Ascent by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Geico, the auto insurance company, is known for its funny ads. How many of ya’ll remember their cavemen ads back in 2004? They featured these Neanderthal-like cavemen who were trying to make it in a modern setting. The premise of their ad was that their website was “so easy, a caveman could do it.” This offended the cavemen who happen to be standing nearby. All joking aside, it is commonly assumed that human beings evolved from cavemen like the Neanderthals, Australopithecine, or Homo Erectus, or that we are similar to animals, especially apes. In our series on apologetics called “Contend,” we will answer some of the questions that were raised: Do humans and chimps share a common ancestor? Are human and chimp DNA very similar? Where do the Neanderthals fit in the Genesis account? Who were the cavemen? Here’s the main point: God has made us in his image. The image was never lost at the Fall, just marred. Through Jesus, we are restored and made new creations in the likeness of God. Evolution from ape-like creatures or “cavemen” is not only false, but it also devalues the image of God in us and seriously undermines the gospel.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Context: As you know, this was Day 6 of the creation week. God was about to create the final act of his creation. It would be unlike anything that he had made thus far. It would be the crown of his creation. Unlike the previous acts of creation, this was not just a “let there be…” Instead, listen again to verse 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Several important things here:

  • First, unlike the previous creations of matter, light, plants, celestial bodies, and animals, this one involved the entire godhead. Yes, all were involved so far, but this one was going to be special. In fact, this is also where we first meet the plurality of the godhead. Later, we will learn that God is “trinity” – Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Again, this implies that human beings are a special creation.
  • Second, unlike the previous creations, this one will be in the “image” and “likeness” of God himself. The Hebrew word for “image” is “tselem” and “likeness” is “demut.” Both imply that human beings will be similar but not identical to the original, that is God. Similar in that we will share the communicable attributes of God – love, justice, creativity, reason, grace, mercy, truth, relationality, and even holiness. Even these, we will not perfectly share with God. Nonetheless, not identical in the sense that we will not be like him – omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, sovereign, transcendent, unchanging, and self-existent. These and more attributes make God who he is.

Being “image bearers” brings some very important benefits:

  1. It makes us God’s representatives in the world, called to rule over his creation. 26“…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
  2. It gives us special dignity above all other living creatures. Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God he made man.” Also, James 3 8 “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.”
  3. It allows us to have a special relationship with him, unlike anything the living creatures can ever experience. Of course, God is spirit, but when he appeared on earth, it was always in a human form and not any animal. So also, his angels appeared as humans. Ultimately, the plan of salvation was for us. Jesus is God becoming man.

I can go on and on, but I want to stop here and make a point that will help us answer the questions that were raised – Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been either trying to exalt themselves to the level of God or devalue themselves to the animal world. For some reason, we cannot seem to accept the gift of “image bearers.” In the past couple of hundred years, this has expressed itself by either claiming that we have evolved from ape-like creatures or from “cavemen” over millions or hundreds of thousands of years. Let’s look at each of them:

  1. Evolution from Ape-like Creatures:

Although Charles Darwin did not talk about human evolution in the Origin of the Species, he talked about it 12 years later in his other book The Descent of Man. His arguments were based on anatomical, embryological, and behavioral evidence, not fossils. Until his death in 1882, no fossils for non-human or pre-human ancestors of human beings had been found. He blamed it on the lack of fossil research. Bottom line: Human and primate fossils are extremely rare (See David Menton and Marvin Lubenow). About 95% of all known fossils are marine invertebrates (don’t have a backbone/spine). About 4.7 % are algae and plants and 0.2 % are insects and other invertebrates. Finally, 0.1% are vertebrates and out of this a small fraction are primates (humans, apes, monkeys, and lemurs). Maybe about 6000 human individuals if counting single teeth and bones. Much more apes and monkeys in the fossils than humans.

Differences between Human and Ape skulls (Menton):

  • Small vs Large (1400cm3 vs 500cm3)
  • Sloped vs Vertical Face
  • Flat vs Curved Forehead
  • Flat vs Protruding Nasal Bones
  • Jaws and Teeth (humans have thick enamel)
  • Pelvis and legs (the gait is different to walk on two legs)
  • Carrying angle of the knee
  • Locking Knee
  • Foot Bones
  • Hand Bones (the thumb is the most distinguishable feature, longer in humans)

What about ape-men fossils? From combining bones of apes and humans (Piltdown Man in Natural History Museum in London with the skull of a human and jaw of an orangutan, with the teeth filed down. It was left there for 50 years.), claims that ape skeleton is human, and vice versa. Unfortunately, lots of pictures drawn by artists also misrepresent the facts. Now there’s a new category called “hominin,” which includes Ardipithecus, Australopithecus(Lucy), Paranthropus, and the genera Homo. Ardipithecus = Afar Ethiopian word “ardi” meaning “ground” and “pithekos” = Greek for “ape.” Australopithecus = Latin “australis” means “southern” and pithekos. Paranthropus = “par” beside and “Anthropos” man. They seem quite official sounding on the surface, but they are not. The Homo group leads us into the next category.

  1. Evolution from Cavemen:
  • Homo Habilis (Homo = Latin for man, “handyman,” 1.4-2.4 million years ago)
  • Homo Rudolfensis (1.9 million years)
  • Homo Erectus (Java Man and Peking Man, 1.9 million – 144,000 years ago)
  • Homo Heidelbergensis (found in 1908 near Heidelberg, Germany, 700,000-200,000)
  • Homo Neanderthalensis (from Neander Valley in Germany in 1856. Since then, about 500 are found in central and western Europe, the Carpathians, Balkans, Ukraine, Western Russia, and northern Asia, 400,000-40,000)
  • Homo Floresiensis (Flores, Indonesia, “hobbits,” maybe deformity)
  • Homo Sapiens (us about 200,000 years ago)

Basic differences: large brows in adults and wide nasal cavities.

3 contradictory evidences:

  • the DNA evidence shows that we are the same. Through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology, in 1993 onwards, they were able to study mitochondrial DNA. Savante Paabo, a Swedish biologist, has been able to map the genome of Neanderthals and has found that we are not only similar, but also, we have mixed. (Some are gone but many may still be around, but they are not inferior (Papua, New Guinea, Australian Aborigines, and Mamanwa, Philippines).
  • Fossil records shows close association and integration with modern humans.
  • Archaeological evidence shows that their behavior and thoughts are human.

How does evolution from apes or cavemen undermine the gospel?

  1. It undermines the Problem

Rom. 5:12   Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

  1. It undermines the Prescription

Ephesians 4      20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

  1. It undermines the Promise

1 Corinthians 15       45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Invitation: Are you still part of Adam’s family? Jesus has come to bring you into the family of God. Are you saved?

Distinct by Dr. Abidan Shah

DISTINCT by Dr. Abidan Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Hugh Lofting was an English author and a soldier in the British Army during World War 1. Instead of writing to his children about the horrors of the war, he decided to write to them imaginative letters which later became the inspiration of the children’s novels “Doctor Dolittle. I doubt many here have read the books, but I am sure you may have seen the movies. In fact, just last year another one came out. As you know, the interesting thing about Dr. Dolittle is that he can talk to animals, which takes him into all kinds of adventures. If only animals could talk, they could tell us so much about how they got here and how God takes care of them! In today’s message we will learn a little but about how God designed the animals – on the land, in the air, and in the waters. Questions: “Is there a pattern to life?” Is natural selection unbiblical?” “Aren’t similarities in forms evidence of common origin?” “What is Baraminology?” Main point: The Biblical account of the creation of animals testifies to the creative genius and power of God. The animals are a reminder of the providential care of God, the effects of sin, and the coming glorious redemption through Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1      24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Context: Now we come to the sixth day of creation when God created the land creatures and then the first man and woman. In this message, we will not focus on Adam and Eve, just the animals – those created to be in the water and in the air on day four and those created to be on the land on day five. There is a special phrase that is attached at the end of each of these creative acts, even to the plants. It is found about 10 times between Genesis 1:11-25 – “laminah”

  • 11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind,
  • 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind.
  • 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.

The Hebrew word “min” means “kind.” “Kind” is not “species,” as we use the term today. We need to back up and understand where the current taxonomy comes from. It comes from a Swedish creationist named Carl Linnaeus in 1700s (Bodie Hodge). He gave the following classification:

Kingdom > Phylum > Class > Order > Family > Genus > Species.

He did not use the Bible but simply the available knowledge and observation. Now, secular scientists have added a couple of more categories in this classification:

Domain > Kingdom > Phylum > Subphylum > Class > Cohort Order > Suborder > Infraorder > Superfamily > Family > Genus > Species.

Again, the Bible does not mean “species” only when it used the word “min.” It can also include “genus,” “family,” and “order.” The point is this – when the Bible uses the word “min” or “kind,” it is referring to the “original” created kinds.

How do we determine which animals belong to which kind? This is where the discipline of “Baraminology” comes in. The word “baramin” was coined by a biologist named Frank Marsh. It’s a combination of 2 Hebrew words: “bara” means “created” and “min” means “kind.” Hence, “baramin” = “created according to its kind.” Instead of focusing only on “similarities in appearance, behavior and distribution and the ability to interbreed and produce fertile offspring” (Garner and Todd Wise), Marsh considered many different species to be in the same species. According to modern science wolves, coyotes, jackals, dingoes, and house dogs would be different species. Marsh said that they were all one baramin. He placed special emphasis on the ability of the species to make hybrid offspring. For example: the group of birds under Anatidae that include ducks, geese, and swans. Altogether, “there are about 146 species and 126 of them are connected directly or indirectly through hybridization” (Garner). This is not always the best test. How do we classify extinct animals just based on fossil records? How about bacteria, that don’t reproduce sexually? Sometimes, some animals may have lost the ability to interbreed, but they still belong to the same “kind.” This is where scientists Kurt Wise has proposed “baraminology” to argue that it’s not just similarities but also differences that decide on the proper “original kind.”

When all this is properly classified, how does the “tree of life” look? The tree of life is an evolutionary concept, where everything is connected. It is assumed that young earth creationists believe in the lawn of life with the fixity of species. To the contrary, we believe that it is more like the “orchard of life,” where every group is distinct (Kurt Wise). They had tremendous potential to bring forth many new species and varieties. This took place after the flood. People often wonder how all those millions of species got inside the ark. There were not millions of species but good number of kinds with the capacity to diversify. For example (Garner): There was one cat family that gave us lions, tigers, leopards, pumas, lynxes, and regular cats. There was one camel family that gave rise to the Old-World camels (dromedary and Bactrian) and the new world camels (llama, alpaca, guanaco, and vicuna). So also, horses. It is after the flood that a rapid development of the various kinds of species took place. The animals headed to Noah’s ark probably looked similar to our present animals but different.

In God’s providence, they had all the necessary DNA to reproduce and adapt to their new surroundings. Todd Wood, creation biologist, calls it “the AGEing process.” It has been known for some time that some parts of the DNA are able to make copies and move around. They can be harmful, almost like parasites. Wood thinks that they were not harmful originally – “Altruistic Genetic Elements” = they were good genes designed by God to produce diversity. Unfortunately, they don’t serve that purpose today. Ultimately, all these kinds went through the process of adaptation, natural selection, and biological change quickly into all kinds of species that we know today. Here’s a simplistic example: Maybe the first dog kind had medium length fur with one gene of long hair and one short. When two of these interbreed, there will be short fur dogs, medium fur dogs, and long fur dogs. If the climate is cold, the long will survive. If hot, the short will survive.  Doesn’t this sound like modern evolution? No (Garner).

  • Unlike evolutionary theory which goes back to a single ancestor, God made everything according to its kind.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which trusts natural processes, God designed the organisms to change.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which looks to random mutations, God placed in the organisms the potential for variety.
  • Unlike evolutionary theory which gives rise to new kinds, God allows speciation to work only within its kind.

People often mistakenly think that Charles Darwin came up with the idea of Natural Selection. That’s not true. It was actually a creationist named Edward Blyth. He wrote about it 22 years before Darwin published his Origin of the Species in 1859.

Why are there so many similarities? There may be similarities between the duck, duckbill dinosaur, and the platypus, but this does not mean that they came from the same ancestor. It tells us 3 things (Garner):

  1. Necessary for creation to function
  2. Perfect design for multiple uses
  3. Same Designer

Still some questions: What about Embryonic similarity? What about Vestigial Organs? What about Defense and Attack Structures? Same designer, but not necessary the same ancestor. Many uses that we don’t know yet.

It goes back to the Fall

Genesis 3.     14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field…” 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it’: ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…”

God cares about the animals and has been providentially guiding them.

Psalm 104      10 He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills. 11 They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle… 16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted, 17 Where the birds make their nests; The stork has her home in the fir trees. 18 The high hills are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers…21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God…25 This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great. 26 There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there. 27 These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season. 28 What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good. 29 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.

Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 10     29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will…31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

God will bring redemption even to them in our coming glory.

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

Invitation: Do you understand what the Fall has done to us? Do you understand the providential grace of God? Do you understand the redemptive grace of God? Are you saved?

Flourish by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  One of our kids’ favorite movies is the computer animated science fiction WALL-E. It is set in the year 2805 AD when the Earth has become a barren wasteland, overrun with trash from years and years of mass consumerism. A 5-year plan to clean up the planet is initiated while humans are somewhere in space in a fleet of star liners. Unfortunately, the plan fails and the countless WALL-Es (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class) are shutdown, except for one. For 700 years, this one last WALL-E is still going about his day trying to clean up until one day he finds a seedling plant. As you know, he also meets a probe named EVE (she was given that name for a reason). What is relevant for our message is that the tiny green plant was the sign that Earth had become habitable. In today’s message in our apologetic series, we will also learn how God strategically began with the creation of the plant life. Here are some questions: “If the sun was not created until Day 4, how could plants survive on Day 3?” “I’ve heard of the bionic leaf. Does it mean that we can make plants now?” Main point: God has made every blade of grass, every flower in the field, every fruit on the tree, and every bush and mighty oak in the forest. They all testify to his SAP – his sustenance, his artistry, and his promises towards us. Let’s not forget – Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness.

Genesis 1:11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, andthe fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so.

Context: After God created the waters and land on the third day of creation, he created the plant kingdom. Three things are mentioned: Grass (deshe), Plants (eshev), 3. Trees (ets). This does not mean that there are 3 different kinds of plants. The first (deshe) refers to vegetation generally. It emphasizes the lush greenery over a previously earthy land surrounded by water. The other 2 are the main classifications: plants that bear seeds outside and plants that bear fruits with seeds inside. The main reason for giving us plants is Genesis 1      29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Human beings (adults) require about 2000 food calories per day. That is about 8000 kJ (kilojoules). We need energy, especially from the sun. A plant produces about 100 calories per square meter of leaf surface facing the sun in one day. That is about 420 kJ. Plants are stationary and they can gain this energy. How about us? We gain that energy as we consume the plants that function as solar energy concentrators. God thought of everything! The phrase “according to its kind” is added to emphasize the “self-perpetuation” of the plant kingdom.

Can you imagine the change in the earth in just a matter of 3 days! At first, it was just plain black and white of the watery matrix. Then, comes the sky and the sea, which brings the blue color. Now, with the creation of the green plants, there is another color added to the spectrum. On day four, there will be the sun, which will bring yellow and orange. Finally, with the creation of the sea creatures and birds on day five and animals and humans on day six, there will be the red color and some of the variations. By day 7, there will be the entire spectrum of the rainbow colors – Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red. How beautiful!

Application: God is the only one who can bring color into our colorless world. The world has been trying to copy and steal this, but it belongs to him. He can do that in your life as well. It happens when you receive Christ as your Savior. Have you done that?

According to evolutionary theory, it could not be this simple (Roger Patterson listed the following development of plants according to evolution):

  • Plants began as green algae and went through many adaptations to go from water to land.
  • Fossil evidence for plants comes from 400 million years ago. By the way, there is not a single fossil series, transition from one form to another.
  • Symbiosis helped plants survive on land.
  • Initially, the forests were filled with giant ferns and cycads (thick and woody stem with large and hard leaves). These became our fossil fuels today.
  • Next came the seed plants, followed by vascular plants (fossils around 375 million years ago), and finally flowering plants (fossils around 130 million years ago).

The main problem has to do with the process of photosynthesis. Simply speaking, it is the process by which plants take in carbon dioxide and sunlight and through the process of photosynthesis give out glucose and oxygen. This not only gives the plants the food they need to survive, but also gives us the oxygen we need to breathe. Top scientists from top institutions with top credentials and top technology have been trying to replicate it with very meager results. I did some research on the latest in plant physiology. Here are two I want to share:

  1. According to the Harvard Gazette, Chemist Dan Nocera found a way to use sunlight to split water molecules and combine it with CO2 to make renewable fuel. This is known as the Bionic leaf. Hopefully this will help people in poorer parts of the world, but so much more still needs to be done. Thus far, the focus is on oxygen because the project was with the Office of Naval Research to help generate oxygen on the fly for divers. There are so many issues that still have to be addressed and it is far from ready.
  2. According to an article in the Heliyon, an open access science journal, Dr. Tanai Cardona from the Imperial College, London, claims by studying the enzymes involved in photosynthesis, instead of looking in ancient rocks and rock layers, that there must have been bacteria that evolved oxygenic photosynthesis and later evolved into anoxygenic photosynthesis. To have complex life-forms on earth, you need oxygen. God thought of everything. That’s why he made plants before he made animals and humans. Plants use photosynthesis (we will see that in a minute) to produce oxygen. According to the standard evolutionary theory, cyanobacteria developed the ability to do photosynthesis and produced oxygen about 2.3 billion years ago. This is based on some geochemical evidence. Don’t forget that, according to evolution, the earth is about 4.5 billion years old and earth’s atmosphere did not have any oxygen until 3 to 2.4 billion years ago. By the way, it was claimed that cyanobacteria evolved from green and purple bacteria which have only one photosystem compared to the two photosystems of cyanobacteria. What caused this evolution or replication? Never mind, there is no answer. Now it is claimed by Dr. Cardona that some ancient microbes came earlier, and it could have been as early as 3.4 billion years ago. The whole point is that if it its 3.4 billion years ago that oxygen was produced through these bacteria, then it’s only one billion years for photosynthesis to develop from the origin of the earth at 4.5 billion years. Also, life on earth began 3.7 billion years ago according to evolutionists. How does this impact their model? These gives barely 200-300 million years for all this to happen! By the way, originally his research showed that it was even longer than 4.5 billion years ago that photosynthesis began. So, he suggested that the process was faster in the beginning and then slowed down later since the earth had cooled down.

How complex is this process and God did this in less than half a day! Photosynthesis is probably the most important chemical reaction on earth, and it’s happening constantly everywhere since the beginning of time (from Jonathan Sarfati). On the surface, this is very simple, but, on closer examination, it is highly complex. The formula is six molecules of water plus six molecules of carbon dioxide produce one molecule of sugar plus six molecules of oxygen:

(6CO2 + 12H2O + Light Energy à C6H12O6 + 6O2 + 6H2O)

The most important part of the reaction is the breaking of the water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists refer to this as the OEC (Oxygen-evolving complex). This requires a lot of energy. Light in the form of photons does this, but it must be just right, not too much or too little. God designed this to occur inside the chloroplasts which contain the chlorophyll, which is necessary for photosynthesis. According to a system called Photosystem II, as the photon reaches the leaves, it is channeled through chlorophyll where it knocks out an electron from an atom and this electron helps convert sugars from CO2. Now the chlorophyll (P680) must replenish this lost electron. This is achieved through a catalytic core present in all plants and algae – Mn3CaO4-Mn. This provides the redox potential, stores the energy from the four photons, and maintains the water molecules in the right positions.

Again, how awesome is our God!

Ultimately, he gave us plants, trees, and fruits for greater reasons. Here are the main ones:

  1. It all started with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2        9 And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

  1. It represented the curse of sin.

Deuteronomy 21      22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”

  1. It was on a tree that Jesus died

1 Peter 2:24who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

  1. It is the tree of life that awaits us.

Revelation 22       1 “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations…14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”

Invitation: Can you see God’s promises in his creation? Have you ever asked Christ to be your Savior? Are you saved? Will you have access to the tree of life?

Sacred by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many parents have told your kids not to let strangers into the house or even tell them that you are away when you’re gone? Nicole recounts a time when her parents were away, and this man knocked on their door in the evening. Her dad had helped him out sometime back at his office and he had somehow found out where he lived. Nicole told him that her parents were busy and could not come to the door. So, he went down the driveway and kept pacing up and down the sidewalk. Little while later, he came back to the door and before Nicole could get to it, her brother opened the door. The man asked for their dad again and he blurted out, “They’re not here.” Nicole quickly called a neighbor who lived around the corner and the man finally left. As you know, we are in our series on apologetics called CONTEND. In this message, we’re going to learn why it is essential to be discerning against those who come knocking on our door, claiming to be like us when they are doctrinally opposed to us. Main point: Doctrine is often looked upon as old fashioned, divisive, and boring. To the contrary, doctrine is essential to the gospel and impacts eternity. Doctrines have to be learned, defended, and reaffirmed, especially the first-rank ones. The Holy Spirit guides us in true doctrine.

2 John 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”

Context: Very early in the life of the church, first-rank doctrines were under attack. What are first-rank or first level doctrines? Per Mohler and Ortlund (separate works), these are the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture. Of course, there was not a full-on attack against these doctrines in the earliest days, but the attack had begun. John the apostle referred to the attackers as a “deceiver” and an “antichrist.” Then he reminded the readers – 8 “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” In other words, the doctrines that have been worked out so carefully should not be cast aside so easily. Instead, verse 9 “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” Here we notice that the first-rank doctrines of the Trinity and Christology are being defended and reaffirmed. But wait, here comes a warning – 10 “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” What a strong indictment against those who deny these first-rank doctrines!

In this message I want to deal with 2 groups who are known for coming to our houses with their so called “gospel” – Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both claim Christianity and both claim the Bible as their book as well, but they allege that it has been corrupted. Also, both add their own literature to the Bible and claim that it is on the same level:

  • Mormon: The Book of Mormon, the Doctrines and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses: New World Translation and their Watchtower Bible and Tract Society with their 2 magazines – “Watchtower” and “Awake.”

In the chart that I have shared with you over the past few weeks, the challenge is again to the “Authority” of the Bible, primarily on that matter of the “Canon.” By the way, both of these movements are what scholars refer to as the “New Religious Movements (Terry Muck). They have cropped up in the past 200 years. Although many smaller movements can be named, these fall into the category of the “reinterpretation” or “recovery” of true Christianity. In other words, they claim Christianity as their roots, but they also claim that they are restoring Christianity to its true roots. How do we determine whether or not they are indeed true?

I. External-Verification (Historical Accuracy & Unity and Coherence):

A. Bible:

Historical Accuracy

  • To begin with, we have 100% of the text of the Old Testament and New Testament. This is done through a discipline called textual criticism. I have dedicated my life to the NT text.
  • Both the OT and NT make tons of references to lands and regions, kings and rulers, cities and towns, mountains and valleys, rivers and seas, buildings and monuments, events and dates, treaties and policies, customs and traditions, etc. We can verify each of them. I’ve been to Israel many times and seen many of these places – Tel Dan in the north to Elath in the south, Joppa in the west to the Dead Sea in the east. I’ve been to Greece and stood on Mars Hill where Paul preached. I can go on and on.
  • Most important verification is the Resurrection of Jesus. Something happened that turned those fearful disciples into bold martyrs. History was divided into 2 halves!

Unity and Coherence

  • Over 40 authors from different backgrounds, places, and historical situations.
  • Nonetheless, from the first book to the last, the message is about God’s salvation of humanity through his son Jesus Christ. I have talked about this endlessly.

2. Mormon Writings:

Historical Accuracy & Unity and Coherence

  • Although they believe the Bible, according to their Article of Faith 8, the Latter-Day Saints “believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” Also, in their History of the Church 4:461, it is claimed that Joseph Smith called it “the most correct of any book on earth.”
  • To begin with, who was Joseph Smith? It is claimed that it all began in 1820 when a 14-year-old boy in up-state New York prayed that God would show him which church to join from among the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. As he prayed in a nearby grove, an overpowering force bound his body and tongue, and thick darkness came upon him, so that he could not speak. Just when he thought that he was going to die, a pillar of fire came down from heaven and he saw the Father and the Son as separate men but just alike, standing before him. The Son told him not to join any church but wait on further revelation. Few years later, the angel Moroni appeared to him in 1823 and promised that he would find a book of gold plates, which he claimed to find in some nearby hill in 1827. The book was supposedly in “reformed Egyptian,” which no one knows what that language is, and the book of Mormon was published in 1830.
  • The story in the book is about the coming of the Hebrews to settle in the Americas. Apparently, their life between 6th century BC and 5th century AD are described in the book. There is no historical evidence for this. Also, it is claimed that Jesus came here to preach to them after his resurrection. Those who received became the Nephites and those who rejected became the Lamanites, who are supposedly the ancestors of the Native Americans. There were battles between the two groups and the Nephites were gone, but not before the plates of the recordings were buried by Moroni, the son of Mormon, the last Nephite general. Again, there is zero historical evidence for all this.
  • Overall, it is written in a pseudo-translation pretending to be written in the style of the King James Version.

3. Jehovah’s Witnesses literature:

Historical Accuracy & Unity and Coherence

  • Although they believe the Bible, they use their own translation, claiming that ours is corrupt. In fact, they believe that the Watchtower Society is “the one and only channel which the Lord has used in dispensing his truth continually since the beginning of the harvest period…” (April 1, 1919).
  • In the late 19th century, a young man in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania named Charles Taze Russell began a class called the “Millennial Dawn Bible Study.” He was a Presbyterian, but found the doctrines of predestination, eternal damnation, and the Trinity troublesome. He got some of his ideas from the Adventists and others who taught on prophecy, and he put them together in his literature which later became part of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
  • He claimed that Christ’s invisible “second presence” had happened in 1874 and the harvesting period had ended in 1878. The “end of the Gentiles” time would take place in 1914. That year came and went, but it was claimed that the invisible occurrence had happened, and Satan was thrown out of heaven. Now Jesus had begun his heavenly rule and starting in 1918, the 144,000 were in the heavenly kingdom. Russell died in 1916 and the leadership passed on to Joseph Franklin Rutherford. He was the one who “solved” the problem of the 144,000, by claiming that they are the “anointed ones” as opposed to the “great crowd” which represents all the Jehovah’s Witnesses (name chosen in 1931).
  • The writings of Russell and Rutherford are not used anymore. Instead, it’s the materials from the Watchtower Society. Who writes them? The leadership but anonymously since 1942.

You would think that the external verification would be enough to prove that the Bible alone is the true Word of God. Unfortunately, both groups claim in one way or another the witness of the Holy Spirit. This is not a problem for us. Instead, it is a must for believers. Because of our sinful minds and hearts, the Holy Spirit has to illumine and demonstrate the truth of God’s Word:

  • Illumination – show us the truth of God’s Word.
  • Demonstration – testify to us that it is the truth.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t give new evidence. He is the cause of faith not the reason.

1 John 4      1 “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

II. Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Bible: We’ve obviously seen what the Holy Spirit has to say, especially about the Trinity and Christ.
  2. Mormon Writings:
  • Trinity is denied. Their trinity is 3 persons united in purpose not being. Instead, polytheism is affirmed since they claim that there are many gods in different parts of the universe.
  • The Heavenly Father was a man at one time who was created by a god, who was also created by another god. He passed through degrees of sanctification to become God. God was once a man like we are and that humans can become like God is now (Snow).
  • Jesus was a product of Heavenly Father and mother. They deny this but Satan was a spirit brother of Jesus through another wife of the Heavenly Father.
  • His sacrifice is not sufficient. Ordinances and covenants in the temple are necessary for godhood in the Celestial Kingdom.
  • Much more.

3. Jehovah’s Witnesses Literature:

  • Trinity is denied. Jehovah is the only god.
  • Jesus was created as Michael the Archangel. He became the Son at baptism. Hence, they read John 1:1 as “a god,” which is grammatically and theologically false. Also, the Holy Spirit is God’s active force.
  • Jesus died only for Adam’s sin, not for all of humanity.
  • No hell. Instead, paradise will be for a select few and the rest will be annihilated.

Invitation: Can you discern? Does doctrine matter? Is Christ your Savior and King? Is the Holy Spirit in you testifying to the truth?

Canon by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Last month, June 2021, an Italian artist named Salvatore Garau put up a sculptor at an auction titled “lo Sono,” meaning “I am.” He set the opening bid between $6000 to $9000. Only problem was that it was an invisible piece. According to Garau, “The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight…Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.” People laughed about it. Some put pictures online of their invisible pieces. Believe it or not, someone bought it for $18,300! Here’s where the story takes a turn. Couple of days ago, Tom Miller, a Florida-based performance artist, claimed that Garau stole his idea. Back in 2016, he had assembled an invisible piece titled “Nothing” over 5 days. Miller has hired an attorney. How does this connect with our message in our series titled “CONTEND?” Just because you believe it, it doesn’t make it right. Main point: The Bible is not one person’s imagination of truth and reality. It is a collection of God’s words through various individuals in various times and in various ways regarding one thing – the coming of his son. Jesus is God’s son who came as a real historical person in a real historical place and time to fulfill God’s promise of salvation for all humanity.

Hebrews 1      1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

Context: What a powerful declaration of the special revelation of God through the ages! If you remember the chart I have created, so far, we worked up. The Scriptures are authoritative because they were inspired by God and hence inerrant. They were inspired because they were the special revelation of God. Now, we need to work down. Because the scriptures were authoritative, they were affirmed as canonical by the church. The Old Testament canon was already set before the New Testament was written and the New Testament canon was affirmed by the church in due time. Of course, there are certain questions that have been raised regarding canonicity. Here are some questions that we received in our survey:

  • Why are there more books in certain Bibles?
  • Is there any value in the books that have not been included?
  • Isn’t the process of canonization similar to other religions?

In answering these questions, I want us to compare the biblical canon to the Buddhist canon. In other words, how do the Buddhist religious books compare to the Bible.

  1. Main Character:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • Buddha or Word of the Buddha
  • There was one – Siddhartha Gautama from Northern India in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. He was a prince. For various reasons, his father would not let him venture out of the palace. He did not know what suffering was. He was married and had a child. One day, at the age of 29, he asked his charioteer to take him for a ride. On the way, he was exposed to “Four Sights” – an old man, a sick man, and a funeral procession. In other words, he was exposed to suffering. The fourth sight was a Hindu sadhu who seemed very peaceful. He decided to become one and left his wife and son. This was the “Great Renunciation.” He went searching for the truth and even tried to scourge himself. Finally, at age 35, he sat under a pipal tree to meditate. All night, he fought against the evil tempter Mara. As a result, he experienced enlightenment and the path to the end of suffering.
  • This path begins with 4 Noble Truths: 1. Existence is suffering (dukkha) 2. Suffering is caused by desire (tanha). 3. Liberation (nirvana) from suffering and desire is possible. 4. The Eightfold path is the way to escape – right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Basically, they are morality, concentration, and wisdom.
  • After this he gained some disciples and began preaching his way to enlightenment.
  • Basically, his teachings were rooted in Hinduism, Jainism, and other ancient religions. There was a lot of focus on suffering, meditation, and following wise teachers. Karma was again important. The goal was to progress through the reincarnation cycles and escape to Nirvana. Unlike Hinduism, which focuses on coming back in the next life, Buddhism focuses on the continuation of pure karma from one life to another.
  • But, there were many other Buddhas. Their common teachings together are the buddhavacana or the word of the Buddha. This is the essence of the eternal Dharma or teachings.

B. Bible

  • From start to finish, the Bible is about Jesus. Listen again to Hebrews 1 2 “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…”
  • That’s why when Jesus began his ministry, he said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” After he rose from the grave, he met some of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
  1. Canon:

A. Buddhist Religious Books

  • There are 3 canons based on the three main traditions: Theravada, Mahayana, and Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Theravada (way of the elders) claims to be the earliest and closest to the early Buddhist community. It is found in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Kampuchea).
  • Mahayana began around the time of Christ and spread from India to China, Korea, and Japan. It claims to be superior to Theravada. Unlike the Indian focus on nirvana, the Chinese and Japanese focus was more on enlightenment.
  • The Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana came in the 7th century to Tibet, and it is found in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. It is more focused on Indian tantric practices. These include mudras (physical postures), mantras (magical phrases), calling on ghosts, demons, and territorial spirits. Their leader is the Dalai Lama, who is considered to be a reincarnation of the previous 13 Dalai Lamas and is believed to be connected to Buddha.
  • Based on the 3 traditions, there are 3 different canons:

#1. Theravada – Pali Canon which has the Tripitaka (3 baskets) containing Buddha’s teachings, monastic codes, and philosophical analysis. They were passed down orally and finally penned 400 years later and agreed upon 500 more years later. This is much larger than the Bible, 11 times. This is how the Ajanta and Ellora Caves came to be. They were places for monks to study, work, and meditate.

#2. Mahayana – It has the Pali canon and many more which it considers to be superior. It has about 100,000 pages in printed form. They are like libraries. This where the Lotus Sutra comes in, if you’ve heard of it.

#3. Tibetan – part of the Mahayana tradition and other texts.

  • Buddhism has also spread to the west. It is heavily influenced by Japanese Buddhism and a new kind of Buddhism is emerging. It is a buffet style Buddhism, which tinkers with Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, even Jodo (pure land) Buddhism.

B. Bible

  • Old Testament – 4 Canons (Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox)
  • Jewish – The traditional number of books is 24. Referred to as Mikra (that which is read) or Tanakh [T, N, K = Torah (instruction/law), Nevi’im (prophets), Kethuvim (writings)]
  • Protestant – The traditional number of the books is 39. It retains the order of the LXX but the text is based on the Hebrew Bible.
  • Roman Catholic – The traditional number of books is 49. It is based on the Alexandrian canon of the LXX. The order of books varies. It is based on current editions, such as the Jerusalem Bible and the New American Bible. The appendix of the Latin Vulgate contains 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, and the Prayer of Manasseh.
  • Orthodox – The traditional number of the books is 53. It is based on larger versions of the LXX. “Orthodox” here refers to the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches (the Slavonic Bible being the traditional text). In Orthodox Bibles, 4 Maccabees and the Prayer of Manasseh-and in Slavonic, 3 Esdras are in an appendix.
  • The extra books found in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canons are not part of the Jewish canon. According to Josephus, the 24 were it for the Jewish canon.
  • The Essenes from Qumran only cite from the Jewish canonical books and only wrote commentaries on them.
  • Philo (20BC – 40AD) the Jewish scholar only cites from the canonical books. So also, the NT authors stick to the canonical books. Jude quotes from 1 Enoch but it was not claimed to be canonical.
  • The extra books were added by the RC and Orthodox as important to certain Jewish people.
  • The New Testament canon of 27 books have remained the same throughout. The ones claimed recently are gnostic heretical books.
  1. Purpose (Adapted from Thane Hutcherson Ury)
A. Buddhist Religious Books B. Bible
1.    No personal god 1.    God wants us to know him.
2.    History is cyclical. No creation 2.    History is linear. Yes, creation
3.    Main problem is suffering 3.    Main problem is sin
4.    Salvation is from inside 4.    Salvation is from above
5.    Ultimate goal is Nirvana 5.    Ultimate goal is relationship with God
6.    It all happened under a tree 6.    It all happened on a tree
7.    No judgment 7.    Day appointed for judgment
8.    No life after death 8.    Eternal Life
9.    Be lamps to yourself 9.    Shine the light of Jesus
10.Without Buddha, still Buddhism 10.No Christianity without Christ

3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. The writer then goes on to compare Jesus to the Torah, Moses, the Promised Land, the priests, Melchizedek, the sacrifices, and the covenant.

Invitation: Who would you rather trust? Someone who imagined or someone who has been promised and who came in definite time and place and fulfilled that promise? Are you saved? Do you know Jesus as your Savior and King?

Inspiration by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  There’s an urban legend out there about a man, his car, and vanilla ice cream. By the way, an urban legend is a tall tale with a small truth. There is a small truth in this story. One day a famous car company received a complaint from a man that his car did not like vanilla ice cream. Of course, they dismissed it as a prank, but the man wrote back – the car does not start when he gets vanilla ice cream, but if it’s any other flavor, then its fine. So, just to play along, they sent an engineer to check on it. Sure enough, first day, he got vanilla and it didn’t start. Next day, he got chocolate/strawberry and it started right up! Day after, vanilla and it didn’t start! He called back to the head office and said that its true! The next day, he decided to investigate the matter further. He began to document every detail of the man’s routine. Then, he realized what was happening. The engine was experiencing a vapor lock, a problem that happened when liquid fuel became gas in the fuel delivery system of the old engines, unlike the fuel injection ones of todat. It would obstruct the fuel pump causing a loss of power. Given a few extra minutes, the obstruction would clear and it would start up. The reason it didn’t start right away when the man got vanilla ice cream was because vanilla ice cream being popular had plenty of tubs and easily accessible. He had to wait for the attendant to bring him the other flavors and it gave more time for the fuel to vaporize. It had nothing to do with the flavor of ice cream. The point is this – he sort of had a correct diagnosis of the problem, but a completely wrong prescription. We are in our apologetics series called CONTEND and we are looking at what makes the Bible different from other religious books. Main point: For a book to be inspired, it should provide more than just the correct diagnosis of the human problem. It should also provide the correct prescription. The Bible is the only book that provides both. It not only tells us that we are lost in sin, but it also points us to God’s Savior named Jesus.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…”

Context: Paul wrote those very important words to Timothy, his son in the ministry. “All Scripture” = pasa graphe. Some scholars believe that this refers only to the Old Testament and others believe that it refers to both the Old and New Testament. I believe that even if Paul didn’t mean this at that point, by process of deduction from 2 Peter 3, we can claim that it includes both the Old and the New Testament – 15 “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” Here the questions are brought up:

  • Can other religious books claim to be Inspired?
  • Can there be truth in other religious books?

Keep in mind our chart in this miniseries. Last weekend, we focused on Revelation and the difference between how the Bible was given and how the Quran was given. This weekend, we will focus on INSPIRATION and whether there is any truth in the Hindu religious books.

Nature of the books:

  1. Hindu Religious Books (taken from Timothy Tennent and others):
  • No human authorship and historical origins of the most sacred texts.
  • True knowledge is eternally reverberating through the universe as a resonating sound known as “anahata sabda” = unstruck sound. This is symbolized by the sound “Om.” It is the essence of ultimate reality or consciousness. It is the self. It is a sacred symbol that is chanted by itself or before and after times of worship.
  • Is Om associated with God? Can be but not necessarily.
  • Unlike Christianity and the Bible which has a linear time, Hinduism depicts the world as going through endless cycles of creation and destruction, with no beginning or end. At the dawn of each unending creation cycles (yug), the sages rehear the sacred sound which is converted into knowledge and that’s the sacred tradition.
  • These traditions were passed down orally and later written down as the 4 Vedas (knowledge) – Rig (hymns), Sama (chants), Yajur (sacred formulas), and Atharva (spells). They are not 4 separate books, but 4 recensions of the same common core material.
  • Next is the Brahamans, commentary on the Vedas. This is followed by the Aranyakas, to be read in the forest. Finally, the Upanishads, philosophical and speculative material. It means “to sit down near” the guru.
  • All this is the Sruti, that which is heard. It is not rooted in history.
  • There could be more, the mysterious “fifth Veda.”
  • Then, there is the Smriti, that which is remembered. It is written by human authors and rooted in history.
  • It is secondary to Sruti.
  • This includes the philosophical Sutras, the Law books, the Puranas, the Mahabharata with the Bhagavat Gita, and the Ramayana.
  • God revealing himself is found in the Smriti, especially the Gita where Krishna reveals himself to his follower Arjuna.
  1. Bible

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” We are familiar with the words “inspire” or “inspiring,” but they mean very different things than what Paul meant here. The former imply filling someone with the urge or ability to do something good or creative. You can feel inspired by reading a good book. You can inspire others to take on a challenge in their life, but inspiration here is “theopneustos” = God breathed or God’s spiration. Here the word is referring to something that God did 2 other times in history:

  • Creation of the world – Psalm 33:6 “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”
  • Creation of human beings – Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

So also, the creation of his word is the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the writers of the Scriptures that resulted in their writings being an accurate record of the special revelation, i.e., the Word of God (this discussion based on Erikson).

(Note: Revelation vs Inspiration = God to human writer vs human writer to others, then and now.)

How did God breathe his word? Did the writers have a much deeper walk with God than the rest of the people? Did the writers have a heightened sense of God’s thoughts? By inspiration we mean that God directed the thoughts of the writers so that they were exactly his thoughts. God used the personalities, gifts, trainings, and experiences of the writers, but the final choice of the words was exactly what he wanted in his providential guidance in the writer’s life and his purposes in the world. 2 Peter 1:21 “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Hence, we hold to the verbal-plenary view of inspiration, i.e., words and the whole message.

Bottom line: there is a big difference between how the Bible was given and how the Hindu religious books came together.

Purpose of the books:

  1. Hindu Religious Books:
  • There is wisdom found here and there, but there is no atonement or redemption.
  • There is the promise to find God within oneself but it does not deal with sin.
  • Based on fear of gods, spirits, never-ending rituals, and a billion reincarnations to escape the circle of life.
  • It has oscillated between monotheism, henotheism, polytheism, and animism.
  • Overall, accept the Vedas, caste system, and worship of different gods and goddesses and protection of cows.
  • The scriptures can be divided into 3 ways: 1. The way of works (karma marga); 2. The way of knowledge (gyana marga); and 3. the way of devotion (bhakti marga). The first 2 are Sruti and the last one is Smriti. Therefore, the Hare Krishna movement leans heavily on the Gita, which is Smriti. Some of this was espoused by the Beatles, Beach Boys, and others.
  • The point is that Hinduism deals with the problem of sin but has no solution for it.
  • There is karma (what you sow is what you reap), samsara (cycle of life), and moksha (liberation out of life into the Brahman and nothingness/emptiness) through many reincarnations.
  • There’s so much more that I do not have time to go into here.
  1. Bible:

Why did God breathe the scriptures? Back up to verse 14 “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learnedthem, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Scriptures not only make us wise unto salvation, but also help us to mature and become equipped for every good work.

In my opening illustration, I mentioned that the diagnosis is there but no prescription.

“From the unreal, lead me to the real! From darkness, lead me to the light! From death, lead me to immortality!” (Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28)

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” In that statement, you have the Way (Karma Marga), Truth (Gyana Marga), and Life (Bhakti Marga).

Invitation: What are you searching for? Are you saved? Have you met Jesus Christ?

Authority by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: Howard Hughes was a very successful American businessman. He made it big in the fields of engineering, aviation, and film making in the mid-1900s. Towards the end of his life, due to physical and mental issues, he became an eccentric and reclusive. Unbeknownst to Hughes, a journalist and novelist named Clifton Irving secured a contract with a large advance from a publishing house to write his autobiography. Irving claimed that he had exclusive interviews with Hughes, which was not true. At the last moment, Hughes and his lawyers stepped forward and exposed the whole thing as a fraud. Some people think that the Bible is nothing but a well-crafted and elaborate fraud on God perpetuated by the church to fleece the masses. In fact, here are some of the questions that you sent regarding the Bible: “Doesn’t the Bible have errors?” “What about all those books that did not make it into the Bible?” “What makes the Bible more special over other religious books?” “Aren’t all the copies of the New Testament corrupt?” “Why do the various translations disagree?” “Aren’t the biblical accounts similar to ancient myths?” It may seem like these questions regarding the Bible are all over the place, but, in reality, they are all connected to the issue of the Authority of the Bible. Main Point: The Bible is unlike any book in the world. It is the word of God without any errors, and it claims authority over our individual lives, church, and world. In fact, submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically to Jesus Christ.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

Context: The first assault that Satan made against human beings in their relationship with God was regarding the Authority of the Word of God – “Has God indeed said…”That question had 2 implications: first, are you sure that’s what God said; second, are you sure you have to obey him. The first implication has to do with Revelation. The second has to do with Application. Both are a challenge to the Authority of God’s Word. To understand why the Bible is Authoritative and why we have to Obey it, we need to understand some of the other terms connected to the doctrine of Scripture. If you grew up in church, especially in evangelical circles, I’m sure you have heard a lot of big words regarding the Bible: Inerrancy, Inspiration, Revelation, Authority, Canon, Interpretation, Infallibility, and Application. What do they all mean and how are they connected? To begin with, the key word in all these words is Authority. J. I. Packer (famous evangelical theologian who authored “Knowing God”) wrote, “Authority is the basic theological issue into which discussions of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation finally run.” I have come up with the following chart. It’s not perfect, but it helps us to understand how all the terms connect to Authority and to each other:

  • The Bible has to be obeyed (Application) because it is Authoritative.
  • Before you can properly apply, you have to correctly interpret it (Interpretation).
  • The Authority only extends to the Canonical books because they alone were recognized by the church.
  • They alone were recognized by the church as Canonical because they alone were Inspired.
  • Because they are Inspired, they are Inerrant.
  • They are Inspired and Inerrant because they were Revealed by God through the Holy Spirit to his people.

Let’s start at the beginning:

1. Revelation: This is God making himself known to human beings. There are 2 kinds –

A. General

i. Nature – Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

ii. History – Daniel 2:21 “And He changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and raises up kings.”

iii. Human Nature – Romans 2:14 “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.” This is only about right and wrong, not salvation.

 B. Special – We need more specific information in order to be saved. Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This is where the 66 books of the Bible come in. The information in them is Personal, Anthropic, and Analogical. They come as historical acts (Abraham and Isaac; Babylonian exile), divine speech (“The word of the Lord came to me…”) and the incarnation of Jesus.

2. Inspiration: This is the process by which revelation is recorded and communicated to God’s people. More specifically, “the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on selected individuals which rendered them the instruments of God for the infallible communication of his mind and will” (Charles Hodge). 2 Timothy 3 16 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, (theopneustos = God-breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” It is verbal (very words and not just concepts and subjects) and plenary (all is equally inspired even if certain parts are more beneficial than others). Also, it has both the human and divine elements (differences between the styles of the prophets and the writings of the gospels). 2 Peter 1:21 “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

3. Inerrancy: “[Inerrancy] is a corollary of the doctrine of full inspiration of the Bible. The view of the Bible held and taught by the writers of Scripture implies the full truthfulness of the Bible” (Millard Erickson). Here’s the best definition: “When all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences.” (Paul D. Feinberg)

Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

Matthew 5:18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Note: Infallible – usually used by those who allow for the possibility that the Bible may not be fully free from error. They limit inerrancy to matters of faith and practice, especially salvation.

4. Authority – Here’s the definition of the “authority of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem – “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” The Bible has both bestowed and inherent authority. Because of its content that points to the living true God, it has bestowed authority. Because it is inspired and inerrant, it has inherent authority. It has authority over individual lives, church, and culture. Submission to scriptures is submission to God, more specifically Jesus Christ.

Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

5. Canon: Here “canon” refers to the list of authoritative books. It is often falsely alleged by the skeptics of Christianity that the church picked those books that fit their socio-political agenda. This is sensational history repeated in novels like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. That’s just not true! The canon was providentially set by the Holy Spirit and the church councils in the third century simply affirmed those books. The true evidence is seen in their use by God’s people from the first century. Very early on, they made lists of books that were deemed authoritative. Yes, there are certain Bibles that have extra books in the Old Testament. We will discuss that in the weeks ahead, but this is not so in the New Testament. Most of the extra-canonical books are Gnostic in origin.

6. Application: Ever since the end of the seventeenth century, there has been a growing shift in the western culture regarding the word authority. Prior to the coming of modernism, authority was looked upon as a benefit. Since then, it is looked upon as a hindrance to the free inquiry of truth. Authority is considered to be the opposite of truth. Obeying the Bible is seen as optional and even detrimental to freedom. We have to once again recognize that the Scriptures are not only authoritative as a top down authority, but they are very beneficial to us because they truly know us and can help us. Hebrews 4 12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

7. Interpretation: In order to obey, scriptures have to be properly interpreted. We have to use all the possible methods that will help us get to the heart of what God is saying and what he is expecting of us. Does the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart guarantee accurate interpretation? How can two people taught by the Holy Spirit have conflicting views on a passage? Does the Holy Spirit give us deeper meaning that cannot be reached by a normal study of a passage? In what way does the Holy Spirit guide our understanding in the study of God’s Word? Only the saved can be enabled by the Holy Spirit to truly appreciate and apply the Word (I Corinthians 2:14; I Thessalonians 1:6).

We began with Satan’s challenge to the Authority of God’s Word in the lives of Adam and Eve. I want to close with his similar challenge in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Matthew 4       3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: “He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10   Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Invitation: How much Authority does the Word of God have in your life? Ultimately, the Bible is God’s rescue manual to save you. Are you saved?

Contend by Dr. Abidan Shah

CONTEND by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Today, we are starting a brand-new series titled CONTEND. It is coming out of 1 Peter where Peter called on the persecuted church to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” As our culture is becoming increasingly removed from Christianity, and even becoming hostile to it, it is imperative that we are ready to give a defense of our faith. In fact, it is imperative that we answer the questions that people are asking and give an accurate and adequate defense. With that in mind, we asked you to send some questions that you are struggling with, or you know someone in your life is struggling with. Here are just some of your answers: “Is the Bible truly God’s Word?” “Why does God allow evil in the world?” “Did Jesus really rise from the grave?” “Does God exist?” and many more. Let’s just say that we will be in this series for some time! Also, it will be different from the typical sermons that I preach. Here’s the main point of today’s message: The answer to unjust suffering and persecution is fearlessness and immediate and reasoned defense. Fear will keep you from contending for the faith.

1 Peter 3     13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”

Context: Last weekend, we learned that Peter gave a paradox for the persecuted church to live by. On one hand, they could rest assured that no harm would come to them since God had his eyes on the wicked. On the other hand, they were to think of themselves as blessed if they had to suffer for their faith. Remember: A Paradox is a statement that appears contradictory on the surface but proves to be true on further examination. The point is that we also have to live the paradoxical life in this new world. On one hand, we should rest assured that no harm would come to us. On the other hand, we should think of ourselves as blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. But then, Peter made the following statement at the end of verse 14“And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” As I pointed out to you last week, that is a quote from Isaiah 8:12 “Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” If you’re paying attention in this series, Peter has quoted a lot from Isaiah in his letter – Isaiah 40:6-8 (1 Peter 1:24-25); Isaiah 28:16/8:14 (1 Peter 2:6-8); Isaiah 43:20-21 (1 Peter 2:9); Isaiah 53 (1 Peter 2:22-25); Isaiah 8:12-14 (1 Peter 3:14-16); and Isaiah 11:2 (1 Peter 4:14).

But here’s a problem – the way Peter quoted from Isaiah is not what Isaiah intended in that verse. When Peter said, “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled,” he was talking about not being afraid of the outsiders. But when Isaiah received that verse, it was talking about not being afraid of the insiders. Isaiah 8     11 For the LORD spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ Concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” Here was the situation: The people of Judah were afraid of the Syro-Ephramite alliance (the confederation of the Northern kingdom of Israel with Syria). They wanted to ask Assyria for their help. God was telling Isaiah not to be scared of what the people around him were afraid of. People have come to this passage and made the claim that the Bible has errors. If Peter was mistaken in his understanding of what Isaiah meant, then how can we claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God?

There are passages in the NT were the author quoted from the Old Testament, but he either quoted it with the wrong words or with the wrong understanding. What can be done in a situation like that when people claim that the Bible is mistaken?

Scholars have come up with 9 different ways to look at the problem of the use of the OT in the NT (Taken from Moo/Naselli from Carson’s “Enduring Authority”):

  1. Fideism – The Bible says it I believe it…
  2. Subjectivity – presuppositions are all there is to it.
  3. Jewish Exegesis – midrash and pesher, special way of interpretation
  4. Dual Authorship – divine and human authors are different
  5. Theological Exegesis – more happening in the context, can become subjective
  6. Intertextuality – connection of texts on a deeper level
  7. Typology – God’s plan is repeatedly seen.
  8. Fuller Meaning – more there than meets the eye by the divine author, easily abused
  9. Canonical Approach – just focus on the final product

Out of these 9, #3, #5, #6-9 have value. I always begin with #5. In the present situation, #5, #6, #8 are helpful.

Let’s compare the 2 passages and see if Peter was truly mistaken:

DO NOT FEAR
1 Peter 3:14 “…And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled,” Isaiah 8:12 “…Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”

 For e.g. How many of you have ever told your kids “People reap what they sow?” It is from Galatians 6:7 where Paul was talking about sharing with those who teach the word.

The principle is that God’s people have always had to be reminded to be fearless whether the fear was from outside or inside.

Application: Are you allowing fear to rule your heart? Are you allowing someone’s fear to captivate you?

DEAL WITH ANY AND ALL SIN
1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…” Isaiah 8:13 “The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.”

The principle is that sin will cause you to fear and hinder your ability to stand in the face of opposition.

There is another principle here – While in Isaiah it was simply Lord of hosts, in Peter it is Lord God, which may be a reference to Christ.

Application: Is there any sin resident in your heart? Is Christ supreme in your life?

SPEAK OUT AND GIVE HOPE
1 Peter 3:15 “and always be ready togive a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Isaiah 7      3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz…4and say to him: “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.

The principle is that we are not just arguing our case. We are bringing hope to people.

Application: Can you see that people need hope?

REJECTION WILL BRING SHAME
1 Peter 3:16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. Isaiah 8:14 He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The principle is that rejecting the gospel will bring God’s shame on those people.

Application: Will you be ashamed? Are you saved? Are you contending for the truth?

The Age of Paradoxes by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE AGE OF PARADOXES by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Everywhere you turn on social media, there are graduation pictures with parents and grandparents proud and excited to see their kids growing up and becoming successful. One thing that is relatively new with regards to the graduation attire are decorating the graduation caps. Here are some interesting ones that I came across: “Bye Buddy hope you find a job,” “This was nothing like high school musical,” “Did everyone see that? Because I will not be doing it again,” “Bye Mr. Anderson, I’m graduating, tardy or not,” “Thousands of years later,” “I don’t even go here,” “Last minute like everything else I did in high school,” “Ya’ll hiring?” and my favorite “I is smart.” The last one is sort of an oxymoron, a contradiction. On one hand, the student is claiming to be smart because he/she is graduating. On the other hand, the student should not be allowed to graduate since they don’t even know basic grammar. In this message on Graduation Sunday, I would like to speak on paradoxes, which are much more than just oxymorons or contradictions. I’ll explain the difference in a few moments. We are still in our series through 1 Peter and this message is directed towards our graduates, but it is for all of us. Main point: Ours is the Age of Paradoxes, much more than at any other time in history. Especially in the post 2020 world, we are smarter and dumber, united and divided, bold and fearful, and woke and wicked, all at the same time. It is vital that we adopt those paradoxes that please God and fulfill his purpose in his world. It is vital that we adapt to our new setting but still maintain our old convictions.

1 Peter 3:13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?”

Context: Keep in mind that that Peter had just quoted from Psalm 34, David’s psalm at the cave of Adullam. The previous verse, 1 Peter 3:12, said, “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” Here David was teaching the distressed, indebted, and dissatisfied people how to be ready for the bad days when it seemed that the wicked were winning. Peter was also telling the Christians that God can see what the wicked are doing and he will protect them from any who would try to harm them for living righteously. The conjunction “and” is more of an inference “then.” What an assurance! But, listen to the very next verse – 14 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” It appears that Peter just used a paradox – “No harm will come to you if you follow God, but when harm comes to you because you follow God, don’t be afraid.” Paradox often gets confused with contradictions. There’s a difference: Contradiction: Out of two things, one is true, and the other is false. For e.g., living death or poor rich girl. Paradox: A statement that appears contradictory on the surface but can be true on further examination. I don’t have to suggest examples. We are living in the Age of Paradoxes and the culprit is the Internet, especially social media. Don’t misunderstand: The Internet has brought tremendous benefits to our world, but it has also created the Age of Paradoxes. Here’s how:

  1. We are Smarter and Dumber at the same time.

We are living in the Information Age. People from poor and remote corners of the world can access knowledge at just the click of a button. Unfortunately, the Internet is also filled with loads of false information, especially on social media, which was the root cause of much panic and fearmongering through the 2020 crisis.

  1. We are United and Divided at the same time

The world has become smaller, faster, and easier as communications, transactions, and even shopping have been revolutionized. Social media platforms have connected us with old friends and helped us make new ones. Unfortunately, the various social media platforms that were meant to connect us have also become weapons to attack one another. It’s easy to be a “keyboard warrior” and fire off a post or a tweet against someone you disagree with. If you really don’t like someone, you can cancel and shame them out of your tribe without giving them a chance to explain themselves or apologize.

  1. We are Bold and Afraid at the same time.

Researchers claim that in some areas self-esteem is on the rise, as young and old are unafraid to post their photos and videos online, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, people are afraid of being called out online for some action or lack thereof. Concurrently, many decisions of 2020 were, and still are, made out of fear of being shamed. Also, false information has also caused a lot of fear, as mentioned in the first point.

  1. We are Woke and Wicked at the same time.

“Woke” is the catchword for awareness regarding social justice and racism, especially on social media. Now, it’s everything from LGBTQ+, women’s rights, immigrants, and everyone who is disenfranchised. With as much self-proclaimed righteousness, wickedness is still on the rise. Pornography that takes advantage of women and children is on the rise like never before. Hate and bitterness hasn’t gotten any better. We are fooling ourselves into thinking that we are better because we are “woke.”

This is the world in which our post-2020 graduates are entering! Add to all these paradoxes, the political chaos of 2020 and 2021, the terrible violence and destruction of our major cities, the toxic cancel culture and censorship on social media, and the increasing attack on our Constitution and our values? As a result, we are now trillions of dollars in debts, divided as a people across racial, religious, and political lines, and facing an uncertain future. Things are no different across the globe – due to the shutdowns, people are struggling like never before, ISIS is back, Israel is under attack, and so much more. If our post-2020 graduates are to survive this Age of Paradoxes, they will have to seek a new set of paradoxes. They will have to learn to live the paradoxical life that Peter described in these verses. Listen again to 1 Peter 3 again – 13 “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” On one hand, we have to live knowing that no harm will come to us if we live for God. On the other hand, we will have to accept the possibility that harm will come if we live for God. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be afraid. Peter was now quoting from Isaiah 8:12. This was the promise God had given to Isaiah the prophet when Judah had turned to Assyria for help instead of turning to God. In time, the southern kingdom was also gone forever. It took going into exile for them to learn what it means by literally “Their fear do not fear.” Initially, it was, “don’t fear what they fear,” and then it became, “don’t fear what they threaten you with.” In other words, “nothing will harm you, but if harm comes, don’t fear.” Even though the people of the southern kingdom failed to follow this paradox, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived by this paradox in Babylon. They had to adapt to their new setting but still maintain their convictions:

  1. They complied but resisted every step of the way.

The complied when they were given Babylonian names, but they resisted when it came to eating unclean food. Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” At the end of the 10 days, Daniel and the other three were 10 times in better shape than the others. You will also have to learn to comply and resist. I know that seems so contrary to our thinking, but, as a minority, if you don’t, you will lose your identity. In 2020, many of us only complied when we should have also resisted. In the post-2020 age, people will flock around those who can make sense out of the chaos, display a sense of discernment, and know when to comply and resist.

  1. They looked to the past but lived in the present.

A plan was hatched to trap Daniel. Everyone in the land was to pray to King Darius for the next 30 days. If not, the offender shall be cast into the den of lions, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians. What was Daniel’s response? Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” We quickly focus on prayer, but did you notice the direction of his prayer? Daniel did not forget where he came from. There has been an attempt for quite some time to rewrite our past as a nation and a people. I won’t say that everything in our nation’s past has been perfect, but let’s never forget the Judeo-Christian foundation of our nation. You will have to go back and rediscover how we came about as a people. What did our founding fathers believe? Why did they think the way they did? Having said that, we are not to live in nostalgia. We are to live in the present.

  1. They worked as if it depended on them but prayed as if it depended on God.

Daniel 2     48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. Can you imagine the workload of these 4 young men! Can you imagine the burden of the entire Babylonian Empire on their shoulders!

Nowadays, people don’t want to work. I was at a restaurant the other day. They had a hiring sign as well as a table setup with flyers and applications. So, I talked to the person, and she said, “People come by and apply and then they are back on the unemployment list. They rather collect free money than work.” How long can we do that? As someone once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Nonetheless, repeatedly, it is claimed that Daniel prayed every step of the way. Daniel 9      20 “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.” Many are collapsing in our world right now. Prayer will help you resist temptation, maintain your integrity, and refocus your life. Daniel prayed even though he was thrown in the lion’s den.

  1. Ultimately, they were aware of the hopelessness but remained hopeful for the future.

Daniel 9      16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

In that prayer, you can sense both Daniel’s hopelessness in the present and his hopefulness for the future. Our best days as a nation and as a people are ahead of us. It will require repentance. It will require redemption through Jesus Christ. It will require you to live the life of paradoxes apart from the Internet and dedicated to Jesus Christ.

Post-2020 graduates, as you approach the new age of paradoxes, you will have to craft an identity that is distinct from your social media persona.

Ultimately, it comes down to the great paradox Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Do you know him? If you do, he will be with you no matter what age comes or goes.

Misstep by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Have you ever been startled? I was one time when I was working late night security and the big AC unit came on behind the gym and scared me to death. When people are deathly afraid, they stop thinking. I have seen ladies climb on top of dining tables to get away from a tiny mouse! In our series through 1 Peter, we have been going through a miniseries called ONE MIND where Peter is reminding the believers to be united and not give in to fear. Main point: Healthy fear keeps us in step, but unhealthy fear causes us to misstep. When we are faced with the unfamiliar, it can drive us to isolation and even temporarily block our ability to reason. In such moments, we need those who will breathe godly courage back into our lives.

1 Peter 3:10 “For ‘he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.’”

Context: In exhorting the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor to be of one mind and not turn against each other, Peter quoted from Psalm 34. As we have done throughout this series through 1 Peter, every time Peter quoted from the Old Testament, we went to that passage in the Old Testament and spend some time studying it. We’re going to do the same thing here. We’re going to spend some time in Psalm 34. This psalm begins with a short title that says, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” At one time, scholars doubted these titles, but more and more now think that they are original. So, what is the context of Psalm 34? To understand the context of Psalm 34, we have to go to 1 Samuel 21    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.” What an unflattering picture of the giant killer, the anointed king, the man after God’s own heart, and the sweet psalmist of Israel! What would cause someone like David to act like this? Short answer, FEAR. To understand the long answer, we have to dig a little deeper, starting in chapters 17 through 20. In just 4 chapters, David had gone from being the most loved man in Israel to being the most wanted man in Israel:

  • Chapter 17 – David killed Goliath with a slingshot and saved the armies of Saul. Instantly, he was a hero in Israel; but this was no big deal for him since he had already killed a lion and a bear and rescued a lamb of his flock from its mouth.
  • Chapter 18 – David gained the favor of Saul who wouldn’t let him go back home. In fact, Jonathan, Saul’s son, and David became best friends. In time, David even began to lead the armies for Saul against the Philistines with great success, and the saying was, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Unfortunately, Saul began to eye David with envy. He even tried to have him married off to his daughter so he could control him. Sadly, God had left Saul, but he was with David. Saul knew that and he even tried to kill David with a spear.
  • Chapter 19 – Jonathan tried to convince his father that David was loyal to him, which helped for a little while but not for long.
  • Chapter 20 – Saul was once again after killing David. At first, Jonathan didn’t believe David, but he realized very quickly that it was true when his father even tried to kill him. This is where that incident took place where Jonathan and David made a covenant with each other in the field. It says in 1 Samuel 20:42 “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.’ ” So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.
  • For the first time, David must have felt truly isolated. So, he went to the man of God. 1 Samuel 21:1 “Now David came to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest.” Keep in mind that he was the great grandson of Eli the high priest. And Ahimelech was afraid when he met David, and said to him, ‘Why are you alone, and no one is with you?’” The word for afraid in Hebrew is “charad,” which means to be terrified or trembling. Of course, he must have heard about the feud between Saul and David, but more is going on here. In 1 Samuel 2, God had pronounced a curse on the house of Eli because he would not discipline his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. 31 “Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32 And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever.” David must have looked like the grim reaper to Ahimelech.

Illustration: After my dad converted from Islam to Christianity, he went to a mainline church in his hometown and asked them to baptize him. They knew who he was. His father was the police commissioner. They asked him if it was because of a girl. When he gave his testimony, they refused to baptize him because of fear.

What was the impact on David? 1 Samuel 21:2 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.’ Important principle: When you are around someone who is full of fear, unless you are strong, it will jump on you.

Let me talk about fear for a moment. What is fear? Researchers are still unsure. Suomi and Harlow – Is it an emotional state? Is it a motivational force? Can it be perceived as a stimulus? Kahoe notes that it often gets confused with anger, anxiety, and phobia, but there is a difference: “Anger incites attack against a threatening object, fear incites withdrawal. Fear relates to an identifiable object or event; anxiety is interpreted as free-floating apprehension and probably incorporates other emotions with fear. Normal fear addresses a realistic danger, phobia a relatively persistent and irrational fear.”

Some research done on rhesus monkeys has helped us understand how fear works. By the way, I don’t believe that we are descended from monkeys. I believe that we are designed by the same creator. We can see some patterns regarding how fear works. Suomi and Harlow concluded that fear is both inherited and acquired. A certain amount of fear is actually good and healthy and it bonds us to our loved ones and “enhances an existing social relationship.” On the other hand, “too much exposure to fear stimuli too often can have undesirable consequences.”

What happens when someone has intense fear? It can sabotage his/her perception, thinking, and motor processes (From Kahoe). When a person is in a state of fear, they want to comprehend and escape at the same time. Their adrenalin starts rushing. Sometimes, overprediction can lead to phobias and panic attacks. In the short run, this can help you adapt to your surroundings, but, in the long run, it can lead to dysfunctions.

While David was talking to the priest and getting some bread from him, he noticed from the corner of his eye that one of Saul’s henchman was there, an Edomite named Doeg. Now things began to spiral downwards for him. 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.” 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.” 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. Now, he took the Enemy’s weapon and made the foolish choice to head to the Enemy’s territory. 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. This was where he began to act like he had lost his mind. His performance was so convincing that Achish said to his servants – 14 “…Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

That’s how the Enemy works. When we allow him to infiltrate our mind, he turns the very words that once brought courage to us to bring fear into our lives. He humiliates us in the presence of all and makes us a laughing stock.

Application: Have you been infected by fear? Is the Enemy having a heyday with you?

What did David do? Like the Prodigal Son, he came to himself. 1 Samuel 22      1 “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 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.” These were giant killers. One killed 300 at one time with a spear. Three of them crossed behind enemy line and brought water for David from Bethlehem. One killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. The wrong companions had to go so the right companions could come to David.

How is this connected to 1 Peter? Peter wanted the believers in Asia Minor to be of one mind with each other. Together, they would be a mighty army for God.

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 1 John 4     18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

Application: How do you handle fear? Who are you surrounded by? Are you saved?

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