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?

Crucified and Risen by Pastor Abidan Shah

CRUCIFIED AND RISEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Crucified and Risen

Introduction: When kids are little, they love to copy their parents. Little girls will pretend to be like their moms. They will try to do makeup, carry a purse, or pretend to cook in their toy kitchen. Little boys will pretend to be like their dads. They will shave, carry their little tool box around or pretend to cut grass with their toy lawnmowers. Nowadays, there are parents who are pretending to be like their kids but that’s a whole different problem. The point is that we copy those whom we look up to. It’s no different when we get saved. When we place our faith in the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, not only are we saved but we also deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow after Jesus. In fact, true gospel demands that we daily consider ourselves dead to sin and daily live in the power of his resurrection.

Mark 8    34 When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Question: Do you understand what it means to “pick up your cross” and follow after Jesus? Have you been “crucified with Christ?” Are you saved?

Context:  As you know, we’re in our series on the meaning of the true gospel. Last weekend, we learned that salvation is much more than our free ticket to heaven. It’s also our allegiance to follow and obey King Jesus. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that the gospel is much more than just believing that Jesus died and rose again 2000 years ago. It’s also a call to live daily the crucified and the resurrected life. In other words, salvation begins by trusting in the historical facts of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus but it leads to a daily commitment to die to self and to live the resurrected life.

I. HISTORICAL FACTS

To begin with, listen to Paul’s definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15    1“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 2 essential elements in the gospel:

  1. The Cross:It was the most visible and shameful form of punishment in ancient world. It was probably invented by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and later perfected by the Persians, Greeks and Romans. God in his sovereignty and foreknowledge chose this form of punishment instead of hanging or stoning or decapitation or immolation because it simultaneously displayed his love for us and his wrath on sin.Paul captures this in Romans 5  8“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical death of Jesus on the cross in proclaiming the gospel.Listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2    22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” In other words, the crucifixion of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. Jesus actually died on the cross. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the cross.
  2. The Resurrection: God in his immense wisdom included resurrection as part of the plan of salvation.Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:17“if Christ is not risen, your faithisfutile; you are still in your sins!”In other words, if Jesus had stayed dead, he was just a human. No human can die for the sins of others. There is no proof that God’s plan worked. By coming back to life, Jesus proved that he was god. Humans don’t come back to life. He also proved that he was sinless. Also, 1 Corinthians 15:20“But now Christ is risen from the dead, andhas become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, by rising from the dead, Jesus also set the precedent for all of us who believe in him. One day we too will rise from the dead. Again, the early church was very careful about mentioning the actual physical resurrection of Jesus on the third day.Again, listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:24“whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”Paul in I Corinthians 15gives a list of the witnesses – 5“and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”Someone might say, “that’s not that many.” He had to be lifted up high so all could see but he had to be verified by a few so that faith would be the key.Bottom line: The resurrection of Jesus was not some spiritual or mythological event. It also happened. To be saved, you have to believe in the historical fact of the resurrection.

Application: Do you believe in the historical death of Jesus on the cross? Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus on the third day?

II. PRESENT REALITY

Once you believe in Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, we go on to believe in another cross and another empty tomb. This is our cross and our resurrection.

  1. The Cross: Let’s read the passage we read in the opening again – Mark 8 34When He had called the people to Himself,with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” What was Jesus saying here? He was not offering salvation by self-crucifixion but salvation that is willing to live the crucified life. He was calling them to count the cost. If you follow me, it will require you to die to self. Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that you have to build a wooden cross and nail yourself to it. Some people may have to die physically because of persecution. Here, it was simply being willing to see yourself as dead to sin and your selfish desires. Listen to the other verse we just read in the opening from Galatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live . . .” Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Meaning: Accept your old self as done. Don’t indulge sin. Don’t go back to the old life. It’s buried. Leave it buried.
  2. The Resurrection: If you just stop with the self-crucified life, you will only live the morbid, musty, and miserable life. But, just as Jesus rose from the grave, you also rise from the old life to the new life. Listen to Romans 6:4“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”It’s a call to be alive as Jesus came alive. Again, listen to Paul inGalatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the lifewhich I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”Also, Romans 6:11“Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s a choice to live in his resurrection power.

How is all this possible? Through the Holy Spirit – Romans 8:11“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” As you daily submit to the Holy Spirit, he gives you the power to live the victorious life. You don’t have to live in the bondage to sin. Yes, there will be times when you will fail but repentance and renewal is the answer.

Invitation: True Gospel is both Historical Facts and Present Reality. The Cross and Resurrection not only save us but they also set the precedent on how to live the saved life. Are you saved? Are you living the crucified and resurrected life? Are you daily submitting to the Holy Spirit?

Encounters 1 (Clearview Followup)

ENCOUNTERS 1 (Clearview Followup) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Encounters 1 (Clearview Followup)

2 important points to remember:

  1. First, Jesus knew all men (plural). Do you believe He knows everything about you? Do you believe He understands what you are going through right now?
  2. Second, Jesus knew what was in man (singular). Do you believe that Jesus knows the sin that’s in your heart? Do you believe that sin is our real problem?

2 questions to consider:

  1. Do you know any Nicodemus? Remember, they are moral but empty. They are powerful but weak. They have what they want but not what they need. They are willing to check it out but leery and suspicious of charlatans and fakes. They are searching but guarded. They are not bad people just lost people. How are you engaging him or her? Are you praying for him or her?
  2. What did you learn from Jesus’ way of engaging Nicodemus? You cannot insult people into the kingdom of God. You cannot assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo. You have to adapt to the level of your Nicodemus. You cannot assume that just because a person says he/she believes in Jesus that they are saved. You have to remind people that salvation may be mysterious but it’s real.

Major Point: A Salvation without a cross is no salvation at all.

Have you ever memorized John 3:16? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 

You can never underestimate the power of God’s love.

Have you received the love of God shown in Christ on the cross?

Have You Received God’s Eternal Love?

HAVE YOU RECEIVED GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

haveyoureceivedgod'seternalloveIntroduction: This morning is part 2 in our series – BEFORE THE MANGER: HOW CAN A BABY CHANGE MY LIFE? Today’s message is titled – “HAVE YOU RECEIVED GOD’S ETERNAL LOVE?”

Revelation 13   1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name…6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Overall Background: If there’s one book in the Bible that’s the most challenging to understand, it’s the Book of Revelation. There are as many views on this book as there are people reading it! I have studied this book for years and preached on it but I confess that there’s so much I still don’t know. But, in my opinion, the one theme that stands out over everything else in this book is this – “for every truth that God has given to us, Satan has tried to offer a counterfeit, especially when it comes to Jesus Christ.” In verse 8 we just read, people are worshiping the beast/Antichrist instead of the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” My purpose today is not to preach prophecy, maybe another time. My purpose is to tell you that Jesus Christ alone is the true Lamb of God. He is not some afterthought. He is not some last-ditch effort to rescue humanity. He is not some contingency plan drafted at the last minute to help us. Jesus was not brought in at the last moment as the ship was sinking. “Would you please be our lifeboat, our life jacket and save us?” Jesus was the “Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.”

Question: Who is Jesus to you? Is He just one of many ways to God or is He the Lamb of God? Is He just a good thing to have along with many other things or is He your only hope of salvation? Do you understand the eternal love of God for you and me even before time began? Are you saved?

Today we will try to understand the eternal love of God for us in Jesus Christ. First, we will see what a counterfeit looks like and then, we will see the true savior.

I. THE COUNTERFEIT SAVIOR 

Listen again to verse 1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. What exactly is going on here? First, what is this sea? Revelation 17:15 clarifies that “The waters which you saw, . . . are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” The sea is the “sea of humanity.” Out of the millions of faces in the sea of humanity there will rise the beast who will grow in prominence and power. Some think that this beast will be a religious organization. Others think it’ll be a king or a kingdom. Either way, the source of this beast will be this world. By the way, the source of Jesus is not this world. He made this world but He is from above.

Verse 2 “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” The Dragon of course is Satan who will offer the beast all this. Do you remember the last time Satan offered someone all the kingdoms of the world and authority and glory? It was to Jesus when He was fasting in the wilderness. Jesus refused but the beast will receive it. Verse 3 “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” Do you see what’s happening here? Satan is creating a counterfeit savior! The beast will die and then he or it will be resurrected just like Jesus died on the cross but rose again on the third day. Verse 4 “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” Just as God the Father receives the worship through God the Son, the devil will receive worship through the beast. Then he will blaspheme God and use charming words to draw people away from Christ and even war against God’s people and overcome them.

Verse 7 “And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” Who does that remind you of? Jesus! As He was taken up into heaven He said in Matthew 28 18 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Now Satan is trying to counterfeit the glorified and ascended Christ. Will all this counterfeiting work? Verse 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him.” The world would rather worship the beast, the Antichrist, or the false Christ instead of Jesus Christ. But listen to the words following – “whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.”

Throughout the history of this world, Satan has been trying to counterfeit the true Savior. He tried with Cain by getting him to bring an offering of fruits and vegetables. He tried it with children of Israel by getting them to worship the golden calf. Satan is not interested in take us away from worship. He just wants us to worship some false substitute.

Application: Whom are you worshipping? Is it the counterfeit or is it the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world? The counterfeit doesn’t have to be a scary beast or Antichrist. It can be self. It can be religion. It can be a false idea or view of God. If it’s anything or anyone other than Christ, then you are lost?

II. THE TRUE SAVIOR 

Let’s go back to verse 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life.” Meaning: The names of true believers are in the Book of Life. Who does this book belong to? “the Book of Life of the Lamb.” Meaning: The rightful owner of this book is Jesus Christ. Why is He the rightful owner? “the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Because Jesus resolved to give His life for us even before He created this world. Yes – 2000 years ago Jesus died on a hill called Calvary outside a city called Jerusalem. But before there was a hill or a city or this earth or this universe, even before a single atom or molecule was even created, the work of redemption was as good as done. This is why in Ephesians Paul calls the salvation of God His “eternal purpose.” (Ephesians 3:11)

Since the beginning of time the world has been waiting for this Lamb to come. In the Old Testament the big question was “Where is the Lamb?”

  • Remember when Abraham was told in Genesis 22:2 “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” On the way there, Isaac asked his father in verse 7 “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” 9 “…And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”…13Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The–LORD–Will–Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” Jehovah Jireh literally means “Jehovah will see.” This was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God.
  • Remember in the Book of Exodus the Hebrews where in slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 2:24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. He sent Moses to redeem His people. Pharaoh kept hardening his heart and God sent one plague after another. Then came the final plague – death of every male firstborn. God told Moses in Exodus 12 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel… “…every man shall take for himself a lamb…5 Your lamb shall be without blemish…6…Then…kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses…” 23 For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike Just as God had told them, it happened. This was a foreshadow of the Lamb of God. In I Corinthians 5:7 Paul says, “…For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” So also Peter in I Peter 1 says 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
  • In Isaiah 53 it says 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,

While the question in the Old Testament was “Where is the Lamb?” the answer in the New Testament was “Behold the Lamb.” John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Again in John 1:36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Everywhere Jesus went and everything He did He was allowing the people to examine Him and to see that He was indeed the spotless Lamb of God.

While the question in the Old Testament was “Where is the Lamb?” and the answer in the New Testament was “Behold the Lamb,” the focus in the rest of eternity will be “Worthy is the Lamb!” In the Book of Revelation 29 times Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God.

Revelation 5   11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

Will you part of those who praise Him? Do you know the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world? Are you saved

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH (ARTICLE)

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 28, 2015)

Secret to Growing a ChurchNow that I have your attention, let me confess – it is no secret. In fact, it’s been lying in plain sight for two thousand years! History shows that whenever men and women, boys and girls actually put it to use, churches were filled and the kingdom of God grew by leaps and bounds! But before I reveal it, let me clarify what IT IS NOT:

  1. It is not the Programs – Programs are wonderful but they all have a life cycle. Sooner or later they become dated and end up in the church storage room.
  2. It is not the Location – Although location helps, many churches are sitting empty at some of the best locations in their community!
  3. It is not Money – Some churches have empty pews but full bank accounts. Hudson Taylor said it best – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
  4. It is not the Children and Young People – We need to reach the next generation. That’s the goal not the secret to reaching the goal.
  5. It is not Friendliness and Fellowship – Sometimes they only result in superficiality and cliques.
  6. It is not the Organizational Structure – Some people endlessly debate over deacon led versus elder rule, as if the missing link to the next Great Awakening is in how you run the business meeting!
  7. It is not Discipleship – It is essential to help people grow in spiritual maturity. Sadly, many just become well-adjusted people with a lot of bible trivia.

Let’s go a step further—

  1. It is not the Preaching – As much as I believe in the importance of expository preaching and life application, I know many guys who are doing it with no growth in their churches.
  2. It is not Prayer – Those you know me will testify to the fact that I believe in the power of prayer. But there are many praying saints of God in declining and dying churches.
  3. It is not the Pastor – God has ordained the pastor to lead the church but it’s foolish to think that the church rises and sets on any one man.
  4. It is not the Holy Spirit – It is vital to live a life surrendered to Him but I know many wonderful Spirit-filled Christians in empty churches.

And, oh yes—

  1. It is not even the Style of Music – Many sincere people actually believe that if they just went to contemporary worship, it will fill their church up. Don’t misunderstand – we definitely need an upgrade in our worship styles. I am shocked when people think that one musical style is more sacred over another. If you really want to try biblical music, how about giving your choir a shofar, a harp, a lyre and a sistrum this Sunday?!! Bottom line: Music matters but it’s not the answer.

So what is it? Jesus said it plainly in John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Peter applied it on the Day of Pentecost when he preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37) Paul explained it best in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Isn’t it obvious that the cross of Jesus is God’s open secret to growing His church?!! It’s no secret that when the message of the cross is preached and shared in everything we do, the Holy Spirit uses it to draw people to salvation and the church grows. Every major revival and awakening in history can be traced to Calvary.

“O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.”

No Turning Back

You can listen to this and other sermons online by clicking here.

NO TURNING BACK – by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

noturningbackToday we are celebrating what is known as Palm Sunday. It commemorates the start of the final week in the life of Jesus. The time had come for Him to do what He had come to do – go to the cross. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “NO TURNING BACK.”

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away. 6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting. 7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Overall Background: The two passages we just read are about 800 years apart but they are both describing the same final stage in the life of Jesus. They are both talking about His final journey to Jerusalem – the journey that would take Him to the cross. This was why He had come. He was God’s Lamb slain before the foundation of the world and the time had come for Him to give His life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins and save us from the wrath of God. All we would have to do is believe on Him and we would be safe.

What is interesting at this point is that both Isaiah and Luke talk about His face. Isaiah 50:6 says, “I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” and again in 7 “Therefore I have set My face like a flint.” Then in Luke 9:51 – “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” and 52 “and sent messengers before His face” and 53 His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

Our face says a lot about how we are feeling inside. There are all kinds of faces: happy, sad, content, angry, defeated, confused, tired but here it says that His face was like a flint, which is a hard sedimentary rock used to make tools, sharpen knives, and start fires. Meaning: It was an intense, determined, resolute, unafraid, unflinching, unwavering, unshakeable face. In our contemporary language we would say – “He had His game face on” but it really doesn’t do justice to it.

What’s the point? There was a seriousness, intensity, and urgency to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that we have lost. Somehow we have turned this “battle imagery” into a walk in the park or a Sunday afternoon drive or a little window-shopping at the mall. No wonder that we have watered down the gospel to this casual, non-essential and non-urgent option. Jesus didn’t see it like that.

Application: Do you realize the seriousness of the cross? Have you considered the battle Jesus went through for your soul 200 years ago? What’s keeping you from getting saved? If you are saved, how are you following Him? Have you set your face like a flint towards God’s purpose? Why do you keep turning back?

Two major things we will see in this final journey of Jesus to Jerusalem: Destination and Distractions. Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to your spiritual condition and the spiritual condition of those around you.

I. DESTINATION 

Luke 9 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,

Jerusalem

Jerusalem (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Jesus did not set His face to go to Galilee or Rome or Memphis but to Jerusalem. As you know, we were in Jerusalem just two months ago. I’ve seen many cities in my life – Bombay, London, and New York but none of them can compare to Jerusalem. The first thing that gets you are the walls of the city. They are big but they are not intimidating. As one writer put it – “the city is not a fortress and its walls are not a barrier but a veil.” (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor) The next thing that gets you is that everything is limestone, even the newer structure. When the British controlled Jerusalem between 1917-1947, they made a law that all buildings had to be faced with the Jerusalem stone. It was to maintain its ancient look and it’s heavenly glow.

Eastern Gate

Eastern Gate (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

We’re not sure exactly what the city looked like when Jesus came to Jerusalem but He wasn’t admiring the walls or the Jerusalem stone like us. He was seeing something else. In fact, he saw 3 views of Jerusalem:

  1. HOSTILE view of Jerusalem – He saw the faces of the Pharisees and the scribes, the Sadducees, the high priests, and the religious leaders. He saw the faces of the people who were waiting to killing Him. He saw the face of Pilate and Herod, archenemies but would become friends over Him. He saw the faces of the multitudes gnashing their teeth at Him and shouting, “crucify Him.” He had preached them and did signs and wonders and healed their sick but it did not matter.

Luke 13 34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”

Application: Have you ever been in a hostile environment? Have you ever been in a place where you knew that you were not wanted? Some of us are afraid to step out and speak out for the gospel. We are afraid of hostility. If you are lost, do you realize that you are hostile to Jesus? Do you see the end of people who keep refusing Jesus?

  1. DESTROYED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present of Jerusalem but also the future. He saw the impending judgment that was going to come over Jerusalem.
Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Destruction of Jerusalem by David Roberts

Luke 19 41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez

The fulfillment of this prophecy began in AD 66 when the taxes were running low and the Roman procurator Gessius Florus decided to steal the silver from the temple. The Jewish people were obviously angry and revolted. So he sent his troops and killed about 3,600 citizens. The Jewish people reacted by stopping their sacrifices to Caesar and killed some Romans. So Nero sent General Vespasian against them. Nero died and Vespasian became the emperor and appointed his son Titus to continue the fight. After a siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, his soldiers broke through the walls of Jerusalem and killed over a million people and captured and enslaved 97,000 more. Josephus, the Jewish historian wrote that, “The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.” The Roman soldiers were so angry that (some say in spite of Titus’ orders) they burned down the temple of Jerusalem. Josephus writes again, “Jerusalem … was so thoroughly razed to the ground…that nothing was left that could ever persuade visitors that it had once been a place of habitation.” In fact, in AD 131 the Roman emperor Hadrian turned the Roman colony into a city by the name of Aelia Capitolina.

Is it any wonder that Jesus wept when He saw Jerusalem? He saw what was coming. How? He was fully God as well as fully man and as fully God He was not bound by time but as fully man He was living out the drama of the cross.

Application: Do you see the destruction of people who reject Christ? Can you visualize what happens to people (men, women, boys, and girls) who reject the gospel? Does that move you to tears?

  1. GLORIFIED view of Jerusalem – He not only saw the present rejection and the future destruction of Jerusalem but also the ultimate glorification.

Revelation 21 1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel…22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light…”

We don’t have time to deal with all the details of prophecy here but this much is clear – God is not through with Jerusalem. There is a day coming when He will build a city with His own hands. He Himself will lay the foundations. He Himself will erect the walls. He Himself will build homes for us. But, the name will still be Jerusalem – New Jerusalem.

Application: What a promise of hope! What a promise that He will make all things new! Have you received that promise in your life? Are you saved? Do you see that hope for others? Do you see that hope for our community? Do you see that hope for our nation?

II. DISTRACTIONS

Background: As Jesus headed to Jerusalem, several distractions stood in His path but He did not lose His focus. Isaiah helps us to see these distractions.

  1. FAME AND FRIENDS

Isaiah 50 5 The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.

The multitude wanted to take Him by force and make Him their King but He did not consent to them. It would have been so much easier but that wasn’t God’s plan. Neither did He let His only disciples talk Him out of it, like Peter.

Application: Are you letting fame and friends keep you from following God’s will?

  1. PAIN AND SHAME

6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.

He knew that His back would be torn to shreds. He knew that He would be falsely accused, mocked, and spit upon.

Application: Are you letting the fear of pain and shame keep you from following God’s will?

  1. SIN AND SEPARATION

7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.

The biggest distraction was the fame or shame or pain. It was the burden of sin being put upon Him. It was the separation from the Father that He experienced. You hear that when He cried from the cross – “My God My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?”

Application: What is keeping you from following Christ? Why do you keep turning back? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Receive Him and follow Him today.

%d bloggers like this: