Landscape by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  How many of you have been to Grandfather Mountain? Our family has been there a number of times, and also our youth group and college and career group. It is almost 6000 feet high, the highest peak this side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It also has the mile high swinging bridge, the highest in America. You can see for miles from there. North Carolina is really blessed in that it has 4 geological regions: Outer coastal plain, Inner coastal plain, the Piedmont, and the Blue Ridge. Each region has its own landforms, soil, plants, and animals. We are in the Piedmont (foot of the mountains). Grandfather Mountain falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian chain. In today’s message, we will see how our landscape is connected to the Genesis account of creation in our series on apologetics titled “Contend.” The big questions are “how did these mountains and various landforms come to be?” “how’s all this connected to the Genesis account of creation?” Main point: The whole creation testifies to the handiwork of God. Even the earth, the mountains and the valleys, the plains and the plateaus, give testimony to God’s power and majesty. No wonder that when the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his disciples for crying “Hosanna,” he replied, “if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Genesis 1       9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Context: Last week, we briefly touched on this passage, and I brought up what is referred to as the transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. According to this theory, much of the watery matrix remained water as we know today, and God caused the others “to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon” and “separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land” (Kulikovsky). But, there’s more in that verse that we need to focus on. Listen again to verse 9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” Also, verse 10 “And God called the dryland Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas.” Remember: the details do matter. Both the words for “gather” (kawah) and for “appear” (raah) imply action. In other words, there may have been great movements that would have caused mountains to appear and the basins to open for the waters to go into. It may very well be that there was one supercontinent that was later broken apart. By the way, one year before Darwin came out with his “Origin of the Species,” a creation scientist by the name of Snider-Pellegrini proposed in 1858 that there was one land mass originally, and it was broken up into separate continents during Noah’s Flood. Later, Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) proposed a slow continental drift by showing how the continents fit together as a jigsaw puzzle and other evidence from rock formation and fossil records. Initially, it was not accepted, but, since then, it is proposed that plate tectonics may have caused this supercontinent Rodinia to break apart. I’m okay with plate tectonics, if were talking about Catastrophic Plate Tectonics, not Uniformitarian Plate Tectonics. We will see what that means later when we come to Noah’s Flood. Nevertheless, there are passages in the Bible that support some kind of movement on that third day when water was gathered and land appeared:

  • Job 38. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; 9 When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; 10 When I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; 11 When I said, “This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop!’
  • Psalm 104 5 You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever, 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At Your rebuke they fled; at the voice of Your thunder they hastened away. 8 They went up over the mountains; they went down into the valleys, to the place which You founded for them. 9 You have set a boundary that they may not pass over, that they may not return to cover the earth. 10 He sends the springs into the valleys; they flow among the hills. By the way, this was creation week, becausePsalm 104 goes on 11 “They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home; they sing among the branches. 13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. 14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth.”

Keep in mind that all this is happened in one day. From the uniformitarian geological calculation millions of years of earth’s history is being compressed in one day or maybe even 6 days. In other words, the mountains and the valleys, the oceans and the rivers are being formed at infinitely rapid speed. It was all catastrophic! There was erosion, sedimentation, and deposition starting from creation week. There is no comparison to our time because this was such a unique period in earth’s history. That world is gone since the Flood – 2 Peter 3       5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.

We began with a glimpse of the Grandfather Mountain. How does all this tie in? (from Michael Oard and Andrew Snelling) The Appalachian Mountains go all the way from central Alabama to northeastward to Newfoundland, southeast Canada. The whole chain is about 1500 miles long and between 100 to 310 miles wide in places. If you go by the museum, it will tell you that the mountains are millions of years old because they have been eroded and smoothed out with time. Also, the Appalachian are mostly Paleozoic sedimentary rock. It is claimed that the Rocky Mountains are younger because they rise so high and are still jagged. But, as you saw in the video, the Appalachian Mountains, especially at Grandfather Mountain, are very jagged in places. Secular geologists attribute this to an uplift 8.5 million years ago. There are slow uplifts, known as epeirogeny and fast ones called orogeny. Christian geologists who are just as qualified also look at the data and they see that much of the erosion came after the Flood. They also believe, as I mentioned earlier, that there was a supercontinent that split apart at the Flood due to plate tectonics. These large chunks “moved around rapidly, smashing into each other before slowing down to a crawl in their current location” (Snelling). We’ll see all that when we come to Great Flood. The Appalachian is made from mostly sandstone, a sedimentary rock. This was changed under intense pressure when the continents collided. Some places this was more intense than others. You can see the impact from the continents colliding in the ridges all around. The lower level of rocks (bedrock) was metamorphosed because of the molten material from below that came up and hardened. This was during Creation Week. These were pushed up when the continents collided. This was during the Flood. You can see the lower level also because of this. Starting in Cherokee area, you can see the basement rocks, but further up, you can see the sandstone

From Dr. Snelling’s trip to the Smoky Mountains:

  1. Cades Cove

Cades Cove, the most popular destination in the park, is a beautiful valley with historic log cabins and barns. The valley floor consists of limestone formed during the Flood (which is now deeply weathered), one of the few locations Flood deposits are exposed. The surrounding hills are made of pre-Flood rocks (look for gray, coarse sandstone), pushed up when Africa rammed into North America during the Flood.

  1. Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap is the lowest opening through the Smoky Mountain chain. The open view offers the most spectacular mountain vistas in the park. Like most of the rocks in the park, the sandstones near the overlook belong to the Ocoee Supergroup, which existed before the Flood but got crumpled when continents collided.

  1. Clingman’s Dome

The highest point on the Appalachian Trail is 6,643 feet elevation. An observation tower provides 360-degree views of the rolling, forest-covered mountains formed during the Flood when continents collided. Look for gray rocks with coarse white grains around the parking lot and along the hiking path. They’re pre-Flood Thunderhead Sandstone, metamorphosed by the continental collision.

  1. Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops is named for its unique dual-humped peak, one of the few bare summits in the Smokies. These pre-Flood rocks were pushed up and metamorphosed during the Flood. As these rocks weathered over the centuries, this harder capstone (made of slate, not sandstone) remained.

Job 12       7 “But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8 Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. 9 Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this.”

God’s handiwork is all around. He is present and he is not silent. Can you see him? Can you see his handiwork? Are you saved? He cares for you.

Groundwork by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: It was 4 years ago on August 21, 2017, when some of us drove all the way to Toccoa, Georgia, where Nicole and I went to college to witness the Total Solar Eclipse. As you witnessed in the video, it was amazing that we all began to shout spontaneously. Same thing was reported everywhere that people were gathered to watch this celestial event. What makes this so unique because the sun is 400 times larger than the moon and 400 times further away. If this wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have the same effect. The point is that human beings are fascinated with space. We want to know what’s out there and how it is connected to us. In our series on apologetics titled “CONTEND,” we come to the section that deals with space and its connection to earth. Some of the questions that lead me to deal with space were “Is the universe infinite?” “What about the canopy theory?” “Is there life in outer space?” Main point: The complexity and the immensity of the universe brings us to our knees and causes us to raise our hands in worship. It reminds us of how small we are and how big God is. No wonder the psalmist sings, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse shows His handiwork.”

Genesis 1       6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.

Context: There are 2 ways that some people have read the Genesis account of creation. Some think that it is simply a polemic against pagan gods surrounding the people of Israel. On the surface, this sounds good and even helps with some of the exegetical difficulties. Unfortunately, it also undermines the authority of God’s Word. People who believe this also claim that we shouldn’t get hung up on details. Instead, we should get the bigger picture that our God is superior to the other gods and not worry about things that are difficult to understand. Here’s the problem – if what we believe is not the truth and just a mythology, what right do we have to condemn someone else’s mythology? Others think that the creation account in Genesis is simply a reflection of the creation accounts of the ancient near eastern peoples. According to this view, no one knows what really happened and we shouldn’t press the point. Again, the problem here is that if we are unsure of what the Bible says, then what’s the use of believing anything. Here’s what we believe: The Bible gives us a clear and cogent account of how the world came to be. We must go above and beyond in trying to understand what it means. It is the only truth about our past, present, and future.

So, what does it mean? 6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” To start with, there is a translational issue here (from Sarfati and Danny Faulkner). The Hebrew word for “firmament” is “raqia,” and it is found 8 more times in the OT. What does “firmament” mean? The translators of the LXX used the Greek word “stereoma” to translate the Hebrew word “raqia.” The word “stereoma” means a crystalline structure, something hard and transparent. According to ancient Greeks, the earth was surrounded by a hard, crystalline, and transparent sphere with stars attached to it. When the Latin translator Jerome came to that passage, he chose to translate the Greek “stereoma” instead of the Hebrew “raqia” because he didn’t understand how to translate the latter. So, he called it “firmamentum.” Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the King James Version translators didn’t know what to do with “raqia” either and they simply transliterated Jerome’s firmamentum into the English “firmament.” What a mess!

Here’s the correct meaning: Expanse. It has the idea of something that has been expanded or stretched out. Sometimes, it even refers to beating or stamping out. So, contrary to what people think, “raqia” is not a cosmic dome but cosmic space that has been stretched out. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about this and sometimes uses the word “raqia” and other times the word “natah,” and even the words “matach” and “tapach.”

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads (natah) out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Job 37:18 “With Him, have you spread (raqa) out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror?
  • Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch (natah) out the heavens like a curtain.
  • Isaiah 44:24 “I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches (natah) out the heavens all alone, who spreads (raqa) abroad the earth by Myself.”
  • Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out (taphach) the heavens.”

So, “raqia” has the idea of space or expansion. This makes sense in verse 7 “Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.” In other words, God made this “raqia” to separate the waters below from the waters above. One more thing – 8 “And God called the firmament Heaven.” In the OT, the word for heaven is “samayim,” which is found over 400 times. It shows up again in verse 9, 14, 15, and 17. This word refers to the space where God placed the luminaries (sun, moon, and stars) on Day 4 and the place where the birds fly “across the face of the expanse of the heavens” on Day 5. Here’s the point: The atmosphere and the outer space are both part of the “raqia.”

So, what happened on Day 2? God created a massive space between the watery matrix that will become earth and the remaining waters. Where did that water go? At one time, people proposed that there was a water canopy above the atmosphere, but it is no longer held to because of several problems (Robert Whitelaw and Walter Brown):

  • The Heat Problem – roast all life
  • The Light Problem – no sunlight or starlight for plants and seasons
  • The Pressure Problem – temp over 220 degrees F at the base
  • The Support Problem – if it collapsed at the Great Flood, that would be a long time
  • The Ultraviolet Problem – ultraviolet light would have destroyed the canopy

Better solution is that the “raqia” has separated the water which is now in some form at the edge of the universe. Psalm 148     1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! 2 Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! 3 Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! 4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 2 things that stand out: 1. There is an order – heavens, sun and moon, stars, and highest heavens. 2. This psalm was written after Noah’s flood. I’m not dogmatic about it, but this is where much scholarship is leaning – the expansion of the universe at a set time in the past. If this is true, this explains the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which is that the universe appears to be bathed in a radiation field (Faulkner). This is a uniform coldness which is 3 K above absolute zero (– 459.67 F). It’s described to be like the heat from a rock lying in the sun all day. It comes towards the earth from all directions like a faint light. It is proposed that the water at the edge of the universe could be the cause of this radiation. The evolutionists talk about a big bang. According to the big bang theory, the universe started at a tiny, very very hot and dense point called singularity. It is claimed that after this rapid expansion, the heat has finally cooled down after 380,000 years after the big bang and dropped below 3000 K to form neutral atoms from electron and protons. This is how they account for the CMB. But their calculations don’t add up, especially with regards to the speed of light. We’ll come to this later. But, if God did this expansion faster than light (superluminally), it makes all the sense.

Let’s return to the text in verse 8 “…So the evening and the morning were the second day.” Notice: God does not declare this day to be good because good hasn’t come yet. 9Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. This is more than just water receding and earth coming in sight. This is known as transformation-from-water-model for the origin of the earth. How did that happen? Don’t think of this as your drinking water flowing from your tap! One scholar (Kulikovsky) has proposed,

Therefore, it may be that God (1) caused the earth’s watery foundation to be transformed into the basic elements and compounds such as silicon and carbon, and (2) separated these elements from the rest of the waters which resulted in the appearance of the dry land. In other words, the primeval earth comprised of the waters below the expanse—a large ball of water with similar dimensions as the earth today. Some of the waters were transformed into other compounds and were separated from the rest of the waters, which resulted in the formation of the dry land.

We have so much to understand! Nonetheless, 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Now God says, “it was good.”

If this were all there is to it, we would say that this is crazy and wacko. Turn to 2 Peter 3       4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

This is God’s world. He made it in his way, and he will destroy it in his way. The past is connected to the future. What matters is are you living in his world his way? Are you saved? Do you realize how infinitesimal you and I are? Does this lead you to worship?

Discover by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction: I remember like it was yesterday when I told my dad that God was calling me into full time ministry and his response was “No, you need to stick to what you were going to do.” The reason he said that was because he had come to me in my final year of high school, when I was studying for med school and possibly engineering, and told me that he wanted me to go to a Christian college for a couple of years before I went off into my field of study. I remember asking him why, especially because I was not going to be a pastor. He told me that he really wanted me to be grounded in my faith and that he was afraid that I might lose my way. I didn’t understand that at the time, but later I did. I was always very studious, and my father was afraid that if I went off into a scientific field without being solidly established in my biblical understanding that I may not remain in the faith. Looking back, I am truly grateful that he did what he did. I am also glad that I didn’t listen to him the second time or I wouldn’t be here! In our series on Apologetics titled CONTEND, we are shifting gears a little bit. So far, we were focused on Scriptural Authority compared to the books of other religions. Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the relationship between science and the Bible. When we did our survey, many questions were directed towards this topic – 1. Doesn’t science contradict the Bible? 2. Does Carbon Dating disprove the Bible? 3. Isn’t faith just a crutch for the weak? Main point: Modern Science was birthed in the cradle of Christianity as believers in the Western culture began to explore their world with the conviction that the Creator God was a God of order. They believed that the created world did not have to be feared or worshipped. Instead, it could be studied, and its power and resources harnessed for the betterment of humanity. Rejection of biblical truths will return us to the dark ages. True scientific discoveries do not endanger our faith but enhance it.

Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

Context: Before we pass judgment on Paul as being some close-minded hellfire and brimstone preacher from the backwoods, let’s back up to verse 14 “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.” Paul was very well trained in the knowledge and wisdom of the civilized people of the Greco-Roman world, those living in the city states of the inner Mediterranean world. At the same time, he was not some city snob, sipping his latte, and clueless about the outer world. He had been trained in their ways as well. Because of this, he felt that he was an “opheiletes” (debtor) to both groups and had an obligation to preach to both – 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” In other words, Paul is unashamed in his conviction that the gospel can save the civilized and the uncivilized. All they have to do is believe in the gospel of Christ and live. But there was a hurdle – God’s anger was hovering over them because of their “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness”. Those two words are not exactly synonymous. The first “asebeia” represents vertical lack of reverence for God, and the second “adikia” represents the horizontal lack of respect for his just order. Why? Because they are “katecho” (suppressing) the truth in their rejection of his just order. Pay attention now – 19 “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world (ktisis kosmou = creation of the universe) His invisible attributesare clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” In other words, both with observation of the created world and with their reasoning ability, they know God’s eternal power and deity. Nonetheless, they have chosen to reject him with some dire consequences.

Paul’s word to the Romans is a perfect description of our world today. With all the knowledge and advancement our world is experiencing, it is becoming increasingly hostile towards God, and we have no leg to stand on. Unfortunately, it is impacting our young people the most. They go off to secular colleges and universities and return without their faith or with many doubts and questions. Unfortunately, the church often fails to give adequate answers to their questions and all it takes is some trial and struggle in their life and they get blown away. How should we answer them? More specifically, how should we train our kids and students before they leave home so that no amount of scientific knowledge would shake their faith. Instead, it should make it stronger.

First, let’s clear up the myth:

Often it is claimed that organized church or Christianity has always tried to persecute science and scientists. Those who claim that usually bring up the story of Galileo and the Roman Catholic Church. They usually point to the period in the seventeenth century when the Western world experienced what is called a “Scientific Revolution.” We need to back up and truly understand this revolution was actually a part of a much larger revolution called the “Protestant Reformation.” Among many other incidents, it was led by a German monk named Martin Luther, who nailed what’s called his “95-Thesis” to the Wittenberg Door in 1517. A major point of this revolution was to bring the scriptures in the hands of the ordinary people. The Scientific Revolution simply extended that attitude towards all creation, the second sacred book. It was a break from the established authority of the Roman Catholic church, but not a break from the Bible or Christianity. Think for a moment, Francis Bacon (the major leader of the scientific revolution and the one who developed the scientific method) was also part of the translation of the KJV in 1611. In fact, we need to understand that modern science was birthed in the cradle of Christianity, and it began much before the Scientific Revolution. This is the period known as the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages. We often think of it as a world of close-minded superstitions. To the contrary, this is the period when modern science was actually born and grew. It was called “Natural Philosophy.” It was in monasteries and universities that were built by the Roman Catholic church that monks, operating from the premise that God is a God of order and that we can study the universe that he has created, learned rigorous experimentation and the connection between cause and effect (See James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution). This later became the foundation of science in the west.

Obviously, the question comes up – What about all the ancient philosophy from India or the great pyramids of Egypt or gunpowder in China? Stanley Jaki in his book The Origin of Science and the Science of Its Origin says:

“This historiography of science has still to face up honestly to the problem of why three great ancient cultures (China, India, and Egypt) display, independently of one another, a similar pattern vis-a-vis science. The pattern is the stillbirth of science in each of them in spite of the availability of talents, social organization, and peace—the standard explanatory devices furnished by all-knowing sociologies of science on which that historiography relies ever more heavily.”

Why did science not develop further in these cultures? According to scholars like Pierre Duhem, Stanley Jaki, and Robert Merton, it’s because these cultures could not truly grasp the fact that God made the universe, and it was orderly. The universe was subject to his order. It was not alive on its own. Human beings were God’s special creation and not just one of the animals. Also, time was not cyclical but linear. All these and more come straight from the Bible. Because the Bible was lacking in these cultures, science could get no further. Yes, the Chinese invented gunpower, but they could not take it further – What makes gunpowder work? How will it react with other chemicals? (See The Soul of Science by Pearcy and Thaxton).

So, what about Galileo? It is correct that in 1616 that the Roman Catholic church affirmed that the Copernican theory that the earth goes around the sun (heliocentrism) was false and heretical. About 16 years later, Galileo was charged with heresy and told to recant, which he supposedly did while gritting his teeth. This is also not true. In fact, the reigning theory was the Ptolemaic view (geocentrism), which was based on the Aristotelian physics. Barely 10 astronomers went along with Copernicus’ theory, which had no physics to back it up. Ever since Thomas Aquinas had backed up Aristotelian philosophy, the church was stuck with it. In other words, the church was defending Aristotelian science rather than opposing Galileo. Plus, he had an abrasive personality. He had tried to tell the theologians how to do their job! That was a big no no! Here’s the point: The church should never attach itself with any particular view of the world. It’s alright to learn and adapt, but don’t make it on the same level as the Bible.

Unfortunately, science was supposed to be an independent enterprise, but now it is again at the mercy of secular professors and avowed atheists. Now, if you question “science,” you are told that you are not a scientist. By the way, that is known as the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Another one that we have heard a lot lately – “Science tells us…” That is known as a “reification fallacy” where people assign personal qualities to an abstract idea. Science doesn’t tell us anything, but scientists can.

In the next few weeks, we will see the connection between the Bible and Science (Friar and Patterson):

  • Cosmology (We will focus on the first few chapters of Genesis for this and the following points)
  • Physics (Matter and Time)
  • Chemistry (Atoms and Molecules)
  • Biology (Cell structure and design in nature)
  • History (Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood, Abraham and the people of God, the coming of Christ and his Resurrection)

What happens when we continue to reject the Creator God? 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24   Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Invitation: What do you believe? Are you saved? Do you know someone who is struggling in their faith? Are you praying for them?

Revelation by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. Bible

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

A. Qur’an

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

B. Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Authority by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s start at the beginning:

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

A. General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Anatomy of Salvation by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

Acts 26     12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, “Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misstep by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

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

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

Context: In exhorting the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor to be of one mind and not turn against each other, Peter quoted from Psalm 34. As we have done throughout this series through 1 Peter, every time Peter quoted from the Old Testament, we went to that passage in the Old Testament and spend some time studying it. We’re going to do the same thing here. We’re going to spend some time in Psalm 34. This psalm begins with a short title that says, “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” At one time, scholars doubted these titles, but more and more now think that they are original. So, what is the context of Psalm 34? To understand the context of Psalm 34, we have to go to 1 Samuel 21    12 “Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard.” What an unflattering picture of the giant killer, the anointed king, the man after God’s own heart, and the sweet psalmist of Israel! What would cause someone like David to act like this? Short answer, FEAR. To understand the long answer, we have to dig a little deeper, starting in chapters 17 through 20. In just 4 chapters, David had gone from being the most loved man in Israel to being the most wanted man in Israel:

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

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

What was the impact on David? 1 Samuel 21:2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ Important principle: When you are around someone who is full of fear, unless you are strong, it will jump on you.

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

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

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

While David was talking to the priest and getting some bread from him, he noticed from the corner of his eye that one of Saul’s henchman was there, an Edomite named Doeg. Now things began to spiral downwards for him. 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.” 10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. Now, he took the Enemy’s weapon and made the foolish choice to head to the Enemy’s territory. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” 12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. This was where he began to act like he had lost his mind. His performance was so convincing that Achish said to his servants – 14 “…Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

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

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

What did David do? Like the Prodigal Son, he came to himself. 1 Samuel 22      1 “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.” These were giant killers. One killed 300 at one time with a spear. Three of them crossed behind enemy line and brought water for David from Bethlehem. One killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. The wrong companions had to go so the right companions could come to David.

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

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

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

Family Resemblance by Dr. Abidan Shah

FAMILY RESEMBLANCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  If you grew up in America, especially in the South, you have heard of the legendary feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, 2 families that lived on the border of West Virginia and Kentucky by the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River. The two patriarchs of the families – William Anderson (Devil Anse) Hatfield and Randolph McCoy got into a dispute over the murder of Randolph’s brother sometime after the Civil War. They also had an ongoing conflict over timber. Few years later, some of the descendants fought over a pig and the star witness was killed soon after. Then, it was a romance between Hatfield’s son and McCoy’s daughter that didn’t work out and some more murders followed. Altogether, it is claimed that at least 20 men and women (some even claim 100) were killed over the family feud. Although, everything had been long forgotten since they shook hands in 1897, there was a dispute in 2000 over the access to the cemetery. So, in 2003, both the families had to sign a truce. Little did those 2 patriarchs realize the pattern they set for their descendants even 2 centuries later! It’s amazing how much we follow the trajectory of our parents, good and bad. Main point: Yes, we should honor our parents, but we should be careful about following their trajectory, especially when it comes to marriage and family. Instead, we are to choose to be daughters of Sarah and sons of Abraham. In other words, seek to be a submissive wife like Sarah and an understanding husband like Abraham.

1 Peter 3:1 “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives.”

Context: In our series on 1 Peter titled “TOGETHER FORWARD,” we come to the section that has been very controversial through the years. It has been misused and abused causing a lot of pain, mostly to women, but also to children. It was very tempting for me to skip over it, but the more I prayed about it, the more I realized that to skip over it is to skip over God’s words. I don’t have the authority to do that. So, don’t shoot the messenger. In fact, the proper understanding of this passage is actually liberating to women rather than binding. Furthermore, it is the linchpin issue that deals with the rest of the craziness that is happening in our culture with gender and race issues.

Before we dive into this section of husband-wife relationship, we need to keep in mind the section that we just came out of. Peter had just finished telling his readers to follow the example of the Servant from Isaiah 53. He wanted his readers and us to have the mindset of the one who was “wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Without that mindset, the section we are about to get into will be like fingernails on chalkboard.

Application: Do you have the Servant mindset? Are you willing to suffer for others? Do you know the Servant, Jesus Christ? Was he wounded for your transgressions? Was he bruised for your iniquities? Was the chastisement of your peace upon him? Were you healed by his stripes?

Back to our section – Even though the section on husband-wife relationship begins in 1 Peter 3:1, I would like to begin at 1 Peter 3:5 where Peter invoked the example of the marriage of Abraham and Sarah to explain how wives should be submissive and husbands should lead in marriage – 5 “For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. 7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” Even though Abraham’s name is not mentioned in verse 7, the implication is there: Women be a wife like Sarah and men be a husband like Abraham. In other words, those who truly exemplify what marriage is supposed to be become the true descendants of Sarah and Abraham. So, how was the marriage of Sarah and Abraham?

  1. She was a supportive wife.

Genesis 12      4 “…And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan.”

Keep in mind that Abram was originally from Ur. It’s his father Terah who led the first exodus out of Ur with his kids, livestock, and possessions and came to Haran. By the time they were there and Terah died, Abram was 75 years old. That would make Sarah 65 since she was 10 years younger than him. It’s already been one big move. When God’s call came to Abram in Haran, he left and Sarah followed her husband. The Bible doesn’t talk about it but I can imagine what a struggle that must have been for her. Archaeological evidence tells us that Ur was a large, civilized city. Being near the Persian Gulf, people from everywhere came there for business. Haran was not as prominent, but it was still a big place. There was a large temple to the moon god there. Nonetheless, Sarai followed her husband. Why? She knew that God had called her husband.

Application: Ladies, are you supportive of your husband? I understand that there will be times that you will have to put your foot down, but have you ever been supportive?

  1. He was not always an understanding husband.

Genesis 12      10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, “This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you aremy sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”

Technically, she was his sister (Genesis 20:12), but what a horrible thing to do. Also, how cowardly can you get. Thankfully, God intervened and saved Sarah by plaguing Egypt. Unfortunately, he still didn’t learn his lesson. In Genesis 20, 25 years since the Egypt incident, he did it again and this time he was 100 years old. Again, God had to intervene. Goes to tell you that age does not always equal maturity. Stupid has no age limit!

Application: Men, have you been understanding towards your wife? I understand that none of us are perfect, but is there a mental block somewhere?

  1. They both made some big mistakes.

Genesis 16      1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

Their mistake was not that they were helping God out. Their mistake was that they both thought that Sarah was not part of God’s plan. She was being unselfish, and he was not talking to God. Later, Sarah told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away and we wouldn’t listen to her and God had to talk to Abraham. How tragic when husbands and wives are not on the same page spiritually.

Application: Couples sometimes make bad decisions, and their marriage comes to a halt. Is that you? Has your marriage come to a standstill because of the complications of sin?

  1. Nonetheless, she submitted to his leadership.

When God came to inform Sarah that she would be with child, listen to her response –Genesis 18      10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” That is the passage that Peter quotes in his letter. The word she used here in Hebrew is “adoney,” which means lord, master. In spite of all his weaknesses, she laughed at the proposition but still showed him respect for his leadership.

Application: Ladies, have you stopped respecting your husband for some decision(s) he has made? How do you talk to him? How do you look at him?

  1. He, not Sarah, was called by God to do the most difficult sacrifice.

God called him, not Sarah, to sacrifice Isaac. He was the spiritual leader of the family. Just like after Adam and Eve sinned, God knew who took the fruit first, but he called, “Adam, where are you?” The most difficult thing for a wife is a husband who doesn’t lead spiritually or is inconsistent?

Application: Men, God is going to require from you, not your wife, the account of your family?

What is submission not? (From Grudem)

  1. Putting your husband in the place of God.
  2. Giving up your mind and thought.
  3. Suppressing any efforts to influence and guide your husband.
  4. Giving in to every demand of the husband.
  5. Being inferior in Christ compared to your husband.
  6. Getting spiritual and personal strength primarily through your husband.
  7. Being fearful and timid.

1 Peter 3:6 “as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.”

What is leadership not?

  1. Thinking that you are closer to God.
  2. Expecting blind allegiance.
  3. Refusing to take your wife’s advice and input.
  4. Doing whatever you want.
  5. Leaving all spiritual stuff to your wife.
  6. Refusing to take the blame for where your family is headed.
  7. Being brash and authoritarian.

What is submission? The inner quality of gentleness that affirms the leadership of your husband.

What is leadership? The outward demonstration of understanding that gives your wife the honor that is due.

What is the goal? So, you can be heirs together of the grace of life and your prayers may not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Invitation: Do you have family resemblance with Sarah and Abraham or with your own “Hatfields and McCoys?” Are you in the family of God? Are you saved?

Plunder by Dr. Abidan Shah

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

Introduction:  Kids love to hunt for hidden treasure, even grownups. It could be Viking treasure, Montezuma’s treasure, Blackbeard’s treasure, Confederate Gold, or the Nazi Gold Train. Just the idea of finding something that someone else had hidden hoping to come back to one day is so exiting. But, if you think about it, that treasure that was hidden was more than likely stolen from someone else. It was plundered from its rightful owner. Here’s something very interesting: What is actually criminal, dishonorable, shameful, and inexcusable is actually rightful, noble, praiseworthy, and beneficial when it comes to the gospel! Because Jesus took God’s wrath upon himself for our sins, he became the rightful major shareholder in the profits, which is us. Not only that, he has also plundered the powerbrokers and rulers of the world. In other words, the power of the demonic hordes that lie behind the power structures of the world has been broken. The title of our message today is PLUNDER.

Isaiah 53       10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; he has put Him to grief…”

Context: This is the final message in our series titled ATONEMENT. So many of you have shared with us how much this series has meant to you, how much it has strengthened your faith, and how much it has created in you a desire to study God’s Word even more. That is wonderful! As we mentioned last week, we are currently working on a program that will hopefully help you in your spiritual journey, something the whole family can benefit from.

Now, back to Isaiah 53. In each message in this series, we looked incrementally more at the background of this prophecy. We learned that Isaiah wrote it 100 years into the future to the Judeans living in exile in Babylon. Because of their sins, they had lost their land, their holy city, and their temple. They had been dragged across the desert 700 miles to a land they had never seen before, the land of Babylon. All their past glory was gone. All their future hope was lost. They were sitting by the rivers of Babylon lamenting over their present life. Now they were surrounded by Marduk, Bel, Dagon, Nergal, Timat, etc. It was as if God was saying – “Are these what you were tempting me with? Now, they are everywhere.” Sometimes, when we keep tempting God and keep going after false gods, he lets us go completely over. He wants us to experience what life with false gods is really like. When you’ve finally had enough, he brings you back. In some ways, I believe that’s where we are in America today. It is time to repent.

Application: Do you keep testing God with false idols and gods? Do you now the living and true God through Jesus Christ?

To such a hopeless and helpless people, God had sent his word through Isaiah the prophet. Keep in mind that Isaiah 40-55 was dealing with events from 605-539BC. God’s word to them was that redemption was coming through 2 agents:

I. Cyrus the Great – he would do 2 things:

  1. Free the people and return them to their homeland.

Isaiah 44       24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself…28 Who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ’

Just the way God had promised, in 539BC, a ruler came from Persia named Cyrus who conquered Babylon overnight and made the famous edict which is found in 2 Chronicles and Ezra in the Bible, and even on the Cyrus Cylinder.

  1. Subdue nations and plunder the kings.

Isaiah 45      1 “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut:…3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.

If you read Herodotus and Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, you will find out how much treasure he gained by plundering all the kings in his path.

II. The Servant – he would also do 2 things:

  1. Take our punishment of sins and rise from the grave.

Isaiah 53       10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; he has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin…”

We spent plenty of time looking at this throughout the series, especially 5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” He will die in the process, and, if you remember verse 8 “He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” In other words, he would be killed and will not have any children. It was such a disgrace in that culture not to have any children. But, wait – 10 “…he shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.” Who will be his seed? We! 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” All of this was a prophecy of his resurrection to follow his crucifixion.

Application: Have you received his offering for sin? Are you a spiritual legacy of Jesus Christ? Have you been justified by his sacrificial death and resurrection?

  1. Take his share and plunder the powers and principalities.

12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

What is the portion and what are the spoils? Colossians 2      14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. The powers are the dark cosmic forces behind all the power structures of this world. They were given authorities by God over his created world, but because they chose to disobey God, their authority is now broken. They have been disarmed. They are still hostile, but their power has been broken. One day, Christ will once and for all cast them into the Lake of Fire. Until then, we can win over them as long as we stand behind Christ.

Invitation: Do you truly understand what Jesus has done for you? Are you his spiritual legacy? Are you still in bondage to evil powers? Are you saved?

Vicarious by Dr. Abidan Shah

VICARIOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Have you ever heard someone say, “So and so is living vicariously?” What does that mean? It means that you are living life through someone else’s experiences. It happens when parents try to live through their kids, especially with sports. The funniest thing for me is to watch that sports fanatic dad at the little league soccer game and his little boy is playing with dandelions. It can also happen when we identify too much with a character in a novel, TV show, reality TV, and even with social media, where people wish what others have. Living vicariously through others is not healthy. It can put unrealistic expectations on others, make excuses for our own inadequacies and shortcomings, and create excessive dependence on others. Here’s what’s incredible: the very things that make vicarious living bad for us in our daily life are what make them right for us when it comes to our salvation. God’s expectation of holiness is beyond us. We are totally inadequate and fall short of God’s standard. Only by completely depending on Christ’s sacrifice can we make it. He took our vicarious punishment for the penalty of sin.

Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Context: As I mentioned last week, we’re still in our series through 1 Peter called “TOGETHER FORWARD.” Last week, we came to that section in chapter 2 where Peter reminded the persecuted church in Asia Minor to follow the example/trace the life and mission of Christ as they suffered. He even gave them a tracing sheet from Isaiah 53 where Jesus is prophesied about as a sheep led to the slaughter. But, we have to be careful here. Isaiah 53 is much more than just a model on “how to suffer.” It is the very foundation of our salvation. In other words, before we start tracing Isaiah 53, we need to understand what it is really about. With that in mind and Easter being around the corner, we started a miniseries called ATONEMENT. Last week, we focused on the historical background of Isaiah and how God promised the people in exile that he would deliver them, but that his greater desire was to deliver them from sin. In this message, I want us to understand the idea of the vicarious punishment endured by Jesus for us. Here’s the big question: “Can someone else stand in my place and take my penalty of sin?”

Application: Do you understand what it means that Jesus died for your sins? Are you saved? Are you living each day in gratitude for what was done for you?

For the next few minutes, we’re going to understand the importance of vicarious suffering in the Old Testament (In German, Stellvertretung – “Taking another’s place”):

  1. There are several hints from the very beginning:
  • Adam and Eve – After the curse, Genesis 3:21 says, “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”
  • Cain and Abel Genesis 4 3 “And…Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering.”
  • Noah – After over a year on the ark, Genesis 8 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
  • Job – After his children would get together for a feast, Job 1 5 So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.”
  • Abraham – After God tested Abraham’s faith, Genesis 22:13 “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.”

The point is this: Right from the beginning, we see indication that God’s people knew that they had to sacrifice for their sins before God in order to have any fellowship with him. God was holy and he will punish sin, either in the individual or in the substitute.

  1. But, this was written in bold letters when the Hebrews became a nation:
  • Passover – God had sent 9 devastating plagues against Egypt and Pharaoh still hardened his heart, it was time for the tenth plague. Exodus 12 12 “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Why was this necessary? This was not only a judgment against the gods of Egypt but the children of Israel had also participated in idolatry while in Egypt. Ezekiel 20      7 Then I said to them, “Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ 8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me…Then I said, “I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’ 9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” They too were under the sentence of death. They were not automatically spared.
  • Day of Atonement – God called Moses on Mount Sinai and gave him the law and the covenant. The Book of Exodus relates the response of the people. As much as God explained to them through Moses to maintain holiness, they still didn’t understand. It is in the next book, Leviticus, that the sacrificial system was laid out for them. Not all the sacrifices were animal sacrifices and even those were not for the full and final atonement of sin. The goal was to allow fellowship with a holy God who will punish sin. This was all by his grace. The rituals of the Day of Atonement were clearly given for the atonement. It was based around 2 goats. One was sacrificed to God. Leviticus 16 15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil…and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. 16So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins.” The word for “atonement” is “kipper,” which means “cover.” That’s where we get “Yom Kippur” = Day of Atonement. It implies 4 things: God can forgive; 2. God will cleanse; 3. The payment for sin has been made; 4. God’s wrath has been averted/avoided/turned aside. Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” How about the other goat? It was sent away into the desert as a “scapegoat” or “goat for Azazel.” It means a “rugged cliff.” The priest would place his hand on the goat implying a transference of sins from Israel to the living goat. It was symbolic of their sins being carried away from them to somewhere far away. Ultimately, the goat couldn’t do that. It was to teach them and prepare them for the coming of the one who would not only die for our sins but carry them away for us.

What was the point behind all this? God was preparing them for what would be prophesied in Isaiah 53 (Adapted from Spieckermann):

  1. One person will intercede for the sins of others.
  2. The one interceding will be sinless and righteous.
  3. The act must be once and for all.
  4. It will be a voluntary act.
  5. God would be the one ultimately behind the act.

Did the people understand and get the meaning behind the sacrifices? Some did and some didn’t:

1 Samuel 15:22 So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

Psalm 51      16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.

Amos 5      21 “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. 22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. 24 But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream. 25 “Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26 You also carried Sikkuth your king And Chiun, your idols, The star of your gods, Which you made for yourselves.”

Isaiah 1      11 “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats…13 Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting…15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. 16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil.”

Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Invitation: Do you understand that you need someone to go between you and God? Have you received Jesus as your Savior and King?

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