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?

Revelation by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  What if you were to find a brown paper sack with ten thousand dollars in ten- and twenty-dollar bills in the bushes where you parked your car? What if you go to visit a rich uncle who gives you a check for ten thousand dollars? What’s the similarity? They are both leave you with ten thousand dollars. What’s the difference? One could get you shot or land in jail and the other fills your heart with love and gratefulness for your uncle. What makes the difference? How did you come across it? In our series called “CONTEND,” we are spending the next few weeks on some of your questions regarding the Bible. Some of you asked, “Is the Qur’an for the Muslims what the Bible is for the Christians?” “Aren’t all religions basically saying the same things in their holy books?” Main point: Before we can understand and evaluate the Content of any holy book, we need to understand the form of its Revelation. In other words, before we can open and decide if a holy book is God’s word, we need to understand how it came to us. Unlike other holy books, biblical revelation testifies to God’s holiness, love, and grace towards fallen sinful human beings. It is his rescue manual to save us and draw us to himself.

Jeremiah 1:9 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 30     1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.”

Context: Last week, we learned that “Authority is the basic theological issue into which discussions of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation finally run” (J.I. Packer).

  • 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.

In today’s message, our focus is on REVELATION, especially Special Revelation. If you remember, we need more than General Revelation (Nature, History, Human Nature). We also need specific instructions regarding God’s plan of salvation. I briefly touched on how the 66 books of the Bible have information in them, which is Personal, Anthropic, and Analogical. Sometimes, it is historical acts (Abraham and Isaac; Babylonian exile), other times, it is divine speech (“The word of the Lord came to me…”), and then there is the major revelation – the incarnation of Jesus. Muslim apologists challenge the biblical claim of special revelation on 2 points:

  1. They claim that how the Qur’an was revealed is far superior to how the Bible was revealed.
  2. Moreover, they claim that the Bible is no longer God’s revelation because it has been corrupted by Jewish people and Christians.

Others even try to be dismissive and claim that they’re all the same.

To answer these charges, we need to compare the Events and the Content of the 2 revelations (Taken from Ida Glaser’s works and my dad’s many sermons):

  1. Event

A. Qur’an – It is claimed that it came to one man, a prophet named Muhammad from the age of 40 until his death, 23 years later. The account is found in the Hadith. They are reports of what Muhammad said or did. The Qur’an is interpreted through the Hadith which were collected 200-300 years after his death. The Qur’an is the Wahy, the pure revelation of God. It exists in heaven and everything else, including translations, is just interpretation or rendition. Ilham is God revealing his knowledge into the mind of the person. This is like the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. Under wahy, there is no such thing as the “original message” or “context” or the “true words” of the prophet Mohammed; the Qur’an is the word of God. There are debates about the Hadiths right now. Also, there are commentaries on the Qur’an. Since, there is no context, not much is left to interpret, only application. Also, there are differences and many don’t interact with each other. Nonetheless, listen to the Hadith Sahih al-Bukhari 1:3 –

The first revelation that was granted to the Messenger of God was the true vision of sleep, so that he never saw a vision but the truth of it shone forth like the bright gleam of dawn. Then solitude became dear to him and he used to seclude himself in the cave of Hira, where he would devote himself to Divine worship for several nights before coming back to his family. He would take provisions for this purpose, then he would return to Khadijah (first wife) and get some more provisions for a similar (period), until the Truth (Gabriel) came to him while he was in the cave of Hira. The Angel came to him and said, ‘Read’. He said, ‘I am not one of those who can read.’

And he continued ‘Then he (the Angel) took hold of me and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore, after which he let me go and said, ‘Read’. When I replied, ‘I am not one of those who can read’, he took hold of me and pressed me a second time so hard that I could not bear it anymore, then he let me go again and said, ‘Read’. I said,’ l am not one of those who can read’.

The Prophet continued: ‘Then he took hold of me and pressed me a third time, then he let me go and said, “Read in the name of thy Lord who creates―creates man from a clot. Read, and thy Lord is most Generous” (from Surah 96:1-3).

The Messenger of God returned with this (message), his heart trembling, and he went to Khadijah, daughter of Khuwailid and said, ‘Wrap me up, wrap me up’. So they wrapped him up until the awe had left him.

In al-Bukhari 1:2, we find more information regarding these events:

Aishah, the mother of the faithful reported that Harith ibn Hisham asked the Messenger of God, ‘O Messenger of God, how does the revelation come to thee?’ The Messenger of God said, ‘Sometimes it comes to me like the ringing of a bell, and that is the type which is the hardest on me; then he (the Angel) departs from me and I retain in memory from him what he said. At times the Angel comes to me in the likeness of a man and speaks to me and I retain in memory what he says.’ Aishah said: ‘And I saw him when revelation descended on him on a severely cold day; when it departed from him his forehead dripped with sweat.’

It is claimed that Muhammad’s illiteracy is the greatest proof of the miracle of the Qur’an, as it is the highest style of Arabic poetry. Also, only the Arabic Quran is authoritative. This is the language in which it was given, and the translations involve interpretation, which can be distorted. School kids are told to memorize the Quran in Arabic even in countries where Arabic is not the main language. Recitation of the Quran must be in Arabic. The original is in the heaven and was

B. Bible

  • The Bible was written by 40 independent writers.
  • It was written over a time span of 1500 years.
  • They wrote it in 3 different languages – Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
  • The writers lived in 3 different continents – Asia, Africa, and Europe – Moses wrote in the desert of Sinai, Daniel from exile in Babylon, and Ezra in the ruined city of Jerusalem, Paul wrote in a prison in Rome, and John on the island of Patmos.
  • They had 20 different occupations – kings, a general, at least 2 fishermen, a musician, a priest, a tax collector, a medical doctor, a judge – Moses was a shepherd, Solomon was a king, Matthew was a tax collector, Luke was a medical doctor, and Paul was a scholar/missionary/tentmaker.
  • It has a cast of 2,930 characters in 1,551 places.
  • Its message is expressed in all literary forms – poetry, prose, speech, lists, etc.
  • There were certain qualifications for prophets in the Old Testament.
  • It was written under many different circumstances – Joshua wrote while invading the land of Canaan, David wrote during a time of war, Jeremiah wrote at the sorrowful time of Israel’s downfall, Peter wrote while Israel was under Roman domination.
  1. Content:

A. Qur’an

  • Sometimes, it is a warning (Surah 18:4). Other times, it is a reminder (Surah 81:27). Yet other times, it is a guide and a witness (Surah 46:12).
  • No organization. It is claimed that the sections can be divided into Mecca, Medina, and Mecca. It is based on information from much later that is disputed.
  • No such thing as the Fall. Man is just forgetful and must be reminded.
  • Those who disregard or reject the Qur’an will face the judgment to come.
  • Ultimately, it is God’s law for man and submission is the way.
  • No mediation or sacrifice is needed. God is merciful.
  • Many times, it makes references to events from the Old and the New Testament. In fact, it needs the bible to make sense of many of the references regarding Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Job, Jonah, Zechariah (father of John the Baptist), John the Baptist, and Jesus.
  • It even reprimands the Jewish people and the Christians for refusing to accept Muhammad as “the prophet like Moses,” “altogether lovely” from Song of Solomon, and the paraclete (another comforter). Sometimes, it refers to us as “the people of the Book” and misunderstand the Trinity! “O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion…so believe in Allah and His Apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah:” (Surah 4:171-172) “And when God said, “O Jesus son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind, “Take me and my mother as gods apart from God?” [Jesus son of Mary] said, “Glory be to Thee! It is not for me to utter that to which I have no right.” (Surah 5:116-118)

B. Bible

  • Mainly a narrative which implies a history and encounter between God and his people. Yes, there are plenty of commands/laws, but they are in a context.
  • Prayers are a two-way relationship.
  • Wisdom and truth are to help us live with God’s guidance.
  • Much emphasis on Jesus because it is the main point!
  • Human beings were made in the image of God with the ability to have a relationship with him. In fact, that is the goal of God for us.
  • We have fallen because of sin. We cannot reach God. He must reach down to us.
  • God is holy. He will punish sin. We cannot handle sin and hence, he must punish a suitable substitute. Only his Son could qualify. The central theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ – In the OT Christ is anticipated and in the NT he is realized.
  • There is just one message – Our problem is SIN and the answer is SALVATION through Jesus Christ.
  • This drama of redemption was communicated throughout the ages – Moses wrote as he led the people to the Promsied Land, Isaiah wrote to warn the people of Israel of God’s judgment against their sins, Zechariah wrote to encourage a disheartened Israel who returned from Babylonian exile, Paul wrote addressing problems in different Asian and European churches, and Matthew wrote to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. They are all written in the context of God’s relationship with human beings.
  • One great example is the story of Cain and Abel: “But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepts only from those who ward off (evil). Even if thou stretch out thy hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against thee to kill thee, lo! I fear Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Lo! I would rather thou should bear the punishment of the sin against me and thine own sin and become one of the owners of the fire. That is the reward of evil-doers. But (the other’s) mind imposed on him the killing of his brother, so he slew him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a raven scratching up the ground, to show him how to hide his brother’s naked corpse. He said: Woe unto me! Am I not able to be as this raven and so hide my brother’s naked corpse? And he became repentant. For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.” (Surah 5:27-32)

The source of the raven scratching the ground is Jewish commentary (midrash) about how Adam and Eve wondered what to do with their dead son. The context is to warn the older brothers (Jewish people and Christians) of being jealous of the younger brother (Muslims). How about the original context? Cain disregarded God’s requirement for sacrifice. God disapproved Cain’s offering. Cain got angry. God confronted Cain. In envy, he killed his brother. God saw it all. He confronted Cain. He denied his sin. God cursed him. Cain pleaded for mercy. God put a mark on him and said to him in “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” What a world of difference!

Let’s go back to the opening where Adam and Eve couldn’t look God in the face. All of scripture is simply God getting us to look him in the face, in the eye. Numbers 6:23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 5.     17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

Invitation: Are you looking God in the face? How do you see the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments? Are you saved?

The Anatomy of Salvation by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE ANATOMY OF SALVATION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  This past week, our Clearview staff was on our annual retreat in Arizona. We do this every year as a time to plan for the summer and the upcoming year. It is much more than just a time to get away. Although, in light of how extremely busy this past year and a half was, it was great to see everyone spending time with their families. Those who are close to the team and are helping out in some ministry at Clearview, you know what I mean. While there, our team produced an 8-week bible study through Nehemiah on rebuilding lives and ministry, and also filmed at some incredible locations that you will see in the CONTEND series. In today’s message, we will answer a question that was asked in various forms: “Why do some people reject the gospel?” “Can someone believe even if they have some questions?” “Recently, I have heard of many big names that have renounced their faith. Why is that?” Main point: Salvation is God’s miraculous work of grace through Jesus Christ in the life of person. Nonetheless, there are certain observable factors that lead to the decision to receive Christ and remain in him. Our upbringing and the evidences we encounter in life determine our degree of belief in Christianity.

Acts 26     12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at 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. 14 And 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 is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Context: This is the conversion account of the Apostle Paul before King Agrippa. It is found 2 other times in the book of Acts (Acts 9 and 22). It is such a radical testimony! One moment, Paul was persecuting Christians, and the next moment, he was one. Listen to his own description of his pre-conversion life – Acts 26      9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Paul was a killer! Paul had a license to kill from the religious authorities. As he was on one of his evil missions, God knocked him to the ground with a bright light from heaven and a question, not in Greek or Aramaic, but Hebrew – “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Paul’s response was – “Who are You, Lord?” What would cause such a quick and radical change in him? It was much more than just a bright light and a mysterious voice. Those were simply to bring him to his senses. Paul gave us the clue in verse 4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. 5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. 6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” In other words, all the necessary ingredients for his salvation were there, Paul was going in the wrong direction. God simply had to turn his around.

The real question before us is – “What makes a person decide if they want to receive the gospel?” Often, it is believed that salvation is a mystery. God draws people by his grace and opens their eyes to the truth. It is truly a miracle. All that is absolutely true, but it is only one-sided. Lately, there has been more research in this field, especially from probability and decision theory. If you are a student of mathematics, you know what I am referring to. This is a very technical area. Although, I was a math and science teacher, I am not going to get into too much detail here. If you would like to know more, there are several important works that have been published lately that utilize Pascal’s Wager in calling people to believe in God. Pascal was scientist, mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and Catholic theologian who lived in 17th century France. He was brilliant. He was of frail health and died at the age of 39. Here’s my re-statement of the Wager, “We cannot come to the knowledge of God’s existence through reason alone. It’s wise to live as if God does exist because such a life has everything to gain and nothing to lose. If we live as if God exists, and He does indeed exist, we have gained heaven. If He doesn’t exist, we have lost nothing. To the contrary, if we live as though God does not exist and He really does exist, we have gained hell and punishment and have lost heaven. A rational person should live as though the Christian God exists and seek to believe in him.” Bottom line: it is rational to believe in God even with incomplete evidence. Although, some have criticized this wager through the centuries, several scholars (Jeff Jordan, Michael Rota, Thomas Morris, etc.) have attempted this approach, especially a Swedish mathematician, Ola Hössjer, professor at the Stockholm University, Sweden. He takes the Wager model and extends it so that the decision to become a Christian has 3 main ingredients: prior belief (a priori), evidence (a posteriori), and will. He uses Bayes’ Rule or Bayes Theorem to understand the probability of decisions. In other words, “our degree of belief in Christianity is the result of an inborn tendency to relate to God and the evidence we encounter in life.” By the way, Thomas Bayes (18th century statistician, philosopher, and non-conformist Presbyterian minister) who came up with his theorem to counter David Hume (English philosopher and skeptic) who claimed that the probability of people inaccurately claiming that they’d seen Jesus’ resurrection far outweighed the probability that the event had occurred in the first place. Jordana Cepelewicz summarizes Bayes’ simple explanation, “Consider a ball thrown onto a flat table behind your back. You can make a guess as to where it landed, but there’s no way to know for certain how accurate you were, at least not without looking. Then, he says, have a colleague throw another ball onto the table and tell you whether it landed to the right or left of the first ball. If it landed to the right, for example, the first ball is more likely to be on the left side of the table (such an assumption leaves more space to the ball’s right for the second ball to land). With each new ball your colleague throws, you can update your guess to better model the location of the original ball. In a similar fashion, Bayes thought, the various testimonials to Christ’s resurrection suggested the event couldn’t be discounted the way Hume asserted. By the way, according to Cepelewicz, Bayes theorem has been used to decode the German Enigma cipher, helped the United States Navy locate Soviet subs, enabled statisticians to determine the authorship of the Federalist Papers, and even unlock the secrets of the brain.

We don’t have time to look at all this in detail. Let’s just briefly look at the 3 main ingredients: prior belief, evidence, and will.

Prior Belief (a priori = before experience): Inborn conception of God (the desire to call on God and worship someone or something), inborn conception of first cause (the understanding that everything has a beginning/cause), inborn desire for meaning (the desire to do or be something), and inborn desire for love (we all want to love). Each of these can be encouraged or discouraged in a person, especially during the early years. That’s why we place such emphasis on children’s and youth ministries.

Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Augustine – “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

Evidence (a posterior = after experience): Historical/Cultural (creativity and culture, misconduct of Christians, church history, religion and wars, other religions), Moral/Ethical (moral law, presence of evil), Scientific (design, bible and natural science, cause) Theological/Philosophical (fall of man, judgment and hell, truthfulness of the Bible, theodicy, Israel) and Personal (pain, suffering, miracles, personal testimony). When we hear about people renouncing their faith, one of these evidences is weak or faulty.

The combination of Prior Belief and Evidence leads to Rational Belief. Based on the individual, it depends on which one will be more important than others.

Will: Some need just a little rational belief; some only need some rational belief; and for some, strong rational belief is not enough.

Why was the response of the Paul immediate and heartfelt? He had plenty of prior belief and evidence. For him, the major evidence was not the light and the voice from heaven. It was the tremendous background he has in the scripture. The light and the voice simply stopped him in his tracks and turned him around.

Difference between my dad’s conversion and mine. It matters how you raise children. Current crisis is permanently marking them. How do you talk about church to them or sermons? Do you discipline and guide your kids?

Pascal said, “In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”

Invitation: What is holding you back? Do you know people who are lost? What do you think is holding them back? Have you prayed for the Holy Spirit would open their eyes and yours?

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?

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