. Little did I expect what was about to happen or not happen. This church was known as a good church and bible believing church but no one shook my hand. I was so hurt that I didn’t go to church for almost 2 years. God had to use circumstances and people to bring me back. Here’s my encouragement to you – When you stop going for one reason or another, no matter how legitimate your reason is, you are no longer able to demonstrate your discipleship.

Application:What is your reason for rejecting togetherness with other disciples? Are you willing to give that hurt to God and forgive that person or church and let God prove your discipleship before the watching world?

III. TOGETHERNESS IS A MEASURING STICK FOR DISCIPLESHIP. 

In the first message in this series on discipleship, I explained to you how Jesus moved people through 3 concentric circles.Outside the circles was the CROWD, the vast majority who were not following Jesus. Then came the first circle, the CONGREGATION.These were the multitudes that followed Jesus, heard his teachings, and saw his miracles. Then came the second circle,theCOMMUNITY. These were the 12 disciples that Jesus handpicked. You could add the 70 from Luke 10as well. He talked with them and taught them things that he did not teach the multitude. Finally came the third circle, the CIRCLE.Out of the 12 disciples, Jesus picked 3 to be part of his inner circle – Peter, James, and John. From these, Jesus expected much more. What I want you to understand is that to each of this groups Jesus had a different call:

  • To the crowd, it was “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To the multitudes, it was “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”
  • To the disciples, it was “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • To the inner circle, it was “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

This applies to us today:

  • Crowd (people out in our neighborhood, workplaces, friends) – get saved
  • Congregation (Saturday evening and Sunday morning) – commit yourself;
  • Community (disciples – Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Studies) – love one another, learn to be together;
  • Circle (Accountability groups) – help each other.

Invitation:Which group do you belong to? Do you understand the value of togetherness? What are you doing to move through these circles? Are you saved?

Steadfast by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEADFAST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Steadfast

Introduction:  A little boy was trying to sell his horse at the county fair. The horse was no good except for eating oats. An old farmer came by. He could tell the horse was no good and he teased the boy saying, “Son, can that horse run fast?” The boy replied, “No sir, but he can sure stand fast.” In the message today, we’re going to learn how to stand fast or be steadfast as a Christian. But, more specifically we’re going to learn how to be steadfast along with other Christians. There’s a difference.

Philippians 1   27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Question: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Before your conduct can be worthy of the gospel of Christ, you have to receive the gospel of Christ. The word “gospel” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” which was an abbreviation of “goodspell.” “Good” means good and “spell” means story or news. What’s the good news? “You and I are stuck in sin with God’s judgment of ultimate death waiting for us. But God sent his Son to take our sins upon himself and die in our place. All you and I have to do is ask him to be our Savior. He not only forgives us our sins but just as he came alive, we are also made spiritually alive in him.” Have you received this gospel?

Context: The passage we just read begins with the word “only” – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel.” It has a tone of warning in it. Think of this warning as a caution not a threat. So far Paul had nothing but good to say about the Philippians:

  • 4 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” The Philippians were a faithful church.
  • 6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The Philippians were an inspiring church.
  • 7 “…you all are partakers with me of grace.” The Philippians were a gospel supporting church.
  • 9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…” The Philippians were a loving church.
  • 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ…” The Philippians were a worshipping church. I can go on.

But, here’s a caution – 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Meaning: You have a lot of good but don’t neglect your conduct. To understand what Paul meant by conduct, we have to go the original Greek. He used a verb here that he did not use anywhere else in his letters. It is the verb “politeuesthai,” which literally means “conduct yourself as citizens” or “live out your citizenship.” It comes from the word “politeuma,” which refers to a group of citizens of the same country living in a foreign state together. Keep in mind that the Philippians were Roman colonists living in Philippi, Greece. They were still trying to live by their Roman standards. They would have understood very well what Paul was implying – “Just as you are Roman citizens living in Greece trying to maintain your Roman values, you are also Gospel citizens living in this world, don’t neglect to be a Gospelian.”

For e.g. When I became an American citizen, I had to take a test on American history. I read our foundational documents – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Those became the values by which I was going to live. So also, when you became a Christian, there are certain values that go with that citizenship.

What are those standards? 27 “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ (live out your citizenship to the gospel), so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs…” Paul told them that he will check up on them, in person or through others, regarding their conduct. Then he lists 2 major ones, one positive and the other negative:

Positive – “that you stand fast…” We immediately think that this “standing fast” is my personal individual steadfastness. Not really. Here standing fast is “hoti stekete” which is a Roman military term that describes a unit forming a line together in the face of the enemy. “Come what may, stand fast. Don’t break rank.” “that you stand fast in one spirit…” People have debated if this is just the spirit of unity or is it the Holy Spirit. I believe that it is similar to what Paul said in I Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” and Ephesians 2:18 “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” It’s the same Holy Spirit in me and you that creates a bond between us that is much greater than any superficial likes or dislikes. Few verses down in Philippians 2   1 Paul says, “Therefore if there is…any fellowship of the Spirit…2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded…” Paul continues in verse 27 “…that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” “Striving together” is literally “striving side by side.” It is an athletic term that implies being of one soul. Paul was telling the Philippians to be “souls together for the gospel.” A mark of a Gospelian is that we strive for unity in the Holy Spirit and seek to be of one mind. If I may add, being a Gospelian is not an individual sport but a team sport.

Application: Do you understand how critical unity in the Holy Spirit and being of one mind is to the church family? There are 3 natural born killers of this unity – Lostness, Isolationism, and Divisiveness. Titus 3   10 “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” Bottom line: If individually we are not right, it will affect our unity.

Negative – 28 “and not in any way terrified by your adversaries…” The word terrified here is the Greek word “pturomai,” which is again a verb that Paul does not use anywhere else. In Classical Greek it was used to describe a horse getting spooked in battle. It would get startled by loud noises or shrieks and it would bolt through the battlefield, stampeding anyone in his path. A mark of a Gospelian is not to spook or get spooked but stay calm and help each other stay calm and united in the Holy Spirit. Who are our adversaries who spook us? Anything or anyone who is opposed to the gospel. It may be people or policies. How should you respond other than stand fast? “which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.” Remember that it proves that they are headed for destruction and you are saved by God.

Somethings more Paul said here – 29 “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Don’t misunderstand. This is not individual personal suffering. Although, that is also true. In this context, it is collective group suffering. Not only that but we are to look upon suffering just as we look upon salvation. It is a gracious gift of God. Ultimately, suffering, and, more specifically, collective suffering is proof that we belong to God. 30 “having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.” Meaning: Even though we know this, it doesn’t make sense at times.

Be steadfast together in the Holy Spirit with one mind. Be steadfast together in the face of suffering, refusing to be intimidated. It is a mark of the greatest believers. Are you saved? Are you steadfast together?

When the Body Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN THE BODY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When the Body Grows

Introduction:  Back in 2009 our family decided to take a trip out west. We were all able to get in my truck with our luggage under the bed cover. We all had plenty of room. It was a trip of a lifetime! The other day I said to Nicole – “That was so much fun! Maybe we can do that again one day.” To which she replied – “If we all tried to get in your truck and ride 5000 miles, we would kill each other.” So also with our church body. There was a time when 20 people on a Sunday morning was a good Sunday. The children’s ministry had 2 kids, that’s Rebecca and Abigail. We would count anything that breathed. Things have changed since then. God has truly blessed us and our church body keeps growing. If were not careful, we would kill each other. With that said, let’s turn to the book of Ephesians for our message titled “WHEN THE BODY GROWS.” We will do a series through this book soon but for now just a few verses from chapter 4.

Ephesians 4   14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Question: How do you relate with others in the body? What is your role in this church body at Clearview? Are you helping to edify this body in love? To be a part of this church body, you have to be saved. Are you saved?

Context: Before we can understand the meaning and application of the passage we just read, we need to first ask “Why did Paul write this letter to the Ephesians?” Although there is no clear consensus, most scholars believe that Paul’s main purpose was to promote unity and love among the Ephesian Christians. He wanted them to love one another with the same deep love with which they love God and Christ. Those two are interconnected. Why did he feel that this was important? Maybe because he sensed that they were losing their grip on love. Was he right? Yes. Just a few years later, listen to what John wrote in Revelation 2   1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: (that’s Jesus) 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” What will people say of our church a few years from now?

With that in mind, let’s return to the passage but let’s begin in Ephesians 4 verse 1 to truly understand what we read. 1 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord…” Meaning: He is bound to Christ. He goes where Christ goes, does what Christ tells him to do, and says what Christ tells him to say. In other words, he is not writing on his own authority but Christ’s. What does Christ demand? 1 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.” Paul begins this section by urging the Ephesians to remember the Christian graces. They are given in 2 Peter but some are here as well. Lowliness means humility. Nothing will destroy unity faster than pride. Gentleness means meekness. It is not weakness. Instead, it is knowing when to be angry and when not. Longsuffering means patience. It means don’t say what comes to your mind and your mouth. Bearing with one another in love means learn to tolerate each other and do it with “agape” love. Don’t resent the other person. What’s the goal? 3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It makes a difference in how you treat and interact with each other.

Application: Are you marked by Christian graces?

Now, if I were to end the message here and tell you to remember the Christian graces and be nice, kind, and loving to each other, it probably won’t last 10 minutes. Our Christian graces are linked to our foundational beliefs. We stand upon a 7-layered foundation:

  1. One Universal Church – 4 “There is one body…” Paul was dealing with issue of Jews and Gentiles coming together. So also today, there are many churches and denominations but if you are willing to receive Jesus Christ as your only Savior and God, then we are part of that one body.
  2. One Spirit4 “There is one body and one Spirit…” The same Holy Spirit indwells you who indwells me.
  3. One Hope – 4 “…just as you were called in one hope of your calling…” We have the same expectation that God will work his plan out for us and this world and Christ will ultimately come for us (the blessed hope and glorious appearing).
  4. One Master – 5 “one Lord…” The same second person of the godhead who became man and died for me and rose again on the third day is your master as well.
  5. One Faith – 5 “…one faith…” There is one settled body of truth which Jude calls 3 “…faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
  6. One Baptism – 5 “…one baptism…” This refers to the baptism Paul talks about in Romans 6 where we “were baptized into His death,” “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised with him to “walk in newness of life.” The water baptism is the demonstration of this inward spiritual baptism.
  7. One God and Father – 6 “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Through Christ we have the same God the Father and we belong to the same family. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my father” but “our father.”

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

Application: Do you know our foundational beliefs?

Remember our Christian graces. Remember our Foundational Beliefs.

Remember our role in the body.  7 “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift…11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, (established churches along with signs and wonders and miracles. Today we don’t have this gift but we do have missionaries) some prophets, (communicated the divine revelation of God. Today we don’t have this gift because we have the New Testament but we do have revivalists) some evangelists, (preach and explain the good news of salvation like Philip the evangelist to the Ethiopian eunuch but today Billy Graham) and some pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping (katartismos = “mending” restoring, putting things right) of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (This is my goal as the pastor/shepherd of Clearview) 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” It’s like a spiral. The more it turns the deeper the unity grows.

Our church body is growing but we need to be aware of our Christian graces, our foundational beliefs, and our role in the body.

Are you doing your part in the body? Are you in the body? Are you saved?

Foundation: God’s Vision for Clearview by Pastor Abidan Shah

FOUNDATION: GOD’S VISION FOR CLEARVIEW by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Foundation

Introduction: Last week was very exciting in the life of Clearview. After months and months of waiting, we got word from the building contractor that the concrete was going to be poured Wednesday morning at 4am. We decided to get here by 9 to film it but unfortunately it was all over by then. But imagine if the whole church would have shown up at 4am Wednesday morning. Imagine if I was dressed up in my suit and tie ready to preach. Imagine if Ryan was ready with his announcements and John was ready with his guitar. What if the moment they started pouring the concrete, the praise team starting leading the people in worship. What if we all stood on the side and had a church service the whole time with singing, preaching, and everything while the concrete was being poured! That would be odd, wouldn’t it! That’s exactly what happened 2500 years ago when God’s people returned from exile and laid the foundation of the temple.

Ezra 3   10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Before we begin this message, here are a couple of questions to consider: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Some of you are saying, “Oh, I see the new building coming,” or “I saw the plans on the way in this morning.” Folks, I’m referring to much more than brick and mortar. I’m referring to the building up of lives, marriages, families, young people, and communities. I’m referring to changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? Can you see that? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

Context: The passage we just read from Ezra describes the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. You may remember when I preached a series on Nehemiah couple of years ago how in 587 or 586BC Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the walls of the city, and especially destroyed the ancient temple of Solomon. Not only that but he also dragged the Jewish people 700 miles away into exile to Babylon. They had no hope of ever returning back and there was nothing left to return back to. Everything was gloomy and hopeless. But God had promised them that in his timing he would bring them back and he did. In 539BC (about 50 years later) Cyrus the king of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire and set the people free to go back home to Jerusalem. Not only that but Cyrus even returned the items that had been taken out of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar and placed in the temple of his gods. He also provided support and commanded the people to do the same for those who were going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. How amazing that a pagan king would do that!

Here’s a principle worth remembering: No matter what is happening in the world, no matter who is in charge, God is still in control. He is still sovereign and he never abandons his people.

Personal Reflection: Eleven years ago in 2007 when we stepped out on faith from the old church building, little did we realize what was about to happen. We had no clue that the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s was about to hit our country and the world and here we were without a church building! But here’s something amazing – we didn’t miss a single service! God took care of us as a church! He knew what was going to happen and he was perfectly in control.

I love this quote from Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (now OMF): “Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”

Application: Do you believe that God is faithful and that he’ll take care of you? Are you God’s work in God’s way? Can you see God’s hand upon Clearview?

Ezra 3   1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.

Background: About 50,000 returned in the first wave to Jerusalem and they were united in their mission and vision.

So also at Clearview, we’ve been united and we need to stay united. What is our motto at Clearview? “MAKING CHRIST VISIBLE.” What is our mission? “To lead all people into a life-changing, ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” What is our vision? If you’ve been to the new members’ class, you’ve seen our list. It includes – seeing marriages healed, homes transformed, young people following Christ, communities transformed, God’s people digging into his word and worshipping him in joy, and on and on.

2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.

Background: The first thing we see is that they built the altar. This was very important because the one thing they were unable to do in Babylon was offer any sacrifices. This was similar to what David had done when he had captured the same ground about 500 years earlier. He also built an altar to God. Why was this important? Because the altar was a reminder to God’s people that they could not get near to God without sacrifices.

So also at Clearview, we are centered upon the cross of Christ. We believe that without the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we cannot come near to God. Hebrews 13:10 reminds us that Jesus is our altar. What do we offer on him? 15 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Two things we offer on the altar of Jesus –our sacrifice of praise (worship) and the sacrifice of giving to God’s work and sharing with those in need.

3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. Meaning: In spite of the threats of the enemies around them, they kept on worshipping God. No better time for me to say than today – “Thank God that we live in this great nation where we have the freedom to worship according to the dictates of our conscience.

7 “They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia.” Meaning: This was not all just talk but people actually supported the work financially. We will hear on that in just a moment. 8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. All these names remind us that all of us have a part to play in the future of our church.

Then came the day for laying the foundation. As the builders got ready to lay the foundation of the temple, the priests and Levites lined up in their attire with their trumpets and their cymbals and they led the people of God in worship and praise. 11 “…Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.” Something else happened12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.” In other words, not everyone had the same reaction. Some wept and some shouted and people heard it!

Lot of things are happening at Clearview – Everyday I hear from someone how God is using this church to touch their lives. Friday, a man told me that God used Clearview to save his marriage. Another person told me that they wish they had found Clearview much earlier. A young person told me that he looks forward to get here. It’s his favorite place in the world! We have people who are tuning in to the services all over this community. We have people as far away as Arizona who watch us. The other day I called my parents and they told me that people tell them what I preached on that morning. As you know my messages are on my website. We have people who are coming from all over the world!

Let me re-ask the questions I asked in the opening: Can you see what’s happening here at Clearview? Can you really see what God is actually doing in this church? Can you see how God is building up lives, marriages, families, young people, and our community? Can you see the changed lives and transformed hearts through Jesus Christ? How do you see your role in what God is really doing here? All who know Christ have a part to play in what’s happening here. Do you know Christ? Are you saved?

The Propulsion Engine of the Church by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thepropulsionengineofthechurchIntroduction: This is our final message in our series – NO BENCHWARMERS – designed to encourage and challenge each of you to find a place of service in the church. Today’s message is called – THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH.

Acts 6   1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Bridge: I’m not a sailor or a navy expert but from what little I know – every fast moving vessel on water has some kind of a propelling device. Sometimes it is as simple as a paddle wheel and other times it is as complex as a steam, diesel, or gas turbine. Warships and icebreakers even use nuclear reactors to produce this propulsion. How does it all work? The water surrounding the ship keeps it from moving forward and even drags it wherever the current wants it to go. These propellers thrust the water column away from the ship, which produces a reactive force that thrusts the ship forward.

Context: What does all that have to do with the message? The church is also surrounded by a water column – it’s the culture. It keeps the church from going forward and, if it moves, it’s usually by some crisis or problem that pulls the church away from its destination. God has given the church a propulsion engine. When it’s turned on, it creates a velocity against the column so strong that it actually causes a reactive force, a thrust, which moves the church forward. We think the column may sink the church but it’s actually instrumental in helping the propeller move the church forward at a rapid speed. Today we will learn what the propulsion engine of the church is.

Question: What do you believe about the church? Do you think it can move forward? Some people are so used to sinking ships or ghosts ships that they think it’s impossible for the church to move forward. Do you know what the propulsion engine of our church is? In the face of crisis, are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution? Before you can even talk about this engine, you need to be on the ship. Are you saved?

This is a unique message that will challenge you to change what you believe about the church. Instead of standing on the deck and complaining, it’s time you find your place of service. 3 things about the propulsion engine of the church:

I. THE CRISIS COLUMN IN THE CHURCH

1 “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying…”

Background: Which days is Luke referring to? He’s referring to the earliest days of the church, maybe within the first 5 years or so after the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in all His power and the Jerusalem church began to grow rapidly. Thousands got saved, miracles began happening, and the people were in one accord. Awesome isn’t?! Then it happened.“…there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists…” Who were the Hebrews and who were the Hellenists? The Hebrews were the local Aramaic-speaking Jewish Christians. Their ancestors either never left during the exile or they came back when Cyrus set them free and resettled in their homes. They had been living in Jerusalem for hundreds of years. The Hellenists were those Jewish people whose ancestors did not come back immediately after the exile. They settled wherever they were – Babylon, Persia, Egypt, Macedonia, etc. Maybe because of persecution or longing to be back in their ancestral homeland, they returned. Since they grew up outside Israel they had different ways of doing things – food, clothing, and traditions. Even their language was different. They mostly spoke Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic like the Hebrews. Ethnically, they were Jewish but culturally, they were Greeks. But here’s the beautiful thing – in spite of the differences, both the Hebrews and the Hellenists were together as one church. Isn’t that wonderful?! That’s how the church should be – different people serving the same Christ together.

But there was a problem: “…there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” What’s going on here? In Jewish society widows and orphans were first the responsibility of their own family and, if they didn’t have any family, then they were the responsibility of the community. As I mentioned, the Greek-speaking widows were part of those families that had moved to the Holy Land, Jerusalem, in their twilight years to die. Most of the time the men were the first to die and their wives did not have the support system they did back in their original home. Unlike the Hebrew widows, they were at the mercy of the synagogue or the local community. Maybe because of their high numbers or the language barrier or just oversight, the Greek-speaking widows felt overlooked. So what did these ladies do? They began to complain.

Ladies – Let me say a few things here: God has blessed you with certain abilities. One of them is observation or intuition. You can detect problems much faster than we men can. Sometimes we are too dense to notice. Another gift you have is empathy. You can feel the pain of others much better than we can. We have a one-track mind and many times we can be insensitive. But unless you filter your observation, intuition, and empathy through a sense of discernment, spiritual maturity, and self-control, you can cause great damage. Say for example, you see something wrong at church. What do you do? You can exercise discernment and overlook what doesn’t matter or have spiritual maturity and pray over the situation or just have self-control and say nothing. Unfortunately, what happens is this – you get home all upset and uptight. Your husband says – “What’s wrong?” “Nothing.” “Something’s wrong.” Now you unload. Guess what he tells you to do – “Just quit.” It’s a typical male response. “No! I don’t want to quit. You need to do something.” Depending on how much you fire him up or his personality, now he’s going to do something. By the way, this is a major reason why men don’t go to church or get involved at church. They don’t want to get caught up in some drama.

Please don’t misunderstand me – if it weren’t for the ladies, can you imagine what this place would look like? We men would not care about each other’s feelings and finally blow up this whole place. We need both men and women. Even Jesus had a group of ladies who assisted Him in His ministry. But, in this passage, the unity and survival of the first church was threatened because a group of widow ladies started complaining.

By the way, this passage has brought me a lot of hope through the years. If the early church – men and women who had been with Jesus, seen Him crucified and resurrected, received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, witnessed miracles every day – had problems, there’s hope for us. I used to get so discouraged in the early years when the church would have a problem and then I realized that it’s part of being a growing church.

Application: Do you see a problem? It’s normal. The question is – how should we handle that problem? Are you part of the problem or are you part of the solution?

II. THE PROPULSION ENGINE OF THE CHURCH 

2 “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples…”

Background: As the spiritual leaders of the congregation, they did not say – “We’re just preachers. We don’t do administration. This is beyond our expertise.” They took charge of the situation. This is the biblical model we follow at Clearview. As the pastor, I’m not here just to preach and visit. It’s also my responsibility to lead the administration and the management of this church. Let me clarify, I have wonderful help, especially in the financial management of the church. We have some very capable leaders that I trust with my life but I am called to lead. This is biblical. So, the twelve took charge but please don’t misunderstand – they weren’t the propulsion engine of the church.

“Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said…” “Let’s call a business meeting.” “Let’s take a vote.” Is that what they said? No. There’s a reason that small churches remain small. They are operating by an unbiblical idea that the church is a democracy where everyone has a say. Imagine if Moses had taken a vote – “How many of y’all want to leave Egypt?” Please don’t misunderstand – there’s a big difference between leading the sheep and driving the sheep, between bringing people along versus telling them what to do. The twelve did not order the people nor turn things over for them to decide because the congregation is not the propulsion engine of the church.

Listen to what they said – “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.” They were not saying that waiting on the Greek-speaking widows was beneath them. They were not saying that visiting people in need was not important. They were saying – We already have too much on our plates. We need help. Verse 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” Meaning: We need godly leaders from the Greek-speaking group to step up and help out. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. Their Greek names indicate that they were part of the Greek-speaking Jewish Christian group. Here’s a question: Why didn’t they see the needs of their widows? Why didn’t they do something about them already?

Question: Which ministry do you see struggling at Clearview? Is it affecting you? Why aren’t you doing something about it? “I guess I just won’t say nothing.” That’s not the point. You can be a part of the solution. Having said that, these seven were not the propulsion engine of the church.

So what is? Go back to verse 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” There’s your propulsion engine of the church – Prayer and Preaching and Teaching of the Bible. These propel the church forward. The propeller is not the goal. Prayer and Preaching and Teaching are not the goals of Clearview. They simply move the church forward. I’m blessed to pastor a church that understands this.

Application: Do you finally understand what moves this church? What are you doing to help this propulsion?

III. THE FORWARD THRUST OF THE CHURCH 

Stephen's stoning and Paul

Stephen’s stoning and Paul

Philip and the Ethiopian ruler

Philip and the Ethiopian ruler

7 “Then the word of God spread…” Meaning: The propeller of prayer and preaching and teaching of the Bible started spinning again. “…and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…” Meaning: The column of crisis did not sink the ship but actually helped the ship to move forward with even more speed. But there’s more – “and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” There were as many as 8000 priests and 10,000 Levites in Palestine at the time. The temple was being run by crooks and they were not being used. They were barely surviving. But when they heard that the church was doing what the temple was supposed to do, they came to Christ and started helping the church. Crisis and problems are not the end. They are instrumental to propel the church forward.

But it’s not over yet. Remember the first two men they chose from the Greek-speaking Jewish group? The first one was Stephen. 8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. How did the opposition deal with him? They cast him outside the city to stone him and the young man watching their clothes was Saul, who later became Paul. How about the second one, Philip? He led the Ethiopian ruler to Christ. He opened the door for the gentiles, all of us, to come in.

Application: What are you doing to move the ship forward? Are you saved

Called to the Harvest by Pastor Abidan Shah

CALLED TO THE HARVEST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

calledtotheharvestIntroduction: Today we are in part 3 of our series “NO BENCH WARMERS,” encouraging and challenging all of us to find a place somewhere at Clearview. This message is titled “CALLED TO THE HARVEST.”

Luke 10 1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Bridge: This is a very busy time of the year for farmers. We have several farmers in our church and they will tell you that harvest time is incredibly hectic and tiring for them – getting up at 4am and working until dark, so much has to get done, and time is of the essence. To neglect one critical thing could lead to severe crop damage and irrecoverable financial loss. They also tell me that one of the hardest things they have to deal with is not the weather or the bugs and the pests, or even the market, which are all important, but good labor – finding and keeping good help especially during harvest time.

Context: Not much was different two thousand years ago. In the passage we just read, Jesus brought up this harvest imagery to inspire and motivate His disciples. Listen again to verse 2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” It is very interesting to me how Jesus told His disciples to visualize the multitude of lost souls as a large field ready to be harvested. It is also fascinating to me how He compared His Heavenly Father to the farmer and His disciples to the laborers working in the field. Then He told them – “Don’t just be content with going and doing your part in the field but pray and ask your Heavenly Father to send more help. The job is too big!”

Question: When you look around this world (your family, your neighborhood, your workplace), what do you see? Don’t misunderstand that question. I’m not asking – “Can you see the lostness of people?” I’m asking – “Can you see the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of men and women, boys and girls to Christ?” “Can you see hearts awakening to gospel just the way the grain heads awaken to the sun? Are you a laborer in the field? Are you praying for God to send more laborers in the field? Are you saved?

4 things that stand out in this passage:

I. THE MINISTRY OF JESUS 

1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.

Background: Many of us have a misguided portrait of the ministry of Jesus. We picture Him as a solitary man surrounded by a vast multitude of people, going from place to place, preaching the gospel, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and touching lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we read the gospels carefully, a wholly different picture begins to emerge. Jesus was not this one-man show, trying to change the world all by Himself but He was constantly calling more disciples and sending them out to replicate His ministry, to do what He was doing:

  • In Luke 5 Jesus called James and John and Simon Peter to be His disciples. In verse 10 He told Peter, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”
  • In Luke 6 it says, 12 Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
    Jesus and His disciples

    Jesus and His disciples

    13 And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:

  • In Luke 9   1 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick…6 So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
  • But even this was not enough. So in Luke 10:1 it says, “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.”

The point is this – As Jesus’ ministry expanded, He had to enlist more and more people to help Him do what He was doing. You know where I am going with this – If Jesus, the Son of God, needed help to keep up with the growing demands of His ministry, how much more do you and I need help to keep up with the growing demands of church?

Application: How would you have responded if Jesus had called you to join Him in the work of the gospel? What’s the difference? Are you responding to His call to join Him? What is keeping you from obeying the call of the Holy Spirit to join the ministry?

II. THE VISION OF JESUS

2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great…”

Background: Think about the world in which Jesus spoke those words:

  1. Tiberius Caesar

    Tiberius Caesar

    Tiberius Caesar was the Emperor of Rome, the ruler of the world – What kind of man was he? He was the stepson of Augustus, a great general but a horrible individual – a cruel man, openly homosexual, perverse beyond your wildest imaginations. In fact, the Roman historian Suetonius describes some of the heinous things that he did for pleasure that I cannot even mention from the pulpit.

  2. Pontius Pilate was the procurator, the arm of Tiberius – Tiberius ruled through prefects or procurators who were financial officers in charge of keeping peace and collecting taxes. What kind of a man was Pontius Pilate? Not a good man. He repeatedly agitated the Jewish people by putting up images of the Emperor in Jerusalem (for which Tiberius got onto him). He took money from the Temple to build an aqueduct and when the Jewish people protested, he had his soldiers in the crowd attack and kill them.
  3. Herod’s sons were in charge of the local regions – Herod Antipas was the tetrarch of Galilee and Philip was the tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis – Antipas took Herodias his own brother Philip’s wife (By the way, this is a different Philip). Later, he was so swept away by the provocative dance of Salome, Herodias’ daughter that he gave the order to cut off John the Baptist’s head. He had no conscience.
  4. Annas and Caiaphas

    Annas and Caiaphas

    Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests in the temple – Annas was the father-in-law who was removed from being the high priest but he held onto the title. Caiaphas married his daughter and kept the family business going. They were not the least concerned about holiness and righteousness. It was all about money, politics, and power. By the way, they were the ones who later condemned Jesus to be crucified.

And what does Jesus say? Listen again to verse 2 “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few…” If I were living back then, I would have called him to the side and reminded Him about the messed up world that He was talking about.

There are 2 ways to see this world – Hopeless or ready for harvest. Have you ever heard the adage – “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” So is HOPE!

Application: What do you see in this world? If you don’t see any hope, no wonder you don’t volunteer. Why rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic?! It’s going down anyways! Do you have the vision of Jesus?

III. THE COMMISSION OF JESUS 

This is a long section:

2 “…therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Meaning: It’s not enough for you to work but pray and ask for more help. That’s what I am doing through this series. That’s what the Prayer Vigil was all about.

3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.

Meaning: Jesus was no starry eyed, possibility thinking optimist. He knew there were wolves out there. The answer was not to be a counter wolf but to bring the nature of the lamb.

I don’t have time to go through every verse – 8 Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 “The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’ 12 But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.

Meaning: When you go in Jesus’ name, expect rejection but don’t let it discourage you. This is part of ministry. God will deal with that person and that city on Judgment Day. Don’t worry about that.

16 He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

Meaning: When we go out into the harvest for Jesus, we become His representatives before the lost world.

Application: Are you a representative of Jesus? What are you doing for Him?

IV. THE JOY OF JESUS

Luke 10:17   Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”

When you get off the bench and get in the game or when you get into the fields, God will show you incredible things! You will begin to see people set free, lives transformed, homes restored, communities revived. The reason you cannot see any of that is because you are unwilling to get into the game or go work in the fields.

What is Jesus’s reply? 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” WOW!

Now listen to the prayer of Jesus – 21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes…” Meaning: I’m happy to see them share with me in ministry!

Listen to the final words of Jesus to His disciples – 23 Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” Meaning: Ministry is not a burden or a chore or a load. It’s a privilege to join hands with the Living God.

Question: What’s keeping you from joining in the harvest? Are you praying for more hands? Are you saved

No Benchwarmers by Pastor Abidan Shah

NO BENCH WARMERS – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

nobenchwarmersIntroduction: Today I’m starting a brand new series called – “NO BENCH WARMERS.” For most churches, including ours, the calendar does not begin in January but in August or September. This series is designed to prepare us for our new church year.

Exodus 18   13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out.

Bridge: How many of y’all have heard the adage or saying – “20% of people at church do 80% of the work”? Is that true or false? By the way, it’s is not just at church; it’s everywhere. In the secular world it’s sometimes called the “80-20 rule,” or “the law of the vital few” or even the “Pareto Principle” after the Italian economist who first observed it. Why is it that 80% of people are inactive? I’ve heard all kinds of reasons – “People are just lazy,” “They don’t want to get involved,” “They don’t know the needs,” or “You just have to ask people.” The goal of this series is to change that statistic, to move people being “bench warmers” to “getting in the game”?

Context: Each message in this series is going to come from a different book in the Bible. The first sermon is from the passage we just read in Exodus 18 where 3500 years ago Moses had to deal with the same question – “How can I move the people of Israel from the bench to the field?”

Question: Are you in the game or are you just a bench warmer? Do you just come, sit, listen, and leave or do you have a part in the greatest game in the world? The greatest game in the world is not basketball, football, baseball, soccer, or any one of the Olympic games. It is the battle for the soul of every man, woman, boy, and girl. The goal is to connect that soul to its creator, to God. There’s just one rule – “Only one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. You have to come to Jesus.” There is no rematch. You get only one life. There is a shot clock but you can’t see it. By the way, if you are breathing, you’re already in the game. Your clock is already ticking. Two Questions: Have you come to Jesus? Are you helping others come to Jesus?

In this message we will learn why some churches become weary and what has to happen. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your hearts. 3 things stand out in this passage:

I. POSITIVE EXCITEMENT 

Exodus 18   1 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the LORD had brought Israel out of Egypt….5…came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God.

Background: Moses had left his wife Zipporah and two sons with his father-in-law when he went to Egypt to free the Hebrews. The news got back to Midian that it had happened and God’s people were free. So Jethro brought Moses’s family to him. Picture the excitement as they arrived at the camp. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” It goes on to tell us that Jethro was also a believer and offered burnt offerings and sacrifices to God. The point is that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was genuinely glad at what God had done for the people of Israel through his son-in-law.

Keep in mind that not everything was perfect. In chapter 14 when the people of Israel were trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army, they had turned on Moses, saying – “We told you to leave us alone.” In chapter 15, just 3 days into the wilderness, they were thirsty and complained against Moses. In chapter 16, just a month or so later, they complained against Moses and Aaron saying, “We had pots of meat and bread in Egypt and here you are killing us.” In chapter 16 again, the people refused to keep the Sabbath and tried to gather manna. In chapter 17, they were thirsty again and tried to stone Moses in their anger. In chapter 17, the Amalekites attacked the people of Israel. But listen to Exodus 18:8 “And Moses told his father-in-law all that the LORD had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the LORD had delivered them.” Here’s the point – You can either focus on the negatives or you can focus on the positives.

Application: Do you see the positive that God is doing at Clearview? Are you genuinely excited at the lives that are being saved, the children that are coming to Christ, the young people that are gathering, the marriages that are being reconciled, the homes that are being restored, and the community that is being transformed? Sometimes this is very hard to understand and appreciate in the church culture where it is more natural to groan, moan, and complain. The early church had their list of problems but it says in Acts 2:46 “…they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Here’s a principle: Excitement precedes involvement.

II. NEGATIVE OBSERVATION 

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening.

Background: According to some estimates the population of the people of Israel that left Egypt with Moses was altogether 2-2.5 million. To give you an idea of how big that number is – according to the United States Census Bureau, the combined population of the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill), as of 2014, was a little over 2 million people. Imagine a crowd that big! Out of them I would assume at least a few thousand are standing in line everyday over personal problems, disputes, and crimes.

Here’s an important principle – Just because God is doing wonderful things among His people does not mean that His people will be problem free. I hear people say – “the church has problems.” Folks – Moses had problems sitting in the shadow of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night! The early church had problems just days after receiving the Holy Spirit in all power. As long as we live in this sinful world where there is a Satan and we still have our sinful natures, there will be problems. The question is “What do we do with those problems?” We cannot deny them. We have to deal with them biblically, prayerfully, graciously, and courageously. That’s exactly what Moses was doing.

Moses’ father-in-law was a godly man. He did not say – “Moses, you have a horrible bunch of people. This thing isn’t gonna last” He saw a deeper problem. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” Don’t misunderstand this question. Jethro was not saying – “Moses – Who made you the head honcho? Do you have control issues? Why can’t people go to others?” Jethro’s remark was based on a genuine heartfelt concern for how much Moses was doing.

Listen to the rest of the dialogue – 15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” 17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.” Jethro, a godly man, saw past the surface to a deeper problem – the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual exhaustion of Moses.

Application: Do you ever stop to think about how much goes on every day to make this place possible? What is your part? Are you content to sit back and let other people wear themselves out? Do you ever wonder – “what can I do to lighten the load?” “How can I share the burden so they and they do not have to sit under the hot sun all day (proverbially speaking)?” Do you see past the surface to the deeper needs at Clearview?

III. WISE SOLUTION 

19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. By the way, becoming a leader at Clearview is not about control and power, it’s about humility and service. I remember in the early days of our church’s transition, I had a guy visit us a few times and his first question was how do I get on the board here. I wanted to say – “Since you asked that question, I’ll never tell you.”

22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” What Jethro was doing was telling Moses to delegate, to divide the work. 24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.

What if Moses had refused to listen? It would have put him in an early grave. It would have caused problems in his marriage. It would have delayed justice for the people. It would have caused frustration among the masses. It would have destroyed the people.

Question: What could you be doing right now that could help lighten someone’s load? Are you a player in the greatest game on earth or are you just a bench warmer? On the last weekend of this month, August 27-28, we will be having our first annual ministry drive. Start praying right now about what is it that God is calling you to do.

Are you eligible to play? Have you ever given your life to Jesus? Until you do, you will have no motivation to play the game. You will have no desire to serve. You will have no desire to lighten the load of others. You will only be a spectator and that too a griping grumbling spectator

Why We Need Community – Part 1

WHY WE NEED COMMUNITY? – pt 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whyweneedcommunityIntroduction: This weekend I am beginning a two-part message titled “Why We Need Community?” In our world of hyper-connectivity with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, we’re still isolated. With isolation comes anxiety and anxiety brings bad decisions.

1 Samuel 21   10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.

Overall Background: I’m sure all of us are familiar with David in the Bible – the shepherd boy who rescued his father’s sheep from a lion and a bear, the young lad who defeated Goliath the Philistine giant, or the great warrior who subdued thousands of Israel’s enemies. But there’s one image of David that’s very hard to imagine. Listen to verse 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. What in the world is David doing? He’s acting as if he’s lost his mind! The clue to his erratic behavior is found in the question that Ahimelech the priest asks David when he came to him: “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” David is running from Saul and he is all alone. What happens when people are alone? They become afraid. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions. Listen to verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath (Philistines). In other words, he jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Talk about a bad decision!

It’s amazing what loneliness will cause a person to do. It will cause people to be afraid and when people are afraid, they will make decisions that they would never make in their right minds. In other words, loneliness leads to fear and fear leads to foolish choices.

Question: Are you filled with anxiety? Are you making bad decisions? Are you isolated? You say – “Oh no. I’ve got friends.” Are they the right kind of friends? When you get saved you become part of this body. Are you saved?

This morning we will learn why we need community from the life of David. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. NEED FOR TRUE FRIENDSHIPS 

1 Samuel 20 41 “…And they (Jonathan and David) kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ ”

Background: Who is Jonathan? He was the son of King Saul, king of Israel. Jonathan was David’s best friend but his father Saul hated David. It all began when David returned after defeating the Philistines and the women came out singing and dancing, saying – “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This made Saul very angry and from that day forward he began to eye David. He tried every possible way to kill him. Jonathan was aware of his father’s hatred against David but he also knew that David was the rightful heir to the throne and he was willing to stand with David even though it would cost him the kingdom. He repeatedly tried to encourage him. Later in 1 Samuel 23 16 Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. Even though David was a man after God’s own heart, he still needed a Jonathan to strengthen him. John Piper said – “Don’t ever think that a man is so strong that he does not need to be strengthened in God.” Listen to how Jonathan encouraged David – 17 “…Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Can you imagine the courage that came into David’s heart because of Jonathan’s words? That’s what true friends do.

Beth Shean

Beth Shean (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

All of us need a Jonathan in our lives. All of us need friends who will love us unconditionally and stand with us even if the whole world turns against us. David loved his friend Jonathan right to the end. In the famous battle on Mount Gilboa, the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan and hung their bodies on the walls of Beth Shean. Nicole and I have been there. Valiant men came and took down their bodies and David rewarded those men. He even wrote a beautiful song in honor of Jonathan and Saul. David understood the value of a true friend.

Application: Do you have such a friend/friends? Do you have such Jonathans in your life? Many people are loners, especially when it comes to the Christian life. No wonder they fall apart. No wonder they make poor decisions. Are you making poor decisions? Could it be it’s because you are a spiritual loner? “I just don’t have no friends.” You have to be friendly to have friends.

II. DANGER OF ISOLATION 

1 Samuel 20 42 “…So he (David) arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.”

Background: After Jonathan and David wept, it was time to part. Jonathan went back to the city of Gibeah, north of Jerusalem and David went 3 miles towards the city of Nob, southwest of Jerusalem. Listen to 1 Samuel 21:1 Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” For the first time David is all alone and Ahimelech could probably see that in his eyes. Fear is contagious. David’s fear transferred to Ahimelech. What happens when people are afraid? They make bad decisions:

Here’s bad decision #1verse 2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place. That’s a lie. Out of fear, David is lying. By the way, this lie would cost Ahimelech his life as well as the life of 84 other men and women, children, nursing infants, and livestock.

Ahimelech giving sword to David - Aert de Gelder

Ahimelech giving sword to David – Aert de Gelder

Here’s bad decision #2 – verse 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” He keeps lying. Verse 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” That should’ve been enough a wakeup call. God was reminding David to trust Him as he had done as a young lad against Goliath. David is too scared to think straight and he chooses to trust in Goliath’s old sword. Out of fear, David has lost his faith in God.

Here’s bad decision #3 – verse 7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD. And his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chief of the herdsmen who belonged to Saul. Uh oh…David must have noticed this Edomite servant of Saul near the tabernacle and he immediately got scared. What did he do? Verse 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. This was a Philistine city 23 miles to the west. What is worse is that it was the hometown of Goliath! This is the guy who killed their hometown hero and he shows up with Goliath’s sword! David has lost all sense of wisdom.

The Philistines recognize David and they tell their king – “Isn’t he the one who has killed our thousands?” Listen to David’s response – 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. How tragic! This courageous man of God out of fear has been making one bad decision after another and now he is acting like a fool. Many of us make foolish decision and keep sliding down the slippery slope of despair when we are isolated from God’s people.

Application: Have you been making some bad decisions in your life? Have you gone from faith to fear? Where are the Jonathans in your life? Are you connected to God’s people? If you are honest, you would agree – this place has kept many of y’all from making some very foolish decisions in your life?

III. GOD’S PURPOSE IN COMMUNITY

David wrote Psalm 56 as a prayer during this time. Listen to it – 1 Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. 2 My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High…6 They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. He is asking God to come to His rescue. God answers His prayer. He doesn’t strike Saul. He doesn’t strike Doeg the Edomite. He doesn’t strike the Philistines. What does God do? 1 Samuel 22   1 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. This was a well-known place in Judah. It was 10 miles from Gath and 15 miles from Bethlehem. Once again David prayed like he did back in Gath. One such prayer is Psalm 142. Listen to the words – 1  I cry out to the LORD with my voice…4 Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, “You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living…7 Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me.” What David is saying is “God – I need you and I need some righteous people to come alongside of me.”

Did God answer David’s prayer? 1 Samuel 22  1 “…So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him.” God sent people to David. By the way, they are not perfect people. 2 “And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.”

God’s plan for us hasn’t changed. If David needed community, you and I need community. The reason marriages fall apart is because there is no one there who is holding people accountable. The reason children go off the deep end is because there is no one holding our young people accountable. The reason men and women make foolish decision is because they are going about as Lone Rangers, trying to take on the enemy. It was never meant to be this way. God designed us to work in a community.

In this coming year our focus at Clearview is community. We want you to plug in through our Sunday School, Fish groups, and Clearview Circles into some kind of community that will give you the courage to face life and make wise choices. No amount of bible study and prayer can take the place of godly connection.

Simple Question

  1. Are you connected to Christ?
  2. Are you connected to the Body of Christ

Thankful for my Church Family

THANKFUL FOR MY CHURCH FAMILY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thankfulformychurchfamilyThanksgiving is upon us and we are told to be thankful for our family, friends, health, nation, and even spiritual things like the Word of God and our salvation. But there’s one thing that we usually don’t hear in this list – it’s our church family. So this weekend I’m preaching a message titled – “Thankful for my Church Family.”

Romans 1 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

Overall Background: Unlike the churches in Galatia, Philippi, and Ephesus, Paul did not start the church in Rome. We don’t know who did – maybe it was someone on a business trip or someone on a military assignment or maybe it was a family or a group of people but somehow the gospel made it to Rome and the church was born. In fact, when Paul wrote this letter to them, he had never even been to Rome as an apostle. But, he heard about them and listen again to what he says in Romans 1   7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all…” Paul had never even travelled to the church family in Rome but he was already grateful for them!

According to a survey by AAA that came out last Wednesday, this Thanksgiving week 46.9 million people in America will travel about 50 miles or more from their homes to visit family and friends. It’s the highest number in the past 8 years, about 300,000 more than last year. That’s a lot of travel! But, did you also know that according to some estimates as many as 16 million people in America travel to their church every week? Could be more but I’m being conservative. But keep in mind, that’s 52 times a year. So, 16X52 = 837 million trips to see the church family throughout the year! 46 million trips just at Thanksgiving versus 837 million trips throughout the year! But, if you talk to most church going people, not many are grateful for their church family. In fact, most of them are unhappy with their church family. Some are disappointed with their church family. Yet, others look at their church family as a burden, an obligation, and treat it as dispensable/unnecessary. “It’s alright but I can live without it.”

Question: How do you see your church family? Are you grateful for this church? Do you realize what God has done in your life through Clearview? How do you see this place? How do you talk about this place to others? Are you saved? If not, you will never truly appreciate the benefits you are receiving here.

This morning we will learn to be thankful for our church family like Paul was for the church family in Rome. Let the Holy Spirit bring an attitude of gratitude for this church.

I. REASON TO BE THANKFUL – FAITH

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Background: The reason Paul is grateful for the church in Rome is because of their faith, which is being spoken of throughout the world. What does “faith” mean here? The Greek word “pistis” has two implications:

  1. Saving Faith – it means receiving the message of the gospel. It means believing that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and He is alive today. Later in Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:21 Paul says, “…it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.I can give you many other examples but here’s the point – Faith, first and foremost, means being saved by believing in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s the point – the church in Rome had the reputation of being a gospel preaching, soul saving church.

Churches today are trying to make a name for themselves, such as “contemporary church,” “old-fashioned church,” “young people church,” “missions minded church,” “Bible-teaching church,” “community focused church,” and many other titles. Paul is not grateful for the church in Rome for any of those reasons but for their faith in the gospel. My goal as a pastor of this church has always been and will always be to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every man, woman, boy, or girl, no matter what they look like and where they come from. That’s why the motto at Clearview is “Making Christ Visible.” That’s why I’m thankful for this church family.

Application: Are you thankful for Clearview? Are you grateful for the focus we have at this church? Are you saved? Have you placed your faith in the work of Jesus on the cross? The goal of this service and everything that goes on here is to get you saved.

  1. Life of Faith – it means living daily by faith in God and His promises. It means trusting God to guide, provide, and protect the direction of our church. You have to understand the background of this church in Rome in order to appreciate that compliment from Paul. The church in Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers. One early historian (Suetonius) tells us that in AD 49 Jewish believers were being expelled/kicked out of Rome because of their faith. More than likely some of these Jewish Christians had family members and friends who were taken away from them. You can only imagine their pain. The Gentile believers in the church were Roman people or other nationalities that also believed in the gospel. What an interesting combination! They don’t have a whole lot in common. Oil and water coming together but blood is uniting them. In spite of all this, the one thing that is being heard about them is that they are a family of faith. Meaning: They are a church that believes in God for great things. They are a church that believes that God will provide and we can trust Him with the impossible.

Almost everything we do here can be duplicated. Good preaching – you can go and listen to a great talk by some great speaker. Good music – you can go to a great concert. Good programs – you can join some club. Good outreach – you can join some relief organization. But there’s one thing the world cannot duplicate – it is our faith in God. Clearview stands today because of our faith in God. People in this community are still scratching their heads as to what is the secret of this church! Rich, poor, black, white, young, old (led by some Indian guy whose father is a Muslim convert) keep coming to this church and it keeps growing! How? It’s our faith that God will do great things. Listen carefully – if we stop trusting God for great things, we begin to make sense to people. Let’s be a mystery! Let us be known for our faith in a powerful God!

Application: Are you thankful for the life of faith in this church? Are you adding to the faith are you taking away? Are you an asset or are you a liability?

II. RESPONSE IN THANKFULNESS – PRAYER

9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,

Background: Paul wants the Christians in Rome to know that because of their reputation of faith, he is not only thankful for them but he is also praying for them. Many times people mention their church but it’s not in prayer. It’s in gossip, criticism, anger, and disappointment. If you have a problem with Clearview, start praying for it and see what God will do. He will not only change Clearview but he will also change your heart towards Clearview. But Paul begins the verse with – “For God is my witness.” Now we’ve all said that to someone at some time – “Praying for you.” “We’ll keep you in prayer.” Paul wants them to know that this is not fluff. So he adds, “For God is my witness.” Meaning: God knows that I’m not lying to you. “…whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” Meaning: God knows that I am no hypocrite. I serve Him very sincerely from my inward self. “…that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” And what is Paul praying for? I can think of a few things he must have mentioned in his prayer:

  • God build their faith in You.
  • God help them to not lose heart.
  • God make them more like Jesus.
  • God give them a hunger and thirst for your Word.
  • God ground them in your truth.
  • God protect them from the Enemy.
  • God keep them united, loving, kind, and patient towards each other.
  • God help them to keep winning more and more souls in the kingdom of God.

But there’s something more. Listen to verse 10 “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.” Paul wants to visit them. Why? Listen to verse 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established. Meaning: Paul wants to strengthen them in their faith. He wants them to be established. How will this happen? Listen to verse 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Meaning: Paul is saying, “I will bring my faith to you and we will put your faith and my faith together so that together we will have a stronger faith – first in the gospel of Jesus Christ and then in the power of God to do the impossible. In the end of his letter to the Christians in Rome, he returns to this. Romans 15   30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.

Isn’t it true that when you get around people of faith, your faith begins to grow? They believe in a big God and you start believing in a big God! They believe that God’s gonna do great things and you start believing that God’s gonna do great things! They believe that nothing is impossible to God and you start believing that nothing is impossible to God! As a pastor my heart’s desire is to get you to build your life unhesitatingly on the gospel and trust God with the impossible here and at home. Then, I need my faith to grow. Bring your faith to me so that my faith will grow. Many of you have done that for me time and time again.

Application: Do you fuel the faith at Clearview or do you quench it? Are people trusting God more at Clearview because of you or are they trusting God less because of you?

Conclusion: In our time people look at the church as non-essential, just something extra. In fact, it is looked upon as more of a burden than a blessing. I’m thankful for my Clearview Church Family. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my marriage would be if it wasn’t for this church. I don’t know where my children would be if it wasn’t for this church.

Same goes for you – many of you still have your life together because of this church. Many of you have your marriage together because of this church. Many of you have your children walking with God because of this church. Are you thankful for this church family? Do you belong to this church family? Are you saved

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