Counting the Cost by Pastor Abidan Shah

COUNTING THE COST by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

COUNTING THE COSTIntroduction: Have you ever heard the expression “counting the cost?” It means to evaluate whether or not something is worth doing. Last Monday I had to “count the cost” when we went with our Converge College and Career Group to a water park. They have this ride there called the “Daredevil Drop.” It’s a 76-foot foot tall water slide. I saw it as Nicole and I were going down the “Lazy River.” Something inside me said, “Won’t that be cool if you could do that and let Nicole video it! Imagine how much fun that would be! Imagine how many likes you could get on Facebook and Instagram! Imagine how many more people would come to Clearview just to see the Daredevil preacher!” So, we went and stood at the base and I watched people slide down, even kids. I counted the cost and it wasn’t worth it! I chickened out. I couldn’t give up my fear. So also, when it comes to our salvation, we have to count the cost. We have to ask ourselves, “What all am I willing to give up in order to be saved?” Please don’t misunderstand. Giving up doesn’t save us. Salvation from start to finish is the work of God. It’s only by grace through faith in the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb that we are saved. But, being willing to give up everything reveals whether or not we understand the gospel. It demonstrates how sincere and how committed we are to follow Christ our king.

 Mark 10   17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” . . . 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” . . . 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

Question: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are you willing to give up all in order to follow Christ? What is keeping you from following Christ? Are you saved?

Context: This series on the gospel has been impactful on so many levels. It has opened our eyes to the true meaning of the gospel. It has confronted our complacency and tolerance for sin in our lives. It has challenged us to live out the faith that we claim to have. And, more than anything, it has demanded from us unconditional allegiance to our Savior and King Jesus. In this message, we’re going to meet a young man who came to Jesus with all the right intentions but he walked away from eternal life because he was unwilling to give up everything he had. 3 things that we will learn from this passage:

I. JESUS DID NOT IMMEDIATELY LEAD HIM IN THE SINNER’S PRAYER.

Mark 10    17Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”18So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No oneisgood but One, that is,God.”

Did you notice that Jesus did not immediately lead him in the Sinner’s Prayer? He was not ready for it. He was under conviction but he was not ready to make a commitment to Christ. For starters, he had a wrong understanding of Jesus. Jesus was much more than just a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh, the Promised One, who had come to give his life for our sins. There are people who have prayed a prayer but never got saved because they didn’t know who they were praying to or what they were praying for.

By the way, the problem is not with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some people don’t like that term. I had a person say to me, “There is no Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible.” I asked him if he knew that the word “Trinity” is never found in the Bible and Jesus never used the word “grace” in the gospels. The real issue is what are we saying in the Sinner’s Prayer and do we mean it.If someone thinks that just repeating a prayer is going to save them, then they are greatly mistaken. But, if someone truly repents and acknowledges that Christ is the only way to salvation, then the next step is to pray to God. What does it say in Romans 10  9“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Who do you confess to? Ultimately, to God. So, you have to talk to God and tell him that you believe. What is talking to God? Prayer. What happens when you truly pray and confess? Romans 10:13For“whoever calls on the name of the LORDshall be saved.”

Bottom Line: Jesus did not immediately lead the young man in some rote prayer. He challenged his understanding of the gospel. He challenged his understanding of himself. Jesus was much more than a “Good Teacher.” He was God in flesh.

Application:How were you saved? Was it just a rote mechanical prayer or did you truly understand the gospel that Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again to save us from our sins? Have you ever prayed to receive Christ as your Savior and King?

II. JESUS CLEARLY LAID OUT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP.  

 19You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,’ “Do not murder,’ “Do not steal,’ “Do not bear false witness,’ “Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”20And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus was telling this young man that by keeping the Ten Commandments, he could have eternal life! Was Jesus calling him to works salvation? Absolutely not. Paul declares very clearly in Galatians 2:21“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousnesscomesthrough the law, then Christ died in vain.”So, why did Jesus say this? Some have argued that Jesus was trying to get the young man to see the hopelessness and emptiness of keeping the Law. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the context that tells us that Jesus or the young man acknowledged that. Others have argued that Jesus was trying to get him to reject his works righteousness first. Unfortunately, Jesus did just the opposite. 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” That’s not taking away “works righteousness,” that’s adding more “works righteousness!”

Why did Jesus bring up the 10 commandments and then tell him to sell everything and take up his cross and follow him? This young man knew that eternal life was not in keeping the Law but he was looking for an eternal life that was cheap and easy. He wanted to have the stamp of salvation and still carry on his old lifestyle. He wanted to get his certificate of the kingdom and still not obey the king. Jesus knew his heart and what he was saying to him was that “Yes, I will pay for your salvation. It’s free to you but following me will never be cheap and easy. There will be a cost to discipleship.”

Listen carefully:It cost Jesus his life to buy your pardon. If you follow him, it may cost you your life as well.” Don’t misunderstand: You don’t have to go sell everything and give to the poor before you can be saved but you be better be if your king tells you too.

Application:Have you counted the cost of discipleship? What are you willing to give up for your Savior and your King?

III. JESUS REVEALED THE SECRET TO FOLLOWING HIM. 

Mark 10   22But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”

By the way, have you noticed that 3 different expressions were used for salvation?

  • The young man asked,“what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
  • The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?

This means that the account was not just for the rich young ruler but all of us.

Now, what was Jesus’ response to his disciples?  27“. . . With menit isimpossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”If only that young man had done what Peter did when Jesus found him, this account would have a different ending. Remember, Peter had not caught anything all night and Jesus told him to launch out into the deep and drop their nets. He obeyed and there were so many fish that the net was breaking. Then it says in Luke 5:8When Simon Peter sawit,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Then Jesus said to Peter, 10“. . . Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” It was the Holy Spirit who enabled Peter and the rest (Andrew, James, and John) to forsake all and follow Christ.

Invitation: The question is not “Are you ableto follow Christ but are you willingto follow Christ?” If you are willing, he will do the rest. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you willing?

Anointed by Pastor Abidan Shah

ANOINTED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

Annointed

Introduction: People often ask me about my name. “What kind of name is ‘Abidan?’ Is that an Indian name or an eastern name?” Growing up in India, people asked me that question too. It’s not an Indian name. It’s actually a biblical name. It’s not the Abaddon in the book of Revelation. That’s the Angel of the Abyss. My name, Abidan, is found about 5 times in the Old Testament book of Numbers. It’s the name of one of the heads of the tribes of Benjamin. It means “My father is the judge” or “God is my judge.” It’s the reverse of Daniel. But, all through people have asked me about my name. By the way, my brother didn’t get any of those questions because my parents named him “Fred.”What’s the point of all this? Biblical names have meanings, especially the names of Jesus. In today’s message we will learn that one of the names of Jesus means king. When we say that “Jesus Christ is my Savior,” we are actually saying “Jesus the King is my Savior.”

John 20    30“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Question: Have you believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Do you have life in his name? Are you saved?

Context:  For those who’ve been away or visiting for the first time, we’re in a series on what is the true gospel. If you ask people in church, even those who have been in church for a long time, what is the gospel, they can’t tell you! It’s like having a car but no key. You can clean it as much as you want. You can argue over the color and the engine size. You can even decide who you will let ride in the car and where you will go. But, without a key, it’s useless. The gospel is the key that gets our salvation going! In fact, it’s more than that. It’s the title deed. Many people are actually sitting in stolen cars!

Last weekend we learned that the gospel should include the idea of the kingdom of God.Jesus came preaching the “gospel of the kingdom.” This is important because when we drop the idea of the “kingdom” from the gospel, following Jesus becomes optional, discipleship becomes a choice.In today’s message, I want us to go further in our understanding of the gospel. I want us to look at an important name given to Jesus. Listen again to the verse we just read – 31“but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”We know what Jesus means – “Yahweh or God Saves.” What does Christ mean? It’s not Jesus’ last name! It was the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” The Hebrew word “Messiah” meant “Anointed One,” someone who had been consecrated or set aside for a special task.When the Jewish people translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the LXX, they used the word “christos,” which comes from the Greek word “chrio,” that carries the idea of “to anoint or smear with oil.” That’s the best they could do! So, Christ or Messiah meant someone set aside for a special task. By the time Jesus came, it was a very important title and had deep meaning for the Jewish people. It referred to God’s Promised Savior for the world. In fact, the word “Messiah” is found about 39 times in the OT and9 of the 39 cases were about that someone who was coming in the future to be God’s king.Here are a few of them:

  • I Samuel 2:35“Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priestwhoshall do according to what isin My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before Myanointed
  • Psalm 2:2“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed.”
  • Psalm 132:10 “For Your servant David’s sake, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.”
  • Habakkuk 3:13“You went forth for the salvation of Your people, for salvation with Your Anointed.”
  • Daniel 9 25“Know therefore and understand, thatfrom the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah(Anointed One)the Prince, there shall beseven weeks and sixty-two weeks. . . 26“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah(Anointed One) shall be cut off, but not for Himself. . .”

These verses and some others led to the development of the understanding that one day God’s chosen king, the Messiah or the Christ, would come to set his people free and rule over them. By the time Jesus came, the title of “Messiah” or “Christ” was very well known.Listen to how Matthew begins his gospel – Matthew 1:1“The book of the genealogy of JesusChrist, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” Few verses down he says inMatthew 1:16“And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is calledChrist.” Matthew 1:18“Now the birth of JesusChristwas as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Luke tells us in his gospel that the angel told the shepherds – Luke 2   10“. . . Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Mark does the same thing in his gospel. He begins in Mark 1    1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in the Prophets:“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,who will prepare Your way before You.”3“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the LORD;Make His paths straight.’”Mark is calling Jesus the Messiah and Christ and quoting Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. He is saying that Jesusfulfilled all the prophecies regarding the Messiah or the Christ.

In John’s gospel, people keep confusing John the Baptist with Jesus and he kept telling them that he was not the Christ. Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus and says in John 1:41“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).Later Jesus changes the life of the Samaritan woman at the well and she invites her whole village to come hear him. Listen to what they say to her inJohn 4:42“. . .Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

Later in Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” They told him John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, 16“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was very pleased with him and said, 17“. . . Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealedthisto you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” All because he acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. Listen to what Jesus said in his high priestly prayer – John 17:3“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and JesusChristwhom You have sent.”

Finally, in Mark 14, at his trial, the high priest asked him,61“. . . Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Mark 14:62  Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” They condemned him for blasphemy. I don’t have time to go through the rest of the New Testament and talk about every time the early church referred to him as Christ.Here’s one from Romans 1    1“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, calledto bean apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son Jesus Christour Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4anddeclaredto bethe Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faithamong all nations for His name, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”

What does all this imply?It implies that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Promised King of the Old Testament. Inherent in his name “Christ” is the understanding of King and Ruler. He commands our obedience and our allegiance. It takes years for some of us to get to the place of total obedience and allegiance and maybe never completely on this side. But, the desire should be there. No desire, no salvation.

Invitation:Have you received Jesus as Christ, God’s Chosen King? Are you saved? Are you obedient to your king?

First, Believe: Introduction by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One response here – Repentance for our sins.

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

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

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

 

Immortal by Pastor Abidan Shah

IMMORTAL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Immortal

Introduction:  What do these expressions mean? Assume room temperature, go belly up, bite the dust, bite the big one, cash in one’s chips, become food for worms. They’re all referring to death. Here are some more – go to the happy hunting ground, kick the bucket, push up daisies, take a dirt nap, take the last train to glory, croak, buy a pine condo, go into the fertilizer business, be stiff as a board, kick the Oxygen habit. Even we Christians have our own idioms for death – to be with the Lord, crossing the Jordan, going to a better place. These are all verbal tranquilizers meant to soften the reality of death because no one wants to deal with that subject. The believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel. Question: Before we read this passage, question – Are you afraid to die? Are you afraid to live? As a believer, what are you living for? Are you saved? Our message is titled IMMORTAL in our series through Philippians.

Philippians 1   21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

Context:  21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two…” Why was Paul so conflicted between living and dying? Listen carefully – Paul was not as conflicted as it may appear. It was really the Philippians who were conflicted. If you remember from last week, I briefly explained that much of what Paul wrote was not for Paul but for the Philippians. Let me explain a little more on that: You may not be aware of this but scholars have identified 2 ways of interpreting Paul’s letters: Epistolary Analysis and Rhetorical Analysis. Epistolary Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters like a typical letter from ancient times with an opening, a middle, and a conclusion. In fact, it’s not much different than letters today, except that through the Holy Spirit, Paul’s letters became the Word of God. Rhetorical Analysis means that Paul wrote his letters more like a speech, an oratory, or, what we would call, a sermon. We know that Paul was a brilliant man, well trained in Hebrew scriptures but what many don’t realize is that he was also well educated in Greek-Roman rhetoric and he used rhetorical techniques in his writings which again through the Holy Spirit became the Word of God. The full impact of Paul’s letters is truly felt when you actually hear them, not just read them. Some people take this too far but, in moderation, this understanding is very helpful in studying Paul’s letters. One such technique that Paul often used was imitation. Instead of telling the listeners what and how to change, the speaker would tell his listeners how he struggled with the same situation and changed and the listeners would get the point. Seneca (Roman Philosopher, Rhetor, and Statesman) said “The way is long if one follows precepts, but short and helpful if one follows patterns.” Philippians 3:17 “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Word to the wise, especially parents – “If you want someone to change, stop telling them what’s right and what’s wrong and start telling them how you struggled between right and wrong and chose what’s right. That will make a far greater impact.”

With this knowledge in mind, let’s re-read these verses21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If you read this verse without thinking, you will misunderstand what Paul really meant. You may think that Paul is just struggling between living and dying. You may even walk away thinking – “A Christian cannot lose in life or death. In this life, we have Jesus and when we die, it just gets better!” Sometimes people even quote 2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Although, there is truth in the fact that a Christian cannot lose in life or death, that is not the real point of either Philippians 1:21 or 2 Corinthians 5:8. In reality, Paul was using a rhetorical technique to help the Philippians. Apparently, they were facing some difficult challenges, maybe persecution, maybe financial problems, maybe relationship struggles, or maybe health issues. They were saying things like – “I’m ready to go. I’m tired of this old world. I’m ready to walk the streets of gold. I know we have Jesus here but it will be so much better on the other side!” Does that sound familiar? You might be surprised to know that, as a pastor, I have encountered more people who are just waiting to die than those who are sacred to die. You might say, “That’s not true! No one wants to die.” Don’t misunderstand – “No one wants to suffer before they die but dying is not a problem for many people. Living is.” They are not as good looking as they used to be, strong as they used to be, too many health problems, too many children problems, too many bills, too many bad decisions they’re reaping, just too many problems. When I first came to this church, I went visiting the people on the roll with one of our deacons. We came to this one house and this elderly lady came to the door. The deacon introduced me to her. Her response – “Oh Good. Now we got somebody to bury us!” I believe that this was the same problem with the Philippians – “Living with Jesus is great but dying is better!” Paul is saying to them – “Yeah, I’ve struggled with that too but let me tell you how I handled it.”

22 “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor…” What fruit was Paul talking about? He used the same word in Romans 1:13 “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you…that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.” The fruit that Paul was talking about is the fruit of the gospel. He wants to see souls saved. Listen carefully: When you die, the possibility of fruits end. You cannot evangelize in heaven. Neither can you evangelize in hell. Basically, for the same reasons. Neither place has unbelievers. Except that, in hell the hearts are still wicked. 22 “…yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” Remember Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in verse 10 “that you may approve the things that are excellent…” It meant “learning to choose between the good, the better, and the best.” It is “far better” to depart and be with Christ but “best” is to stay here and help you.

Application: How do you see others in this life? Do you care about those around you? You say, “I care but I’m ready to go.” Can I ask you, “Are you really eager to see Jesus or are you just trying to run away from your problems? God has a sense of humor and he will leave you here till you’re 150! It’s best to remain and help others.

25 “And being confident of this…” Paul has used that word “confidence” twice already: 6“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” 14 “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” He will use that word again several times. That word can mean “trust” but also “conviction.” What is Paul’s conviction? 25 “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith…” It’s Paul’s conviction to stay and help the Philippians continue in their growth and joy of the Christian life.

Application: We all have doctrinal convictions about the Bible, Trinity, Salvation, Person of Christ, Holy Spirit, etc. We may also have moral convictions about marriage, unborns, sexuality, drinking, etc. That’s all wonderful but it’s time we also have some relational convictions where I am responsible for your spiritual growth and joy in the Christian life and you are for mine. When you’re not here, I care. When I’m not here, you care. Sadly, most of us have the same response that Cain did when God asked him – “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Finally – 26 “that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.” The word “rejoicing” is “kaukhemai” which means “boast. Paul is not saying “You will boast of me even more when I come.” He is saying, “You will boast in Jesus even more when you see me come to you.” In other words, “Your worship will become even more powerful because you see God setting me free and sending me to you.” Some of us have a very poor worship experience because we only focus on doctrinal precepts (God is great, Jesus is wonderful, Salvation is awesome). When we change it to “God is great because of how he has worked in Pastor Shah’s life,” “Jesus is wonderful because of what he is doing at Clearview,” and “Salvation is awesome, look at that young man who just gave his life to Christ.” Now worship takes on new meaning and enthusiasm! 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.” Again, you see the priority of the gospel.

Illustration: I used to work in an automotive plant back in Georgia. Sometimes people would quit work an hour before they were supposed to quit. Then the supervisor made it a point to come by about 15 minutes before quitting time. It wasn’t good.

As I said in the beginning, “the believer should not fear death nor should they desire death. Instead, they should focus on living in Christ by serving one another and spreading the gospel.” We are immortal in Christ. Let’s live like it! Are you saved?

The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.

The Soul-Winner’s Prize by Abidan Paul Shah

THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Soul-Winner's PrizeIntroduction: Imagine if sports had no goals and no finish lines. Imagine a basketball game without any baskets. You just dribble and pass the ball around but there’s no hoop and no scoreboard. Imagine a soccer game without any goals. You just do all kinds of tricks with the ball and run around on the field but there’s no goal and no scoreboard. Imagine a 100 meters dash without a finish line. You just run at any speed, anywhere, for any length of time but there’s no end. How many of you would love to play basketball or soccer or run? It would be meaningless. Now let’s go a step further. Let’s say you did have goals and finish lines but there were no medals, trophies, and rewards. It was totally unprofitable. How motivated would you be to practice and train for the game? Even if you did play for the love of the game, you’ll give your time and energy to those things that actually bring you some benefit. Today’s message will help us understand the goal and the prize of every Christian. It is titled, “THE SOUL-WINNER’S PRIZE.” This is the third message in our series “Alive: What Jesus’ Resurrection Means For Us.” As we go further it’ll become clear how the Soul-Winner’s Prize is connected to the Resurrection.

Daniel 12   1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Context: If you ask people “What is the goal of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To get to know God, to study the Bible more, to pray more…” If you ask people “What is the prize of every Christian?” they’ll say, “To be more like Jesus, to be a better person, to use my spiritual gifts…” In today’s message we will learn that the goal for every Christian is to be a soul-winner and our prize is the glory waiting for us at the resurrection.

Question: What do you think is the goal and the prize of every Christian? What are you aiming for? What are you running towards? What are you looking forward on the other side? If you’re not saved, you’re not even in the game. To get in the game, you have to receive Christ as your Savior.

First, the goal and then the prize of every Christian:

I. THE GOAL OF EVERY CHRISTIAN 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: In this passage God is giving a prophecy and a promise to those who are wise and to those who turn many to righteousness. In fact, the Hebrew construction there really means that the wise and those who turn many to righteousness are one and the same. Listen carefully – In God’s judgment, wisdom is turning people to righteousness. In other words, a truly wise person is a soul winner. Now we do know that Daniel was a wise person. If you remember, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken in exile young men from Judah who were without blemish, good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.” Daniel was one of those wise young men.

But did you know that Daniel was also a soul winner? To me, in some ways, what Paul is to the New Testament, Daniel is to the Old Testament. I’m talking with regards to soul-winning. If you remember, in the New Testament, Paul was the ultimate soul-winner. He first went to his own people, the Jewish people, but when they rejected him, he didn’t get discouraged but moved on to the Gentiles. He went on three missionary journeys and planted several churches. He suffered terrible persecution because of his passion to take the gospel even to those who would harm him. He became known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. So also Daniel, maybe not quite to the same extent and same manner as Paul, was also a soul-winner. He was away from his people in a foreign land. He tried to live a life that was pure and holy in a culture that wasn’t. God gave him the insight to interpret dreams and visions and when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel interpreted it for him. As a result, this pagan king confessed the Living God as the true god. Daniel prayed in the midst of persecution and was thrown in the lions’ den. God protected him and the next day the Mede King Darius was so moved by Daniel’s faith that he also confessed the Living God and sent a decree to the whole empire that Daniel’s God is the true god. Both under the Babylonians and the Medo-Persians, Daniel was a soul winner.

Here’s a principle: “Wise people are soul winners. Wise people make it their goal to save souls.”

Think again about the Apostle Paul for a moment – he was one of the smartest men who ever lived. What was the goal of his life? To win souls. Listen to what he said in several passages in the Bible: I Corinthians 9:22 “…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Romans 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Philippians 1:12 “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

Don’t misunderstand: You don’t need a high IQ in order to be a soul winner.

Application: Are you a wise person? Are you a soul winner? What is the goal of your life?

II. THE PRIZE OF EVERY SOUL-WINNER 

3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.

Background: Before we look at what the “brightness of the firmament” and “shining like the stars” means,” let’s see when this will happen. To understand this, we have to back up to the previous verses. 1 “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people…” Which time are we referring to? We are referring to the end of time. Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion over the timetable of the end-times but this will be sometime after the Great Tribulation. “And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.” Here we are referring to the Book of the Life. Revelation 20 12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. …15 “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Paul talks about this Book of Life in Philippians 4:3. The point is this – To get the benefit coming to soul winners, your soul has to be won first. You cannot save souls if your soul is lost!

Now verse 2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Now comes the Resurrection of the Dead. Again, this is not a time to create a timeline of how things will turn out. This is simply a reminder that every human being will be resurrected one day but not everyone will have the same resurrection. Now there’s a special prize for those who win souls – 3 “Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” This does not mean that we will become stars in the sky like some myths and superstitions talk about. Daniel 8:10 gives us a clue – “And it (little horn) grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.” The hosts of heaven are the angels and they are sometimes referred to as stars. What Daniel is saying here is “Those who are soul winners will at the Resurrection shine with the same glory like the angels.”

Many times I’ve heard people say – “We need to win souls because that’s what Jesus has commanded us to do.” That is true but there’s a reason people are not motivated is because they are not looking forward to anything coming up in their future. What motivated Paul? Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let’s look at the whole context for a moment. Philippians 3   8 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead…” Then in verse 17 he contrasts his ministry of soul winning with those who are in for an earthly benefit and then listen to verse 20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Don’t think that this means that Billy Graham will be as bright as an exploding star and all of us will be like a tiny candle.

For e.g. The poor street preacher who baptized my dad. My dad was far more educated than him but this ignorant man was wiser. With every soul I win, he has a part!

Application: Are you looking forward to the prize coming on the other side to soul-winners?

Invitation: Are you saved? What is your goal? Is it soul-winning? Are you looking to the prize of a glorified body like Christ one day

Choices that Lead to Happy Endings by Pastor Abidan Shah

CHOICES THAT LEAD TO HAPPY ENDINGS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

choicesthatleadtohappyendings

Introduction: This is the final message in our series through the Sermon on the Mount. Many of y’all have shared with me how much these messages have impacted your life! No wonder it’s called the greatest sermon ever preached!

Matthew 7   13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Bridge: I don’t know if you’ve ever done this but a few months back I stopped by a gas station for gas. I pulled in at the pump, went in, stood in line, paid for the gas, walked out, got in my truck, and left. As I am driving I kept feeling like something wasn’t right. Then, it hit me! I forgot to get gas. Immediately I turned around and pulled in at the same pump. Thank goodness no one had come in behind me or it would’ve been “Merry Christmas!” for that person. Folks, that’s exactly what happens when you come to church, hear the Word of God, understand the Word of God, but when it comes time to apply the Word of God, you get up, walk out, and go back to your life! Howard Hendricks used to say and I’ve heard Rick Warren say it too – “Observation and Interpretation without Application is Abortion!”

Context: In Matthew 5-7 Jesus preached the greatest sermon ever – the 8 Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor, Blessed are the meek…), the Salt and Light passage (You are the Salt of the Earth, You are the Light of the World), the 6 Antithesis (You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…), the importance of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father in Heaven…), the importance of marriage, how to deal with anxiety and worry, and the danger of judging others. After preaching a master sermon, in these final 15 verses Jesus laid out the application. The people had a choice to make – Choose Jesus and His Words and have a happy ending in life or reject Him and be on the Road to Destruction.

Question: You’ve heard many sermons and will hear many more. What choice have you made? Have you chosen to follow Jesus and His Words or have you chosen to live your life your way? Are you a doer of the Word or are you only a hearer of the Word? Is there a change in your life? Are you saved? If not, what is keeping you from it?

In this message, we will see the 4 choices Jesus gave to the people, 4 choices that lead to happy endings. Let the Holy Spirit make you a doer of the Word:

I. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate…”

Background: Typically, this passage is interpreted as an invitation to salvation – “Come through the narrow gate and get saved!” That may be implied but it’s not the main focus of this section. Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that the life He offered was amazing and wonderful but it wasn’t easy and cheap. To live this kind of life, they would have to choose to do things differently – “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Meaning: Don’t think for a moment that the standards are lower for this kind of life – “You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t murder’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t be angry’…“You’ve heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery’ but I say to you, ‘Don’t even look at a woman with lust’…You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ but I say to you, ‘love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.’” In other words, Jesus was no charlatan – “Sign on the dotted line and all your problems will be gone forever.”

Christian life is not a convenient life. The gate is narrow, the road is difficult, and not everyone you know will join you. Having said that, it is worth it – 14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Illustration: “I have decided to follow Jesus” from the Nagas who were headhunters. “Though none go with me, still I will follow” was a tough line for them.

Application: Are you looking for easy Christianity? Are you looking for everyone to understand before you follow? Are you willing to pay the price?

II. GUARD YOURSELF AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS. 

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing…”

Background: It seems odd that Jesus would bring up the subject of false prophets in His application. Why did He think that it was critical to warn his listeners against them? Jesus raised the bar of righteousness for His listeners. He raised the standard of holiness. He did not promise a cheap and easy life. But, He was not a legalist. There’s a world of difference. Legalists are people who come with man-made lists and impose personal morality and rules. Unlike Jesus who came to set people free, these false prophets would come to bind people and enslave them in rules and regulations. They would use guilt and shame to control the masses. Jesus called them the “ravenous wolves.”

Illustration: Many times people come with some rule and regulation and personal morality and standard and they try to convince me to implement that at Clearview. I listen and filter it through the mesh of grace and mercy.

Grape vines

Grape vines

Yes – My Jesus has a “rod and a staff” but they comfort me. Your rod and staff beat people over the head.

Thistles

Thistles

What did Jesus do? He switched the analogy and gave them the litmus test for such false prophets. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Meaning: Look at their lives. See if their teachings are working in their own lives. Jesus was not implying that you have to wait the whole season until harvest time to figure out what the fruit is. “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” If it’s got thorns, then it’s not a grape vine. If it has prickles and spikes, then it’s not a fig tree. 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Here’s the point: Is their message changing their own life first? They are the test, not you. If they are not walking towards Christ, then stop following them. If they are not obeying Christ, then stop following them. If you don’t see Christ in them, then stop following them.

Application: Whom are you following? Is it Jesus or is it someone or something else? Are you drawing closer to Christ or further away from Him?

III. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE TO OBEDIENCE. 

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Background: Can you imagine the reaction in the crowd when Jesus said those words? 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” There’s Brother “Amen” and there’s Sister “Hallelujah.” There’s Mr “Praise God” and there’s Mrs “Bless Jesus.” They’re sitting right up close to Jesus. Every time Jesus pauses for a breath, they are ready to chime in with a spiritual anecdote. They are always ready to quote some bible verse. Even though they are addressing Him with the double vocative “Lord, Lord,” which is the LXX reference for “Yahweh,” the name for God, they don’t really mean that. Jesus can see their hearts and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him. They’re saying all that not to please Him but to impress Him. Because, if they truly believed that He was God, they would obey the “will of His Father in Heaven.” Jesus calls them out because pretend spirituality cannot substitute obedience.

But, there’s something else that cannot substitute obedience – 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ There’s Brother “Gift of prophecy.” There’s Sister “I know everything about the end times.” There’s Mr “Bind Satan.” There’s Mrs “Seen miracles everyday.” They’re also in the crowd and they’re always telling the same worn out, clichéd stories. They even add the phrase “in Jesus name” to legitimize their accounts. Jesus can see their hearts as well and He knows that they don’t really believe in Him either. They’re saying all that not to praise Him but to prove themselves to Him. What’s His reply? 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Jesus calls them out as well because spiritual activities cannot substitute obedience.

Application: What are you substituting for obedience? Spiritual lingo, Spiritual knowledge, or Spiritual experiences. What will Jesus say to you on the Day of Judgment – “I never knew you,” “Depart from Me” or “Well done good and faithful servant”?

IV. TRIALS PROVE US NOT DESTROY US.

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Background: In conclusion, Jesus gives a parable of two men who built homes, one on the rock and the other on the sand. The Rock represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus and obey Him. The Sand represents those who hear the sayings of Jesus but disobey Him. Both of them face a hurricane with rains, floods, and heavy winds. Trials are not selective. They come to all of us, to the saved and the unsaved. But what is the result? The house built on the rock stood but the house built on the sand fell and “great was its fall.” What is the point? Following Jesus will not exempt you from trials in life but it will prove your faith in trials.

In other words, your choices will lead to happy endings.

Invitation: Are you saved? Are you taking the road less travelled? Are you guarding yourself against false teachers? Are you obeying Christ and His Word? Do you doubt His care in your life? “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to Trust and Obey.”

Heaven Here and Now Part Three

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow3Introduction: This morning we are in part 3 of our series titled “Heaven Here and Now.” The goal of these messages is to understand that heaven is not someday in the future in some distant land beyond the blue but it begins the moment we are saved. By the way, this is the final message and maybe next year during Easter we can go further.

1 Corinthians 15   22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power…58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Overall Background: So far in this series we learned that when we receive Jesus as our Savior, we receive a spiritual resurrection. Our soul comes alive and we are made to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In other words, when we get saved, spiritually, we’re already in heaven. But that’s just the beginning because one day Jesus is coming again and He’s bringing the rest of heaven with Him. He will not only transform this creation into the New Heavens and the New Earth but He will also transform our physical body into a glorious body like His. What all this means is that we’re not waiting to go to heaven when we die but heaven is coming here to us. What if you die before Christ comes? Then you will also come alive at His appearing with a glorious transformed body. This morning we will go one step further – if you want to know what our future and the future of this world looks like, look to Jesus. He is not only our sample but He is also our source of heaven. He is not only our model but He is also our means to heaven. He is not only our pattern but He is also our pathway to heaven. Jesus is everything.

Question: How important is Jesus to you? Do you look to Him with hope and anticipation? Is He just your fire insurance or is He also your future hope? Are you pressing towards Him? Here is another question: Are you saved? Is Jesus your Savior?

There’s a lot packed into 1 Corinthians 15. We don’t have time to look at every detail. We’re only going to see 2 things about Heaven Here and Now:

I. JESUS IS OUR FUTURE SAMPLE.

1Corinthians 15   20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Background: What are “Firstfruits?” = That word comes from the Old Testament. God had commanded His people Israel that each year before they harvested the crops, they were to bring a sample of their crop or their flock to the priest as an offering to the Lord. In fact, the full harvest could not be made until the firstfruits had been offered. It was a promise that more just like it was coming.

For e.g. For our culture, a better term would be “sample.” When you go by the food court at the mall, they offer samples. It means there’s a lot more of what you just tasted. If you liked it, there’s much more behind the counter.

So also Jesus is our firstfruit, our sample. 22 For as in Adam all die…” So far, Adam was our sample. He fell under the curse of sin and all of us have fallen with him. “…even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. There’s something more here regarding “firstfruits” than just being a sample. There’s also a divine order of things. When I go to the food court, I don’t have to eat the sample in order to buy the meal. In fact, many times I just get in line because I know exactly what I am getting. That’s not allowed here. You have to get the sample before you can get the meal.

Let me say it as clearly as possible – Unless you have received Christ as your Savior, there’s nothing waiting for you on the other side but judgment and hell. There’s a divine sovereign order to things – first Christ and then you.

So what does this sample taste like:

  1. It will be an ever-improving body.

42 “…The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” All translations fail to capture the true meaning of these words. It’s not just that we won’t die. The idea here is decay. Daily our bodies are going down hill and one day we die and immediately we begin to decay. The new body will anti decay, go backwards. It will get better and better – “ethically, aesthetically, and psychosocially.”

  1. It will be a sin free, shame free, Christ like body.

43 “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory…” Again, “dishonor” should be translated “humiliation,” which has the idea of weakness, grief, sinful struggles, and old burdensome habits. “Glory” here means without the burden of sin, guilt and Christ like.

For e.g. Spring is here and soon we will see caterpillars. Ever seen one crawling – puts down his front end, lifts up his back end to his front end, makes a big arch in his back and then he straightens out by pushing his front end forward. Starts all over again. Looks quite painful and tiresome. There he is – a tiny little creature, crawling in the dust and we run over them with our vehicles or walk over them. I imagine he often looks to the sky and says to himself “Oh I wish I could fly. If only I had wings, I would catch the wind and go from garden to garden, plant to plant, and flower to flower. But that is not for me. I am just a caterpillar – crawling around.” One day he realizes that his days on earth are done – his instincts take over and he realizes that his days on earth as a caterpillar are coming to a close. He begins to build himself a coffin. He crawls inside and pulls down the lid. Now it dies to the only life it had known. There it hangs to a branch. Then all of a sudden something begins to happen – he hears a voice and feels a strange movement in his body. Again, impulse (after years of evolution! Not really.) tells him it is time. He went in a caterpillar but he comes out a butterfly.

  1. It will be an ever-energizing body.

43 “…It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.” “Weakness” represents the lack of ability to do things the way you want to or the way you were used to. It represents the growing frustration throughout life. Recently we met someone who was struggling with a sickness. In his younger days he was very strong and virile. Even though his mind now was just as sharp as back then his body was no longer cooperating and it was very frustrating for him. The new body will be powerful, which actually has the idea of every increasing in power and capacity and competency. We will have more and more energy.

  1. It will be a Holy Spirit indwelt body.

44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. This is probably the most misunderstood of all the descriptions. Typically, people translate this as physical versus non-physical. That’s where people are misguided into thinking that we will be like spirits in long robes, sitting on puffy clouds, and playing the harps. The correct translation implies that in the coming body we won’t have to pray – “Holy Spirit – please fill me today and control my life.” It will be completely filled by the Holy Spirit and always in His control.

Application: Is Jesus your sample? Have you ever received Him as your Savior? Are you looking to Him? Are you looking for His return? Are you looking forward to the new you to come?

II. JESUS IS OUR VICTORIOUS KING.

24 Then comes the end…

Background: There’s so much we still don’t understand about the end of the world. I preached a series for about a 1 ½ year through Daniel and Revelation but there’s so much I still don’t understand and I am still learning. Here it is enough to say that our world is under the control of a structured system of sin and evil, both demonic and human. Just like us, the world is also under decay, shame, weakness, and ordinary existence. Jesus will fight and defeat this organized anti-god system. He will do for the world what His Father did for Him and what He will do for our lowly bodies. The result will be a new creation. This world is beautiful but you can only imagine what it will be like once Jesus sets it free and remakes it! Then 2 things will happen 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. In other words, He will free this world, remake it, and turn it over to the rightful owner, His Father.

What else? 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. Martin Luther explained this the best for me (I’m paraphrasing) – We are living in the kingdom of faith where Jesus is ruling through His Word. He is invisible. It’s like seeing the sun through the clouds. The light rays tell us that the sun is there but you really can’t see the sun. But, there’s a day coming when the clouds will part and both light and sun will shine together. In this phase 2 Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled – Psalm 110:1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” And Psalm 8:6 “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Now here comes verse 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. The actual translation should be “The last enemy is being annihilated, which is death.” Every time we drive past a funeral home or cemetery it reminds us that death is still claiming its victims. This verse promises us that Jesus already began the process of killing death 2000 years ago but there’s coming a day when he will finally destroy death forever. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. Meaning: Here’s the doctrine of the eternal functional subordination of the Son. Now, God will be the source and goal of everything and everyone.

When will this final end be? Jump over to verse 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed… Nicole’s dad had this verse framed and put by the nursery door!52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus? If not, you are still under the grip of death.

Knowing that Jesus is our future sample and Jesus is our victorious King, how should we live here and now? Paul tells us 3 things:

  1. Stand firm and do not shift – 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable…” It’s the same thing that he told the Colossians and Philippians. Don’t let your circumstances shake you.
  2. Keep working more and more for God. “…always abounding in the work of the Lord…” Ask yourself – “Is what you are doing counting for God?” Then do more.
  3. Remember, you are building the kingdom to come – “…knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” In other words, there is continuity between this life and the life to come. What you do matters. Everything is ministry. Minister where you are.

Are you saved? Are you living here and now with your eyes on the future? Are you doing all things for the glory of God? Do you know people who are lost? Are you reaching them?

Heaven Here and Now Part Two

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow_2Introduction: This morning we are in part 2 of our series titled “Heaven Here and Now.” We are trying to understand what the resurrection of Jesus does for us now and not just some day in the distant future.

Philippians 3 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Overall Background: Last week we learned that we are already resurrected in Christ. We died with Him, we were buried with Him and we rose to walk in the newness of life with Him. All that is left for us to do is to start living the resurrected life, the life from above. This morning we will go one step further – We’re not waiting to go to heaven someday when we die. Heaven has already begun in us here and now. We are waiting for Jesus to come and not only transform this place into the new heavens and the new earth but also transform our body into the glorious body fit for the new world. Listen to verse 20 again – “For our citizenship is in heaven…” What is the tense? Present tense. It’s not our citizenship “will be” in heaven but it “is” in heaven. But listen carefully – “from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is coming here to meet His citizens. And what will He do when He comes? 21 (He) will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Some of us may die before He comes but then we are coming back down here with Him and also getting our transformed bodies.

Let me ask you: What do you believe about heaven? Is it just some place you’ll go some day when you die? Or, has heaven already begun for you? What you believe about heaven will change how you live on earth. Are you looking forward to the coming of Jesus? Are you looking forward to the transformation of your body? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of earth or citizen of heaven? Have you been resurrected?

3 questions we will ask in this message about Heaven Here and Now:

 I. ARE YOU GROWING IN CHRIST AND HIS RESURRECTION?

20 For our citizenship is in heaven…

Background: To understand what Paul is talking about here we need to understand the context in which he wrote those words. Let’s back up to Philippians 3 2 “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” Once again, just like in Colossians, false teachers had infiltrated the Philippian church. They were compelling them to go back under the Old Testament dietary laws, Sabbath rules, purification rituals, and circumcision. Paul calls them dogs, which is one of the worst things you could ever say to a Jewish person. He also calls them “evil workers,” not just “poor misguided folks.” Then Paul tells them 3 “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Meaning: In Christ, all the requirements have been fulfilled. Look to Jesus and don’t return to old rules and traditions. Paul even lists his old credentials – 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews…a Pharisee; and a persecutor of the church. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. The word “loss” is a mistranslation. The word is “zemia” in Greek, which should be translated “damaging” or “disadvantageous.”

Question: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Man-made traditions? Old rituals? Listen – they are keeping you from worshipping God in the Spirit? They are killing your spiritual growth. They are keeping you from growing up.

Illustration: Until I was 4 ½ years old, I was still drinking from my milk bottle. We had many nurses in our church through the local Railway hospital. One of them saw me with my bottle and immediately got on to my mom and told her to take it away from me. It made me so mad! I glared at her throughout the service. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is trying to pry that milk bottle from some of your hands and it’s a fight!

Then Paul declares in 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss (disadvantageous, damaging,) for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. 9 “and be found in Him…” Having the “knowledge of Christ” is not information about Christ. It is another way of saying “I am one with Christ.” I died with Christ; I was buried with Christ; and I have risen to walk in the newness of life with Christ. If you look for me, guess where you’ll find me? In Christ! And, what do I look like in Christ? 9 “and be found in Him not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Meaning: My life is now in Christ where I am covered in His righteousness. How do I know that? By faith. But Paul’s not done – 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.” Meaning: I am not satisfied yet. I want to know what else the resurrection of Christ can do for me. Oh yes – there’s one more thing it will do. 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Meaning: I know the resurrection has brought me the invisible spiritual resurrection but I also want the visible physical resurrection.

I can hear some of y’all saying – “But that’s too deep! Take us back to the shallow end.” You need to go in the deep to learn how to swim. The reason many of y’all can’t swim is because for years you’ve been playing in ankle deep water. You come to the swimming pool every day and head straight to the kiddie section. It’s time you stepped into big pool. What if I drown? The Holy Spirit is the Lifeguard and the Bible is the floatation device. You’ll be all right.

Application: What is damaging your spiritual growth? Would Paul put you in the category with dogs and evil workers? Are you growing in the knowledge of Christ? Are you found in Christ? Are you looking forward to the resurrection to come?

II. ARE YOU PRESSING TOWARDS THE TOTAL TRANSFORMATION TO COME? 

11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Background: Typically, these verses are quoted as an encouragement to keep moving forward in life. I have preached on it as well, especially on New Year’s Sunday – 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Although we can apply these verses in the context of leaving our past behind and moving forward to greener pastures ahead, there’s much more implied here. Paul is referring here to pressing forward to the resurrection from the dead, which is the physical transformation of the body. The upward call is the total resurrection of the body as well. What about those who have no interest in this transformation? Listen to Paul in 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. “Earthly things” here does not materialism. In the context, it means people who get stuck in man-made traditions, old rituals, dietary rules, circumcision, etc. To the contrary – 20 For our citizenship is in heaven…” Again, Paul does not say – “I can’t wait to get to heaven” or “Wonder, how will it be in heaven?” Instead, for all practical purposes, he is already a citizen of heaven, at least spiritually speaking. But something is missing – “…from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…” Paul reminds the Philippians that we are to look forward to the day when Jesus comes to complete the rest of the resurrection. In other words, Paul has his letter of heavenly citizenship but he wants to go through the swearing in ceremony too and become a full-fledged citizen of heaven.

Let me illustrate: When I began the process of my citizenship, I had to go through a lengthy process of paperwork and test on US History/Politics/Geography and then there was an interview. Finally, I received the document certifying that I had become a US citizen and they gave me a date for the swearing in ceremony. For all practical purposes I had all the rights and privileges of being an American citizen but I was still not declared an American citizen until I went to the swearing in ceremony. It was a very special day for me when I became a full-fledged citizen of these United States. Nicole was there. I remember walking out of the building with a little spring in my step.

Application: There are 3 kinds of people here today: First, are people who are content with playing with rituals and traditions. These are the evil workers. If that’s you, then you are lost. You need to get saved. Second, are people who are saved but they are simply satisfied with their spiritual resurrection? I love Jesus and I’m looking forward to going to heaven someday. Its time you realize there’s more. Third, are people who are spiritually resurrected in Christ but they are not satisfied. They are looking forward to the physical resurrection to come. Heaven is not some place far away. It has already begun. We are just waiting for our new clothes to arrive. Which one are you?

III. HOW ARE YOU LIVING NOW IN LIGHT OF THE FUTURE? 

So far all this is wonderful. I am spiritually resurrected in Christ and one day I will be physically resurrected as well. How awesome is our future! But here’s a deeper question – Does your future transformation transform how you live in the present?

  1. Stand firm in the truth. Phil 4:1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.
  2. Be a peacemaker and not a pot-stirrer. 4   2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel…”
  3. Rejoice in every situation. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
  4. Be gentle when people fail you. 4:5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
  5. Don’t panic, just pray. 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
  6. Focus on the good. 4   8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
  7. Be content. 4 11 “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Are you looking forward to the transformation coming? Has your future transformation transformed your present life? Are you a citizen of heaven? Are you saved?

Heaven Here and Now – Part One

HEAVEN HERE AND NOW – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

heavenhereandnow_1Introduction: With Easter 2 weeks away, I am preaching a short series starting this Sunday called – “HEAVEN HERE AND NOW.” The focus of this series is on the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for us now, not just some day after we die.

Colossians 3   1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Overall Background: Typically during the Easter season I preach first on the cross and then on the Resurrection. Although both are very important for believers, I place special emphasis on the cross. Why? Because the cross is the emblem of Christianity. Without the cross, there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the cross, we have no hope of redemption. Without the cross, we are doomed. As the song goes – “At the cross, At the cross, I surrender my life. I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where Your love ran red and my sin washed white. I owe all to You, I owe all to You Jesus.” The cross is central.

But this time I’ve decided to do a series solely on the Resurrection, not because I think it’s more important than the cross. It’s because we have a very limited understanding of the Resurrection. If we truly understood the implications of the resurrection of Jesus, it would change the way we live in this life. It would change the way we see our world. It would change the way we think about heaven. Once you get a glimpse of what the resurrection of Jesus has done already and once you get a taste of God’s Resurrection power in us, you’ll be like the first disciples – unafraid, full of joy, and God’s agents of transformation in this world.

Question – What do you believe about the resurrection? How do you see yourself? Weak, defeated, just surviving, and waiting to get out of this world. How do you see this world? Worthless, hopeless, depraved, and only fit to be destroyed. But before we go any further, let me back up and reiterate – There is no resurrection without the cross. Before you can run to the empty tomb, you have to stop by way of Calvary. Are you saved? Before you can celebrate Easter, you have to observe Good Friday.

Today we will learn 2 things from Colossians as to what Resurrection means for us:

I. YOU ARE ALREADY RESURRECTED IN CHRIST. 

1 If then you were raised with Christ,

Background: Before we jump into that verse we need to understand a little bit of the background here. The Christians in Colossae were not saved under Paul’s direct ministry but under the work of one of his co-workers, probably a man by the name of Epaphras. This man of God taught them the truth of the gospel to the best of his ability. Paul describes him in Colossians 1:7-8 as “our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.” These were Spirit filled believers. But, lately, it appears that some false teachers and false teachings were infiltrating the church. Maybe, Epaphras could not handle some of their arguments and philosophies. Maybe, he wasn’t as educated and trained as Paul and he must have asked Paul for some help. Paul says, “Not a problem. I’ll write to them.”

Application: Be teachable. Sometimes people come with the attitude of – “I already know.” Just because you read 2 books and went to Google University does not mean you know it all. God wants to teach you through His Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe these false teachers were taking the Colossian Christians back to the rules and regulations of the Law. Maybe they were compelling them to be circumcised. Therefore Paul says to them in Colossians 2 11 “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism…” In other words, in Christ, you died and in Christ, you were buried. That’s what baptism is all about. It symbolizes my death and burial in Christ. But Paul does not stop there – “in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” When you come out of the water, it symbolizes your resurrection with Christ. Isn’t that beautiful?!!! Baptism doesn’t get you saved or clean your sins. It tells the world that you are one with Christ. So now don’t try to go back to the old religion and do what has already been done for you in Christ.

Colossians 2 20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle…” Please don’t misunderstand – “Daily we have to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. But this death is not circumcision, Sabbath keeping, or dietary regulations. This cross is simply a reminder that I have chosen a life that imitates the life of Jesus.”

Now we return to Colossians 3:1 “If then you were raised with Christ…” Did you know that you are already risen with Christ? Paul says the same thing in Romans 6:11 “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Again, in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: Do you believe that you are already resurrected in Christ? Do you believe that you are already alive in Christ? You wouldn’t think so talking to some people. The Colossians were struggling with it. Are you struggling with it? Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes.

II. START LIVING THE RESURRECTED LIFE. 

Colossians 3   1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

Background: What a powerful jolting truth! There’s nothing more that needs to be done for you. Start living like you are already in heaven sitting next to Christ at the right hand of God! Paul has talked about the same truth in Ephesians 2 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Did you know that physically speaking I’m standing before you but spiritually speaking I’m sitting in the heavenly places in Christ? Manley Beasley would say, “One of the surprises we will get when we get to heaven is to realize that we have already been there!”

Now, someone is bound to say – “All that is well and good but it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. It’s just like Peter Pan. If you want to fly to Neverland, all you need is faith and trust, a little bit of pixie dust, and think of the happiest things.”

Paul anticipated this objection. Listen to what he says 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. But I cannot see it. Paul replies in verse 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Meaning: Until you can see with your eyes, you will have to walk by faith.

So do we just sit here and look up? The rest of the letter is instructions on how to have heaven here and now.

  1. Take your sin seriously.

Colossians 3   5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

  1. Put on your new nature

Colossians 3   12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

  1. Please God in your home.

Colossians 3   18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 20   Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 21Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

  1. Please God in your workplace.

Colossians 3   22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. 4:1 Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

  1. Pray continually.

Colossians 4   2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

  1. Walk wisely.

Colossians 4   5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

This is Heaven Here and Now.

Invitation: Are you ready to come out of Hell? Do you claim to have love in the Spirit? Are you in heaven now? Are you saved?

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