Guaranteed by Pastor Abidan Shah

GUARANTEED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

GuaranteedIntroduction:  Have you ever had to follow up on a guarantee only to find out that the Guarantor was no longer in business? This happened to me recently. On our date days, I usually end up at bookstores. Somehow my truck usually finds one! We went by a used bookstore where I had a discount card that also gave me points each time I used it. We pulled into the parking lot and there were no cars. The sign wasn’t lit up either. I knew something wasn’t right. So, I walked up to the door and there was a handwritten sign that said – “Thank you for your business. We’re out of business.” I almost cried! The discount card with the free points was now useless. Thank goodness that it was just a few free points towards some used books. But, imagine, if it was something much more important. Unlike that bookstore, God never goes out of business. He always stands behind his guarantees, especially when it comes to his work in our lives. That’s the title of our message, GUARANTEED, in our series through Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 1     3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

Question: Has God begun a good work in you? In other words, are you saved? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior? If you have, can you see his work daily in your lives? Some believers may have more work in their lives than others. No work, no salvation.

Context: Last weekend we learned that Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was based upon Trust, Joy, and Hope. In today’s message, I want to focus on the last point of “Hope” a little bit. Paul had the hope, the solid assurance, based on his positive relationship with the Philippians, that God was working in their lives and that he would finish the work that he had started. Listen again to verse 6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What is the good work that Paul is talking about? How does it apply in our lives today? The message is deep but those are the 2 main points:

I. WHAT IS THE GOOD WORK THAT PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT?

6 “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work…”

Background: The “good work” that Paul is referring to in this verse is God’s work of salvation, more specifically, God’s work of grace in the life of a believer. Paul tell us this in 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus.” Don’t forget – Salvation is God’s good work of grace in the life of a person. It is God who initiates this work and it’s always by his grace and it’s always good. Some people think that if I get saved, it’ll be bad. I’ll lose friends, fun, and freedom. It’s just the opposite. You gain so much more.

Application: Has God’s good work of grace happened in your life? Have you experienced what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”? Have you received God’s gift of salvation?

Something else here – Paul refers to 2 days when it comes to someone’s salvation: The First Day and the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse 5 “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day…” What is this “first day?” It’s the day that you and I get saved.

Application: You need this first day. What if you can’t remember? Are you not saved then? No. Just pick today as the day.

The second day is the Day of Jesus Christ. Listen again to verse 6 “…He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. This second day was very important to Paul. He mentions it again in Philippians 1:10 “…that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.” Philippians 2:16 “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ…” This second day is the day when Christ will return for us. For a Christian, those are the only 2 days that truly matter. We think that it’s our birthday and our death day but not so for a believer. Here’s the point that Paul is making – Between the First Day (Born Again Day) and the Day of Jesus Christ (Jesus Returning for us Day), God will complete what he has begun in our life. In other words, our salvation is ultimately God’s responsibility. The Guarantor of my salvation is not me. The Guarantor of your salvation is not you. The Guarantor of our salvations is God himself. Salvation from start to finish is God’s work and he never leaves a job half-done. He will finish what he has started.

Some people object to this. Some will say – Yes, God is responsible for your salvation but you are responsible too. They will quote passages like Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” When people bring up that verse, I remind them to keep reading – 13 “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” In other words, working out your salvation is understanding what God is doing in your life which should lead you to fear, which is humility, and trembling, which is obedience. Let me give you couple of more references to help you understand how God is working in you “both to will and to do for his good pleasure” – Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” 2 Thessalonians 2    13 “…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

There are some other objections as well. What if the Enemy tries to steal you away? 2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” What if the temptation is too much? I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Romans 8    37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What about passages like I Corinthians 8:11 and Romans 14:15 which talks about a weak brother perishing or being destroyed. The context here implies “self-condemnation,” “defilement,” and “wounding of the conscience” not hell or loss of salvation. How about in Galatians? Galatians 5   2 “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing…4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Paul is frustrated with the Galatians because they were going back to the law, to circumcision. He’s telling them that if they do that, it’s a waste. He does say something very harsh and it’s exactly as it sounds. He tells them that if they go back to the law (self-effort), they’ll be lost. What do we do with this? Again, you have to look at the context. Go to Galatians 5:10 “I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind…” Paul is giving them an “impossible possibility.” Like a parent telling a child – “If you do that, you are no child of mine.” Let’s say the child does that anyways. Does that mean that he is no longer a child? Even if the parent disowns, it is not possible. By DNA, it cannot be done. What about 1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” This is about the end of times. I Timothy 2:12 “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him”? This is again a warning about the end of times. Overall, the abandonment will be by those who never heard the true gospel.

II. HOW DOES IT APPLY TO US TODAY?
  • Grow in the Spirit – Think about the Galatians. Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
  • Free to Serve – No need for unnecessary sorrow or self-condemnation. (Imagine if you had to fight for a nation while trying to prove your citizenship. How tiresome!)
  • Hope for self and others. Less judgmental on self and others.
  • More Grateful to God

Are you safe? Are you secure?


 

The Fear-Defier by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE FEAR-DEFIER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Fear Defier

Introduction: I usually don’t use movies as illustrations but if there’s one that I’ll make an exception for, it is my all-time favorite, “Tombstone.” It’s based on the 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona where Wyatt Earp and his two brothers along with Doc Holliday had the famous shootout with the cowboys Billy Claiborne and the Clanton and the McLaury Brothers. A few years back Nicole and I actually took a trip there. There’s a part in the movie where Wyatt Earp shoots his way out of a tough situation. The next scene shows the men cleaning their guns and Sherman McMasters (one of the good guys) asks, “Where is he (Wyatt Earp)?” and Doc Holliday replies, “Down by the creek, walking on water.” It implies that Wyatt Earp just pulled off a miracle like Jesus walking on the water. As great as that movie is, nothing is further from the truth. Sure, Wyatt Earp was bold and fearless but it takes much more than that to walk on water. There’s only one who did that. His name is Jesus. He alone is the great Fear-Defier.

Matthew 14   22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. 25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Question: All of us have some fear or another in our lives. Some are afraid of their past. Others are afraid of their future. Some are fearful of some person in their lives. Others are fearful of those they don’t know. For some it’s the fear of rejection. For others it’s the fear of failure. The list goes on. What is your fear? What are you afraid of? Have you ever met Jesus? He’s the great fear-defier. What’s amazing is that he will not only give you peace in the midst of the storm but he’s also lead you to walk on water.

Context: Let’s begin with verse 22 “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.” In Greek it is “anagkazo,” which is literally “forced” or “urged” them to get away. Why did Jesus do that? Keep in mind that this was right after that great miracle of feeding the 5000 men plus women and children. If you remember from last week, we came up with the estimate of at least 15,000 people. Now think about it. 15,000 ÷12 = 1,250 people per disciple. Imagine if you were responsible to feed 1,250 individuals! How exhausting that would be! I can imagine some of them already asking for the breakfast menu! But I don’t think this was the main reason. The main reason was that Jesus did not want the disciples to start thinking like the unbelieving crowd. If you remember, some of them wanted to take Jesus by force and make him king. What they wanted was a walking talking cafeteria. Jesus knew the danger of that thinking and he got them out of there.

Application: At Clearview there are disciples and then there’s the crowd. The disciples roll up their sleeves; the crowds fold up their arms. The disciples ask, “What can I do?” the crowds ask, “How long will it take?” The disciples offer their time and energy; the crowds offer their doubts and demands. The disciples bring their wallets to church; the crowds leave their wallets at home. Which one are you? If you were there back then, would Jesus send you away with the disciples or with the crowd?

Now Jesus goes up on the mountain by himself to pray. 24 “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.” Confession Time: I’ve struggled with this passage. If Jesus truly cared about his disciples enough to rescue them from the crowd, then why in the world would he send them into a storm! It’s like – “Let me help you cross the street” but when you get to the other side, he turns around and pushes you into the oncoming traffic. Did Jesus not know that there would be a storm? Of course he did. He was and is God. But there’s something else. 25 “Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them…” Fourth watch in the Roman time system was between 3am to 6am. The Gospel of Mark adds something here that has puzzled scholars for a long time. Mark 6:48 “…Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” Why would he do that! To get the answer to these questions, we have to turn to geography. Luke in his gospel tells us that Jesus fed the multitude somewhere near the city of Bethsaida (Luke 9:2). Bethsaida is located on the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee. More than likely, it was not directly next to the city since the gospels say that it was a deserted place but Bethsaida was the closest big town. But then Mark says that after the miracle Jesus told his disciples to get into the boat and go to Bethsaida. What Jesus was doing was trying to get the disciples away from the crowd but sail close to the shoreline and get back to the town of Bethsaida. John in his gospel tells us that the disciples got into the boat and decided to go towards Capernaum, which is on the northwestern corner of the Sea.

Why did they do that? I’m going to give you my opinion but it will make sense to you when you look at the whole context. The clue is found in the Gospel of Luke. Even though Luke does not record the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, he tells us something very interesting that Matthew, Mark, and John do not tell us. After sending the disciples to the boat and the multitude on their way, Jesus went to pray by himself. We think that the disciples were probably on the boat by the time Jesus started praying. Not true. Listen to Luke 9 17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. 18 And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” 20   He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Now the disciples make their way to the boat. I believe that they were in stunned silence. After sailing for a few minutes someone must have spoken up – “What do you guys think? Do you really think he is who he says he is? I mean he’s talking about dying and coming back to life. He’s talking about picking up our cross and following him! He’s talking about coming in his glory and his father’s and the angels.” Then someone must have turned to Peter and asked,” Hey Peter, do you really believe that he’s the Christ of God?” Just my opinion but at that moment Peter must have said, “I don’t know what I believe. Forget Jesus. Let’s go to Capernaum.” They all decided to bail on Jesus.

What happened next? Storm came up and the boat was tossed by waves to somewhere in the middle of the sea. Now Jesus comes walking on the waves and Mark says that he “would have passed them by.” Do you blame him? I would too! In fact, I would’ve kicked up the waves a little! The disciples thought he was a ghost and began to scream out of fear. Jesus immediately called out – “It’s me. Have courage. Don’t fear.” Then Peter did something that he was known for, something impulsive. “Boys, it’s now or never.” “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” What’s the big deal about walking on the water? It’s God’s calling card:

  • Job 9:8 “He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • Psalm 77: 9 “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters…”
  • Habakkuk 3:15 “You walked through the sea with Your horses, Through the heap of great waters.”

Just like Jesus, Peter began to walk on the waves but then the old fear came back and he began to sink and cried out “Lord, save me!” and Jesus grabbed his hand and said “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then he got into the boat and the disciples came and worshipped him saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Listen to how Mark closes in 6   51 “…And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”

Let me draw some applications:

  • If you are a disciple, God expects much more from you than from the crowd. The greatest need of the multitude was food but the greatest need of the disciples was faith. The end goal of the multitude was contentment but the end goal of the disciples was advancement.
  • Confession should be followed by Obedience.
  • Hardness of heart is the source of Fear.
  • When we’re faithless, He remains faithful. He cannot deny himself. (2 Tim. 2:13)
  • Keep your eyes on Jesus and not on the wind and the waves.

Love is Liberating by Pastor Abidan Shah

LOVE IS LIBERATING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Love is LiberatingIntroduction:  If you keep up with politics, I’m sure you’ve heard of Congressman Sam Johnson from Plano, Texas. He has served in the House since 1991 and will be retiring next year. He is an Air Force Veteran and a POW in Vietnam for 7 years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” also known as “Hell’s Hole.” In recalling his experience, he said, “Starvation, isolation and torture were constant companions. There was no news from home, and the enemy worked hard to make us feel alone and forgotten.” He describes one of the torture treatments – “I could recall nothing from military survival training that explained the use of a meat hook suspended from the ceiling…During a routine torture session…the Vietnamese tied a prisoner’s hands and feet, then bound his hands to his ankles—sometimes behind the back, sometimes in front. The ropes were tightened to the point that you couldn’t breathe. Then, bowed or bent in half, the prisoner was hoisted up onto the hook to hang by ropes. Guards would return at intervals to tighten them until all feeling was gone, and the prisoner’s limbs turned purple and swelled to twice their normal size. This would go on for hours, sometimes even days on end.” The torture and malnutrition made Johnson stoop-shouldered and mangled his right arm, besides a cracked back and broken arm when his plane went down. After 42 months in a dark solitary cell with rats and filth, he was finally released and he remembers the sweet embrace of his wife Shirley and their three kids. He said, “I got through those hellish years by the grace and mercy of God.” Our final message in this series on love is titled, “LOVE IS LIBERATING.” There’s no true love in hate-filled, torture like environments. True love flourishes where there is true freedom.

I Corinthians 13   4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Context: At the heart of all the problems in the Corinthian Church was the problem of love. They didn’t know how to love each other properly. Paul wrote this letter to teach them how to love each other the way Christ loves us. In today’s message, you will see that Christ never exposes, never suspects, never discourages, and never threatens.

Question: How do you love people? Do you at times expose the weaknesses and failures of the ones you love? Do you constantly suspect and doubt the ones you love? Do you discourage and steal hope from the ones you love? Do you give up on or threaten the ones you love? Are you saved? Have you truly experienced the love of God in Christ?

Let’s look at the words in Greek: The first is “love bears all things.” The Greek word for bears is “stegei.” It comes from the noun “stegei,” which means “roof.” I’m sure the Corinthians knew what this word meant. Archaeologists have found evidence that by the 7th century BC the temples and houses in Corinth had started replacing thatched roofs with fired tiles. Why? Because thatched roofs were a huge fire hazard, especially in a growing city like Corinth. These tiles were heavy, weighing about 60 plus pounds but they were durable, long-lasting, and protective from the rain, sun, heat, snow, and cold. The word “stegei” took on the idea of covering, sheltering, protecting, keeping out, and keeping in. When Paul says, “love bears all,” he is really saying, “love always covers and never exposes.” Meaning: Love does not find pleasure in exposing others to harshness. Love does not get joy in watching the other person squirm in fear or shame. In the Corinthian culture, it might have been okay to expose your enemy but not in Christianity.

Application: Do you cover people or do you expose people? In the Greco-Roman world, sometimes when the renters would not pay on time, the landlords would remove the front door or even strip off the tiles from the roof. Does that sound familiar? Someone is bound to say, “Are you suggesting we hide someone’s sin?” No. I’m simply saying what Peter also said in I Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” Even though Peter uses a different word for “cover” than roof, the idea is the same. Love does not get pleasure out of exposing the other person but wants to help them in their moment of weakness and shame.

The second statement: “Love believes all things.” The Greek word for “believes” is “pisteuei,” which has the idea of trust in others. Again, the Corinthian culture was very competitive and status seeking. They were constantly striving to get ahead of one another by whatever means necessary. You always had to watch your back. Unfortunately, this mindset of distrust and suspicion had also entered the church. Even Christians didn’t trust each other. When Paul tells them “loves believes all things,” he was really saying, “love does not live in the zone of perpetual suspicion but is willing to trust others. It is the foundation of all relationships.”

Illustration: When God called me into the ministry, I went to Nicole’s dad and he helped me with my decision. I asked him if he would also help me find a good seminary. He took me to one. On the way, he told me that one of his good friends was a pastor nearby and he wanted to come visit with us. That sounded fine to me. This man came and after they caught up, he turned to me and began telling me how terrible people were and how they would stab me in the back and how they could not be trusted. He spent the next hour or two emotionally vomiting. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t naïve about church ministry. My dad was a pastor and still is. But I didn’t know how to take what he had just told me. After he left, Nicole’s dad said to me, “Don’t pay attention to anything he said. He must be going through some mess. Without trust, you cannot minister to people.”

Here’s the point: If you constantly operate as some kind of a KGB agent, always frisking people, always looking over your shoulder, always questioning their motives, you will never be able to love people. Your relationships will always be sporadic, seasonal, and short lived. By the way, get used to the idea that people will fail you. They will break your trust. If I may add, many times, people will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. If you keeping suspecting them, they will become suspicious. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Without it, there’s no true love.

The third statement: “love hopes all things.” The Greek word for “hopes” is “elpidzei,” which has the idea of expectation and wish. People often confuse faith with hope. They are related but they are not the same. They are related in the sense that they are both looking to something that is invisible and unprovable. But they are different because just a few verses later Paul says in verse 13 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What is the difference between faith and hope? Faith is what you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is what you can’t see but you are looking for. If faith is the foundation that you can’t see but you are standing on. Hope is the window through which you are looking for what you can’t see yet.

Illustration: In the past few years, the Robertson family from West Munroe, Louisiana has become a household name. You’ve heard of their show – “Duck Commander.” They came from very humble background through some very difficult times. In the book “Duck Commander Family,” Willie Robertson writes this in the prolog: “The dinner table is where I learned to follow my dreams. This is where Dad told us he was going to start Duck Commander, and where I told my family I was getting married and heading off to college. Our hopes and aspirations were never shot down, never debated, only encouraged. We might have been eating fried bologna at the time because that was all we could afford, but there was hope that one day we would be feasting on a big fat rib-eye steak.” Would you agree that they are loving family? Would you agree that their hope has become more than a reality?

Here’s the point: You can have all the covering and all the trust but if you don’t have hope, you will shrivel and die. When a marriage loses hope, when a friendship loses hope, when a church loses hope, when a community loses hope, when a nation loses hope, it is the beginning of the end of love.

Application: Are you a hope giver or are you a hope stealer? Do you open the windows to your loved ones’ dreams and goals or do you lock them up like Congressman Sam Johnson in a dark, hopeless prison cell?

The fourth and final statement: “love endures all things.” The Greek word for “endures” is “hupomenei,” which carries the idea of being patient, remaining, and enduring. In other words, “love does not give up, doesn’t run out when things get tough.” In a transient culture like the Corinthians, when things didn’t work out with one person, move on to the next. If it doesn’t work out again, move on to the next. You don’t have to take anyone’s mess. How do we know this? Think about the different groups in the Corinthian church. I Corinthians 1   12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? The Corinthians had moved from one group to another when things didn’t work out with one.

Let me clarify: There are times when you may have to cut relationships because of physical or mental/emotional abuse. Having said, we need to learn to bear with others and their faults and failures. Listen carefully: When you love somebody, be prepared to be hurt. Hurting people will hurt people. But if you drop them, they will never get the chance to heal. In your marriage, family, church family, community, neighborhood, and workplace, you will come across people that you have to be patient with.

Application: Are you willing to endure? Are you willing to look over their failures and hang-ups? Are you willing to cut others some slack?

How can you have this kind of love? First, understand how God loves you. Remember, you can substitute Christ for every time love is mentioned in this verse – “Christ bears all things, Christ believes all things, Christ hopes all things, Christ endures all things. Christ never fails.” Second, understand how to love people. Begin today by setting people free. Think of yourself as a prison warden with keys to 4 cells:

  • Cell #1 Exposure (Remember, love covers all. Let the inmates know that you will always cover them.)
  • Cell #2 Suspicion (Remember, love trusts others. Let the inmates know that you will never doubt them.)
  • Cell #3 Pessimism (Remember, love gives hope. Let the inmates know that you see a bright day in the future.)
  • Cell #4 Threats (Remember, love endures all. Let the inmates know that you will never give up on them.)

True love will being to flow when you set the captives free.

Are you free? Are people in your life free? Are you saved

Believing is Seeing by Pastor Abidan Shah

BELIEVING IS SEEING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

believing-is-seeingIntroduction: With the Christmas season here I’m preaching a short series titled – “BELIEVING IS SEEING.” During Christmas we are told to believe in the magic of Christmas, to see things with the eyes of a child and see fairy tales come to life. This series will show us that the real miracle of Christmas is Jesus. Once you believe in Him, He comes alive and you can see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and our own lives.

John 5   39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life…45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Bridge: Have you ever said, “Seeing is Believing”? It means – “Before I can believe something I have to see it.” In other words, “Show me the proof/evidence and then I will believe or commit myself to that decision/action. Is that bad? Not really. To some extent, you do need to cautious before stepping out in the unknown. Imagine if people stepped out without first checking the traffic, financial investment, or medical procedures? It would be a disaster. But, when it comes to Jesus, believing comes before seeing. You have to receive Him by faith first that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything He said He is.

Context: In the passage we will look at today, Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for refusing to believe in Him. They kept asking Him for more and more proof before placing their faith in Him. In fact, they were more interested in getting honor from each other than submitting to Him. They even took pride in the fact that they were studying Moses’ writings, the Torah. Jesus declared to them that if they believed in Him, they would realize that Moses’ writings are actually about Him. But before they could see that, they had to believe in Him. The reason they couldn’t is because they rejected Him.

Question: Are you having trouble seeing Jesus? You can see God. You can see Moses. You can see the Law/10 commandments. You can see David and Goliath. You can see Esther and God’s faithfulness. But Jesus…is hard to find. If you’re trying to see Him before believing in Him, let me save you the trouble because you can’t. Belief comes before sight. You have to receive Jesus by faith that He is who He said He is and then you will begin to see how He is exactly everything who He said He is. Are you saved? Once you are, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and you will see Him everywhere in Scripture, history, and in your life

Let’s walk through the passage and see how believing comes before seeing.

I. THE VAIN SEARCH

39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life…”

Background: In Judaism the Scriptures, especially the Torah, were considered to be the source of life. One of their main rabbis, Hillel, said, “the more study of the Law the more life.” He added – “If a man has gained a good name he has gained [somewhat] for himself” but “if he has gained for himself words of the Law he has gained for himself life in the world to come.” The Jewish religious leaders took pride in their study and knowledge of Scriptures. Jesus did not denounce or deride their study. He simply exposed their misunderstanding – “…and these are they which testify of Me.” Meaning: Yes, the Scriptures do tell you how to find eternal life but they point to Jesus as the source of eternal life. By the way, Jesus did not introduce this when He came. Those waiting on Him commonly believed this. John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Studying the Bible without Christ is no different than reading a cookbook and thinking that it will satisfy you. The Bible has the words of eternal life because it points to the one who is coming to bring us eternal life. His name is Jesus.

Application: If you’re seeking eternal life, do read the Bible but then come to the main subject of the Bible – Jesus. Some people study the Bible to find wisdom, others to find strength, and yet others to find peace. All that is fine but it is Jesus who is wisdom, strength, and peace. By the way, if you love bible studies without Christ, you will never be satisfied. After each lesson the question should be – “Now how does this bring me closer to Christ?” Are you searching in vain?

II. THE UNWILLING LIFE.

40 “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Background: The Greek word for “not willing” is “ou thelete,” which is literally “you do not choose” or “you choose not to.” Meaning: This was not the “unwillingness of ignorance” but the “unwillingness of rejection.” They deliberately chose to reject Jesus.

What was keeping them from coming to Jesus? It was not serious questions from scriptures about the messianic prophecies or difficult passages. Jesus answered some of those already. For example, when Philip told Nathaniel – “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” he replied, 46 “…Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Meaning: Nathaniel was a sincere searcher. 48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Meaning: Nathaniel was willing. He was waiting for someone to show him the way.

There are people who have all kinds of questions about creation, flood, miracles, problem of evil, problem of pain, salvation in other religions, etc. None of those are wrong as long as you are open to the outcome of giving your life to Jesus. But, if you’ve already made up your mind that you will not receive Christ for ulterior motives, then no amount of answers and bible studies will help you.

Application: What is your hang-up? Why are you unwilling to follow Jesus? Are you willing to be made willing?

III. THE SERIOUS CHARGE

Background: Just when you want to say – “Maybe…these people just didn’t understand who Jesus really was. Maybe…they needed a little more teaching and a little more time,” listen to how Jesus exposed them.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. Meaning: These people were the opposite of God’s love kind of people. They had hate, anger, bitterness, and meanness in their hearts. Furthermore, 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. Meaning: Jesus said – “I’ve come with my Father’s authority” and they rejected Him but some others said – “I’ve come with my own authority” and they accepted them. In other words, they were willing to accept anyone but Jesus.

As a pastor, I come across people like that quite often. They are not lost people living in ignorance but lost people living in denial. Their meanness shines forth and their hatred cannot be covered up. They say one thing but they have something else in their hearts.

Now come some very sobering words in this passage44 “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” Meaning: Your unwilling heart is keeping you from believing in Me (Jesus).

45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust.

How does Moses accuse them? The same Law that shows us our helplessness also reveals us our condemnation. You can either see the Law and look to the one who can redeem us by grace or we can ignore the Law and be crushed under its weight. John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Application: What is keeping you from turning to Christ? Can you see your condemnation? Are you willing to turn to the One who can bring you grace?

IV. THE LOGICAL STEP

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Background: These are very deep words and we will study them in the upcoming week – “How did Moses write about Jesus even before He came into this world 2000 years ago?” For now – Here’s the simple understanding of that statement – “When you see yourself under the condemnation of the Law (10 commandments) and find yourself guilty, then next step is to fall helplessly before God. You have to admit to Him that you are guilty and that you cannot save yourself. You need His grace. At that moment, God will open your eyes and you will read Moses (Law/10 commandments) in a whole new light and see that Christ is all over the place.

The moment you are willing to believe, you will start seeing Christ.

My dad did and left Islam and gave His life to Christ.

Application: Are you willing to take the next logical step? Are you at the next logical step

“When All Seems Hopeless” (2) by Pastor Abidan Paul Shah

WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

When All Seems HopelessIntroduction: This evening I want to preach a message I’ve preached before but not from the pulpit. I preached it in front of our fireplace last winter when we were snowed in and, if you remember, we came together on Facebook Live and Periscope. This sermon comes from one of my favorite passages from the Bible – Romans 15:13 and it’s called – “WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS.”

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Overall Background: The Book of Romans has been called the “Constitution of Christianity.” It’s pages have transformed the lives of men like Augustine, Luther, and Wesley and women like Elizabeth Elliott and Rachel Saint whose loved ones were killed by the Waodani. But the passage we just read is somewhat tucked away and hidden like a treasure chest, waiting to be discovered. Listen to it again – “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Twice we come across the word “hope” in this verse. To me this passage has been a source of hope many times over and I’m praying that it will be for you as well.

Questions: Are you facing a hopeless situation in your life? Do these words sound familiar? – “I’ve given up…” “I just don’t think it’s going to work…” “There’s nothing else left…” Do you know the impact hopelessness makes on personal health? According to a 1997 article published by the American Heart Association – those who have gone through extreme feelings of despair had a 20% greater increase of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a 4-year period. If hopelessness is your daily unwelcome companion, then today’s message is for you. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will bring hope to your heart so that you can live again. But let me remind you – you cannot have hope unless you have the Holy Spirit and you cannot have the Holy Spirit until you accept Jesus as your Savior. Have you done that? Are you saved?

Let’s take this simple verse apart and examine each section. Once we’ve understood each part, we can put it back together and look at it as a whole. 4 key things in this verse:

I. GOD’S NATURE

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Now we’ve heard of the God of the heavens and the earth, God of glory, God of grace, God of love, and God of our salvation. But here we come across an attribute of God that we don’t hear about much but it is central to His character – “Hope.” Our God is also the god of Hope. When we are in a hopeless situation, He is the One who reminds us “Don’t give up. Keep pressing on. There is hope.” He points us to the door when we feel that there is no way out. He shows us the light at the end of the tunnel when all we can see is a dead-end.

But don’t misunderstand – Our God is not just the God who shows us the way or points us to the light. He is the also the One who actually makes the way for us and turns on the light for us at the end of the tunnel.

Think about Abraham and Sarah – almost 100 years old and she was 90 and still no child. But God had promised them that through them would come the One. He repeatedly came and encouraged them. In time God made hope a reality to Abraham and Sarah.

Think about Ruth – her husband died. She followed her mother-in-law back to the land of Judah. She was a Moabite woman, sworn enemies of the people of God. But God brought hope into her life. She married a man named Boaz and became the great-grandparents of King David. But there’s more – in time God grafted her into the family tree of Jesus Christ.

There’s something even greater than all this. God not only shows us hope and brings hope to us but He is the Ultimate Hope. In other words, He not only points us to the door and opens the door for us but He’s also the door. He not only points us to the light and turns on the light for us but He’s also the light.

How does He do that? In the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 10:9 “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Again, Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Then listen to 1 Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope…” Titus 2:13 He is our “Blessed Hope.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus is the Hope? What are you despairing about? Where do you need hope this morning? What impossible situation are you facing? Where do you need Jesus in your life? Someone said – “The only thing we know about the future is that the providence of God will be up before dawn.” Jesus our hope is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

II. OUR NEED

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace…”

Background: Here Paul mentions 2 things that the God of hope will give us: Joy and Peace. What is Joy? Paul uses this word about 21 times. It represents a sense of happiness that is not depended on our circumstances. James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” It is connected to the word “Rejoice.” Jesus said in Matthew 5 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…” What about Peace? It is the calm assurance that everything will be all right in spite of our circumstances. Philippians 4   6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The point is this – Neither joy nor peace are contingent on our circumstances. Our God of hope sends us both because we need both to get to the desired end.

What’s the difference between Joy and Peace? Joy is active assurance and peace is passive assurance. Joy others can see and peace you can feel. Some people are all bubbly on the outside and all torn to pieces inside. Others are torn outside but inside they’re okay. We need both. Spurgeon said it best – “Peace is resting joy – joy is dancing peace! Joy cries hosanna before the Well-Beloved, but peace leans her head on His bosom.”

Here’s the good news. The God of Hope overflows us with joy and peace. The word “plerao” actually implies “filled to the brim” or “overflowing.”

Application: How is your joy level this morning? How is your peace level this morning? Christ brings us both joy and peace. In fact, He is joy and He is peace. John 15:11 Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. Again, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”

Background: “In believing” means that this is no passive, sit back, and hope will take its course kind of life. You have to believe. You have to trust. You have to place your faith in God and His promises. 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.”

Some people are willing to do everything but have faith and belief. This keeps the promises of God from being activated in their lives. Alexander Maclaren gave a great illustration to bring out the importance of faith – “You can take a porous pottery vessel, wrap it up in waxcloth, pitch it all over, and then drop it into mid-Atlantic, and not a drop will find its way in. And that is what we can do with ourselves, so that although in Him ‘we live and move and have our being,’ and are like the earthen vessel in the ocean, no drop of the blessed moisture will ever find its way into the heart.” For a Christian Galatians 2:20 says it clearly – “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Application: How is your faith level this morning? Is it low? Pray like the father who came to Jesus for his son who was demon possessed. Mark 9   23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Listen to the father’s response in verse 24 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Are you willing to pray for faith?

IV. HOLY SPIRIT’S ABILITY

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Background: If we were to end the message with just “believing,” it would be the most frustrating and disappointing life. It will be you trying to row the boat to shore. But, this is where the third person of the Godhead comes in – the Holy Spirit. He is the bringer of hope. Jesus demonstrated this beautifully in His earthly life. After His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and for the next three years or so He demonstrated what life in the power of the Holy Spirit looed like, whether He was tempted, preached, did miracles, and faced the ultimate trial of going to the cross. It was not limited to just Jesus but the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the Day of Pentecost and they went from hopelessness to fearlessness. Jesus had promised them this in Acts 1:8 “But 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.”

Application: Are you looking to the Holy Spirit for help? He is waiting for you to ask Him.

The story is told of Jane Whyte, the wife of famous Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte. Her husband had died about 10 years ago. She was depressed. She had given up on life. One evening she was at a dinner party and next to her sat a gentleman who saw how depressed she looked. He asked her – “What is your greatest concern?” She replied – “I’m preparing to die.” To which he replied, “Why not prepare to live?”

Some of us need to open the lid of the coffins of life and in the power of the Holy Spirit trust the God of hope to bring joy and peace into your life and start living again for Jesus. Are you saved?

ENCOUNTERS 3 (CLEARVIEW FOLLOWUP)

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

Here are some key points to remember from the message

  1. A Historical Fact to Learn: The nobleman 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.
  2. A Theological Truth to Believe: 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.
  3. A Biblical Principle to Apply: 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.

Choices that Lead to Happy Endings by Pastor Abidan Shah

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

choicesthatleadtohappyendings

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate…”

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

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

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

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

II. GUARD YOURSELF AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS. 

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

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

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

Grape vines

Grape vines

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

Thistles

Thistles

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

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

III. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE TO OBEDIENCE. 

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

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

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

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

IV. TRIALS PROVE US NOT DESTROY US.

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

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

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

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

When God Tests Us by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN GOD TESTS US by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whengodtestsusIntroduction: We’re back in our series on the Lord’s Prayer called “Talking to the Father” and today’s message is titled – “When God Tests Us.”

Matthew 6   9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Overall Background: We have come to the last and probably the hardest petition in the Lord’s Prayer – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Unlike the other petitions, this is the only negative request that is asking God not to do something. This morning we will be answering some very important questions from this passage but first let me say – Both trials and temptations are a normal part of the Christian life. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” Men and women of God through the ages have gone through them. They’re not fun in the least. But God has a purpose in them for us and He is faithful to deliver us and refine us through them if we let Him.

Questions: Are you going through some trials in your life? Does it feel like it just keeps coming? Does it feel like the Enemy keeps winning in your life, your home, and your world? Have you prayed for God’s deliverance? Are you submitting to God’s will in your life? Are you saved? If not, then you are already in the clutches of the Evil One?

3 Questions we will answer this morning:

I. DOES GOD LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION? 

“And do not lead us into temptation…”

Background: When you think about it, this petition seems to go directly against James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Typically, some people have tried to solve this dilemma by pointing out that the same Greek word “peirasmos” is used for testing and temptation, which is true. They suggest that the translation should be changed to “Lead us not into testing” and the problem is solved. That’s not true. Actually, it creates some new set of problems. Again, James 1 says, 2 “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” It means – testing is not harmful but helpful and we should be joyful in the face of it. If that were the case, why would Jesus teach us to pray against something that is helpful for us?

To understand what Jesus really meant, we need to understand 2 things – First, the word “peirasmos” and the verb “peirazo” have been consistently used in a negative sense in Matthew. When Jesus gave this petition, he had the negative “temptation” and not the positive “testing” in mind, especially since He even brings up the Evil One. Second, we may have problem with this petition but the Jewish people didn’t. In the Talmuddic prayers, we come across a similar petition – “Lead my foot not into the power of sin, and bring me not into the power of iniquity, and not into the power of temptation, and not into the power of anything shameful.”

Here’s the point: Jesus meant what He said and His original audience had no problem with the statement that sometimes God leads His people into situations where the Enemy is allowed to tempt them. Several examples from the Bible come to mind here:

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

Job and his friends by Ilya Repin

In the opening chapter of Job, we see God bragging on Job to Satan. Job 1   8 “…Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?…11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 12 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” After Satan wreaked havoc in Jacob’s life and Job didn’t deny God, God again bragged on Job. Again, Satan tells God that it’s because it’s not hot enough. Job 2   5 But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”

We see a similar situation in the life of David. 2 Samuel 24:1 Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” We don’t know exactly why God tested David in this way but look at the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1 “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” Very strange! On the one hand, God is testing David but, on the other, Satan is tempting David.

Christ in the wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy

Christ in the wilderness – Ivan Kramskoy

Turn to the NT to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It’s as clear as day.

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus has an eerie conversation with Peter. Luke 22   31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” There is a sense of finality in Jesus’ statement of what was about to happen in Peter’s life.

How about Paul? 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Here’s the point: God does not tempt us but He does allow us to go into situations where the Enemy can tempt us. It is part of His grand design to purify and humble us.

Application: Are you facing temptations in your life? Are old habits, attitudes, and behaviors resurfacing in your life? Don’t panic. Don’t lose heart. Realize that God is allowing the Enemy to tempt you. He has not abandoned. He is with you. He has a purpose for you. Trust Him. Do you believe that in your worst moments God has not abandoned you but He is very near to you?

II. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY DURING TEMPTATION? 

13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Background: Some people say – “I get it. Satan wants to tempt me but God wants to test me. I guess I should be glad that I am going through this. I am just going to grin it and bear it because it’s all going to work in my favor when it’s over. After all, doesn’t James 1:2 say, ‘My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.’ To be honest, we should be looking forward to testing because it’s good for us! In fact, God – bring on some more! Also, doesn’t I Corinthians 10:13 also reminds us that, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” God knows my limit and He won’t put any more temptation on me than I can take.”

Here’s the question: If temptation is productive and God knows my limits and will not put on me any more than I can take, why did Jesus teach us to beg God not to lead us into temptation? To start with, Jesus’ original readers did not have any problem with this petition. In fact, this kind of petition was not uncommon in Jewish prayers of the time. Listen to Psalm 155 from Qumran. It says, “Remember me and do not forget me, and do not lead me into situations too hard for me.” In other words, God, please don’t let me get into situations that will produce overwhelming temptation. Here’s the point – if we ignore the context, we will miss the intent. This prayer is a conversation between a child and the father. How does the prayer begin? “Our Father in Heaven” Jesus is teaching us how to come to God as our heavenly father, something the Jewish people understood very well. This prayer is not a discourse on systematic theology, which the Jewish people were not so keen on – bringing passages from here and there on a subject and constructing a doctrine.

Illustration: Sometime back I was watching our boys playing on the soccer team and this little kid got hit with the ball in the face. It was pretty hard. All of us went “whoa!” collectively. The coach ran up there and the mom ran up there. By this time, the kid was crying and when he saw his mom, he ran up to her and hugged on to her. Let me ask you – why did he go hug his mom? She’s not the coach. She cannot ease the pain. She didn’t cause the pain. Why? To a child, the mother is a symbol of safety and comfort. By the way, he stopped that real quickly when he realized that all his teammates and all of us were watching him.

The point is this – God is the source of comfort in our trials and He wants us to come to Him as a child to his/her father and plead for “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1   3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation…” Jesus was not laying out the doctrine of theodicy (Why God permits evil). He was simply laying out the attitude of prayer. Listen carefully – Proper theology leads to proper intimacy but don’t let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God. In other words, stop teaching God the Bible and just pray.

Application: How do you pray? Do you pray like that little child, flinging himself in his mother’s arms? Or do you let your theology get in the way of your intimacy with God? Do you come to Him in in the midst of your struggles and just fall upon Him and ask Him for relief? Or do you presume to teach God the Bible?

III. WHAT IF OUR PRAYERS REMAIN UNANSWERED? 

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Background: The word “but” implies that if we have to go through temptation, then please “deliver” us from the Enemy. The Greek word for deliver is “hruomai” which means, “to rescue someone from a fate from which he cannot escape on his own.” In other words, the battle is on and the Enemy is in control and the disciple is too weak to free oneself. Someone else is needed to fight the Enemy and set them free. Now the battle is in the Deliverer’s hands.

Jesus gave the perfect demonstration of this in the Garden of Gethsemane – Luke 22   41 “…and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? You came for this very purpose? You know you had to do this.” The pressure is so high that right now it’s only a son talking to his father. But then listen – “‘…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Meaning: Jesus submitted Himself to the trial. 43 Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. He prayed as a child but submitted as a son.

Real Trial. Real Prayer. Real Answer. Real Submission. Real Victory.

Invitation: Are you going through some temptation right now? Are you praying for help? Are you praying for deliverance from the Enemy? Are you saved?

Secret Religion – Fasting

SECRET RELIGION – FASTING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

secretreligion_fastingIntroduction: This morning we are in part 3 of the series – SECRET RELIGION – and our focus is on fasting. Again, God wants us to fast, not for self-praise but to seek His face.

Matthew 6   16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Overall Background: In the past 2 messages Jesus exposed the giving hypocrites and the praying hypocrites. Giving hypocrites – those who give charity but only for public praise. Praying hypocrites – those who pray but only to look spiritual and jab their enemies. Neither of them gets anything from God. Now He turns His attention towards the fasting hypocrites. Listen to what He says – “For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.” Meaning: The fasting hypocrites are not really fasting. They only appear to be fasting. I guess they have a Snickers bar hidden in their robe somewhere and now and then they take a bite when no one’s looking. But when someone comes along, they act all famished – “I’m suffering for Jesus.” Jesus says of them what He said about the other two – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Meaning: God knows their hypocrisy and their fasting remains fruitless (no pun intended).

Here’s the gist of this message – Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. God wants us to fast. It brings tremendous results, especially when we are facing painful and impossible situations. But fasting with the wrong motives may impress some but not God.

Question: Do you fast? Are you facing a hopeless situation? A difficult marriage, a wayward child or grandchild, finances or employment, a frustrating habit, something in your past, a dream that’s too big and too risky. Are you concerned about our church, community, or nation? Then it’s time to fast and pray. Are you saved? No amount of fasting can help you. You’re just dieting all the way to Hell!

2 questions we will ask about Secret Religion and Fasting:

I. WHY FASTING IS VITAL? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast…

Background: Just like regarding prayer, Jesus does not say “if” you fast but “when” you fast. Meaning: Fasting, like prayer, was expected for God’s people. It may surprise some of you that fasting is all over the Bible. Let me give you some examples:

  1. Fasting when in the presence of God – Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, without bread and without water, before he received the 10 Commandments. Let me make it clear: the reason he was able to do this is because of the presence of God.
  2. Fasting when humbling oneself before God – On the Day of Atonement God commanded in Leviticus 16 29 “…you shall afflict your souls, (humble yourself) and do no work at all…30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” Although the word “fasting” is not mentioned, Jewish people fasted on this day to humble themselves before God.
  3. Fasting when mourning before God – Job fasted after the tragedy hit his home, as he says in Job 3:24 “For my sighing comes before I eat…” The people of Israel fasted all day before the Lord because of the civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel. Hannah fasted before the Lord because she could not have any children. It says in 1 Samuel 1:7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she (sister wife) provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. When David and his men heard that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle, they fasted until evening. By the way, mourning was the main reason for fasting.
  4. Fasting when repenting over sins before God – Joshua fasted all day after the defeat of Israel at Ai. Under Samuel, the people of Israel fasted all day in repentance for their sins. The prophet Joel called for a fast because of the plague of locusts and the famine in the land. When Jonah pronounced God’s judgment against Nineveh, the entire city fasted; even the king and God turned away His wrath. Daniel fasted before the great vision in Daniel 9 and he begins his prayer with – 4“O Lord, great and awesome God…5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled…”
  5. Fasting when facing a major challenge – Esther fasted for 3 days along with her maids and all the Jewish people in Shushan before she went before the king to intercede for her people. When Nehemiah heard about the plight of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, he was so burdened that he wept and mourned for many days but he didn’t stop there. Listen to Nehemiah 1:4. He says, “I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

———–For time’s sake, let’s jump over to the New Testament————

  1. Fasting when beginning a new ministry – Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before He started His ministry. The early church fasted and prayed before they sent Barnabas and Paul on the mission journey.
  2. Fasting when doing ministry – Paul mentions fasting as a sign of being God’s servant. In 2 Corinthians 6 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings…” Ministry has problems and will always have problems. Before you complain and criticize have you considered cutting back from food? When I come across people like this, I’m thinking – “has this person enough spiritual maturity to put down that hamburger or that fried chicken and actually pray?!!”

Application: Are you facing a difficult time, a tough challenge? Are you willing to set aside the plate of food and humble yourself before God? Andrew Murray (Dutch Reformed South African pastor and writer) said, “Fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.”

II. HOW FASTING GOT DISTORTED? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.

Shofar

Shofar (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Just like everything else, we human beings know how to distort everything good that comes from God. God condemned all such fasting. Listen to Isaiah 58   1 “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; (the word is actually shofar, which means a horn from a ram or an antelope). They would blow the shofar to announce the fast and there was a whole system and rituals of how to do this. What God is saying here is – “Put down your shofar and your rituals and speak like a shofar to my people.” What should Isaiah say – “Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness…They take delight in approaching God. Then they complain – 3 “Why have we fasted…and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ God says, “Let me explain to you why.” 3 “…in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness…5 Is it a fast that I have chosen…6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.’…11 The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In…14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

So also Zechariah the prophet – Zechariah 7   4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?…7 Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets…9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’

Let’s return back to what Jesus said – 16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. After the Babylonian exile the Jewish people were very strict about their fasts but by the time of Jesus, they began to fast for the wrong reasons. Since humbling was described as “afflicting oneself,” they would not shave or wash their clothes or take a bath. As bad as that sounds, this was how they communicated to others that they were more spiritual. Sometimes it got really extreme – One rabbi (Eleazer ben Azariah) from the time of Jesus fasted until his teeth turned black. Why? Atoning for the sin of opposing a majority view! Rabbi Joshua made a derogatory remark against the school of Shammai and went on a fast until his teeth also turned black. Rabbi Simeon insulted Rabbi Aqiba and fasted until his teeth turned black. In a sense, this was probably what was happening during the time of Jesus. They were taking pride in their penitence.

Application: People are no different today – How many times I have heard people judge someone walking in with a beautiful dress or makeup or nice suit and judge them on that. This is reverse prejudice!

What did Jesus say – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” People may be impressed but God is not. Instead, 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Meaning: Don’t let your spirituality distract people from the Savior.

Fasting is no fun. I fast every week. I tell you this not to brag but to urge you to do the same. I am not a very good faster. On days I fast, everything looks like food to me. The pen looks like a French fry and the paperweight looks like a sandwich! Just put a little ketchup on it! But the benefits are unbelievable. God has answered repeatedly in response to my prayer and fasting.

Remember—Stress can either drive you to indulge or it can drive you to get serious with God. Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. You may say – “I don’t know how to fast.” We’re not talking about 40 days and 40 nights. Can we not set aside a day to fast unto God? There are several great resources out there on fasting.

(To preview or purchase these resources, click on the images.)

Ronnie Floyd - "The Power of Prayer and Fasting"

Ronnie Floyd, The Power of Prayer and Fasting: God’s Gateway to Spiritual Breakthroughs.

Elmer Town - "Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough"

Elmer Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts.

 

Do you know Christ as your Savior? Do you need to fast?

Secret Religion – Charity

SECRET RELIGION – CHARITY by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

secretreligion_charityIntroduction: This morning we begin a 3-part series through the Sermon on the Mount called “SECRET RELIGION.” Jesus calls us to be the Salt and the Light in this world but He wants us to do good secretly, covertly, privately, off the record.

Matthew 6   1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Overall Background: The passage we just read marks a shift in Jesus’ focus in the Sermon on the Mount. In this new section Jesus turns His attention towards hypocrites and their hypocrisy. In fact, 3 times He uses the term “hypocrites” to describe people who do the right thing but for the wrong reasons. They give charity, they pray, and they fast but they do it for show. Jesus warns His listeners that although they need to do those things, they better do them with the right motives. What happens to people who serve God for popularity? 3 times we hear the phrase – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” In other words, God will reward people for their good deeds but not if they’ve already earned their rewards through self-adulation or public praise. If you go around patting your back or looking for praise, you have your reward. God has nothing for you.

Here’s the point – Jesus not only came to raise the bar of righteousness but He also came to raise the standard of evaluation. Meaning: it’s not just “what more you do for God?” but also “why do you do what more you do for God?” Listen carefully – Christian life is more than a bigger checklist. It’s also a deeper heart check.

Question: Why do you serve God? Why do you want to help people? What is your motive? If you’re motives are to impress others, you are cutting into your own reward. There’s no eternal glory for you. Are you saved? If not, there are no rewards for you.

2 things we will learn about Secret Religion and Charity:

I. GOD COMMANDS US TO SHOW CHARITY.

2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed,

Background: The first thing to remember is that Jesus said “when” and not “if.” It means Jesus assumed that His listeners would practice charity. Charity/helping the poor was a very important part of Jewish social life. Listen to the following passages from the Old Testament. They are long but worth hearing, especially in our generation:

Deuteronomy 15   7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. 9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. 10 You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, (Meaning: it’s not just the content but also the intent.) because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, “You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’

If that wasn’t enough, listen to Deuteronomy 24 19 “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (That’s what Boaz did for Ruth.) 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing. Charity is not optional. It is mandatory.

Here’s more: Jesus did not lower this standard. In fact, He raised it. If you remember when the rich young ruler came to Him asking how to attain eternal life. First, Jesus questioned if he had kept all the commandments. When he replied yes, listen to what Jesus said to him in Matthew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But the young man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.

Unfortunately, in our country, the church forgot charity and the government had to take it up. Now, people complain when they see someone with EBT cards and food stamps. We fuss when we see people waiting for the check. This wouldn’t have been a problem if that church had studied her Bible and put it to practice!

Application: What do you think about charity? How do you respond when you see those who are less fortunate? Sure – you have to be careful but how do you respond when there’s a legitimate need? Are you generous or are you stingy? Do you walk around with a tunnel vision, only caring for you and yours or do you care for others?

II. PRIDE CAUSES US TO LOSE OUR REWARDS. 

2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.

Background: Just when we think Jesus would give us some tips on how to recognize who really needs help and how to give selectively or how God promises to bless us when we give generously, He lays down a condition – “do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.” Meaning: Don’t advertise your charity for complements. God wants to acknowledge our giving. He wants to record it. He wants to reward us for being generous. But, when people say – “Yes – I want God’s blessing but I also want people’s praise.” That’s when God says – “I’m out.”

C.S. Lewis - Mere ChristianityWhy do people do that? It’s more than just a desire to be acknowledged. It is PRIDE. This week I was reading through C.S. Lewis’s classic work “Mere Christianity.” Amazingly, as I was prepping for this message, I happened to be reading his chapter titled, “The Great Sin” on Pride. I want to read a few quotes from this book. He begins with this remark – “There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.” Then Lewis goes to the root of pride – “Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. (Lewis explains that other sins like anger, unforgiveness, adultery, stealing are nothing like pride.) Then he says – “It is a terrible thing that the worst of all vices can smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life…The other, and less bad, vices come from the devil working on us through our animal nature. But this (pride) does not come through our animal nature at all. It comes directly from Hell.” (By the way, it’s pride that got the Devil kicked out.)

How does all this connect with this message on “Secret Religion?” Why do people blow the trumpet when they give? Because they are announcing that they are so much more generous and benevolent and charitable than the other person. Check out how much I am giving more than the last guy. Now, I know someone is bound to say – “Yeah…I know so and so rich person gives so much. It’s all pride. They just want to prove that they are so much better and wealthier than the rest of us.” Here’s what I have found, in my experience – Usually, it’s not the rich who announce how much they are giving but the “not so rich.” It’s usually those who don’t have much who constantly make it a point to talk about how unselfish they were when they saw that man on the street and they bought him a meal or that homeless woman going through the trash dump and they gave her a hug and took her to the shelter. What these people are really saying is – “I am so much better than the rich man who drove by and didn’t give anything.” Guess what – you just got bit by the Pride bug! Because you don’t know if the rich man just gave away his millions to build that homeless shelter! Pride is not based on the content of our wallets. It’s based on the condition of our hearts.

Before you run out saying – “That’s right. I don’t care about anyone’s opinion. I am not doing it for them. I don’t need their praise.” Listen to what C.S. Lewis says – “The real…diabolical Pride comes when you look down on others so much that you do not care what they think of you…the Proud man…says ‘Why should I care for the applause of the rabble as if their opinion were worth anything?…All I have done has been to satisfy my own ideals…the traditions of my family…because I’m That Kind of Chap (Guy)…the devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one. We must never try to be vain, but we must never call in our Pride to cure our vanity…” WOW! Isn’t Pride deceptive?

But listen – 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; Don’t misunderstand this analogy. It does not mean that this humble charitable person is flippant and careless, just dropping money everywhere. There’s something very deep in the analogy. Once again, back to C.S. Lewis – “Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort…who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap (guy) who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility; he will not be thinking about himself at all.” In other words, they are the type of person whose – “left hand does not know what their right hand is doing.”

What’s the result? 4 “…and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

There’s only one person who lived this perfectly, 100% – Jesus Christ. Listen to John 5   41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”

Secret Religion is when you neither look for nor look down on the approval of others but you constantly look to God. Your desire is to do all things to please God.

What will happen in this world if we begin to give charity and do it for the right reasons? What will happen if we stop looking for or looking down on the approval of others but only look for the approval of God? What will happen if we start practicing “Secret Religion?” Only the Holy Spirit can create this spirit in us. Are you saved?

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