Operation Safeguard: Part 2 by Dr. Abidan Shah & Nicole Shah

OPERATION SAFEGUARD 2 – Dr. Abidan and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  We are in part 2 of our message titled “OPERATION SAFEGUARD.” Last weekend, Nicole and I focused on the 10 kinds of homes we come from that impact what kind of marriages we will have. In today’s message, we will focus on the danger of isolation and the ways to intimacy in marriage. Once again, I want to invite Nicole to the stage. Last week, we heard from so many who come in person or watch online as to how much they loved and learned from our talk on marriage. We are hoping to do this periodically to help marriage and family in our culture today. As I mentioned last time, we are still in our series through 1 Peter. So, let’s turn there now.

1 Peter 2      11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Context: If you remember from last week, 1 Peter can be divided into 2 halves: first half is from 1:1 – 2:10 and its focused on how the believers in Asia Minor saw themselves; the second half is from 2:11 – end and its focused on how the believers should live before the watching world, especially with regards to government, work, and marriage. Verses 11 and 12 of chapter 2 are the transition between the two sections. Last weekend, I pointed out 3 important words in verse 11 that set the tone for the application: Beloved (We are all in this together), Sojourners and Pilgrims (We are simply passing through), and War (We are in a spiritual warfare with the culture which surrounds us). Now, in verse 12, Peter told them how to win this war – 12 “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers…” Why are they considered evildoers? Because they are now believers and they don’t worship the old gods and goddesses. So, how do they combat such accusations? “…they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” The best ammunition against the lost world are good works of the believers that the lost world will brag about to God when he comes again. By the way, you cannot glorify God when he comes again unless you are saved. In other words, the gentile neighbors got saved by observing the good lifestyles of their Christian neighbors whom they were hating. Here’s the point: We don’t combat the lost world by copying their tactics of shouting matches, smear campaigns, and savage/senseless behavior. We combat the lost world with displaying a lifestyle that they admire and desire to emulate. In other words, we are called to win by recruitment not retribution. These are good works with regards to government, work, and marriage. Because of Valentine’s Day, we skipped over government and work, but we will be back. So, how can we have good works in marriage that our lost neighbors will admire and desire to emulate?

NICOLE:

Tragically, one hindrance to good works in marriage is ISOLATION. This is the heart of the problem for most marriages. God said in Genesis 2:24“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Unfortunately, marriages automatically drift towards isolation. What are the causes of isolation in marriages?

  1. Changes in our culture (devaluing of marriage, family, and children; over valuing of independence; influence of media and entertainment)
  2. Our childhood and expectations (from last weekend’s message)
  3. Selfishness (focusing on our spouse’s weaknesses and justifying our rejection of our spouse)
  4. Improper responses to the struggles in marriage (poor models, wrong advisors, no plan for crisis in marriage)
  5. Extra-marital affairs (Activities affair, Materialism affair, Career affair, Family affair, and Love affair)

Marriage is God’s idea and he desires ONENESS in our marriages for 4 reasons:

  • It reflects God’s image;
  • it gives us companionship in life;
  • it spreads a godly legacy;
  • and, it reflects the relationship between Christ and the church;

How can we have this oneness in marriage? There are 6 different intimacies (We are getting these from Tony and Alisa Dilorenzos):

ABIDAN:

  1. Spiritual intimacy – The first, and, I believe, the most important intimacy in marriage is spiritual intimacy. This is the relationship that the husband and wife have with Jesus Christ and each other. We talked about this last week, so we are going to dive deeper. This type of intimacy includes going to church together as a family, doing devotions together and praying together. As we talked about last week, our marriages should be a commitment between husband, wife and God. In this commitment is going to church to be spiritually fed together. This is so important not only for the husband and the wife, but also for the children as well. This sets the course for the rest of their lives. The decision to follow Jesus Christ is the most important decision you will ever make with the choice of a spouse second. Spiritual intimacy also includes devotions together as a couple. How? Choose a devotional book, preferably one for couples and decide how often you and your spouse will do them: every day, once a week, etc. We recommend at least once a week. If you can do every day, great! Also, end your couple devotional time with prayer. Either each one of you pray or take turns who prays after each devotion.

Don’t neglect your individual devotions because each of you need this as well. This is where scheduling is important. Nicole gets up every morning before the boys to do her devotions for uninterrupted time. It takes discipline.

  1. Intellectual intimacy – This type of intimacy is all about the issues you and your spouse consider to be important to your marriage. This could be goals for your marriage, values for your marriage and family or even creating a budget for your family. Intellectual intimacy requires communication. I can see the wives are excited with this one, and the husbands are tuning out! Maybe you can begin your communication with books life Connect Like You Did When You First Met or One Question a Day for You and Me. These will help to start great conversations between the two of you. If you are not sure if you need help in this area, ask yourself: do you know your spouse’s hopes and dreams? If your spouse asked you to pick up a toiletry item for them at the store, would you know the brand?
  2. Financial intimacy – This type of intimacy is sharing your financial situation. We step on some toes here, but first of all, couples should have a shared checking account. Too much mine and yours does not create intimacy. There is nothing wrong with having a husband’s and wife’s fun money account, but the main family accounts should be joint. We do understand that there are times that this is not easy. If one spouse spends indiscreetly, this can cause so much trouble. Also, if business and employees have to paid out of this account, this has to be done with trust. Having said that, your finances can be a great intimacy builder as you plan and dream for the future; or it can be an intimacy killer, if you both constantly disagree on how to handle your finances. If you and your spouse fit the latter category, maybe you should begin your financial planning sessions with prayer. Remember, God is the third person in your marriage. Also, if you don’t tithe as a couple, you will always have financial struggles. Abidan and I have found that if we are tithing, God provides all of our needs. It’s His money anyway, and He only asks for 10%.

NICOLE:

4.  Recreational intimacy – This type of intimacy is having fun together doing something that you both enjoy. This is where your hobbies might come into play. Is there something that you both enjoy doing? A sport, an outdoor activity, and indoor activity, or activities involving the arts. Here is a list that I got from Tony & Alisa Dilorenzo’s book Stripped Down, but you can find exhaustive lists on Pinterest or asking Google. If you don’t enjoy doing the same things as your spouse, make a list of your personal top 5 or 10 things you enjoy doing. Exchange lists and take turns going on dates doing something off your spouse’s list. You might find that you enjoy doing something that your spouse enjoys. At the least, enjoy being with your spouse.

5. Emotional intimacy – Other than spiritual intimacy, emotional intimacy is foundational for your marriage. This intimacy is the feeling of closeness to someone special in your life. You can have emotional intimacy with many people in your life: your parents, your children, your friends; but the most important person is your spouse. How do you start? Think back to when you met your spouse. You went on dates.

  • Keep dating your spouse. They don’t have to be extravagant; just spend time together.
  • Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than a yes or no answer. We have 2 books in our resource room that can help with this part of emotional intimacy.
  • Share a hobby together. This is doing something together that you both enjoy. For example, sports, crafts, hunting, travel.
  • Get away for a weekend. For example, a nice hotel in the next city, a bed and breakfast, or a resort.

These are just a few ways that you can build and strengthen your emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy is the gateway to great physical intimacy.

  1. Physical intimacy – This intimacy includes holding hands, hugging, kissing and sex. This part of marriage is definitely influenced by the way you were raised. What were your parents’ attitude towards sex? Their attitudes towards the subject of sex have affected the way that you view sex. Ladies, if your mother communicated to you that sex was a duty or was dirty; you need a mind shift. If you didn’t already know this, God created sex. He said that everything that he had created was good. Sin changed that. Genesis 2:25 “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” I know this sounds crazy, but you need to pray and ask God to change your attitude about sex. You also need to subscribe to the One Extraordinary Marriage podcast or Marriage 365 webcast, or both! Men, your wives need emotional intimacy to be ready for sex. Ladies, your husbands need sex to feel emotionally close to you. Some ideas to help you begin to work on your physical intimacy are:
  • Pray – Invite God into your bedroom, and He will bless it.
  • Do a sex challenge – decide how many days you will have sex, make the commitment and stick to it.
  • Adopt the intimacy lifestyle – Check out resources from Tony and Alisa Dilorenzo.

Isn’t it amazing that Peter included marriage in his list of good works that causes the gentiles to get saved! If your marriage was the gospel plan for somebody, how good is your gospel?

Invitation: Is your marriage drifting towards isolation or intimacy? Is Christ the center of your marriage? Are you saved?

Operation Safeguard by Dr. Abidan Shah

OPERATION SAFEGUARD by Dr. Abidan and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  As you’ve probably noticed, the stage is laid out a little differently this weekend. For the next 2 weeks, we’ll be doing a subseries from 1 Peter titled “OPERATION SAFEGUARD.” I’ll explain what it’s about in just a moment, but first, I’m going to invite my wife Nicole to join me up here. As many of you may know, Nicole and I have our date day every Monday, when we get away for a few hours. This is something we began 13 years ago after we went to a “Weekend to Remember” Conference. It’s our time to reconnect, talk about our lives, and just relax. Lately, we’ve been talking about the state of marriages in our church and society. It’s been hard to gauge where marriages are since the pandemic and the shutdowns. According to some researchers, people are not divorcing, but its more for practical reasons than anything else – “let’s stay together so we can weather this crazy time.” Maybe, something good did come out of 2020. But, there is a different problem with regards to marriage that has been emerging for a long time. The rate of marriage has been dropping. In 2019, it hit an all-time low of only 33 for every 1,000 unmarried adults. It may help if you have a reference point – it was 35 in 2010 and 86 in 1970. I would say that it has dropped even more in 2020. In this message, we will see what is happening and what are some steps that we can take even today.

1 Peter 2     11 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Context: We’ve come to the second main section of 1 Peter. In the first section, the overall focus was on how the believers in Asia Minor saw themselves. In the second section, the focus is on how the believers should live before the watching world. In making the transition to the second section, Peter used 3 important words that lay out 3 important building blocks on behavior in verse 11:

  1. Beloved: The Greek word is “agapetoi.” It is hardly found outside the Greek New Testament. It has a tone of endearment. Peter was not talking down to them but lovingly calling them to action. So also, in the Christian life, and especially regarding marriage, we are to humbly help each other. We all have our struggles.
  2. Sojourners and Pilgrims: The Greek words are “paroikos” and “parepidemos.” The first means a resident alien and the second means temporary alien. These designations were not their civic statuses but spiritual status. In other words, they were just passing through.
  3. Spiritual Warfare: As we go through life, the world will try to conform us into their mold. We are to recognize that this will be a war. This is not some internal war but external culture war.

Once Peter laid this out, he applied this to government, workplace, and marriage. Because Valentines is here, we are skipping over to marriage, but we will be coming ack to it. How do you war against the fleshly lusts regarding marriage? Here, Nicole will explain how to safeguard our marriage:

NICOLE: Abidan and I get asked many times how we met; how our parents felt about us dating and getting married because we are from two different countries and cultures. My parents were born and raised in Georgia and except for 3 years living in Costa Rica and Chile and one month in California; that’s where I grew up. My dad was a pastor for about 25 years, so I was a PK and an MK. Abidan was born and raised in India until he came to the United States at the age of 17. As you know, his father was a pastor, as well, of the same church for almost 60 years. I know the question going through many of your minds is “How could two people from opposite sides of the world, who were raised in different cultures, make it 26 years and counting?” By the grace of God, first of all. There’s also one very important component in making a marriage work: the way you were raised. What I mean is your family’s values and convictions. What Abidan and I discovered is that our fathers had very similar beliefs and convictions. When your families are very similar in those areas, marriage works. I’m not saying that it’s easy. In fact, the first several years of our marriage was hell on earth; probably due partly to the fact that I wasn’t living as I should as a Christian.

When I say that our families have similar beliefs and convictions, the first one is that marriage is a commitment between you, your spouse, and God. Both sets of parents were married until death parted them. My parents were married for 34 years when my father died of cancer, and Abidan’s parents were married for 55 years when his father recently died. They understood what it meant to be committed to each other for life. I’m not saying that if you or your spouse comes from a broken home that your marriage is doomed. I do believe that we are shaped by our environment, especially as children, but there comes a point where you can make a choice not to let your past define you. With the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, you can have a successful marriage even if your parents did not. Both of us watching our parents’ commitment being fleshed out in front of us had a profound influence on both of us. Also, our families having the same convictions was vital: you have to be born again to be saved, the belief in baptism, the belief that the Bible is the perfect Word of God, the belief that Jesus came to earth, died on the cross for our sins and rose on the third day, the belief in eternity in heaven with God, and the belief that all human life is precious are a few of them. When there is common ground like I just listed, then the cultural differences are incidentals.

Whether we know it or not, we bring baggage from our childhood into our marriages –

  • How we were loved or not loved (even our perception of that as children)?
  • Did we feel like we belonged in the family? For example, were you the perfect child or the black sheep of the family?
  • Sometimes, this baggage could come from the parent that we are most like. For example, how do we react when we see something in someone else that is a flaw in our own personality? We don’t like it.
  • Our sense of worthiness also comes from our parents. For both girls and boys, it mainly comes from their father. So, when the father is absent, emotionally or physically, it has a profound effect on our sense of worth.

Taking all this into account, there are 10 kinds of homes that people grow up in:

  1. The healthy home – where parents model a godly marriage, not a perfect marriage. When mistakes are made or conflict happens, the children see the healthy and biblical way to deal with them.
  2. The abusive home – this one speaks for itself. This is any type of abuse: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, or neglect. Results in marriage – victim mentality.
  3. The legalistic home – where there were extra rules other than what the Bible says that can be very oppressive. Also, there is usually hypocritical behavior on the part of the parents as well. Results in marriage – judgmental of spouse if not as religious.
  4. The affair home – this is usually a home where even though there was infidelity on the part of one or both spouses, the parents stay together; but there is no trust in the home. The absence of trust in our childhood home can have devastating effects. This creates adults who don’t trust their spouses.
  5. The impoverished home –the effects of this home are the children determining to never be without money or certain things that we did not have while growing up. Results in marriage – money is everything.

ABIDAN:

  1. The divorced home – this one speaks for itself, and no matter when divorce happened, when the children were young or older, divorce has a profound effect on the children. It is worse than death. If a parent dies, they didn’t want to leave their family, but in divorce they chose to leave. Divorced homes lead to feelings of guilt, abandonment, anger and depression in children. Results in marriage – divorce in either always or never on the table.
  2. The rage-filled home – the home where at least one parent could become angry at any time at anything. Results in marriage – pleaser or avoider.
  3. The abandonment home – this does not have to be as bad as it sounds. This could be being a latch key kid because both parents worked all the time to no quality or quantity of time. Results in marriage – crave connection.
  4. The perfection home – everything had to be perfect from the tidiness of the home to the behavior of the parents and the children. Results in marriage – become a pleaser, a controller, unrealistic expectations.
  5. The unemotional home – our parents showed no emotion, so therefore we could not show emotion. It was frowned upon. Results in marriage –uncomfortable with emotion from spouse or children.

How do you handle coming from such homes?

  1. We have to choose to forgive our parents. I know that this is easier said than done, but I think it’s easier when we become parents and realize how hard of a job it is. When we understand that our parents were doing the best they knew how with what they had, it is easier to forgive them. It will not be a once and done thing either. We may have to forgive them many times. Forgiveness will take much prayer and obedience to God.
  2. We also need to understand our love language and our spouse’s love language. Many times, what we lacked in childhood will become our primary love language.
  • If our primary love language is quality time, we may have come from an unemotional home, an abandonment home, a divorced home, or an affair home.
  • If our primary love language is physical touch, we may have come from an unemotional home, an abandonment home, or an abusive home.
  • If our primary love language is receiving gifts, we may have come from the impoverished home.
  • If our primary love language is words of appreciation, we may have come from a perfection home, a rage-filled home, an unemotional home, a divorced home, an ultra-religious home, or an abusive home.
  • If our primary love language is acts of service, we may have come from an abandonment home or an abusive home.

In many marriages, each spouse is expressing love in the way they want to be loved, not how their spouse wants to be loved. A great resource to understanding our love languages is the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

NICOLE:

  1. Also, a good exercise for us and our spouse is to figure out 5 values that we want our marriage to be known for. Write them down, post them somewhere in your home where they will be visible to all family members. These values will be a great legacy to pass on to your children. Think back to your childhood. What kind of legacy did your parents pass down to you? Do you want to pass that same legacy on to your children? Or a different one? I remember one thing that my dad did that left an impression on me. My dad had my name and each one of my siblings’ names inserted into the scripture verse 3 John 4. He posted these in each our rooms where we would see them. Mine said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that Nicole walks in the truth.” A few years ago, I found a photo frame with this verse imprinted on it. I have pictures of our children in it, and I hung it in the hallway between their rooms, so they will see it often.

When we begin to look at our marriages as God intended them to be: a picture of Jesus Christ and the church, an example of God’s unconditional love for a lost world; we will see how important our example of a godly marriage is. I don’t know about you, but I really have never thought that my marriage would be a witness of a loving Savior to a lost world. I want to close with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy institution through which God wishes to preserve the humanity until the end of time. In your love you see only each other in the world; in marriage you are a link in the chain of generations that God, for the sake of his glory, allows to rise and fade away, and calls into His kingdom.

We have created posters that you can purchase in the Resource Center and write your values from the list of 45 values.

Advancement Happiness Respect
Adventure Honesty Responsible
Balance Impact Security
Comforting Integrity Selflessness
Compassion Intuitive Servanthood
Content Joy Spirituality
Courageous Knowledge Stability
Creativity Laughter Steadfast
Discerning Love Success
Disciplined Loyalty Supportive
Enduring Patience Togetherness
Faith Peace Transparency
Finish Well Persistence Trust
Fun Protective Unified
Genuine Purposeful Life Wisdom

Invitation: How are you safeguarding your marriage? What are your values? Is Christ the center of your marriage? Do you know Christ as your Savior and King?

New Beginning by Dr. Abidan Shah

NEW BEGINNING by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: We’ve had quite a few babies at Clearview in 2020. Each of them is special and beautiful. In a world full of chaos and ugliness, a baby can quickly bring a smile to your face. Babies are a reminder that God is not through with our world. But, it’s not easy to have a baby. They are completely helpless and dependent on others. They cannot do anything to support their life. Someone else has to feed and change them. When Nicole’s dad was a pastor, he had a sign over their church nursery, “We shall not all asleep, but we shall all be changed” from 1 Corinthians 15:51. In our series on 1 Peter, we come to chapter 2 where Peter talks about a new beginning like a newborn baby. Main point: During times of trials, fear can cause us to take refuge in our old nature and act the fool. Instead, we should cast aside the old, take on the mind of a newborn, and be totally dependent on the gracious care of God.

1 Peter 2       1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

Context: Once again, we need to remember that Peter was writing to Jewish and Gentile background believers in northern Asia Minor who were facing rejection from their own and social discrimination from their neighbors because of their faith in Christ. Peter knew that times of trials and stress can bring out the best or the worst in a person. Just think about how he reacted on the night Jesus was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. First, he struck at the high priest servant and cut off his ear. Jesus had to stop and heal him. Then, he followed Jesus at a distance and ended up denying him 3 times with cursings! These believers in Asia Minor were no different. Pressure was bringing out the worst in them. Listen to the list of things that Peter told them to lay aside in verse 1—“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” The concept of “laying aside” means “to get rid of” or “to strip away” from the Greek word “apotithemi” = apo (away from) and tithemi (set). This command is found several times in the New Testament: Romans 13:12 “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” Colossians 3:8 “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth”; James 1:21 “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”; Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Principle: It’s alright to pray for God’s help in turning the channel of sin, but the remote is in your hands.

What is it that Peter wanted them to cast aside or get rid of specifically?

  • “kakia,” which is badness, wickedness, doing harm to others;
  • “dolos,” which is deceit, falsifying information, basically lying;
  • “hupokrisis,” which is play acting, pretending, just a show;
  • “phthonos,” which is envy = wanting what someone else has; and,
  • “katalalos,” which is evil speaking, slander, backstabbing.

Application: In your trials, have these old habits and behaviors raised their ugly heads in your life? These are the tools of the Enemy and they have no place in a believer’s life. Pray right now and ask God to give you the strength to cast them aside.

Next verse 2 “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word…” Here’s a very important principle: If you don’t replace what has been cast aside with what is good and beneficial, those old things will return and often with a vengeance. Jesus explained this best in Luke 11      24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” It is the old Aristotelian principle from physics – “Nature abhors a vacuum.”

Application: Resolutions to stop harmful things have to be balanced with resolutions to start helpful and holy things. Have you done that?

But there’s so much more here in the next 2 verses: 2 “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord isgracious.” There are 4 things here, first 2 are easily understood but the last 2 needs some deeper study.

  1. Attitude – “as newborn babes” means helpless, completely dependent, single minded.
  2. Purpose – “that you may grow thereby” means spiritual growth and maturity.
  3. Content – “desire the pure milk of the word”
  4. Motivation – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is”

3. Content – Typically, people have interpreted the statement “desire the pure milk of the word” to be “get into the Bible,” “listen to biblical preaching,” and “join a small group bible study.” None of that is wrong but that is not what Peter had in mind. The word he used in the Greek is “logikon gala.” If he had said “gala logou” from logos, then it’s the milk of the word. The word “logikon is not “logos.” What does the word “logikon” mean? It means “rational” or “reasonable.” Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (logikein latreian). In this context, it means “to desire the appropriate milk.” In other words, Christians should seek after and desire what is proper and appropriate for them as believers. In every situation, there is a proper and an improper for us as believers – as 1 Peter 1:2 “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” We are to choose that which is proper for us as believers. If you don’t, you will behave inappropriately, especially during trials.

Application: Have you acted properly during times of trials? Did your actions match your confession?

4. Motivation – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Here, Peter is quoting from Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Someone might say that this seems like a common statement. Does it have to be from Psalm 34? In 1 Peter 3:10-12, Peter quotes a larger section from Psalm 34. In fact, according to a scholar (Bornemann), there are 7 quotations and 70 allusions to Psalm 34 in 1 Peter. I think that is a little exaggerated. Nonetheless, if we’re going to understand the depth of what Peter really meant in this letter, we have to understand Psalm 34 a little better.

Psalm 34 “A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.” At one time, scholars doubted these titles, but more and more think that they are original. What is the context of Psalm 34? This incident took place after Jonathan confirmed David’s fear that Saul wanted to kill him. If you remember, David and Jonathan made a covenant with each other, and David fled for his life. He came to Ahimelech the priest and got some bread from him, but one of Saul’s spies saw him there. Now, David was afraid. He needed some weapons. The sword of Goliath was there in the Tabernacle. The priest offered it to David and he took it! But, then he did something completely foolish. He fled to Achish, king of Gath, king of the Philistines. Of course, they recognized him – 1 Samuel 21    12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

Psalm 34        1 “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried out, and the LORD heardhim, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. 8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessedis the man who trusts in Him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. 10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. 11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” The rest we will see when we come to I Peter 3.

During times of trials, fear can cause us to take refuge in our old nature and act the fool. Instead, we should cast aside the old, take on the mind of a newborn, and be totally dependent on the gracious care of God.

By the way, there is something deeper here – 3 “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord isgracious.” The word for gracious is “Chrestos,” which is just one vowel away from “Christos.” What Peter was telling those believers in Asia Minor who were going through a difficult time was not to fear and act the fool. Instead, crave Christ and his life.

Invitation: How much do you desire Christ? Have you acted the fool? Do you know Christ as your Savior and King? Are you saved?

Greater than Religion by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER THAN RELIGION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Throughout the world, people have all kinds of traditions when it comes to Christmas. In Norway, they hide their brooms on Christmas Eve, because, according to tradition, witches are out on Christmas eve. In South Africa, children look forward to fried caterpillars or Christmas caterpillars on Christmas day. In India, where I grew up, we sang Christmas carols all night from door to door of every church member. To miss someone’s home was a big insult. They would wait for us with food, sweets, coffee, and tea. By the way, the same morning was Christmas day and we had church service at 9 am. It was tough because some of us were half asleep. All these traditions are good but sometimes traditions can overshadow the truth and we end up with religion and religious leaders. In our Christmas series titled GREATER, we’ve seen how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this message, we will see that Jesus was even greater than all the religious power brokers of the world. Find John 1:19. Main point: Jesus did not come to fit into our religious traditions. He came to bring us into a relationship with God. Jesus came to tear down the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

Matthew 2      1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

Context: If you remember, last week, this was the same passage we used for the message, but our focus was on King Herod. We are using it again because it gives us the third power broker of the ancient world – the Religious Authorities. Next to Rome and Herod, they were in charge. Just like Herod was connected and subjected to Rome and Augustus Caesar, the Religious Authorities were also connected and subjected to Herod. In fact, they were also connected and subjected to Rome, as we will see later on.

In the passage, the Religious Authorities appear to be at Herod’s beck and call4“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” They knew better than to reject his summons. After all, he was the king. He controlled the appointment of the high priests. He expanded and built the temple in Jerusalem. He maintained peace in the region. He kept a buffer between them and the Romans. Of course, they lined up on the double. Were they aware of the answer? 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Amazingly, they even gave the right answer. What was Herod’s response? 7 “Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.” Why didn’t Herod order the chief priests and scribes to go with the wise men? Why didn’t they go on their own initiative? One of 2 reasons:

  • They didn’t believe this was going to happen. It was just a myth to them.
  • They didn’t want it to happen. It was too costly and risky for them.

By their refusal to act, they were going to cancel the first Christmas! They would rather stay with their traditions and rituals than to go after the real thing.

Application: I find it very interesting how people are willing to shut down Christmas or redefine Christmas or see Christmas differently this year. What annoys me the most is when people try to use spiritual lingo to cover up their fear. How many of you have heard of the term “cancel culture”? It is when a person does or says something controversial and they are immediately cancelled. This happens on social media a lot. People turn against someone and they cancel them. 2000 years ago, people tried to cancel Christmas. They failed. They are trying it again and, unfortunately, believers are going along.

Who were these Religious authorities? In the passage it says “chief priests and the scribes of the people,” but altogether there were 4 major groups with some subgroups: Priests and Levites, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Scribes:

  1. Who were the Priests and Levites? As you know from the Old Testament, priests belonged to the tribe of Levi and had to be descendants of Aaron. Along with the Levites, they were the “ritual specialists and mediators between God and people” (Kugler). While the priests were responsible for running the temple and carrying out the sacrifices, the Levites handled the music and the supervision and management of the temple activities. Under Moses’ supervision and Aaron’s leadership, the standards were extremely high regarding holiness. Exodus 28 36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet: HOLINESS TO THE Lord. 37 And you shall put it on a blue cord, that it may be on the turban; it shall be on the front of the turban. 38 So it shall be on Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things which the children of Israel hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” Unfortunately, through the centuries, the priesthood in Israel had continued a downward spiral. In 174 BC, a man by the name of Jason had bribed Antiochus Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, to become the high priest. Three years later, a man by the name of Menelaus, who was not even a Levite, also bribed his way to the position. After that, the Hasmoneans family of priests controlled the position. The Levites were no different. Does this mean that every priest and Levite was corrupt? There were a few like Zechariah and Elizabeth who were truly righteous, but, it seems that those from Jerusalem proper were corrupt. Remember, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The antagonists in the story were the priests and the Levites.
  2. Who were the Sadducees? The first time we hear about the Sadducees is under John Hyrcanus (135-104 BC). The Sadducees claimed to be the “righteous ones,” going all the way back to Zadok, the righteous high priest. In reality, the Sadducees were mostly from the aristocracy and despised by the common people. Under Alexander Jannaeus (103-76BC), 800 Pharisees were crucified by the Sadducees. Then in 37 BC, with the coming of Herod the great, the high priesthood became a political appointment under Rome’s supervision with the Sadducees in charge of all the temple activities. They were not necessarily all priests or attached to the temple. The chief priests and the high priests came from the Sadducees. This was the reason why some Jewish people actually built a temple in Leontopolis, Egypt and some left to form the Dead Sea community at Qumran. In short, the people went to the temple but inside they knew it was in corrupt hands. What did the Sadducees believe?No resurrection, angel, or spirit. They did not accept the oral law or the law of the sages, as the Pharisees. They had their own traditions regarding the Torah. They placed more emphasis on the books that focused on the temple. The came testing him with the question about the resurrection of the 7 brothers married to the same woman. Matthew 32:22 “…God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” They didn’t want Jesus. He was a threat to the establishment.
  3. Who were the Pharisees? They were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – they called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

Unfortunately, they constantly butted heads with Jesus. They were frustrated that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They were frustrated that Jesus did not keep all their trivial Sabbath laws. They wanted Jesus to give them a sign. They accused him of being demon possessed. Jesus did not let up on them. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:20 “…unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” He called them “Blind Guides,” “Hypocrites,” and “White-washed tombs.”

Attached to the Pharisees was a subgroup known as the scribes. Jesus often addressed them together.

  1. Who were the Scribes? They interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and, in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people. They considered themselves to be experts in the law/Old Testament. Listen to how Jesus dealt with them in Mark 12 38 Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” He pronounced woes upon them along with the Pharisees – Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. The Priests and the Levites were corrupt.
  2. The Sadducees were protecting the status quo.
  3. The Pharisees were about self-righteousness.
  4. The Scribes were busy showing off their knowledge.

In this world Jesus came not to fit into the religious categories and traditions but to tear down the curtain from top to bottom and make a way for us to come boldly to the throne of grace.

1 Peter 1     18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Invitation: Do you have religion or do you have a relationship with Christ? He came not to fit into our traditions. He came to clean it up. Are you saved?

Greater than Rulers by Dr. Abidan Shah

GREATER – THAN RULERS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How many of you have watched the old “Twilight Zone” TV show? I don’t know about you but, after a while, it starts to mess with your mind. One time, our kids were watching one episode after another and I had to tell them to stop! I felt like someone was always watching me or out to get to me. If there was one character in NT history who was always paranoid, it was King Herod. He constantly felt that he had to prove his kingship and that the world was out to get him. In our 3-week Christmas series titled “GREATER,” we are learning how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. Last week, we saw that Jesus was greater than Rome and Augustus Caesar. In this message, we will see that Jesus was greater than Herod, the paranoid king. Please find Matthew 2. Main point: Throughout history, people have tried to prove their significance and leave their legacy. Unfortunately, they’ve all failed. There is only one who is truly significant and whose legacy has no end. His name is Jesus. His coming was promised in the Scriptures, sought by the wise men, accompanied by celestial signs, and protected by the angels. He alone is the legitimate king, and he wants to bring his rule and legacy to your heart and mine.

Matthew 2     1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’”

Context: Just like Luke 2 last week, this passage is also very familiar, especially during Christmas. Again, we usually rush past this to discuss the star or the wise men, and we miss something very important in the verses we just read. Listen again to verse 1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…” Of course, we know that Rome was in control of Palestine at the time, but it did so through local rulers. Herod was that local ruler, the client King, who ruled the region where Jesus was born. Herod’s policies made a big impact on the Christmas narrative.

A quick point here – It is vital that believers be involved in every level of government: local, state, and national.

So, who was Herod the King? Herod came from the Antipatrid family of Idumea, a region to the east and the south of the Dead Sea. Although, originally, they were descendants of Esau (brother of Jacob), now they were a mixture of Edomites, Jewish people, Arabs, Phoenicians, and Greeks. They had been forcibly converted to Judaism by a Jewish ruler named John Hyrcanus. In other words, they were a non-priestly, non-royal, and non-truly-Jewish family. That’s a lot of nons! Antipater I, Herod’s grandfather, had worked his way up and became the governor of Idumea. Herod’s father also followed in his footsteps and became even more successful. Sadly, some people were envious of his success and poisoned him. Now it was Herod’s turn. He was born with somewhat of a silver spoon in his mouth but he still had to work for every bit of what he had. He was hard working and had unending energy. As a strategos (military governor) of Galilee at the age of 25, he was not the type who just made his soldiers fight. He was unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat, a very good horseman, and even a good hunter.

How was his character? Overall, he was quite generous. When there was a drought, he used his own resources to help the people. He built up a strong military. He protected his people against bandits and tried to make his region safer and more peaceful. He was an amazing architect. He built forts, public buildings, streets, water systems, supported the Olympic games and on and on. According to Josephus, Herod’s most important achievement was the building of the temple in Jerusalem at his own expense. It took ten years to build. He doubled the foundation of Solomon’s temple and literally reshaped the layout of Jerusalem. Josephus tells us that the entire façade of the temple was covered with gold plates. When the sun rose, it was blinding to look at it! The upper parts were probably marble. He even took care to have the priests trained as masons and carpenters so that there would be no disruption of services. Furthermore, he made sure that no one family would control the priesthood. I can go on and on about the good he did. Yes, he did have a bad temper, but that’s minor compared to all the good that he did.

Did the people love him for all this? Not really. His people didn’t appreciate him. The Jewish people didn’t accept him because he wasn’t Jewish. His enemies tried to bring him to trial. The supporters of the opposition group tried to attack his family. He had to fight off the Parthians. He had to constantly keep Rome happy. He had to kill all the Hasmoneans (Jewish royalty) to ensure his rule. He even had his own brother-in-law – Aristobulus, the High Priest – killed. He had 300 of his military leaders killed. Yes, he was ruthless but it was all because he felt that they were a threat to his success.

Application: Do you know someone like that? He/she had to work hard all his/her lives. He had to deal with junk growing up. She had lowly upbringing. He didn’t have the best of family growing up. She made some bad choices. He tried to help people but he was not appreciated. Is that you? How do you handle those feelings of insignificance?

How was Herod’s love life? Herod’s family life was a mess, partly because he had ten wives and each of them wanted their son(s) to be the next king. His second wife deserves to mentioned in particular. He dismissed his first wife and son to marry Mariamme, a woman from a Hasmonean (prominent Jewish) family. Initially he did it to help his position, which it didn’t, but then he really loved her and had 5 children with her. She knew what he was like and she didn’t love him. Keep in mind that Herod had her brother killed. As Josephus the historian said, “her hatred of him was as great as was his love for her.” Then, Herod’s sister, Salome, started a rumor that Mariamme was cheating on him and he had her put on trial. He didn’t believe his sister but his sister kept pushing him with more and more lies. Finally, in a fit of rage, he had her killed. Then, he realized what he had done and began to grieve over her and even refused to believe that she was dead. He would often call for her. When he got sick, he took it as God’s judgment.

How was Herod as a father? He loved the two oldest sons he had with Mariamme and even sent them to Rome for their education, hoping to turn the kingdom over to them. When they returned they were arrogant and Herod couldn’t stand that. He even heard rumors that they wanted to avenge their mother’s death. After much back and forth, he had them strangled. Then he made a will (4th one to be exact) to give the kingdom to his son from his first wife but 5 days before he died he had him executed for plotting against him. Altogether, he changed his will 6 times before he died! By the way, I’m only dealing with the issues with his sons. I don’t have time to go into all the other family problems.

How was his end? In his final years Herod became terribly sick. Some scholars believe that he had syphilis. He had tried to get some relief in some healing baths near Jordan River but it didn’t help. When he realized that he was dying, he gave orders to his sister Salome to gather the prominent Jewish people at the hippodrome near Jericho and kill them when he died so people would actually cry when he was gone. He knew his own family wouldn’t cry for him. Thank goodness that after he died his sister did not follow the orders. I feel sorry for the guy. Don’t you?

Application: Do you know some people like that? They’ve had a bad home life. They’ve been let down in their marriage. They’ve tried to be good to their family but it never worked out. Their kids don’t appreciate them. They’ve made decisions that they can’t take back. They live in constant regret and guilt. Are you that person? You are trying to find significance in all the wrong places. You need Christ.

Did God forget Herod? No. In fact, he sent the gospel right to his doorstep. Matthew 2      1 “…behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

  1. Unlike Herod who had to prove himself constantly, Jesus was clearly promised in the Scriptures.

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

  1. Unlike Herod’s wise men who failed to prepare him, Jesus was sought by the truly wise men.

Matt. 2:9   When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

  1. Unlike Herod’s failed attempt to build his legacy, Jesus’s coming was accompanied by celestial signs.

11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

  1. Unlike Herod who constantly lived in fear of being killed, Jesus was protected by angels.

16 “Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.”

This could have gone a whole different way. Herod could have found true significance. God didn’t hate Herod! He sent Jesus to be born 6 miles from where He lived. He sent magi from 430 miles to tell him about His birth. He even had all the chief and scribes at his disposal to tell him about the location of Jesus’ birth. Ultimately, it was his own wicked heart.

Application:  How is your heart this morning? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? If you know Him, are you sharing Him with others? Are you willing to step out of your hiding and follow Him boldly? Where are you seeking significance?

Greater Than Rome

GREATER – THAN ROME by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: How many of you have ever played “King of the Hill” as kids? The objective is to stay on top of the hill or pile and keep others from pushing you off. Unfortunately, people don’t stop playing that game when they grow up. They become rulers, kings, queens, and emperors. With Christmas upon us, we will be going through a 3-week series titled “GREATER.” We will learn how Jesus was greater than all the rulers and power brokers of the world in which he was born. In this first message, we will see that Jesus was “GREATER THAN ROME.” Please find Luke 2. Here’s the main point: Our world has seen rulers rise and fall, and empires come and go. But, there is only one who stands greater than all, and whose kingdom has no end. It is Jesus Christ. Many have tried to overshadow him, but, as someone said, “When small men cast long shadows, it is a sign that their sun is about to set.” Jesus stands greater than all, and the sun cannot set on him because he made the sun and the moon and the stars.

Luke 2:1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”

Context: The passage I just read is very familiar, especially during Christmas time. We usually rush past this to Joseph going to his hometown of Bethlehem and Mary giving birth to the baby Jesus and wrapping him in swaddling clothes because there was no room for them in the inn. Then, there were shepherds in the fields watching over their flocks by night and the angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were greatly afraid, and on and on. We miss something very important in the opening verses of Luke 2. The gospel writer Luke has given us some very important information about the world in which Jesus came. Listen again to verse 1 “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus.” The Greek word for “decree” is dogma, an imperial declaration. With just one decree, your entire world could be turned upside down.

Application: Do ya’ll understand what that means? This is why it is vital that we speak out and we know our rights. Having our voices heard and be strong in politics is not optional.

Who was Caesar Augustus? Caesar Augustus was the emperor of Rome when Jesus was born. His birth name was actually Octavius. He was the great nephew and the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who was the dictator of Rome until he was assassinated. Octavius ascended the throne after him, but he wasn’t much of a soldier so he linked up with 2 Roman generals and politicians – Mark Antony and Marcus Lepidus – and began avenging the death of Julius Caesar. He was brutal and did not spare any who stood up to him. He even had coins minted with Julius Caesar’s image on one side with the words “the God Julius” and his image on the other side with the words “Caesar, Son of a God.” But, he was not satisfied with being one of three and so he first got rid of Lepidus. Then, he defeated Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium, who committed suicide along with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. They knew what would happen if they fell into the hands of Octavius. Now, Octavius was the only man standing. He was powerful and cruel, to say the least. He established the Pretorian Guard – private bodyguards of 5000 soldiers. The Senate was afraid of him and gave him power over the proconsuls and the armies. They even made him “Pontifex Maximus” or the chief priest of the state religion. Their own position was reduced to being just advisors.

But there’s more – there were provinces in Asia that had supported Mark Antony. Now Octavius was in power and they were going to pay for that. Very quickly delegations came from city of Pergamum and the city of Nicaea informing him that they were going to make him a god and needed his permission to build temples in his name. Of course, Octavius said, “That’s okay. You don’t have to. But, if you insist….” Two years later, the senate even gave him the title we find in Luke 2:1 – “Augustus,” which means “great” as in god. He became Caesar Augustus, not only the Emperor of Rome but also a god who had been appointed by the will of the other gods. It was in his hands to bring the “pax deorum” or the peace of the gods to the mortals on the earth. He was the incarnation of all the gods. He was the savior. The people loved him. He expanded the Roman Empire, rebuilt temples and public buildings, reorganized the Senate, and brought opportunities to the people. He was so popular that Roman men even adopted his hairstyle. For the first time there was peace in the world, as long as you didn’t oppose Octavius. One scholar noted that never before in the history of the world was a man worshipped like Octavius – Caesar Augustus.

Some of you are thinking – how come we’ve never heard of him? Have you ever looked at the calendar? The sixth month is named after the god Julius Caesar and the seventh month is named after Caesar Augustus – August. None of this was by accident. The Romans had a “complex and vibrant ideological matrix” (David Nystrom) on how to leave a Roman legacy. One scholar (Nystrom) said it this way – “He (Augustus) did not fundamentally alter it by assuming the trappings of personal supremacy, but rather magnified it by directing Roman tradition through the prism of his own story.” In other words, what did it mean to worship Augustus or to call an emperor “king”? (Nystrom)

  1. The Romans claimed that they were ordained by the gods to conquer and civilize.
  2. The Romans believed in the conviction that their rule was just.
  3. The Romans believed that their domination was not fixed by the “limits of the earth but by the limits of the sky” (Cicero).
  4. The Romans had a steep social pyramid based on wealth, class, ancestry, and location.
  5. The Roman empire was an urban phenomenon, with Rome as the ideal and the goal was to spread “Romanitas” – Roman values or Romanness.
  6. The Romans expected and practiced self-promotion, with ultimate power being in the hands of a select few.
  7. The Roman religion was not about faith. In fact, it was looked down upon as being weak. Religion was about gods, sacrifices, and duty.

Why did Augustus want the world to be registered? Taxes. More money was needed to fund the growing army – 28 legions, each legion had over 5000 soldiers. But, there’s something more – Herod the king of Judea had made Octavius mad and this was his way of proving a point to Herod that he was the boss. Amazing isn’t it? Everybody’s life is turned upside just so he can prove a point. Verse 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. In short, Augustus had turned everybody’s life upside down with one decree.

How about Jesus? 4 “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.” Augustus thinks that he has really told Herod. What he doesn’t realize is that he was just a pawn in God’s eternal plan. Eight hundred years earlier a prophet by the name of Micah had prophesied the location of the Messiah’s birth. Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Greatness is found when you are faithful and obedient, and God writes your legacy.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. The word for inn is “kataluma,” which is guestroom. Joseph and Mary were probably staying with some friends and couldn’t find any privacy and had to deliver Jesus in the family room. Unlike Caesar Augustus who was living in the lap of luxury, the King of Kings had to spend his first night where the animals were tied.

Greatness is not in turning other peoples’ lives upside down. It is in laying our lives down for others.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Greatness is when God comes to you and you know that you don’t deserve it.

Augustus had his “Res Gestae” (things done) left with the Vestal Virgins (Priestess to the goddess Vesta) to be read in the senate after his death. Only 3 copies have been found. Series of inscriptions were also written in the Forum Augusti with statutes of great men all round and Augustus in the middle riding in a chariot with the title “Father of his country.

What is the legacy of Jesus Christ? Eternity is not enough to list it!

Invitation: The world has an idea of greatness that fades away. God’s greatness never fades. Are you faithful and obedient? Are you laying your life down for others? Do you realize that you don’t deserve anything but hell? Are you saved?

Firm Resolve by Dr. Abidan Shah

FIRM RESOLVE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  How many of you know of the “Loser’s Limp?” Zig Ziglar (in his classic book “See you at the top”) described it like this – “Characteristically, when a person falls victim to Garbage-Dump Thinking, he develops an assortment of ‘Loser’s Limps.’ You know what the Loser’s Limp is if you’ve ever attended a football game or watched one on television…The offensive player slips behind the defensive player, reaches up, pulls in a pass and heads for the end zone. The defensive man quickly recovers and takes out in hot pursuit. When the offensive player gets about 20 yards from the end zone, the defensive player realizes he’s not going to catch the man with the ball. Everybody in the stands knows it too. So, the defensive player frequently pulls up limping and the people in the stands say, ‘Well, no wonder the poor guy couldn’t catch him. Look, he’s crippled.’ Now that is his Loser’s Limp.” As we move forward in this series on 1 Peter, we’re going to learn how to avoid the Loser’s Limp during trials; and instead, make a FIRM RESOLVE (title) to press forward in the Christian life. Please find 1 Peter 1:13. Main point: When going through trials, it’s easy to become irrational, hopeless, and even revert back to our old ways. In such times, it is imperative that we make a firm resolve to be sober and look to Jesus, our source of hope. Ultimately, hopeful lives are holy lives.

1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Background: This verse marks a shift in the focus of the letter. It begins with the Greek word “dio,” which means “therefore.” If you’re a Bible student or a Sunday School teacher, I’m sure you’ve told your students that “when you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible, ask yourself ‘what is it there for’ or ‘what is its purpose?’” “Therefore” is a call to action based on what has been said thus far. What has been said thus far? After the opening greeting in the first two verses, Peter gave a long doxology from verses 3-12. In this long Greek sentence, he reminded the pilgrims of the Dispersion (Jewish and Gentile background believers in Asia Minor who were facing rejection by their own and societal discrimination by their neighbors) that even though—

1. Their own had rejected them and their neighbors had ostracized them. 1. God had chosen them and rebirthed them into his family.
2. They were feeling hopeless. 2. They had a living hope which was based on God himself.
3. They had lost their inheritance. 3. God had an inheritance – incorruptible, undefiled, andunfading – waiting for them.
4. Their trials were causing them grief. 4. Trials were opportunities for God to test and purify their faith so that they will receive praise, honor, glory when Christ comes.
5. They felt like mourning. 5. They were to rejoice with an exultant joy, the shouting joy that opens the pressure valve through trials.
6. They hadn’t seen Christ and still couldn’t see him. 6. They had a special love and trust relationship with Jesus Christ.
7. Christ was invisible. 7. Christ become visible to them and filled their hearts with joy inexpressible and full of glory.
8. They felt unsure as to where life was headed. 8. Christ had given them the assurance of their salvation.
9. They were people with no past and no future. 9. They were part of God’s greater plan of salvation, which the prophetshad tried to search it out and the angelsstill try to figure it out.
10. They could only see suffering. 10. The salvation plan included the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. If they suffered with Christ, they will also share with him in glory. No sufferings, no glory.

 Here’s the point: God gives us plenty of reasons to overcome and press forward through our trials.

Application: What reasons do you have to overcome the trials in your life? Can you see the purpose of trials in your life? Have you been born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do you have a love and trust relationship with him? Is your life tethered to God’s greater plan of salvation? Do you know that there is no glory without suffering?

Listen again: 13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” “Gird up the loins” is a Semitic idiom that means “tuck your long robe into your belt so you can move freely, rapidly, and without hindrance.” We would say, “roll up your sleeves.” Peter went a step further – 13 “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind…” In his characteristic style, Peter mixed metaphors here. He was telling the pilgrims of the Dispersion not to let the trials and circumstances of their lives cause them to lose their mind, their focus.

Application: Are you guarding your mind? What do you allow to go into your mind? Who has the key to your mind? Here are some scriptures to remember:

  • Romans 12: 2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5 “…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
  • Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

Instead, “nephontes” (be sober), which was the opposite of being drunk and losing self-control.

Application: Are you sober enough to properly process information and be judicious and prudent? Do you make rash decisions?

Instead of losing your mind and indulging, 13 “…and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Rest your hope fully” is the first imperative (command) of 1 Peter. Keep in mind that in verse 3 Peter had told them that God had begotten them to a living hope, but now he told them to hope fully in the grace that is coming when Jesus comes. Also, in verse 10, Peter had told them that the prophets had prophesied of the grace that would come to them, but now he told them that grace is still on the way. The point is this: the work has begun but more is on the way; this glimpse of the fuller reality should help you live confidently today. The fact that we have lost confidence in the present is because we cannot see what lies in the future. As you see the heavenly city, it should help you live even more confidently now. This should make you fight even harder! For example: VE-Day was May 8, 1945, the war was already over on D-Day, June 6, 1944 when in “Operation Overlord” 1000 ships carrying 200,000 soldiers sailed across the English Chanel to France and landed on the shores of Normandy.

Application: Can you see what is coming for believers? Do you know that we win? As the adage goes, “we don’t fight to victory, but we fight from victory.” “If your faith cannot get you through one year, what makes you think it will get you through eternity!”

There’s more – 14 “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” Because they had been born again by the Father through the resurrection of the Son, they were to be “obedient children.” They are not to be obedient slaves but obedient children. There is a sense of dignity and choice implied. God doesn’t want us to obey out of fear but out of a willing heart. We are living in a culture where people will obey every mandate of human beings but disobey the commandments of God, even Christians. Peter warned them not to revert back to their former lusts in their time of ignorance. The word for lust “epithumia” is not just about the worst sins like gluttony, lust, greed, and pride, this is about the kind of life that lives to please self and reject God. It is about self-glory, self-preservation, and self-promotion. This is from the time of “ignorance.” This does not mean “lack of knowledge” but a life that doesn’t understand the need for God and his salvation in our lives. Some of the smartest people are ignorant because they haven’t realized that they need to be saved through Jesus Christ.

Application: Are you still in your time of ignorance? Are you still living by your fleshly lusts? Do you recognize your need to be saved?

Finally, what should be our standard through trials? 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Peter points back to the Holiness Code between Leviticus 11-20 (11:44; 19:2). Nothing has changed with regards to what God expects from his people. Keep in mind that Holiness is separation from the profane.

Application: Are you taking the time to be holy, to be separate? Are you set apart for God’s purpose? Are you sober minded? Are you resting your hope fully in what is coming through Christ? Are you obedient? Are you saved?

The Admonition by Dr. Abidan Shah

THE ADMONITION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Have you ever been corrected by your kids, especially dads? Sometimes, it’s when we use slangs that have become outdated – far out, cool beans, talk to the hand, da bomb. Sometimes, it’s when we try to wear clothes that are out of style. The one my kids had to correct me on at one time was how I texted on the phone – don’t try to abbreviate, don’t use all caps, avoid texting a novel. I’m glad I listened to their corrections. If there’s one person in the New Testament who was repeatedly corrected, it was Peter. Of course, Jesus corrected him several times but someone else did too. In this message, we’re going to learn from Peter how to take corrections. As you know, we are in our series on 1 Peter; but before we dive into the letter, we are studying the character of Peter. Today’s message is titled “The Admonition.” Turn to Acts 2. Main point: Receiving admonition is a mark of a mature Christian. Being filled with the Holy Spirit and being mightily used by God will not exempt you from being admonished. In fact, the more you serve, the more chances there are of being admonished. How you take admonition says a lot about where you are spiritually.

Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.”

Context: Peter spoke these words and the words following on the Day of Pentecost. For 10 days, 120 of the disciples were praying in an upper room in Jerusalem. Then it happened—as the disciples were unanimously together, the Holy Spirit came upon them accompanied with supernatural signs. I don’t have time to get into all the details right now, but this was such an extra-ordinary and bewildering experience that the people in Jerusalem who were there from all parts of the known world for the Passover feast were utterly amazed. They were hearing the praise of God in their own languages! – “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs.” Some even began to mock them saying, “…They are full of new wine” (Acts 2:10-13).

Who would you pick at this point to clear up the misunderstanding and explain the beginning of a new era in God’s divine plan? Matthew, John, Andrew, anybody but Peter, right? Acts 2    14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” He went on to give a powerful and stirring gospel message quoting from the Old Testament and ending with Acts 2:36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” How effective was it? Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. That does not include women and children! What happened to the bungling and bumbling fisherman of Galilee? The Holy Spirit. In less than 2 months, Peter had become a spokesman for the kingdom!

Application: Do you understand the transformation and power the Holy Spirit brings into our lives? Do you have the Holy Spirit? You cannot have the Holy Spirit until you have Christ as your Savior and King? Are you saved?

But this was just the beginning of things to come!

  • In the very next chapter, Peter and John were on their way to the temple to prayer and encountered a man who had been lame from birth. He begged for alms but listen to Peter’s response in Acts 3 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. Once again, Peter preached to the people. After this sermon, they got arrested by the temple authorities but not before 5000 men were saved. Whether it was the total or 5000 in addition to the 3000, it is still a big number, especially with women and children.
  • In chapter 4, Peter preached before the leaders, elders, and the high priest in Jerusalem. They tried to threaten them but they continued to preach anyways and the church kept growing. By the way, there are 8 sermons by Peter in Acts.
  • Peter’s healing ministry was even more powerful than Jesus’! Acts 5 15 “…they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” Jesus had promised this to his disciples. John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
  • Again, Peter was thrown in prison but an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison and brought him. Now, Peter was now on the hitlist.
  • God even opened Peter’s eyes so he understood that the gospel was not just for the Jewish people but also for the Gentiles. Remember the Cornelius incident. He even convinced the leaders that this was what God wanted.
  • I can go on and on, but the point is this – Peter became the pillar of the church along with James and John (Galatians 2:9).

It’s amazing how God takes us to a higher plane of ministry when we let him use us.

Application: Do you take the time to thank God for where he has brought you? Are you grateful? Are you humble?

Just when you would think that Peter had arrived or that he was infallible, something happened. Paul tells the Galatians about an incident that took place in Antioch. Listen to Galatians 2      11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Paul went on and on to Peter before everybody! Why didn’t Paul take Peter aside and talk about this privately? You’ve heard—Private sins, private confession. Public sins, public confession. Here’s more—Private sins, private confrontation. Public sins, public confrontation. 1 Timothy 5:20 “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” Can you imagine what would have happened if all Jewish background believers followed Peter’s example!

How would you respond if you were corrected like this in public, especially if you thought you had arrived? I ain’t gonna take this! Did Paul do that to every Jewish background believer or Judaizer? I doubt it. Not everyone would be ready to receive an open admonition unless they were wise. Proverbs 9      7 “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. 8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” By the way, before you think you can rebuke someone like that, keep in mind that Peter went toe to toe with the Sanhedrin and the high priest but took an open rebuke from Paul. Are you a Paul? You better be prayed up, studied up, and above reproach yourself. I don’t let just anyone speak into my life.

Was Peter wise? How did he take the admonition? 2 Peter 3     15 “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” I have people who have called me out and I didn’t enjoy it at first, but, in time, I know it was because they loved me. I love them and thank God for them.

For e.g. W. A. Criswell taking notes from Rick Warren speaking.

Invitation: How do you take admonishment? Are you saved? Do you have the Holy Spirit? It’s only through Christ that you can have him.

Dual Citizen by Dr. Abidan Shah

DUAL CITIZEN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Our election is literally a month away. As you know, the atmosphere has been tense. Here are a couple of trivia to lighten the mood:

  • In ancient times, citizens of Athens could vote every year to banish any citizen from the city-state for 10 years. Can you imagine that?
  • In 1927, during the Presidential elections in Liberia, Charles D. B. King, the President won with 234,000 votes. Only problem—there were only 15,000 registered voters.
  • In the 2002 elections in Iraq, Saddam Hussein used Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as his campaign song.
  • Back in 1967, Ecuador was holding its elections when a foot powder company ran an ad saying “Vote for any candidate, but if you want well-being and hygiene, vote for Pulvapies.” To make their ad more appealing, the company passed out flyers listing all the things Pulvapies would do if elected as Mayor. By the way, the flyer looked very much like the official ballot. Guess what happened on election day in the small town of Picoazà, Ecuador?

It’s easy to be disheartened or disillusioned by the political arena of our nation today, but, in today’s message, we’re going to learn how every Christian has a dual citizenship: heavenly and earthly. Turn to 1 Timothy 2. Main point: Government and political institutions are not necessarily divine or evil. Christians should be involved in government and politics, not just for the gospel, freedom, or values sake, but, because it is a service unto God. The ultimate goal is not to control government or to impose Christianity but to positively influence government for the good of all in Christ’s world.

1 Timothy 2     1 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, andgiving of thanks be made for all men,”

Context: Paul was laying out the order of worship for Timothy, the young pastor in Ephesus. He began by telling him to pray for all people. We fail here because we are typically only praying for our own. But, he doesn’t stop there—2 “for kings and all who are in authority…” The word “kings” could refer to the Roman Emperor or to some small-time local ruler. For us, it implies national leaders, state leaders, and local leaders. The word “authority” means “persons of consequence.” For us, it implies political leaders, judges, military, law enforcement, and various institution heads that impact our lives. Why should we pray for them? 2 “…that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”“Quiet and peaceable life” refers to social, political, and financial stability. “Godliness” refers to belief in God and the impact it makes in everyday living. “Reverence” implies a special kind of life. 3 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” “Kalos” and “Agathos” mean that this pleases God, and not just any god, but our Savior God, Jesus Christ. After all, this is his world. Paul talked about this earlier in 1 Timothy 1:17 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” And, he talked about it again towards the end in 1 Timothy 6     13 “I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) was Dutch pastor, theologian, journalist, educator, and Prime Minister of the Netherlands. He said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign Lord of all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” I don’t agree with everything he said, but that is powerful. What is the desire of this King eternal, immortal, invisible God? What does the blessed and only “dynastes,” the King of Kings and Lord of lords desires? 4“who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Application: Do you understand that this world is Christ’s world? Do you understand that God wants all to be saved? Do you understand that Christ Jesus is the only way to God?

I want to switch gears here. How does all this apply to our upcoming election? Does the Bible have anything to say about politics? Sometimes, people get nervous when we talk about politics in church. Can we do that? In 1954, the IRS put a regulation that prevents pastors from supporting or opposing any candidate by name. Having said that, churches are allowed to deal with issues that are part of an election campaign.

How should we view the relationship between Christians and Government/political institutions? There are some views that I don’t find very convincing (From Wayne Grudem, “Politics According to the Bible” and Gundry and Black, “5 Views on Church and Politics”):

  • Christians or the Church cannot engage in any kind of politics.
  • Government came because of the Fall. We reluctantly need government but we need to focus on just the human heart.
  • The Church needs to be active in Government to fight for the rights of the poor and oppressed.
  • Church and Government can work hand-in-hand and make a difference for good.

There is one more view that I find most convincing with some exceptions:

  1. Government and Church are to be limited to their spheres.
  • When you look at history, it was never a good thing when the church used government to dictate the faith of a person. This is where medieval Christendom messed up. It caused terrible conflicts throughout its history and ended up in the battles between Catholics and Protestants and between the Reformed and the Anabaptists. Thousands were persecuted, killed, and burned at the stake.
  • Jesus set the boundary for us when he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Meaning:Church and Government are two separate entities. You cannot force someone to have faith in Jesus. It is a choice. Church, family, and government are separate institutions and they are not to infringe on each other.
  • We are to be “engaged but not over expecting” (James K. A. Smith).
  1. Government is part of the good order of creation.
  • Some people claim that politicians are corrupt and they have never done any good. They believe that behind every government is Satan who is busy causing wars and destruction. For e.g. behind Hitler was Satan who caused him to exterminate Jewish people and capture Europe. Here’s the question: Who was behind the Allied Forces who went to fight the Nazi army? Who was behind the troops who landed at Omaha beach?
  • Government and politics are part of the fallen world but not evil. They are legitimate and necessary vocations created in God’s image and recreated in Christ to keep order and prosperity in the world. Think about Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah.
  • There are people who use Jesus’ statement to turn the other cheek to argue that Christians should never retaliate and hence never be part of the government. When Jesus gave that command, he was talking about how we deal with individual insults. This is much different from what God expects from politicians and government. Romans 13 3 “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister (deacon) to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”
  1. Christians and Church should influence Government.
  • Yes, reaching the gospel is the primary responsibility of the church. Having said that, the whole world is Christ’s world. As Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign Lord of all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” We involve ourselves in government not just because of gospel, freedom, and values sake, but because we desire to see creation become how Christ wants it to be. God has a plan for everything from arts, sciences, education, economy, technology, and recreation.
  • We don’t do this just so we can go back to the lost garden or the heavenly city coming one day. We do this to glorify Christ by making his creation as pleasing as possible to him. This is our cultural mandate. It’s part of our Statement of Faith – “All Christians have a responsibility to try to make the will of Christ first in our own lives and in the world. The ways and methods used to improve society and to create righteousness among men can be very helpful. These changes are helpful only if they come because of the rebirth of the person by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.” We put that in years ago. We are the salt and the light of the world.
  • Sometimes, it calls for fighting for the justice of those who are oppressed and for the betterment of those who are less fortunate. Christians went beyond just evangelizing people and got involved in politics so they could pass laws against infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); they were able to outlaw the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); they were able to outlaw the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); they were able to bring about prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); they were able to stop the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; they were able to outlaw pedophilia; they were able to grant property rights and other protections to women; they were able to ban polygamy in the Western world; prohibit the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlaw the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuade government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advance the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlaw slave trade and slavery. (Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt.) If this is Christ’s world, then we are to do whatever we can to make it pleasing to him. That is the motivation behind our Kindle Ministry at Clearview.
  • This involvement is more than just finding the lowest common denominator with the good citizens. Christians should speak out on moral convictions from the Bible—the sanctity of human life, sanctity of marriage, gender identity issues, medical professional assisted suicide, recreational drugs, etc.

How should you vote this election? According to what party you belong to? A better question would be “Can I still influence my party to make this world more pleasing to Christ?” According to what is at stake for us? A better question would be “Can the party I am voting for make this world more pleasing to Christ?” By the way, it is Christ’s world and he is perfectly in charge. Why are we so worried? Why are we panicking? Maybe, our theology is showing. Colossians 1     15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Invitation: Where do you stand? With Christ in his world? How will you vote? With those who will stand with Christ in his world? Is Christ your Savior and King?

Glorious by Dr. Abidan Shah

GLORIOUS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  In less than a month, I have performed 3 wedding ceremonies. Every time I open Facebook or Instagram, I see a Happy Anniversary post. It is that time of the year. I remember like yesterday when Nicole and I got married. I did not sleep but an hour or two that night. I was so nervous. I remember repeating the vows but I have no idea what I said. In fact, I looked at Nicole’s dad the whole time! Bottom line: We had no clue what we were doing! To be very honest: most couples have no clue what they are doing. In our miniseries through Ephesians, we come to a very familiar passage where Paul talks about the marriage relationship. Main point: A marriage is much more than a man and a woman living together in a contractual and consensual relationship. It is a living illustration of the mystery that was conceived when Adam took Eve as his bride and it was revealed when Christ gave his life for his bride, the church. Marriage is the re-enactment of the relationship between Christ and the church. Ultimately, marriage is a display of the gospel of Christ. This message is called GLOROIOUS.

Ephesians 5    17 “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”

Context: Some of you are wondering, “Shouldn’t we be reading from verse 22?” The most surprising thing about the marriage passage in Ephesians that begins in verse 22 is that it lacks a finite verb. The verbs are actually found in verses 17 and 18 – do not be unwise,” “understand what the will of the Lord is,” and “be filled with the Spirit.” Important Principle: “If you’re not Spirit-filled, this message on marriage will be like fingernails on a chalkboard.”

Question: Are you wise? Are you willing to understand the will of the Lord? Are you Spirit-filled?

Having laid out the 3 basic requirements, Paul proceeds to deal with situations where wise and spirit-filled living can be very challenging – personal relationships, especially family relationships. Verse 19 “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I don’t have time to deal with each of these, but listen to verse 21 “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” The source of our conflicts is selfishness. We are born this way. Something happens the moment the Holy Spirit enters our life. There is a break in that selfish spirit. Life is no longer just about one’s own self. It is also about others. It’s no longer about just my feelings, my wants, my needs but also others. Important Point: Submission is a sign of a spirit-controlled life. The word “submission” literally means “To order oneself under a leader.” In the very next verse, Paul makes it specifically about the marriage and family – Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The translation should be – “and, specifically, by wives submitting to their husbands.” Here’s the fingernails on chalkboard part of the sermon. But, it doesn’t have to be if we understand the real reason behind it. To understand this, we have to go down to verse 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” If there’s going to be genuine Spirit-controlled marriage, it will require us to understand the meaning of this mystery.

What is this “mystery?” The answer is in verse 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Here, Paul was quoting from Genesis 2:24, the last verse before the temptation from the Serpent. What happened before that verse? Genesis 2:23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Adam was praising God’s work in creating Eve! Very interestingly, the next time he talked about Eve was after the temptation when God confronted him in Genesis 3:12 “Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’” In just 12 verses, Adam went from praising his wife to blaming her. By the way, the curse that followed over the relationship is in Genesis 3:16 To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Gone was the perfect relationship of willing submission and servant leadership. Now, it was a desire and rule relationship. There was a mystery in that relationship that was supposed to reflect the future relationship between Christ and the Church. Now, it was distorted because of sin.

I don’t have time to go too deep into this. What is Paul’s point in Ephesians? Jesus came, died, buried, rose again, and is exalted on high. He did this not only to redeem us but to break the power of sin and evil. He defeated the cosmic powers that have caused every dissension in the world, especially marriage and family. Christ has inaugurated a new creation. He became the New Adam. Now, he wants to restore the pattern set in the first creation. The church is the mystery that brings Jewish believers and gentile believers in one community. But, Jesus also wants to do this for the marriage, which was the illustration of this mystery between Christ and the Church. This only happens when Spirit-filled believers understand that their marriage is much more than two people coming together in consent and contract. It reflects the mystery of Christ and the Church. By the way, God still has his covenant with his people Israel, which he will fulfill in the future.

Applications: How do you see your marriage? How do you see marriage in our culture?

What happens when Spirit filled believers allow the recreation to happen through Christ? Think about where Eve and Adam messed up. Eve was supposed to defer to Adam, her husband, to respond to the Serpent and Adam was supposed to take responsibility to protect Eve, his wife. Because of what Christ did, now there is a remaking by the Holy Spirit.Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” This does not mean that the wife is inferior or the man is superior. Again, the word “submission” literally means “To order oneself under a leader.” Now what does the word “head” mean? It means authority. Submission does not mean that a woman shuts off her brain and surrender her individuality. To the contrary, a wise husband will listen to his wife and her advice and her warnings. It means to “let the husband be the spiritual authority in the relationship.

Just when you think that Paul was biased against women, he only had 41 words for the women but 125 for the men. Ephesians 5:25 onwards: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” In other words, a husband and wife relationship is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church.The spiritual reality is that Christ is the bridegroom and the collective body of believers are the bride. By the way, this is why any kind of sexual deviation from a biological man-woman marriage is so serious. Listen again: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word…” Individually, we are made clean when we receive Jesus as our Savior and King. His blood washes our sins away. But, collectively, we come together as the church but we still have our faults, weaknesses, and selfishness. We also need collective cleansing. This is where Christ our Bridegroom who loved us and gave himself for us is now committed to cleansing us “with the washing of water by the word.” Although the word for “word” is “rhema” (the spoken word), it still implies the Word of God. When he hear the Word regularly and allow the Holy Spirit to apply it our hearts, we are being cleansed collectively. Instead of being selfish and self-centered, proud and judgmental towards each other in the church, we learn to become selfless and self-giving, humble and encouraging towards one another. We begin to demonstrate mutual submission towards each other, mutual forgiveness for each other, and mutual encouragement to each other, and mutual caring for one another. This is the process of purification and it is all done under the leadership and authority of the Bridegroom, Christ.

Marriage is an earthly expression of a heavenly reality. In a marriage relationship, the husband and wife come together with their individual faults, weaknesses, and selfishness. Typically, we expect the other person to be perfect and we justify our imperfections. To the contrary, marriage is a relationship in which 2 imperfect people start on a journey together towards perfection. Don’t misunderstand: Perfection here does not mean faultlessness. It means learning to live daily by the grace of God and helping the other person to do the same. We are to help purify one another with the love of Christ, the truth of his Word, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is learning to apply the righteousness of Christ to each other.

What is the goal of this perfection in the Christ-Church relationship? “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Christ is cleansing the church to present her to himself before God the Father in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

What is the goal in the husband-wife relationship? We are to help one another come to perfection by the grace of God and present each other to God. That is deep!

What is the husband’s role in this purification process? Verse 28 onwards “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” The husband’s role is to lead this purification process the way Christ does for the church. Making Christ the priority of your home, going to church, obeying his Word, and serving Him as a family falls on your shoulders. In other words, the husband controls the thermostat of the marriage. By the way, unlike the Christ-church relationship where Christ is perfect, you are not. You need purification too. That’s why God has brought the wife into his life.

What is the wife’s role in this purification process? “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” The wife’s role is to encourage the husband to help lead this purification process. Help him to be the godly husband that he is called to be and, together, build your home to be a place of mutual purification by the grace of God, reflect the great mystery of Christ and the church.

Invitation: Husbands, how do you see our wife? Wives, how do you see your husbands? Believers, how do you see the mystery of the Christ-Church relationship? Do you belong to the Church? Are you saved?

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