Discipleship 1: Witnesses by Pastor Abidan Shah

DISCIPLESHIP 1 – WITNESSES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Discipleship 1

Introduction:  If your family is like ours, after surfing the channels or Netflix for 30 minutes, we usually settle for some classic show. For me, it is the Andy Griffith show. One of my favorite episodes is the one where Opie starts talking about his new friend “Mr. McBeevee” who he describes as wearing a shining hat, walking about in the treetops, jingling as if he was wearing bells, and blowing smoke out of his ears. At first, Andy laughs it off to just a kid having an imaginary friend until Opie comes up with a quarter saying that Mr. McBeevee gave it to him. Now Andy gets concerned and tells Opie to tell the truth that Mr. McBeevee was just make believe. Opie refuses and asks Andy, “Don’t you believe me Pa? Don’t you Pa?” At first Andy is upset and disappointed but then his expression changes and he says, “I believe you.” Of course, Barney is upset at Andy for going along with Opie and he asks him, “Do you believe in Mr. McBeevee?” Andy responds, “No, but I believe in Opie.” Later on, it comes out that Mr. McBeevee was a telephone repair man, climbing up and down trees with a belt of equipment jingling as he walked. So also, Christians are people who have seen Christ through the eyes of faith. They are witnesses to Christ. They cannot help but talk about what they have seen. The world has trouble believing us but it’s only through our testimony that they can meet Christ. That’s our message today in our series on discipleship.

Acts 1    4And being assembled together withthem,He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,”He said,“you have heard from Me; 5for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Question:If you’re a disciple, you’re a witness to Christ. You should be able to describe 3 things – 1. What was life like before you met Christ. 2. What happened that changed your life, how Christ saved you. 3. What is your life like since Christ saved you? Can you describe these 3 things? Are you a witness to Christ? Are you a disciple? Are you saved?

I. IT’S NOT A FORMULA BUT A TESTIMONY.

Context: Last weekend I introduced the goal of discipleship in the acronym – W A T E R = WITNESSES + ACCOUNTABILITY + TOGETHERNESS + ESTABLISHED IN THE WORD + REPRODUCING. In the next few weeks we will look at each of these attributes. Today we begin with WITNESSES. 4 things we need to understand about being a WITNESS:

Background: When Christians or church people hear the word “witness” or “witnessing,” they equate that with an evangelism program for sharing the gospel like CWT, EE, FAITH, Sharing Jesus Without Fear, Romans Road, NET, 4 Spiritual Laws. This was not the case with the first disciples. When Jesus told his disciples in Acts 1:8“…and you shall be witnesses to Me…” he meant witnesses as in “eye-witnesses.” Listen to what he said in Luke 24   46“…Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48And you are witnessesof these things.” So, a witness was someone who had seen the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and had received the commission from Christ to preach repentance and remission (forgiveness or cancellation) of sins in his name to all nations. In fact, throughout the Book of Acts, the disciples are called witnesses:

  • Acts 2:32“This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are allwitnesses.”
  • Acts 4:33“And with great power the apostles gavewitnessto the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”
  • Acts 5:32“And we are Hiswitnessesto these things, andsoalsoisthe Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
  • Acts 13:31“He (Jesus) was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are Hiswitnessesto the people.”
  • Acts 23:11But the following night the Lord stood by him (Paul) and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witnessat Rome.”

I can go on and on but the point is this – if we call ourselves disciples, we are witnesses like the first disciples of what Jesus has done for us. There is a difference – the disciples were EYE witnesses and we are FAITH witnesses

Application: What have you witnessed? How was life before Jesus? What has Jesus done for you? How is life since Jesus?

II. IT’S NOT A DESTINATION BUT A MINDSET. 

Background: When Christians or church people hear the word “witnessing,” they think “going door-to-door” or “leaving their home country and going far away to some foreign mission field. Going on missions to a foreign country is important but when Jesus said in Acts 1:8“…and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” he was not telling them to travel somewhere on a mission trip but to start living like people who had witnessed something extraordinary. He was telling them to live with a changed mindset starting right where they were.

Illustration: Joe Dittmar (spoke at Crime Stoppers and Chamber banquet) is a 9/11 survivor who was on the 105thfloor of the 2ndWorld Trade Tower. It is mind blowing to hear his account of how seemingly small decisions saved his life and how from a meeting of 54 insurance executives, he was one of only 7 who made it. Now, he lives every day in light of that day. It has changed his mindset about life, family, work, God, everything.

Application: How has the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus impacted your life? Has it changed your mindset? How do you see yourself in your workplaces, neighborhoods, family gatherings, ball fields, etc.? You are on mission right where you are.

III. IT’S NOT A SKILL BUT THE SPIRIT.

Background: When Christians or church folks hear the word “witness” or “witnessing,” they get terrified. I’ll be honest with you, it is pretty terrifying to me as well. The reason we have this fear is because we fail to take seriously what Jesus told his disciples and to all of us in verse 8“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me…”Think about the word “power.” This is not some destructive power tearing down things and wreaking havoc. This is power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is power that brings wholeness and perfection. This is power that transforms hearts and changes lives. Let me give you 2 examples in Acts:

  • When Peter was asked in Acts 4 7“…By what power or by what name have you done this?’ 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…3000-5000 saved!
  • After Paul was stopped by Jesus from persecuting the church, he was blind and God sent Ananias to him. Listen to what he says to Paul in Acts 917“…Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” After Paul received sight, he was baptized, ate, spent time with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately starting preachingChrist in the synagogues.

You cannot be a witness to Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about skills, courage, personality. It’s about the power of the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Is there anything that would hinder the flow of the Holy Spirit in your life.

IV. IT’S NOT A GOAL BUT A SOUL.

Background:  When Christians or church folks hear the word “witnessing,” they think of it as some goal to be met. Listen carefully – People are not projects to be completed or boxes to be checked. They are precious souls to be won to Christ. We have to remind ourselves to genuinely love people. Pray for them. Take the time to get to know them. Talk less and listen more. Be ready with the words of a witness. Daily submit to the Holy Spirit. Pray for divine appointments. Make room for divine appointments. Robby Gallaty gives the following suggestions:

  • Lingering longer in the driveway before going into your home.
  • Hanging around a few minutes extra in the break room.
  • Inviting lost friends over to have dinner with you.
  • Serving in a local homeless shelter occasionally.
  • Leading after school tutoring at a school that needs help.
  • Investing time in community events.
  • Getting involved in prison ministry.
  • Letting your neighbor borrow something of yours.
  • Volunteering in your church nursery or to set up an event.
  • There are many other ways that you can genuinely connect with lost souls.

Invitation: Are you a true disciple? Are you a witness to Christ? Are you saved?

The Soul-Winner’s Prize by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. THE GOAL OF EVERY CHRISTIAN 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. THE PRIZE OF EVERY SOUL-WINNER 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be the Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

BE THE GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Be The Gospel.jpgIntroduction: Sometime back I was fishing at a friend’s pond with the boys and one of them wanted to use a spinner bait. I thought I knew what I was doing. So I tied it and decided to give it a shot. I did catch a fish for about 10 seconds before the fish took the bait from me. Just like a good dad, I blamed them for tying the wrong knot. In today’s message we will learn how a fish caught a man. It’s not a hoax. The message is about Jonah in the Old Testament and it is titled “BE THE GOSPEL.”

Matthew 12   38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

Context: Many of you may remember that 3 years ago I preached a series of messages on the Book of Jonah called “Running from God.” (You can still access them on my blog site and podcast.) The most amazing lesson for me in that series was not that Jonah was still alive after being inside the great fish for 3 days and 3 nights. God can do any miracle. The most amazing thing for me was that the people of Nineveh repented after Jonah preached only 8 words to them (at least in English) – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Wow! Jonah must be some preacher! What was so powerful in his message that the people were willing to believe God so quickly? What was so radical in his sermon that even the king would decree that every man and beast would fast, seek God and repent? The answer is very simple – “Jonah became the gospel.”

Question: Before we see what that really means, have you heard the old adage – “You are the only Bible some people will ever read”? Let me tweak that a little – “You are the only gospel some people will ever see.” Meaning: It’s not enough to preach the gospel. We also have to live it out. We have to demonstrate in our lives the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People around us need to see the gospel of salvation in us. Can the people around you see the gospel of Christ in you? Have you ever responded to the gospel in your life? Are you a witness of Christ?

This morning we’re going to focus on how Jonah became the gospel to others:

I. It began with a wakeup call.

Jonah 1   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” The word for “arise” in Hebrew is “qum” meaning “up.” Jonah was comfortably asleep when God came to him. I believe that there is a double meaning here. Jonah was not only physically asleep but he was also spiritually asleep. The reason we can say that is because of his reaction to God’s call. 3 “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” People run from God when there is sin in their lives. Case in point: Adam and Eve hid from God after eating the forbidden fruit. What Jonah didn’t realize at that time was that this wakeup call was not just for Nineveh but also for him.

Principle: When God awakens you to do something, don’t see it as something you are doing for God. Primarily, it’s for you.

II. It unleashed a storm of troubles.

Jonah 1:4 “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.” Jonah made the same mistake that people make today – I know what God expects of me and I don’t like it. I’m going to take a break from God. I’m going stop coming to church for a while or I’m going to try some other churches because I feel like Pastor Shah is singling me out. I’m going to move to another city/state because I feel like I need a fresh start in my life. Sometimes it’s not physical relocation but mental relocation like a makeover or a new hobby or a new set of friends, anything to keep me from facing God. Jonah believed in the old cliché – “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Principle: God may be out of your sight and out of your mind but you are never out of his reach.

III. It brought discipline from God.

Jonah 1:12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah knew right away that he was the reason for the storm and that God had come to deal with him. But please don’t misunderstand – Jonah was not committing suicide. If this were the case, he would’ve just jumped overboard. Jonah was a prophet of God who knew the ways of God. He knew that God did not punish his children but he disciplined them. By the way, there is a big difference between punishment and discipline. In punishment the goal is the past but in discipline the goal is the future. God’s purpose in Jonah’s discipline was to change his mindset about the gospel. The reason Jonah ran from God was because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He felt that God had no business saving the pagans. God had to change Jonah’s understanding of the gospel. God was about to give Jonah a glimpse in the coming death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • To start with, Jonah did not just jump overboard. Instead, he asked the sailors to throw him into the raging sea. So also, Jesus was taken by lawless hands and nailed to the cross.
  • As the great fish nose-dived into the deep, Jonah cried to God “For You cast me into the deep.” (Jonah 2:3) So also, Jesus was not a victim of the cruel and the evil. He was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23)
  • Jonah felt abandoned by God and cried, “I have been cast out of Your sight.” (Jonah 2:4) So also, Jesus, at the ninth hour from the cross, cried out with a loud voice – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
  • Jonah described his physical condition inside the great fish as, “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5) So also, Jesus felt the death grip of sin rising around him. And what did he have on his head? A crown of thorns.
  • Jonah described how he was cut off from the earth – “I went down to the moorings of the mountains. The earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” (Jonah 2:6) So also, Jesus was “cut off from the land of the living…” says Isaiah 53:8
  • How long was Jonah inside the great fish? 3 days and 3 nights. How long was Jesus in the grave? 3 days.
  • What happened to Jonah after that? Jonah 2:10“So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry” What happened to Jesus on the third day? God raised him up “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:24) Just the way God told the fish to spit out Jonah, God told death to spit out Jesus.

Can you see how Jonah got a glimpse of the gospel in his discipline?

Principle: When God disciplines his children, his goal is not pain but progress. He doesn’t leave you bruised and battered. He leaves you resembling the image of the crucified, buried, and risen Savior.

IV. It led to a great outpouring of salvation.

Jonah 3   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” Before we jump to the reaction of the Ninevites, we need to say a word or two about Nineveh – It was one of the most ancient cities in the world. Its name was from the Sumerian logogram NINUA, which is fish. There was another town with a similar name “NINA” which worshipped the fish goddess Nanshe. More than likely, the people of Nineveh also worshipped the same fish goddess. Her symbol was a “fish.” Also, a Greek historian by the name of Berossus tells us that the Assyrians had a myth that a half-fish, half-man god called “Oannes” or “Uanna” had come up out of the sea and brought them wisdom, sciences, and art. An archaeologist from the 19th century tells us that outside a large chamber in Nineveh there was a bas relief of a half-fish, half-man being.

The text doesn’t tell us but I can only imagine what Jonah looked like when he approached Nineveh. They say that whales have a multilayered stomach like cows, sheep, and deer. In the first stomach, food is crushed and in the second stomach, the gastric juices break it down. I don’t know how far he made it. I picture him as totally bleached from top to bottom. He looks creepy to say the least. Plus, people must have seen a big fishing floating to the shores. As they got near, they see this man being vomited out! I believe word got out that this Jewish prophet had just come out of a big fish. He goes to a city whose very name is dedicated to the fish god. Imagine their shocker when they ask him – “What’s your name?” Jonah. Sounds very much like “Uanna.” Are you god? “Of course not. I am a prophet of the Living God. My God told your god what to do. He put me inside the big fish to show me that one day He is coming and he will be face death and sin for all, including you. You have 40 days to believe in him and if not “Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Someone might say – “That’s too much speculation.” Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 11   29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

Do you understand now that it was not 8 threatening words that turned Nineveh around? Jonah represented the gospel through his very life.

Invitation: We do not need a big fish experience to become the gospel to others. Everything we go through in life should testify to the watching world of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our obedience to the Word of God, we become a sign of the gospel of Christ to the lost world around us.

Have you received this gospel? Are you running from God?

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (the Doubter) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters3-doubterIntroduction: This is the third message in our series “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” It’s about a well-to-do man who seemed to have it all until his little boy became gravely ill and only a miracle could save him. In desperation this man came to Jesus but he had a problem. He was a doubter. He had trouble believing in Jesus.

John 4   46 “…there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.”

Bridge: As many of you know, I am one of the chaplains at our local hospital. I get many interesting responses when I walk into a room. Here are the 3 common ones: first, the “praise Jesus” response – I can tell right away they love Jesus. They know that God will bring them through and they are glad to have me pray for them. I walk away blessed! Second, the “we’ve been out of church lately” response – they’re kind of glad I came but they feel embarrassed and guilty for neglecting God. Third is an interesting response. I call it the “I guess you couldn’t make it in to med school?” response. All smart Indians become medical doctors. What happened to you? They doubt anything that is not strictly medical and scientific. They see me as a hack, a shyster, and a con, who manipulates people’s insecurities for a living. Some of them don’t even want me to pray for them.

Context: The individual we’ll meet today would probably fall into this last category. Keep in mind that we’re examining 4 individuals between the two bracket verses in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. So far we’ve examined the first two – Nicodemus, a religious man and the Samaritan woman, an outcast. Today we will look at the third one, a rich doubter and next weekend, the last one, a sick hopeless patient. Again, these were four very different people from different walks of life with different needs. Each of them had an encounter with Jesus, the Master Soul Winner. He met them right where they were, shared the gospel with them in a way they could understand, and left them transformed.

Question: Do you know some doubter in your life? Maybe it’s a family member, a son or daughter who went off to college and came back full of doubts. Maybe it’s a friend or a coworker that you get along with in every way except when it comes to your beliefs. This message will help you understand how to reach them. Maybe you are that person who is having trouble believing. You’re not saved. You need Christ. Or maybe you are saved but lately you’ve been struggling with doubts. This message is for you.

Let the Holy Spirit speak to you whomever you are:

I. WHO WAS THIS NOBLEMAN? 

46 “So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine.

Background: After leaving Samaria, Jesus continued north towards Cana of Galilee and word got out that Jesus, the miracle worker, had returned. “And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.” In just that short statement we have plenty to create a profile of this man:

  • He was a Nobleman – The Greek word is “basilikos” which is an adjective that means “royal.” He was not a king because the designation would’ve been “basileus.” It implies that he worked for the king. Don’t misunderstand – he was much more than just a servant because he had servants, as will see later on. All this tells us that he was an important man.
  • He was from Capernaum – This also helps us to understand who was the king that he worked for. It could not be the Roman Emperor because Tiberius Caesar would not appoint someone that important and put him in Capernaum, a fishing town on the Sea of Galilee. More than likely, this was Herod Antipas, King Herod’s son, the tetrarch or administrator of Galilee. He was the one who fell in love with Herodias his half-brother Philip’s wife and John the Baptist called him out on his open adulterous behavior and Antipas had John thrown into prison. Later, he was so swept away by the provocative dance of Salome, Herodias’ daughter, that he gave the order to cut off John the Baptist’s head. If this nobleman worked for Antipas, more than likely he was like just his master – immoral, and cruel.
  • By the way, Jesus called Herod Antipas a “fox.” He tried to see Jesus and wanted to kill him. Later he mocked Jesus at the final trial. Again, if this man worked for Herod Antipas, just like his boss, he didn’t have a very high view of Jesus.
  • Listen to verse 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him…” He went from Capernaum to Cana, which is about 16 miles, a day’s journey. It was uphill because Capernaum was about 700 feet below sea level. Maybe, he walked or maybe he rode his horse. Why? Because his boy was dying with some kind of fever. He may have been a bad person working for a bad man but he was a good father who loved his son and would do anything for him.

Do you know when most people look for God? When they are in some crisis – health, relationships, or finances.

Application: Do you know someone like that? They are confident and smug and self-sufficient until their world caves in. As they are sinking, they look up for someone to help them. This is not the time to pat them on the back and say – “Be patient. It’ll be okay. Just hang in there. Everything will be fine.” Be ready to throw them the rope of the gospel. Unfortunately, many Christians have played interference against me trying to reach such people in need with the gospel. This is the moment when you should let the Holy Spirit lead you to help them come to Christ.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Jesus’ response sounds so out of character and even somewhat hateful and insensitive. Here’s a father coming to Him begging for healing for his son and Jesus seems to be having a bad day! What’s going on? Jesus knew the heart of this man. He saw his unbelief and hard-heartedness. So He confronted him with the truth about himself. You cannot come to Jesus with unbelief in your heart and expect Him to listen to you. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

What is his response? 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” Can you hear the change in his tone? Now he referred to Jesus as “Sir” or “Lord” or “Master.” Can you also see how he referred to his own son? He called him “my little child.” The Bible does not tell us the real reason why he came in the first place. Maybe his wife told him to or his parents (child’s grandparents) told him to or his friends told him to. Jesus wanted him to come because he wanted to.

Now listen to Jesus’ command: 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” It’s amazing how Jesus, the Master Soul Winner meets people right where they are! This man is used to ordering people and now Jesus ordered him. What is his response? “So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him…” By the way, did you notice the subtle change in the text? No longer is he referred to as a nobleman but simply as a man. Meaning: Your pedigree, your achievements, and your titles are nothing before God. “You are who you are by the grace of God.”

What’s next? “…and he went his way.” Meaning: He believed and obeyed. What if he hadn’t believed? What if hadn’t gone? Would his son still be healed? The answer is in the following verse – 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” 52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father… By the way, notice again the subtle change from just the “man” to the “father.” There is a softness coming in his demeanor. That’s what God does for us. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” Meaning: Yes his son would have been healed either way.

What’s the point? People get all bent out of shape when I say – “God does hear the prayers of unbelievers.” You can be lost and pray and if its in God’s will, He may answer you. Why does He do that? As Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, our Father in heaven “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Meaning: Anytime something good happens in this world, it is from the one and only living true God. Why does God do that? I have a theory. On the Day of Judgment when people will claim that if God had only done something good for them, they would’ve received Jesus. Then God will reveal to them how many times He blessed them and they still rejected Him. Every mouth will be silenced before Him.

How does it all end? “And he himself believed, and his whole household.” Crisis is the perfect opportunity to bring people to Christ, to turn their doubts into faith. Do you know someone like that? Pray for them. Are you that someone who is struggling with doubts? Bring your struggles to Him and try Him.

In closing, I don’t know about you but I’ve often wondered what happened to this man and his family from Capernaum. Did they continue in the faith? Did that little boy become a witness for Christ, maybe a leader in the church at Capernaum? In the gospels we find that initially Capernaum was the base of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee. Nicole and I have been there and seen Simon Peter’s house. This was where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew to follow Him. He did many great miracles in this village. But sadly, His final words were not very promising. Matthew 11   23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

Conclusion: I remember it just like yesterday. It was about 7 or so in the morning. Dad was shaving. I was getting ready for school. There was a knock on the door and this young man was standing there – “Pastor, please come quickly. My niece is dying. Not sure what’s happening but we need you to come and pray.” My dad didn’t even finish shaving and immediately went to the hospital. The family was in the waiting room, crying and sobbing. He walked into the room and there was the mom and dad weeping as they watched their little girl breathe her last breaths. The Holy Spirit led him to tell the parents to step out of the room with him. Then he told them – “I am here to pray for your child’s healing but before I do that, you need to surrender your lives to God wholeheartedly.” Between tears and cries, they promised and he prayed. As he was praying, they heard footsteps running and doctors and nurses flocking into the room. They thought it was all over. Few minutes later the doctor came out and said – “Not sure what’s going on but the fever’s gone, she’s sitting up, and asking for her parents.” Her first words were – “I’m hungry. Can I have some bread to eat?” It was an answer to prayers, a miracle. The couple thanked my dad and promised to be in church from that day on. They came the very next week, and then the next month, then a few more months, and then they came here and there. Then you would seem them once or twice a year. Finally, they stopped coming. Couple of years ago I asked my dad about that family. He told me that the girl is married and has children but they have no use for God. How typical of human beings…We get what we want from God and we conveniently forget to keep our word. If you are a believer living with doubts, look back and take an account of what God has done for you, from where He has brought you

Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Outcast) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson 

encounters2_outcastIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series from the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner had an encounter with Jesus.

John 4   3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

Bridge: Have you ever been thirsty, I mean “really thirsty?” Maybe it was after cutting grass on a hot day or after a long walk or playing a sport, you were parched! People drink all kinds of drinks to quench their thirst but there’s no substitute to a glass of cool water.

Context: In the passage we just read, Jesus used the imagery of thirst to convey the gospel to a woman of Samaria. Keep in mind that in this series we’re looking at 4 individuals between the two brackets in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. The first individual was a religious man named Nicodemus (we met him last weekend), the second individual was a woman of Samaria with an embarrassing past (we’re going to meet her today), the third individual was a brash rich man, and the fourth was a sick hopeless patient. Four very different people from different walks of life and Jesus, the Master soul winner did not use some one size fits all approach with them. Instead, He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel in a way they could understand, and left all four of them transformed. Today we will see how an outcast, outspoken, and outright sinner woman from Samaria had an encounter with Jesus that changed her destiny forever.

Question: How do you see people? Do you only notice their skin pigmentation or the kind of clothes they wear or the background they come from? Or do you take the time to see below the surface, try to understand them, and meet them where they are? Do you see the thirst in their hearts for the Living Water? Are you the one who is thirsty for the Living Water? Are you the one who needs an encounter with Jesus?

In this message we will meet the woman of Samaria. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

I. WHO WAS THE SAMARITAN WOMAN? 

3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.

Background: On the map of Israel, Judea is in the South and Galilee is in the North. There has been much debate over why Jesus needed to go through Samaria. Was it for theological reasons or geographical reasons? Was it because He wanted to reach out to the Samaritans with the gospel or was it because it was the easiest, quickest, and safest route through a Roman territory? I personally think that it was simply for geographical reason. By the way, you often hear things like – “The Jewish people back then would not have gone through Samaria.” That’s not true. We have plenty of evidence that they did.

Here’s the point: Sometimes we expect God to direct us through some supernatural impulse and intuition. That’s not always the case. Many times God simply uses the ordinary, mundane, and common sense decisions of life. Don’t always be talking about how you had this feeling that you had to do this and that and God showed up. Many times it is just the simple choices of life that God uses to do the amazing.

5 “So He came to a city of Samaria…”

Background: Right there we can begin constructing the profile of this woman:

  • Samaritans – Just like the Pharisees, there is considerable debate over who were the Samaritans. If you were to ask the Samaritans (only about a thousand exist today in Israel), they would tell you that they are the direct descendants of ancient Israel. They claim that Israel began to depart from God during the time of Eli, the high priest. Remember Eli who saw Hannah praying and thought that she was drunk but God blessed her with a child named Samuel? This Eli, they claim, messed things up by moving the worship center of Israel from Gerizim to Shiloh. They’ll tell you that they, the worshippers at Gerizim, are the original Israel.

But if you read the Bible you get a different account. It’s found in 2 Kings 17 when God sent the Assyrian Empire against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians not only defeated them but they also implemented their policy of resettling conquered peoples under which they would take the people from the conquered territory and move them to another part of the empire and take people from that part and resettle them into the conquered territory. Listen to 2 Kings 17:24 “Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel…” These people somewhat adopted the Israelite faith but they retained their original gods as well. They even intermarried some of the local people who were not resettled. So the Jewish people did not accept them as full-fledged children of Israel. You can sense the tension between them in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah when the Jewish people tried to rebuild the temple and the city walls. The Samaritans tried to sabotage their building projects. There’s more that I can go into but if this woman was a Samaritan, she has a historical religious chip on her shoulder.

  • Verse 5 “So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” Meaning: This was not just any part of Samaria but a special place in Samaria. She probably had a sense of spiritual pride. Do you know people like that who have spiritual pride but they still haven’t encountered Jesus?
  • Verse 6 “Now Jacob’s well was there…” Archaeology takes us to a deeper level of understanding here. Jacob’s well is a deep well near Shechem. It is still there to this day. But Sychar, the best archaeologists can tell, is probably near the modern day Arab village of Askar, which is 1 mile from Shechem. Ancient sources tell us that there was a spring there in Sychar. So the question is why did she come to Jacob’s well if there was one right where she lived? 6 “…Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Noontime is not the time to draw water. Could it be that she was searching for the God who met Jacob in the wilderness?
  • Verse 7 “…Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. She is an outspoken, fearless woman, and truthful!
  • By the way, later we will also learn that she had been through 5 marriages and was working towards number 6 now! I think if she hadn’t met Jesus, she would have gone beyond Elizabeth Taylor’s record of 7 men, 8 marriages! This means she was an independent woman who didn’t care what anyone thought of her. By the way, don’t think that she was a prostitute. They were her husbands.

Application: Do you know some Samaritan women or men? Do you judge them or pray for them? Do you like Jesus try to reach them with the gospel or do you run the other direction from them?

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HER? 

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Again, what’s amazing to me is that Jesus used His surroundings as a lead in to the gospel! She’s at the well and Jesus offered her the living water. Also, He did not get offended by her tone. Be prepared for people to lash out at you. Love them anyways.

What’s her response? 11 The woman said to Him, “Sir…” Now she’s talking to Him with a little more respect. “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?” Just like Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman has no clue what Jesus was talking about. Once again, don’t assume that lost people understand all that we talk about, especially our spiritual lingo. 12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Now she turns into a lay theologian and even defensive over her people’s beliefs. Don’t underestimate people’s personal beliefs.

John 4:13   Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Meaning: Jesus is talking about a whole different kind of thirst, not physical but soul thirst. Not only that but that Jesus is offering is not just running water but a fountain of water. Later in John 7 Jesus gave the identity of the spring, this fountain 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive. All this will lead to the same eternal life that Jesus promised Nicodemus. But even more than what He told Nicodemus – this life will be abundant, continuing, and self-replenishing!

Listen to her response – 15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” Either she still does not understand or she is being sarcastic or she is just being skeptical. 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.” Don’t misunderstand – Jesus was not talking down to her. He was simply revealing to her His omniscience. When you draw closer to the light, you will see the blemishes in the light. But please don’t mistake this for salvation. Here’s a greater point: If the Christ you’ve met does not know you through and through, you’ve got the wrong Christ. Listen to the woman’s response – 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Meaning: Now she has elevated Jesus’s status from a common Jewish man to a prophet.

Listen to Jesus’s response – 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” What’s her response? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. Many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus. Listen to what they said to her – 42 “…Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

ethel-waters-and-billy-graham

Ethel Waters and Billy Graham

Ethel Waters

Ethel Waters

Conclusion: When I was preparing for this message, I couldn’t help but think of Ethel Waters, Black singer from the early part of the twentieth century. Her mother was raped at knifepoint at the age of 13. Of her childhood she said, “No one raised me; I just ran wild. I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” She went through extreme poverty, daily hunger, stealing, and shuffled from one place to another. She got married at 12 and that was a very abusive relationship. But by the age of 17 she entered show business as a singer and dancer. She won awards and sang on Broadway. She was the first black singer on a coast-to-coast radio show and even made it into the movies. In 1929, she was making $1250 a week! But something was missing in her life. One day in 1957 she walked down the aisle at a Billy Graham Crusade in Madison Square Gardens, New York City. She began to sing for the Billy Graham Evangelist Crusade. Her most famous song was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” But one thing she often said – “I know I’m somebody because God don’t make no junk.”

Are you bringing people to Jesus, the Savior of the World? Have you had an encounter with Him? Are you still thirsting for something?

Go and Be the Difference

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GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Go and Be the DifferenceWe are in our series called Salt and Light on the Sermon on the Mount and today we are looking at a very familiar passage from Matthew 5. We’ve been going over and over again on this one passage because it is critical that we get it – critical for us individually, for our children and grandchildren, for our nation, and for our church. Our message is titled – “GO AND BE THE DIFFERENCE.”

Matthew 5 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” When Jesus spoke these words 2000 years ago, the world was in a big mess. Tiberius Caesar was ruling Rome – a cruel man, an open homosexual, perverse beyond your wildest imaginations. Herod’s sons were controlling the various regions. One of them (Herod Antipas) had even taken his own brother’s wife and had John the Baptist beheaded. Annas (father-in-law) and Caiaphas were running the temple. They cared more for money, politics, and power than anything else. The people were struggling under heavy tax burdens. You can imagine them saying – “It’s just getting worse and worse.” “How long will God let this go on?” “When will He step in and make things right?” Just when you would’ve expected Jesus to tell the multitude to sit tight and hold on, He challenged them to stand up and head out – “Go be the Salt and Light!”

Our world is in a big mess – politically, financially, morally, and spiritually. As a nation, we’re divided. As a people, millions are struggling to make ends meet. As a culture, we’re losing the battle for traditional values. As Vance Havner would say, “Sin that used to slink down back alleys now struts down main streets.” As a world power, we don’t have the respect we once did. As a church, we are barely keeping up with the lostness around us. What is Jesus saying to us in 2015? Same as back then – “Go be the Salt and Light.”

Application: Are you concerned about the condition of our world? Does it bother you how our nation and our world are sinking in every way? Have you asked God what He wants you to do? Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior?

Here’s the essence of this message – When the beatitudes become a part of your nature, you will become the salt and the light of the world. As we walk through this message, ask the Holy Spirit to help you be the difference makers in this world.

I. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HUMBLE SPIRIT.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit…5 Blessed are the meek…”

Background: They are 2 different aspects of humility – “Poor in spirit” means people who have very little of self. “Meek” means people who wait upon God. As poor in spirit they know that all that they are and all that they have is by the grace of God. As meek, when people offend them, instead of getting angry, frustrated, or disappointed with people or God, they give everything over to God. Humility has nothing to do with how much or how little you have in your bank account. It has everything to do with how little you think of yourself and how more you think of others.

The Christian spirit of humility transformed the Western culture. Men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put others ahead of themselves. People became gentlemen and ladies and started greeting each others with “good morning,” “good evening.” They began saying things like excuse me, pardon me, my bad, or go ahead. They began standing in lines instead of jumping in front of others. Have you traveled overseas? People will climb all over you to get into a bus or a train. It’s considered normal. The further we get away from Christian values our world becomes more barbaric.

Application: Are you a humble person? Better question – do people consider you a humble person?

II. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A COMPASSIONATE HEART.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Background: Many of us found comfort for personal grief and loss when I preached on this few weeks ago. But Christians saw so much more in this beatitude. They heard their God and Master telling them that if they see someone mourning, it was their obligation and privilege to provide comfort to them. In fact, another beatitude says 7 “Blessed are the merciful…” Meaning: if you see someone in need of mercy, you be merciful. It’s a step beyond humility.

The Christian spirit of compassion transformed the Western culture. In Hinduism, there is not much compassion for the poor. Simplistically speaking, the poor are in that state because of their previous life. For you to help them would be to interfere with karma. Somebody might say – “How about Gandhi? Didn’t he fight for the rights of the untouchables?” What many people don’t realize is that Gandhi was greatly influenced by Christianity. Someone else might say – “Wait a minute! Didn’t he say that he would be a Christian if it wasn’t for Christians.” That’s very hypocritical of Gandhi. When he was attacked by fellow Indians in the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa and left for dead, a Baptist pastor by the name of John Joseph Doke took him into his home and nursed him back to life. Gandhi was grateful but he was also forgetful.

How about Islam? If you are a Muslim beggar, maybe you’ll get something. But if you are anything else, you don’t count. I can go on and on. It’s the coming of Christianity to the east that brought orphanages, women’s shelter and relief societies.

Everywhere people are talking about fairness and equality. Unfortunately, Christians are looked upon as being bigoted, racist, and prejudiced. How did this happen? We’re the people of Wilberforce, Newton, and Wesley! We should be leading that fight!

Application: Are you a compassionate person? Do you care about others or is it all about you? How do you respond when you hear people suffering?

III. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOPEFUL ATTITUDE.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Background: Who is a peacemaker? They are not people who compromise the truth or sweep things under the rug but they actively seek to bring a resolution in conflict. They do whatever they can to promote peace in their family, neighborhood, church, community, nation, and world. They are hopeful that people can live in peace. Why? Because Jesus is the Prince of peace. Wherever Jesus goes, peace follows.

The Christian spirit of peacemaking transformed the Western culture. Instead of lex talionis or the law of retaliation (what we know as “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth”), men and women full of the Holy Spirit began to put down their battle-axes and reach out with love and compassion. It did not mean that didn’t have laws and consequences for crime. It just means that they stopped being bloodthirsty. I wish I could say that with the coming of Christianity there was never another battle or war in the West but that would be a huge lie. As long as there are sinful, self-centered, and greedy people, there will be conflicts but true Christians have always called for peace.

Application: Are you a peacemaker? Or, are you a troublemaker? Do you pray for peace in our community, our nation, in our world? Are you hopeful that there can be peace?

IV. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HIGHER CALLING. 

5 “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”

Background: Have you thought about what it means to “inherit the earth?” It goes back to the book of Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Have you ever wondered why the Western culture has been so successful? Because we don’t worship the Sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the rivers, animals, trees, spirit beings, and any carved image. We worship the living true God. We believe that He has given us authority and power over everything. We don’t worship nature. We transcend it. We harness it. No we don’t destroy it but we use it for our benefit and the benefit of all human beings.

There was a time when Christians were the most creative people but unfortunately we’ve become a stick in the mud. Lost people seem to have the market on art, music, education, exploration, business, and the list goes on! We’re not just conservatives but we have become preservatives! We’re looked upon as being the fun killers. I don’t have time to list for you all the scientists, artists, and innovators in history who were born again Christians or operated under the Christian worldview.

Application: What is your calling? Are you a conservative or a preservative? Have you taken God’s command to go out and create like Him?

V. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A HOLY LIFESTYLE.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

Background: Righteousness is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about an external change in our lives. “Pure in heart” is a person who is no hypocrite. They our holy externally as well as internally.

Our society definitely needs people who hunger for righteousness and are pure in heart. What do you think will happen if people are pure in heart in businesses, media, and the courtroom? They do what is right not because they’ll be caught by some law enforcement but because they have to answer to someone much higher, i.e. the Holy Spirit.

Application: Are you holy both externally as well as internally? Do people refer to you as a person who is genuinely pure in heart?

VI. DIFFERENCE MAKERS HAVE A RELENTLESS PASSION FOR LOST SOULS.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Background: there’s more to being a Christian than just being a good citizen. It involves telling people that they are sinful and headed to hell. Unfortunately, many people don’t want to hear that. You will lose friends, opportunities, privileges, and even your life. But that is the most important thing about being the salt and the light. When the salt is put in the food, it disappears. When the lamp is lit, it burns away.

Dirk Willems - Love your enemies

Dirk Willems – Love your enemies

For e.g. Dirk Willems was imprisoned in his hometown of Asperen in the Netherlands for being an Anabaptist. He escaped the prison by making a rope of strips of cloth and slid down over the prison wall. He ran across the frost-covered pond over a thin layer of ice. Dirk had been eating prison food and was very thin but his pursuer fell through and began crying for help. Dirk turned around and pulled the man out. You would’ve thought that they would let him go but they didn’t. The burned him at the stake on May 16, 1569. His tongue was not clamped and so you can imagine him screaming. The wind blew the flame away from him so that his death was long and miserable. Time and again Dirk cried out to God. Finally one of the authorities could not bear to see him suffer any longer and ordered an underling to end his torment with a quick death.

Are you willing to go and be the difference? Are you saved

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH (ARTICLE)

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH by Abidan Paul Shah

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

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

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

Let’s go a step further—

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

And, oh yes—

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

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

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

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