New Beginning by Dr. Abidan Shah

NEW BEGINNING by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: We’ve had quite a few babies at Clearview in 2020. Each of them is special and beautiful. In a world full of chaos and ugliness, a baby can quickly bring a smile to your face. Babies are a reminder that God is not through with our world. But, it’s not easy to have a baby. They are completely helpless and dependent on others. They cannot do anything to support their life. Someone else has to feed and change them. When Nicole’s dad was a pastor, he had a sign over their church nursery, “We shall not all asleep, but we shall all be changed” from 1 Corinthians 15:51. In our series on 1 Peter, we come to chapter 2 where Peter talks about a new beginning like a newborn baby. Main point: During times of trials, fear can cause us to take refuge in our old nature and act the fool. Instead, we should cast aside the old, take on the mind of a newborn, and be totally dependent on the gracious care of God.

1 Peter 2       1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

Context: Once again, we need to remember that Peter was writing to Jewish and Gentile background believers in northern Asia Minor who were facing rejection from their own and social discrimination from their neighbors because of their faith in Christ. Peter knew that times of trials and stress can bring out the best or the worst in a person. Just think about how he reacted on the night Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. First, he struck at the high priest servant and cut off his ear. Jesus had to stop and heal him. Then, he followed Jesus at a distance and ended up denying him 3 times with cursings! These believers in Asia Minor were no different. Pressure was bringing out the worst in them. Listen to the list of things that Peter told them to lay aside in verse 1—“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” The concept of “laying aside” means “to get rid of” or “to strip away” from the Greek word “apotithemi” = apo (away from) and tithemi (set). This command is found several times in the New Testament: Romans 13:12 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” Colossians 3:8 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth”; James 1:21 “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”; Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Principle: It’s alright to pray for God’s help in turning the channel of sin, but the remote is in your hands.

What is it that Peter wanted them to cast aside or get rid of specifically?

  • “kakia,” which is badness, wickedness, doing harm to others;
  • “dolos,” which is deceit, falsifying information, basically lying;
  • “hupokrisis,” which is play acting, pretending, just a show;
  • “phthonos,” which is envy = wanting what someone else has; and,
  • “katalalos,” which is evil speaking, slander, backstabbing.

Application: In your trials, have these old habits and behaviors raised their ugly heads in your life? These are the tools of the Enemy and they have no place in a believer’s life. Pray right now and ask God to give you the strength to cast them aside.

Next verse 2 “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word…” Here’s a very important principle: If you don’t replace what has been cast aside with what is good and beneficial, those old things will return and often with a vengeance. Jesus explained this best in Luke 11      24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” It is the old Aristotelian principle from physics – “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

Application: Resolutions to stop harmful things have to be balanced with resolutions to start helpful and holy things. Have you done that?

But there’s so much more here in the next 2 verses: 2 “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord isgracious.” There are 4 things here, first 2 are easily understood but the last 2 needs some deeper study.

  1. Attitude – “as newborn babes” means helpless, completely dependent, single minded.
  2. Purpose – “that you may grow thereby” means spiritual growth and maturity.
  3. Content – “desire the pure milk of the word”
  4. Motivation – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is”

3. Content – Typically, people have interpreted the statement “desire the pure milk of the word” to be “get into the Bible,” “listen to biblical preaching,” and “join a small group bible study.” None of that is wrong but that is not what Peter had in mind. The word he used in the Greek is “logikon gala.” If he had said “gala logou” from logos, then it’s the milk of the word. The word “logikon is not “logos.” What does the word “logikon” mean? It means “rational” or “reasonable.” Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (logikein latreian). In this context, it means “to desire the appropriate milk.” In other words, Christians should seek after and desire what is proper and appropriate for them as believers. In every situation, there is a proper and an improper for us as believers – as 1 Peter 1:2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” We are to choose that which is proper for us as believers. If you don’t, you will behave inappropriately, especially during trials.

Application: Have you acted properly during times of trials? Did your actions match your confession?

4. Motivation – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Here, Peter is quoting from Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Someone might say that this seems like a common statement. Does it have to be from Psalm 34? In 1 Peter 3:10-12, Peter quotes a larger section from Psalm 34. In fact, according to a scholar (Bornemann), there are 7 quotations and 70 allusions to Psalm 34 in 1 Peter. I think that is a little exaggerated. Nonetheless, if we’re going to understand the depth of what Peter really meant in this letter, we have to understand Psalm 34 a little better.

Psalm 34 “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 think that they are original. What is the context of Psalm 34? This incident took place after Jonathan confirmed David’s fear that Saul wanted to kill him. If you remember, David and Jonathan made a covenant with each other, and David fled for his life. He came to Ahimelech the priest and got some bread from him, but one of Saul’s spies saw him there. Now, David was afraid. He needed some weapons. The sword of Goliath was there in the Tabernacle. The priest offered it to David and he took it! But, then he did something completely foolish. He fled to Achish, king of Gath, king of the Philistines. Of course, they recognized him – 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. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “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?”

Psalm 34        1 “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heardhim, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. 8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessedis the man who trusts in Him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. 10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. 11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” The rest we will see when we come to I Peter 3.

During times of trials, fear can cause us to take refuge in our old nature and act the fool. Instead, we should cast aside the old, take on the mind of a newborn, and be totally dependent on the gracious care of God.

By the way, there is something deeper here – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord isgracious.” The word for gracious is “Chrestos,” which is just one vowel away from “Christos.” What Peter was telling those believers in Asia Minor who were going through a difficult time was not to fear and act the fool. Instead, crave Christ and his life.

Invitation: How much do you desire Christ? Have you acted the fool? Do you know Christ as your Savior and King? Are you saved?

Greater Than Rome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single-Minded by Dr. Abidan Shah

Single-Minded.jpg

SINGLE-MINDED by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: How many of have ever heard or asked questions like—“What were you thinking?” “Did you not think?” “What was going through your mind?” “What possessed you to do that?” I remember a story that my parents often told about my brother when he was about 5 years old. He really wanted a slingshot, and so, they got him one; but, they told him to take it outside. It wasn’t 5 minutes before they heard a loud shatter. The beautiful new Fisher radio in the living room was in pieces. Through the slightly open screen door, they saw my brother standing in the driveway with the slingshot in his hand. They rushed outside to ask him, “Why did you do that?” His answer: “Because I had a clear shot.” In other words, his behavior did not have much reasoning behind it. That’s how many people think about why they do what they do. Here’s the message in a nutshell: We’ve often heard, “what you believe is how you behave.” That’s not exactly true. Unless the Holy Spirit has renewed your mind by what you believe, you will behave as you’ve always behaved. In other words, between belief and behavior, there is the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit. We’re in our series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and our message is titled “SINGLE-MINDED.”

Philippians 2     1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

Question: Do your actions match your beliefs? Has your mind been renewed by the Holy Spirit? You cannot have this transformation until you are saved. Are you saved?

Context: If you remember from the past two messages, there had been some divisions among the Philippians. There some bad behavior going on. Listen to Philippians 1:27“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In other words, the last that Paul had heard, the Philippians were not standing fast in one spirit; they were not with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. We know that at least in the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche, two women who were helpful to Paul in the gospel. Not only this but verse 28-29 give us the indication that they were also facing some opposition from the outside that was causing some fears. So, what is his solution? Listen to Philippians 2:1 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” Paul appeals to what they believe in general. But, now pay attention to Verse 2 “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” There is a Greek word that Paul uses repeatedly here—“phronema.” He uses that word about 11 times in 2 different forms. The only letter in which he uses phronema” more than in Philippians is Romans (about 17 times in 5 forms). What does that word mean? Before we look at the meaning of that word, always remember that “words get their ultimate meaning from their contexts.” Having said that, “phronema” means “mind,” “thought,” or “way of thinking.” As a verb, it means “to think,” “to judge,” or “to set one’s mind on.” Paul goes on to verse 3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Again, the word for mind is a derivative of “phronema,” which literally reads “humble-mindedness.” 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Meaning: If your mind has been renewed or reconfigured to humility, then think about others. If all this is still not enough to motivate you to get along, then verse 5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Again, the form of the word “phronema” is here.

Principle: The point is that the remedy for your bad behavior is for the right beliefs to transform your mind.

Let’s pause here: If your behavior is not matching your belief, it’s because the becoming by the transformation of the mind through the Holy Spirit is not happening. In other words, between Belief and Behavior, there is the Becoming. This is not something novel. There is a much clearer example of this in Paul’s letter to the Romans. If you’ve studied Romans, you know that you can basically divide the letter into 2 halves: Romans 1-11 and Romans 12-16. The first half is theology and the second half is behavior. The first half (Romans 1-11) is about the depravity of human beings, the answer of the gospel, the problem of sin, death, and the law, and the place of ethnic Israel (the Jewish people) in God’s eternal plan of salvation. The second half (Romans 12-16) is about how to live in community, how to be good citizens, how to love our neighbor, how to prepare for the soon return of Jesus, and how to deal with the old traditions. What is important for our purpose is that right in the middle Paul writes Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The idea is that there should be a change of mind based on what you know is true so that you can behave differently than you did before. By the way, what is the mind? I preached a message on this last year. The Mind is made up of 7 ingredients in my opinion

  • Created by God to respond to him but damaged by sin until salvation.
  • Uniquely designed by the combination of our genetic ancestors, good and bad.
  • Softened towards God or hardened against him by our upbringing.
  • Redeemed by our acceptance of Christ or condemned by our rejection of him.
  • Renewed by our growth in Christ, his Word and Spirit, and godly fellowship.
  • Tarnished or transformed by how we handle the circumstances of life.
  • All the above under the grace and providence of God with the freedom to reject or obey him.

Here’s the principle: Theology does not automatically impact lifestyle. There has to be a transformation by the renewing of your mind through the Holy Spirit.

Illustration: I can say that I believe in gravity but if I don’t accept the basic definition of gravity that “whatever goes up must come down,” I will step off this stage expecting to fly and come crashing down. I can fly but only if I understand and use the principles of aerodynamics to counter gravity.

Question: Has there been a transformation by the renewing of your mind? This is where daily Bible reading, good Bible preaching and teaching comes in.

So, let’s quickly go back to Philippians 2:1. What are the right beliefs? Keep in mind that Paul is not getting into some deep theological truths here. He’s just appealing to what they believe in general:

  • “if there is any consolation in Christ” meaning “if being in Christ means anything to you.”
  • “if any comfort of love” meaning “if God’s love has comforted you.”
  • “if any fellowship of the Spirit” meaning “if you have experienced the blessing of being in the Holy Spirit together.”
  • “if any affection and mercy” meaning “if you have experienced God’s love and mercy in your life.”

If all this still does not help you submit to the transformation of your mind, then try the example of Jesus. What does his thinking look like? Philippians 2      6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (Better translation: “who being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to grasp after”) 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This example/worship should be transformational in your life.

What should this example/worship of Jesus cause you to do? Philippians 2:12“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Working out your salvation with fear and trembling means work for the full realization of your salvation in your life. It’s another way of saying “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” But, who is really doing the work? 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for Hisgood pleasure.

Main point: Confession does not become Conduct unless there is a Change in Cognition by the Holy Spirit.

Has this change of thinking happened through the Holy Spirit in your marriage, towards your loved ones, towards your church family, towards your neighbors, towards the lost around you?

Are you saved? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Are you submitted to his renewal of your mind? Is your behavior negating your beliefs?

Reward by Pastor Abidan Shah

REWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How do you feel when someone breaks in line ahead of you? It happens in grocery stores, on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. You’ve been standing patiently in a line and then some inconsiderate jerk decides to jump ahead! Sometimes, it happens on the highways. There is a merge sign 5 miles back and you do the right thing but people keep driving past. Then they try to butt in right before the lane ends and some bleeding heart lets them in! It’s so unfair! So also, God’s grace can sometimes appear unfair by our standards. We expect God to honor our lines of justice, fairness, and seniority but he operates by his own lines of goodness and mercy. Just when we think we are next in line for his rewards for all the good and faithful service we’ve done, God puts us at the back of the line! We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The message is titled “REWARD.”

Matthew 20     1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Which laborer are you? Are you the one who came early or are you the one who came late? If you came late to God, are you working hard to make up for lost time? If you came early to God, are you still working hard for him or have you lost your focus? Have you become envious of the newcomers? Or maybe you are part of the third group who is still standing idle in the marketplace. It means that you’re lost. The Master is calling you. It’s time to get saved.

Context: The parable we just read is deemed by scholars as one of the three most difficult parables of Jesus. The reason it’s difficult is because it’s hard to identify whom Jesus meant when he said in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Were the “first” the “Pharisees and the scribes” and the “last” the “tax collectors and sinners”? Or were the “last” the “disciples of Jesus”? In my opinion, we have to begin 15 verses earlier in Matthew 19:16f to understand the true context of the parable. Here Jesus had the famous encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Remember, he came to Jesus and asked him what he should do to have eternal life and Jesus told him to keep the commandments—“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” etc. The young man very confidently replied, “I’ve already done them. What’s next?” Then Jesus raised the difficulty level and said to him in verse 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Why did Jesus tell him that? After all, Jesus didn’t say that to Nicodemus who was also a very rich man. In fact, if you remember, he actually said the opposite when the woman broke the expensive alabaster flask of perfume at his feet. When people complained that it could have been used to help the poor, Jesus defended her and said in Mark 14:6 “Let her alone…She has done a good work for Me.” The reason Jesus told the young man to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him is because he was possessed by his possessions. Listen carefully: There is a big difference between you possessing riches and riches possessing you. You possessing riches is not a problem. There were many rich people in the Bible and many rich Christians throughout history. On the other hand, riches possessing you is a problem. It is not based on how much money you have in your bank account. It’s your attitude towards money. You can have only two dollars in your name but those two dollars can control your life. This young man was not ready for Jesus because he already had a god. As a result, he walked away sorrowful. Please don’t forget: Coming to Jesus does not mean you have to give up everything. It simply means that now Jesus is everything. That is a very hard thing to do if you are possessed by your possessions. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in verse 23 “…Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shocked at this statement and asked in verse 25 “Who then can be saved?” and Jesus replied in verse 26 “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Application: Are you the rich young ruler? Are you possessed by your possessions? God can help you. He is not here to take your money. He wants to give you eternal life.

Now Peter in his characteristic manner takes this opportunity to gain some points—27“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Unlike this rich young ruler who refused to part with his wealth, they had left all and followed Jesus. He wants to know what will be their reward? 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” I can imagine the twelve disciples thinking “Yes! Payday is coming!” Jesus being God knew what they were thinking and he said in the next line—30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” You can almost hear the disciples say, “Wait! What? Isn’t it first we give and then we get and those who give first, get first.” Listen carefully: Even though the disciples had given up their earthly possessions to follow Jesus, they were still operating by earthly principlesTo counter this, Jesus gave the parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. Think about the parable again—The landowner had gone out early in the morning to get laborers to work in his vineyard. Those who came early in the morning were the first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other 8. Since there weren’t enough laborers, the landowner went back at the third hour. Still they weren’t enough and he went back at the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour. Everything was great until it was time for the wages. The disciples were thinking that they were going to be the new leaders, replacing the Pharisees and the scribes. They were going to get the motherlode of the rewards. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in the kingdom. First, the order got reversed. The eleventh hour once got paid first. Second, the eleventh-hour people got the same amount promised to the first hour people and the first hour people didn’t get any extra reward. Don’t misunderstand: We are not talking about the rewards in heaven. I Corinthians 3:8 “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” The reward in this life are the presence of God, the gift of the Spirit, the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding, the riches in Christ. The first ones don’t get an extra helping! Unfortunately, church people like to act like they have an extra helping when they encounter the 11th hour people. We like to show off Bible knowledge, our spirituality, our understanding of the deep things of God, etc. God says, “You are all on the same level to me.” I believe that the greatest evangelists and Christian heroes and heroines have yet to be born. Again, don’t misunderstand: We are not saying that any new believer can get up and start teaching and preaching. I Timothy 3:6 tell us that an overseer should not “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” Having said that, we don’t have levels of membership at Clearview.

Application: How do you see other believers who are less mature than you? How do you treat people who do not know the Bible as well as you? How do you treat people who are still struggling in their spiritual walk?

When the first hour people began to fuss12 “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’” Their problem was envy. Then Jesus made the same statement from Matthew 19:30 in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Invitation: Have you heard the call? Have you answered his call? Are you saved? This may be the 11th hour for you.

The Plan by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE PLAN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

1. DECLARATION:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. DECISION:

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

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

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

Thankful for Salvation by Pastor Abidan Shah

THANKFUL FOR SALVATION by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Thankful for Salvation

Introduction: How many of ya’ll love dad jokes? Here are some Thanksgiving dad jokes:

  • “What is a turkey’s favorite dessert? Peach gobbler!”
  • “What did the turkey say to the computer? Google, google, google.”
  • “Why did the cranberries turn red? Because they saw the turkey dressing!”
  • “What do you call a turkey on the day after Thanksgiving? Lucky.”
  • “What music did the Pilgrims listen to at the first Thanksgiving? Plymouth Rock!”
  • “Why can’t you take a turkey to church? Because they use fowl language.”

We’re in our series called “Thankful,” to prepare us for the Holiday Season, and this is the final message titled “Thankful for Salvation.” What I have discovered is that the more we grow in the Christian life, the more grateful we become for our salvation. In other words, the longer we are Christians, the more we’re amazed at why God would save someone like us. Today we’ll meet someone who towards the end of his life, in spite of his circumstances, was truly amazed and grateful for being saved.

1 Timothy 1     12“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting meinto the ministry, 13although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I diditignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

Question: How thankful are you for your salvation? How do you see yourself in comparison to others? Are you saved?

Context: If there’s one word that is constantly found in Paul’s letters, it’s the word “charis.” Many of you may have heard it before. It is translated “grace.” Paul constantly used it in his letters, especially in his opening and closing: Opening – Graceto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”; Closing – “The graceof our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”That word was much more than just a polite greeting. For Paul, that word was a reference to the saving act of God in Christ Jesus.But, that word “charis” in certain forms also had the meaning of “thankfulness.”Paul used it often to express thankfulness to God for his salvation.In this message we are going to learn from Paul how to be thankful for our salvation:

I. ACKNOWLEDGE OUR WEAKNESS.

12“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting meinto the ministry.”

Background:That word “enabled” means “to be strengthened.” Paul was thanking God for giving him the strengthen but also continually strengthening him. Now, there is a mistranslation here. It should not be “because” but “that.” Here’s a better translation: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled/strengthened me, that He counted me faithful/trustworthy, putting meinto the ministry.” What he is saying is that in his own self he could not have served God. He is giving God all the credit.

Illustration:Parents have to help a toddler walk. Then they try to pull away.

Application:Do you understand how weak you are? Do you see how much you need Christ to enable you? Do you give him thanks?

II. REMEMBER YOUR FALLENNESS.

13“although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy…”

Few weeks ago, I preached a sermon titled “The Witness Stand” in which we looked at Paul’s conversion and transformation from a Spectator to an Accomplice, from an Accomplice to a Criminal, from a Criminal to a Master Mind, and, finally, from a Master Mind to the Most Wanted. What do you do when you have a Most Wanted on the loose? You have to bring in the big guns. Jesus himself had to come and capture Paul. He made a raid on him on the road to Damascus, tackled him to the ground, blinded him, and took him into custody. What was the result? The Chief Suspect became a Chief Witness to the gospel. I don’t want to repeat that sermon.

“…but I obtained mercy because I diditignorantly in unbelief.” Mercy came to Paul but he could have resisted it. There are 2 kinds of unbeliefs:Ignorant Unbelief and Deliberate Unbelief. Jesus encountered a lot of deliberate unbelief. John 8    22So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?” 23And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I amHe,you will die in your sins.” 25Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” Paul asked the same question. And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. 26I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.” 27They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.”

Illustration: There’s a man who is constantly rejecting the gospel when I have witnessed to him.

14“And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

God had to show me graceand give me faithand even reach out to me in loveto save me. Paul uses the Greek word “huperpleonazo.” Huper is the word that gives us “hyper.” The cross is hypergrace, faith, and love.

Application:Do you remember where God found you? Are you still lost? Is it ignorant unbelief or is it deliberate? Listen again to Jesus in John 9    39And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” 40Thensomeof the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” 41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”

III. WORSHIP WITH GRATEFULNESS.

15This isa faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Background:Paul is so overwhelmed by what he is sharing with Timothy that he launches into praise God for his salvation.

16However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

Application:Do you see your life and circumstances as a tool to bring others to Christ?

 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, behonor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Background:Most scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy in the last 2-3 years of his life before he was martyred. The point is that what we read earlier is not from Paul who just got saved but from Paul who had been saved for a while. We also should become more and more grateful for our salvation as we grow in our Christian life.

Do you express your gratefulness to God for your salvation? Are you saved?

So, what is the gospel?

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

Invitation: Are you ready to follow Jesus your King?

The Witness Stand by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE WITNESS STAND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Witness Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some people are occupying other spots in the courtroom:

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

Are you a witness? Are you saved?

Repent and Believe by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

Mark 1    14Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

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

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

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

 I. REPENTANCE

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

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

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

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

II. BELIEF

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

How important is belief? It’s a must for being saved. Listen to John 1:12“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Then, John 3:16“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”Now listen to John 3:36“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” And,John 8:24“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I amHe,you will die in your sins.” Bottom Line: No belief, no salvation.

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

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

So, what is the gospel?

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

Invitation: Are you ready to follow Jesus your King?

First, Believe: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First the Revelation – 1 Corinthians 15    1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

One response here – Repentance for our sins.

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

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

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

 

ENCOUNTERS 4 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

ENCOUNTERS 4 (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Here are some key points to remember from the message:

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. Maybe the pool was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: Many different views have been advanced for Jesus’s final words to the crippled man – John 5:14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” I don’t think that Jesus was bringing up original sin or some generational sin. Instead, He was simply demonstrated that He knew the man’s past. Apparently, the crippled man had done something bad that caused his paralysis. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. Jesus was warning him not to return to his old lifestyle.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: “…And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.
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